The American Task Force for Lebanon (ATFL) is an independent US not-for-profit organization working to support strong US-Lebanon relations. ATFL welcomes statements from the White House, State Department, and prominent US Senators, including Senators McCain and Shaheen, in support of Lebanon during the current crisis following the surprise resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri while visiting Saudi Arabia. These statements reiterate support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon, its political institutions, and America’s strong support for the Lebanese Armed Forces, as well as underscoring US respect for PM Hariri as a partner of the US and the legitimate head of the government for the Republic of Lebanon.
We call on Congress to support the statements of the White House and State Department, including a call for a calming of the tense situation in the region, rejection of any military intervention in Lebanon, respect for Lebanon’s government institutions, and endorsement of US leadership to implement a diplomatic solution of the current crisis as soon as possible.
Lebanon cannot afford more turmoil within its borders. Already shouldering a massive burden of hosting over 1.5 million Syrian refugees and feeling the impact of the conflict on its battered economy, Lebanon may not be able to sustain the current situation and function effectively.
Prime Minister Hariri must be free to return to Lebanon and work to heal divisions exacerbated by the current crisis, and continue to lead Lebanon during these difficult and challenging times. US support for the government and Lebanese Armed Forces is now more important and essential than ever before, in order to guarantee the country’s survival.
Following are statements of US officials:
The State Department said in part:
The United States strongly supports the sovereignty and independence of the Republic of Lebanon and of its political institutions. The United States urges all parties both within Lebanon and outside to respect the integrity and independence of Lebanon’s legitimate national institutions, including the Government of Lebanon and the Lebanese Armed Forces. In this regard, we respect Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri as a strong partner of the United States.
The United States supports the stability of Lebanon and is opposed to any actions that could threaten that stability. There is no legitimate place or role in Lebanon for any foreign forces, militias or armed elements other than the legitimate security forces of the Lebanese state – which must be recognized as the sole authority for security in Lebanon. The United States cautions against any party, within or outside Lebanon, using Lebanon as a venue for proxy conflicts or in any manner contributing to instability in that country.
The White House issued a companion message:
The United States calls upon all states and parties to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty, independence, and constitutional processes. In this sensitive time, the United States also rejects any efforts by militias within Lebanon or by any foreign forces to threaten Lebanon’s stability, undermine Lebanese government institutions, or use Lebanon as a base from which to threaten others in the region.
Prime Minster Sa’ad Hariiri has been a trusted partner of the United States in strengthening Lebanese institutions, fighting terrorism, and protecting refugees. The United States firmly reiterates that the other Lebanese Armed Forces and other Lebanese state security forces are the only legitimate security authorities in Lebanon.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) issued a separate statement of concern:
“I am extremely troubled by the events in Lebanon over the past week. Like his father, Saad Hariri has served his country in the face of terrorist threats and foreign interference. The Middle East cannot afford Lebanon’s descent into political instability and conflict at a time when the region faces so many challenges. Mr. Hariri has an important role to play in the work towards a secure, democratic, and independent Lebanon, and I look forward to his return at the soonest possible moment.”
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued a separate statement of concern:
“I’m very concerned by Saudi Arabia and Iran’s attempts to drag Lebanon into their long-standing battle for influence. This is a dangerous game that could have devastating consequences. I urge all actors involved to cease the unhelpful rhetoric of war and present the circumstances behind the sudden resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri as soon as possible. I am hopeful that a diplomatic solution can be found to this crisis and urge the White House to allow the State Department to lead on the Administration’s engagement efforts so that we can respond appropriately to this fast-changing situation.”