Several US Republican members of Congress asked on Thursday the Biden Administration to adopt a tougher policy against the Lebanese political class — including sanctions —notably Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Al-Monitor reported.

Ahead of the third commemoration of the Aug. 4, 2020, Beirut port explosion on Friday, Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), who is the top Republican on the US Foreign Relations Committee, said in a letter to President Joe Biden that the US “must take a more assertive role in shaping Lebanon’s trajectory or risk losing Lebanon entirely as an Iranian client state.”

In his letter, Risch criticized the fact that no one was held accountable for the Beirut port explosion, which killed over 220 people, wounded more than 6,500 and destroyed swaths of Beirut. 

Risch also criticized the Lebanese politicians’ inability to elect a president.

Since former President Michel Aoun’s term ended in October, Lebanon’s Parliament has repeatedly failed to elect a successor.

Risch also said that Parliament Speaker Berri is “a clear extension of Hezbollah” and that he supports sanctions against Berri and other politicians.

The senator also criticized current American policy in Lebanon, especially as the caretaker Lebanese government has failed to implement reforms in the past few years.

The Lebanese government and the IMF signed a staff-level agreement in April 2022, but Lebanon’s slowness in implementing required reforms prevented the country from unlocking a $3 billion IMF bailout. 

Risch also criticized the lack of accountability in the killing of Irish United Nations peacekeeper Sean Rooney in Dec. 2022. 

Rooney, 23, was killed and three others were injured on Dec. 14 when their UNIFIL vehicle was attacked near the village of al-Aqbiya, an area controlled by Hezbollah in the south.

Moreover, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Darin LaHood (R-IL) and Max Miller (R-OH) sent a letter to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Thursday for the same reasons. They called for “targeted sanctions, including freezing any dollar-denominated assets, on those who have demonstrated a pattern of obstructing the presidential election process, including Lebanese Speaker Nabih Berri, among others.”

Source: L’Orient today