US Congress to step up pressure on Lebanon

TEHRAN — A US congressman has drafted a Lebanon bill that aims to dramatically increase pressure on Lebanon’s leadership and political system.

In its Monday edition, the Tehran Times revealed that Senator James Lankford is leading US Congress efforts to craft legislation on the situation in Lebanon that would compel the US administration to refrain from supporting International Monetary Fund aid. (IMF) for Lebanon until the necessary reforms are made in the Arab country.

The Tehran Times can now reveal that the bill, officially called the “Lebanon Stability and Prosperity Law”, includes a series of aggressive measures against Lebanese politicians and the political system.

The bill comes at a time when Lebanon continues to grapple with a sea of ​​economic hardship of historic proportions. Since the destructive 2020 explosion at the port of Beirut, the Lebanese economy has been in free fall. The country’s national currency, the lira, has lost much of its value against the US dollar.

Lebanon is also in the throes of a quiet political crisis, with many political factions concerned about their political fate ahead of the upcoming elections scheduled for May 15 this year.

The United States appears to have seen the parliamentary elections as an opportunity to achieve the desired political change in Lebanon. This may be why US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea insisted on holding the elections on time.

“The international community is unanimous that elections must be held on time, in a fair and transparent manner,” Shea told Reuters. “There is no wiggle room.”

The importance of the elections to the United States is evident in the Lankford bill which calls on the US government to actively compile a list of Lebanese nationals, including government officials who are seen as “substantially impeding or undermining” the elections.

Besides elections, the bill also pushes for a host of other measures in Lebanon that could well end up upending the country’s delicate power-sharing system. For example, the bill states that US Secretaries of State and Defense are authorized to reinforce the Lebanese Armed Forces in an effort to counter Hezbollah.

It was then that Hezbollah became part of the Lebanese government.

In other words, Hezbollah is an integral part of the political-religious composition of Lebanon. And using one Lebanese faction to target or undermine another Lebanese faction would hardly serve stability and prosperity in Lebanon.

The bill appears to be designed to put Hezbollah in the crosshairs. It stipulates that the US Secretary of State should take a series of measures to “undermine the influence of Hezbollah”.

To this end, he calls on the Secretary of State to work towards resolving border disputes between Beirut and Tel Aviv, including the Blue Line demarcation line and the disputed maritime border in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The bill goes so far as to ask the secretary of state to encourage the Lebanese government to normalize relations with Israel.

At the same time, the bill calls on the United States to use its influence over the IMF as leverage to impose reforms in Lebanon. Since September last year, the Lebanese government has been engaged in a process with the IMF to take out a multi-billion loan.

But the aid was conditional on Lebanon carrying out reforms. The bill sets out the circumstances under which the United States would approve the IMF loan to Lebanon. It orders the US Treasury Department to use its influence on the international organization to obtain a commitment from the Lebanese government to implement the necessary reforms before supporting the disbursement of financial aid.

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