POLICY Statement

May 20, 2021 : ATFL Continues Efforts to Strengthen US-Lebanon Ties and Welcomes Support from Key Members of Congress

May 20, 2021

Washington, DC, May 20, 2021 (ATFL) - ATFL has intensified its efforts with the Biden Administration and Congress to ensure a continuing emphasis on a strong US-Lebanon relationship. The joint MEI-ATFL policy paper, “6 Key Steps for Targeted US Diplomacy” released in March, outlined how the US government can work with its international partners to ensure Lebanon’s survival and recovery. A leadership organization made up of Americans of Lebanese descent, ATFL meets regularly with Congress and the Administration, including former Undersecretary of State David Hale before and after his recent trip to Lebanon.
Most recently, our efforts to educate and encourage members of Congress to support Lebanon’s partnership with the US has led to two letters that spell out the importance of Lebanon to US interests in the region.  The first letter was initiated by Representative Gregory Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and co-signed by 24 other Members, including Representative Ted Deutch, Chairman of the Middle East Subcommittee.
The letter was addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and said, “We urge prompt and significant US action, in coordination with key international partners, to address the suffering of the Lebanese people and prevent Lebanon from economic collapse, posing further risks to the security and stability of the broader Middle East as well as US national security.” 
The Meeks letter listed four recommendations: formation of an international group of friends of Lebanon to develop a plan to stabilize the economy pending formation of a government capable of implementing reforms, attacking corruption, and completing an audit of the Central Bank; building an international humanitarian assistance fund that would be channeled directly to the people; supplementary support for the Lebanese Armed Forces; and completing an independent investigation of the Beirut Port explosion of August 4, 2020.
In conclusion, the letter stated: “We support policies that advance a strong and stable US – Lebanon relationship and a just, prosperous, and independent future for the Lebanese people.
The second letter, from the US-Lebanon Friendship Caucus, echoed many of the points made in Chairman Meeks’s letter, stressing the humanitarian and security repercussions of the current status of Lebanon. The Caucus, which was recently relaunched in the 117th Congress, has more than 20 members. Its letter was sent to President Biden as well as Secretary of State Blinken. It was co-signed by the four co-chairs of the Caucus, Representatives Darin LaHood, Charlie Crist, Darrell Issa, and Debbie Dingell, as well as other members of the Caucus. 
The Caucus letter made the point that “Lebanon can again be an example of a stable, independent, and sovereign democracy in the Middle East. In partnership with the US and its allies, Lebanon can overcome the challenges facing it today. Success requires the commitment to forming a transparent and representative government protected from political corruption, implementation of economic reforms, and ensuring continued access to humanitarian resources for its people.”
Paul Salem, President of the Middle East Institute, which houses a Lebanon program, remarked, "The months ahead will dictate the future of Lebanon for years to come. Along these lines, this week's letters embody Congress's much appreciated understanding of the urgency of the Lebanese situation today. Although there is little doubt that the country's deliverance will eventually have to come from the people of Lebanon themselves, US leadership, engagement, and support will continue to be essential in helping Lebanon’s people and institutions, securing stability and encouraging reform."
Edward Gabriel, ATFL President, welcomed the letters and pointed out that “Having two Congressional letters signed by more than 35 Members of Congress issued on the same day underscores that Lebanon remains a priority for the US despite all the turmoil in the region. As the center for American educational institutions in the region, a relationship going back more than 150 years and nourished by the more than 1.5 million Lebanese Americans, Lebanon’s survival and success must continue to be a priority for the US.”

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