During the US State Department Briefing of October 13, 2010 , US Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Phillip J. Crowley told the media that the US is committed to Lebanon’s security.
“We understand that there are both states like Iran and sub-groups like Hezbollah that are trying to undermine the effectiveness of the national government and the sovereignty of Lebanon itself, but the US is committed to Lebanon’s security”
Regarding Iran’s offer to supply arms to the Lebanese army he said:
“The real question is: If there are arms shipments into Lebanon, will they be under the control of the national government? And the essence of sovereignty for any government is having a monopoly on the significant use of force. A challenge for Lebanon is the fact that you have outside players who are providing military capabilities to sub-state groups such as Hezbollah.”
QUESTION: I know you talked about this yesterday with Ahmadinejad’s visit in Lebanon. But does the U.S. have a position on – and have you articulated this position to the Lebanese Government – on Lebanon’s participation in the Hariri tribunal? It seems that Hariri is under a bit of pressure right now to withdraw from that from Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we support the tribunal. We think it should be free of any political influence, whether it’s from within Lebanon or outside of Lebanon. And we continue to believe that everyone involved should continue to support the tribunal as it moves to adjudicate this particular case. The work of the tribunal is essential to the future of Lebanon. It’s got – it has to be clear that there can be no impunity for the kind of political assassination that we saw with the death of former Prime Minister Hariri.
QUESTION: And can I just follow up? Are you – it seems like the current government is under a lot of pressure to withdraw Lebanese cooperation and participation in the tribunal. Have you done anything to try to mitigate that? Have you said anything about this?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Secretary met last month with President Suleiman at the UN, and we did discuss the tribunal and we indicated our commitment to continue to support the tribunal as it does its important work.
QUESTION: Have you watched the reception that President Ahmadinejad had in Lebanon and what’s your reaction to that?
MR. CROWLEY: Have I watched? No. I’m fascinated by the efforts at the Chilean mine.
QUESTION: One more on Lebanon.
MR. CROWLEY: Wait, hold —
QUESTION: Yeah, but an Israeli official has said today that Iranian president’s visit mark the completion of transforming Lebanon into a state that lives under the auspices of Iran, thus Lebanon has joined the axis of the extreme states that oppose the peace process and supporting terrorism. Do you agree with this statement?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, that is why the United States is committed to Lebanon’s security and sovereignty. We understand that there are both states like Iran and sub-groups like Hezbollah that are trying to undermine the effectiveness of the national government and the sovereignty of Lebanon itself. We are committed to Lebanon’s security. We continue to work directly with the government. And as we said yesterday, we are – have strong suspicions about the motives of Iran and its – the groups that it supports who do not have Lebanon’s long-term interest at heart.
QUESTION: Can I just – one more on Lebanon?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: There are reports that Ahmadinejad will extend his stay on Friday to meet with Prime Minister Erdogan and that this could be an Iranian-Turkish attempt to resolve the tribunal crisis. Do you have any thoughts on Turkish-Iranian cooperation in Lebanon? Is that shunting the U.S. role aside?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Turkey is a neighbor of Iran. It has been an effective interlocutor in discussing with Iran and encouraging Iran to play a more constructive role in the region and to effectively engage the international community. If such a meeting takes place at the end of the week, we would hope that Prime Minister Erdogan would continue to deliver that strong message that Iran, having been a less-than-constructive player in the region, should change directions, but – and more broadly, should engage the international community on the range of issues and concerns that we have, not the least of which is the true nature of its nuclear program.
QUESTION: Ahmadinejad has offered to provide Lebanon with arms. Do you have any concern regarding this point?
MR. CROWLEY: I know of nothing about – I mean, the real question is: If there are arms shipments into Lebanon, will they be under the control of the national government? And the essence of sovereignty for any government is having a monopoly on the significant use of force. A challenge for Lebanon is the fact that you have outside players who are providing military capabilities to sub-state groups such as Hezbollah.
So we would naturally have concern that the provision of any arms into Lebanon would not be for the benefit of the national government; it would be to strengthen groups like Hezbollah, which both undermine the sovereignty of Lebanon itself, but also pose a tremendous security risk to the region as a whole. So I think we would be very concerned about that effort, which is one of the reasons why we remain committed to building up institutions of government within Lebanon, including support for the Lebanese military.
QUESTION: One final question on Ahmadinejad. He is going to the south tomorrow. Do you expect any escalation of tension in the region?
MR. CROWLEY: We have very well-stated concerns about the role that Iran is currently playing in the region, and we’ll watch carefully what President Ahmadinejad does.