Visiting Lebanon PM seeks to temper Washington's anti-Hezbollah zeal


Visiting Lebanon PM seeks to temper Washington's anti-Hezbollah zeal

Hariri is now on a state visit to Washington to rally support for economic and diplomatic support as Lebanon struggles to cope with more than a million refugees from the Syrian war. But in Lebanon, it's part of the ruling government.

The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) face the prospect of losing all military assistance under the State Department's fiscal year 2018 budget request, while Congress is taking new action to expand sanctions on Hezbollah. That portion was removed after an appeals court blocked the order and the Trump administration rolled out a second "watered down" ban.

No dollar amounts were mentioned, although Hariri is expected to seek additional U.S. aid to cope with the refugee influx. In fact, Hezbollah, which is fighting ISIS in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime, enjoys broad support in Lebanon.

Trump, in a joint press conference on Tuesday alongside Saad al-Hariri, said the Shia movement was a threat to the entire Middle East. But Lebanese forces aren't fighting Hezbollah.

Daesh terrorists are scattered in 250 square kilometers in the Lebanon mountains and up to 100 square kilometers in the Syrian highlands. The cuts to the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program would hit the country particularly hard, as the LAF, with the help of Hezbollah, is securing the war-torn Syrian border from the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda and other militants.

On Tuesday, Hezbollah, a US -designated foreign terrorist organization, announced it was on the verge of ousting the Sunni terrorists from the area, and it called on those surviving to surrender to avoid further bloodshed.

The prime minister and I have just concluded an extensive conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing Lebanon and its neighbors.

"'The United States military has been proud to help in that fight and will continue to do so", he said.

Trump did not comment on the ongoing feud.

Trump said he was "not a fan of Assad", referring to Bashar Assad, the president of Syria. Of Republican Senators Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK), who both voted against the motion, Trump said only, "It's sad". Then he mentioned the red line President Barack Obama had drawn in 2012 regarding Syria's use of chemical weapons.

The alleged decision was reportedly taken in consultation with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster ahead of Trump's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, Germany, earlier in July.



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