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US Holds Back from Sanctioning Non-Shiite Lebanese Officials after Hale Intervenes

US Holds Back from Sanctioning Non-Shiite Lebanese Officials after Hale Intervenes

Monday, 27 January, 2020 - 06:30
US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale makes a press statement after his meeting with former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in downtown Beirut in December 2019. (AP)
Beirut – Mohammed Choucair
The United States had been mulling the possibility of imposing sanctions against non-Shiite Lebanese officials who are closely allied with the Hezbollah party and have defended its policies before the international community, revealed a prominent Lebanese political source.

US Undersecretary for Political Affairs, David Hale, however, intervened to halt the sanctions, describing them as a “nuclear weapon” that would speed up Lebanon’s collapse, said the source.

His intervention was interpreted as an attempt to allow these figures to reconsider their pro-Hezbollah positions.

The government, which was unveiled last week after much political bickering, is dominated by Hezbollah ministers and its allies. This has fueled skepticism over the cabinet’s ability to attract much-needed foreign support to help Lebanon overcome its worst economic crisis in decades.

The source remarked that the international community’s welcoming of the formation of the cabinet does not mean that it will automatically receive financial aid.

It had no choice but to welcome the government because the alternative would have been keeping Lebanon in a “prolonged and fatal” political vacuum.

The international community is now awaiting Lebanon to fulfill its reform obligations as stipulated in the 2018 CEDRE conference, which will pave the way for it to help it resolve its economic and financial crises.

International powers will in no way give Lebanon “free” aid without the introduction of any reforms, said the source.

Officials have a high mountain to climb in restoring confidence in Lebanon given Hezbollah’s domination of the government. Attention will be turned to the new cabinet’s foreign policy.

The new ministers, many of whom have dual Lebanese and American or European nationality, have informed ambassadors that the cabinet will adopt a moderate policy, explaining that the party is aware of the very fragile economic and financial situation Lebanon is enduring.

The party will seek a moderate stance with Arab nations because it is in dire need of its help, especially since it will be the first to suffer if the situation in Lebanon continues to deteriorate.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab also has the responsibility of rectifying relations with these countries after they lost their trust in Lebanon in wake of the damaging policies adopted by former Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.

The PM will also be tasked with reining in “hot-headed” ministers should they continue in blindly following Bassil, who acted as if Lebanon was part of the Iran-Syria “resistance axis".

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