US ambassador to Lebanon slams Hezbollah’s role in Syria war

hale mashnouk
Interior Minister Nouhad Mashnouk ( L) is shown with US Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale at the Interior Ministry on Friday, March 6, 2015.

The U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale accused Hezbollah of harming Lebanon’s stability over its role in Syria and of violating the government’s disassociation policy toward the conflict.  He  urged the rival  Lebanese  leaders  to put  Lebanon’s stability ahead of partisan politics  , not to count on foreign help in ending the  presidential deadlock.

“The harm to Lebanese stability caused by Hezbollah’s violation of the policy of dissociation continues,” Hale said. “Hezbollah’s readiness to violate international norms and U.N. Security Council resolutions was made self-evident in January.”

He was referring  UN resolution 1701 and to a Hezbollah attack on an Israeli military convoy in the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms on Jan. 28 that killed two soldiers in response to an Israeli airstrike on a Hezbollah convoy in the Syrian town of Qunaitra in the Golan Heights on Jan. 18 that killed six party members and an Iranian commander.

“Hezbollah continues to make life and death decisions for all of Lebanon, yet consults no one, is accountable to no Lebanese, and answers to foreign powers,” Hale said, clearly referring to Iran, Hezbollah’s backer

The U.S. ambassador praised the role of the Lebanese Army and security forces in defending Lebanon against the threat of terrorism.

“As you face these security challenges arising from Syria, it is important to look at Lebanon’s sources of strength.

First, the Army and security services have the will and commitment to defend Lebanon, and are doing so with courage,” he said.

“Second, the Lebanese nation is united behind the effort to counter violent extremism.

Third, you are not alone. You can count on continuous and meaningful support from the United States and others to ensure that the Army has the means to fight.”

“Fourth, our common values distinguish us from these barbaric extremists. Our values are stronger than the false appeal from the extremists, and therefore we will prevail,” Hale said.

“And finally, the international community may have differences elsewhere in the region, but it is united in its desire to help Lebanon insulate itself from these external threats and conflicts.”

Hale made the comments  following a meeting with  Interior Minister Nouhad Mashnouk  and said   they discussed the  minister’s upcoming visit to Washington.

“We very much welcome his visit and look forward to senior level discussions on how we can further deepen security cooperation between our two countries,” he said.

Hale promised continued U.S. military support for the Lebanese Army in its ongoing battle against terrorism, warning Lebanon still faced serious security threats from Syria-based jihadis.

“Lebanon is facing serious challenges and threats, and we need to be sober about them. The spillover of terrorism and extremism from Syria is not over,” Hale said in the statement released by the U.S. Embassy.

Hale also highlighted the difficulties brought upon Lebanon by the presence of so many refugees from Syria.

“While the United States has contributed $660 million to date to help Lebanon cope with the humanitarian needs of the refugees and Lebanon’s host communities, we know the stress is enormous. Economic trends in the country have been downward since the presidency fell vacant,” he continued.

 Presidential election

Hale cautioned that rivalry between the March 8 and March 14 camps over the election of a successor to former President Michel Sleiman has thrown the government’s work into paralysis.

“Disputes over the election of a president have brought the normal functioning of government to a standstill,” Hale said in a statement after meeting with  Mashnouk. “Yet, this is a time when all elements of the state should be working in unison to address these and other problems, in accordance with the Constitution and the National Pact.”

“There is no reason for delay and it is time to put Lebanon’s stability ahead of partisan politics. There should be no expectation of foreign deals to choose a president. Instead of looking outside Lebanon for answers, we urge Lebanon’s leaders to respect their own Constitution and elect their own president, on their own,” Hale added.

Hale’s comments came two days after Berri called for a new Parliament session on March 11 to elect a president.

The Parliament last month failed for the 19th time since April to elect a president over a lack of quorum, plunging the country in a prolonged vacuum in the country’s top post.

UN’s Kaag

U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag confirmed  that Hezbollah violated Security Council Resolution 1701 when it attacked Israeli troops in the occupied Shebaa Farms area in January.

“The attack on the Israeli convoy is a clear violation of the cessation of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel,” Kaag told An Nahar newspaper in an interview published on Friday.

“In short,Hezbollah  violated Resolution 1701,” which ended the 2006 war between the party and Israel, she said.

Hezbollah fired a salvo of missiles at the Israeli military convoy in the Shebaa Farms on January 28, killing two soldiers and triggering deadly clashes that marked the most serious escalation since the 2006 war.