The top-ranking lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee called on the Biden administration to develop a sanctions framework to “help Lebanon reform.”
In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Senators Bob Menendez and Jim Risch urged the US to follow Europe’s lead after they approved a sanctions regime meant to push Lebanese officials to change their tactics.
Last week, the US slapped sanctions on a Lebanese MP and two businessmen for corruption. The two businessmen are allegedly backed by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and former Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
Menendez and Risch hailed the latest sanctions but called for more to be done.
“The United States has publicly supported international efforts to help Lebanon reform and rebuild its economy in a way that is transparent and supports the Lebanese people; not just entrenched leaders. However, that support requires Lebanon’s political leaders to commit to meaningful structural reforms,” the letter read.
They also slammed Iran-backed Hezbollah for blocking government action and reforms from being enacted.
“The United States must make it clear that it continues to stand ready to help the people of Lebanon, not only through the provision on desperately needed assistance but also by ensuring that Lebanese leaders work on behalf of all Lebanese and that they will face accountability if they do not,” the US lawmakers wrote.
They reiterated their support for sanctions against Hezbollah and its allies, but they called for a “concerted internationalized effort” to counter the Iranian proxy.
“We believe that sanctions work best when they are coordinated internationally and that US sanctions can be brought to bear against those working against democracy, accountability, and reform in Lebanon, especially Hezbollah and its affiliates,” the senators said.
“To that end, we urge the administration to take steps to complement the EU’s announced sanctions framework and to work closely with counterparts both in Brussels and in member-state capitals to coordinate sanctions so that Lebanese leaders, including members and supporters of Hezbollah, fully understand the consequences, including the freezing of any assets subject to US jurisdiction, of their behavior.”