by WorldTribune Staff, March 25, 2019
During a March 22 visit to Beirut, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo bluntly challenged the political status quo in Lebanon which includes a prominent role for Iran proxy Hizbullah.
Pompeo told a press conference that “the Lebanese people face a choice: Bravely move forward or allow the dark ambitions of Iran and Hizbullah to dictate your future.”
Pompeo made the comments just minutes after Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, while standing next to Pompeo, insisted that Hizbullah is “a Lebanese group that is not a terrorist organization and was elected by the people.”
Pompeo called on the Lebanese people to stand up to Hizbullah’s “criminality, terror and threats,” adding that U.S. sanctions on Iran and Hizbullah were working and that more pressure on them was forthcoming.
“Hizbullah’s armed campaigns are squarely opposed to the interests of the Lebanese people,” Pompeo said. “How does the expending of resources and lives of those constituents in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria help the citizens of south Lebanon, Beirut, or the Bekaa Valley? How does stockpiling tens of thousands of rockets and missiles in Lebanon territory for use against Israel make this country stronger? Moreover, Hizbullah does these nefarious activities at the behest of the Iranian regime. Its foot soldiers serve at Teheran’s bidding. Hizbullah and its illegitimate militia put the entire country of Lebanon on the front lines of Iran’s misguided proxy campaigns.”
Pompeo continued: “Rest assured, Hizbullah’s Iranian patrons don’t want the status quo in Lebanon to change. They see peace, prosperity, and independence for Lebanon as a fundamental threat to their political interest and their hegemonic ambitions.”
Pompeo cited a speech by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah earlier this month, in which Nasrallah pleaded with the group’s supporters for funds, as evidence U.S. pressure was working.
“Our pressure on Iran is simple. It’s aimed at cutting off the funding for terrorists and it’s working,” Pompeo said. “We believe that our work is already constraining Hizbullah’s activities.”
Pompeo added that the U.S. would continue using “all peaceful means” to curb Hizbullah and Iran’s influence.
The U.S. has recently expressed concerns over Hizbullah’s growing role in the new Lebanese Cabinet, saying it does not contribute to stability.
Hizbullah and its allies gained more than half the seats of the 128-member Lebanese parliament in the election which took place in May of 2018.
In the newly formed Lebanese cabinet, which was announced last month, Hizbullah has named a health minister and two other posts. U.S. officials have called on Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s new government to ensure the terror group does not receive support from public resources.
Hizbullah is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the West and even by some Arab countries, but some of those designations, most notably in the EU, make a distinction between Hizbullah’s “military wing” and its political arm.
Great Britain recently blacklisted Hizbullah’s political arm as a terrorist group.