Secretary Pompeo is on his way Tuesday to Kuwait, Israel, and Lebanon, concluding his trip on March 23. According to a State Dept. press release, the Secretary will participate in a series of bilateral meetings with high-level officials, attend the US-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue and the recurring trilateral Head of State meeting with Israel, Greece, and the Republic of Cyprus, and engage in public events, including visits to religious sites and interactions with business leaders.
But the fundamental goal of his visit is to provide Pompeo an opportunity to reiterate the administration’s policy of security and economic cooperation in countering the Iranian regime’s malign activities.
“The Iranian regime is the single greatest threat to stability in the Middle East,” according to Pompeo’s list of talking points. And so, on each stop of his trip, the Secretary will “encourage leaders to expose Iran’s activities and stop the regime’s corrupt and destabilizing actions.”
Here’s the dubious part: in Lebanon, the Secretary will reaffirm US support for legitimate government institutions, including the Internal Security Forces and the Lebanese Armed Forces, and reiterate “our concern over the influence and actions of Hezbollah and its supporters, which put Lebanon’s sovereignty, the Lebanese people, and the region at risk.”
Seriously? The secretary must be aware that in Lebanon, government institutions, armed forces and internal security are all run or substantially influenced by Hezbollah. It has taken Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri more than two years of deadlock before he received Hezbollah’s blessing to elect Michel Aoun president, so he could in turn appoint Hariri for a second term as prime minister. And, of course, Hariri’s newly formed government includes Hezbollah ministers in key positions.
Nevertheless, Pompeo’s press release includes this precious warning to the Lebanese government: “The United States designated 40 targets linked to Hezbollah in 2018, our highest single-year number of designations to date, and will aggressively continue to expose and disrupt networks that Hezbollah uses to fund terror and destabilizing activities worldwide, including inside Lebanon.”
In other words, the Trump administration is alerting the Hezbollah-run Lebanese government about the scourge of Hezbollah.
Good to know.
In Kuwait, the Secretary will thank Kuwaiti leaders for their help in monitoring sanctions compliance against Iran and work to combat Iran’s sanctions evasion.
In Israel, the Secretary will emphasize the US commitment to combat Iranian aggression, including illicit tunneling by Hezbollah and Hamas’ indiscriminate firing of hundreds of rockets and missiles into Israel.
Also good to know.