OP-ED by U.S. Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Ambassador Richard H. Jones: “We Stand with Lebanon”
Lebanon has many friends, but America has been proud to be one of the most steadfast. Whether on the political, economic, or security front, America continues to assist the Lebanese people and Lebanese institutions to build a stable, secure, and prosperous Lebanon. Lebanon has become the sixth largest annual recipient of U.S. foreign military financing in the world, and our assistance will continue to equip and modernize the Lebanese Armed Forces as the sole entity with the legitimacy and capacity to keep Lebanon secure. This year we doubled our foreign military financing to $150 million, and then added an additional $59 million in border security assistance. When Da’esh and Nusra attacked Lebanon in August 2014, America was there to provide the Lebanese army with critical equipment on short notice. As Lebanon copes with the historic influx of refugees fleeing the violence in Syria, America also stands with Lebanon as the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance. Just last month we announced an additional $133 million in humanitarian assistance for Lebanon. Since the start of the crisis, we have now provided over $1 billion in humanitarian assistance to Lebanese host communities and organizations grappling with the massive influx of refugees into the country. Much of this assistance flows through the Lebanese economy providing income to and jobs for thousands of Lebanese workers, merchants and farmers.
We stand with Lebanon, but Lebanon needs to stand up for itself as well. The first step should be an easy one. Lebanon’s politicians need to go down to parliament and vote for a president to revive and restore the strength of this vital constitutional institution, not to mention people’s faith in the democratic process. The ongoing vacancy in the office that is the recognized symbol of Lebanon’s unity and of the Lebanese state to millions around the world weakens Lebanon’s political institutions at a time when they simply cannot afford to be weak. The resilience of the Lebanese people and its economy has been remarkable given the range of challenges facing the country, but resilience does not equal stability. Now more than ever Lebanon requires political stability to continue to stave off the intersecting economic, security, and humanitarian crises facing the country. When Lebanon’s politicians stand up and vote on a president, America stands ready to walk together with that president, whoever he or she may be, into a stable, prosperous future for Lebanon. Now is the time.