BEIRUT: On Tuesday, President Donald Trump told the UN that for the cost of resettling one refugee in the U.S., Washington could assist 10 closer to home. His statement drew condemnation from top Lebanese officials who interpreted Trump’s call to keep Syrian refugees in countries closer to home as a precursor for resettling refugees in neighboring countries including Lebanon.
While Lebanese officials could be proven right about the U.S. administration’s true intentions, the reaction to Trump’s comments marks just another shortcoming, if not outright failure, for Lebanese diplomacy.
Rather than seeking direct talks with members of the Washington administration on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil chose, while on his U.S. tour, to reply to Trump on Twitter.
President Michel Aoun, on the other hand, missed the traditional reception hosted by the U.S. President during the UN General Assembly. Whether Aoun chose to boycott the reception or wasn’t invited remains to be seen. But in both cases, it reflects a much deeper problem.
If Aoun chose to boycott the reception to indulge Hezbollah whom he vehemently defends in his foreign policy, it would prove right those who argue that Lebanon has fallen completely under the Iranian sphere of influence.
The second scenario, where Aoun was not invited, reflects that the U.S. administration sees in the Lebanese president only an associate, if not a front for Hezbollah and Iran.
Either way, Lebanon’s non-existent foreign diplomacy as demonstrated by Aoun’s meetings so far, spells trouble for Lebanon at a time when the country needs every bit of support in terms of military aid to contain terrorist threats, financial assistance to bolster the economy and alleviate the refugee burden, and international support to deter a potential future Israeli assault.
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