The US is considering a broad set of options to respond to the crisis in Lebanon, including sanctions on corrupt figures, sending cash and non-perishable aid to the Lebanese Army and directing humanitarian assistance to non-government organisations.
In a joint statement released on Friday by the US Secretaries of State and Treasury, Antony Blinken and Janet Yellen, the Biden administration welcomed the EU's adoption of a new sanctions regime.
"As an increasing number of Lebanese suffer from the country’s worsening economic crisis, it is critical that Lebanese leaders heed their people’s repeated calls for an end to widespread corruption and government inaction and form a government that can initiate the reforms critical to address the country’s dire situation," the joint statement read.
"The United States looks forward to future co-operation with the EU in our shared efforts."
On Friday, the EU announced it adopted a framework for sanctions that would focus on corruption and “persons and entities who are responsible for undermining democracy or the rule of law” in Lebanon.
With Lebanon experiencing a power vacuum, rampant fuel and medicine shortages, and with the local currency in free fall, US President Joe Biden's government finds itself forced to think outside the box to manage the situation and prevent the country from becoming a failed state.
The threat of sanctions, one Arab diplomatic source said, was aimed at both speeding up the formation of a new government and showing a US-EU united front on the issue.
This week, Lebanese business tycoon Najib Mikati became the third prime minister-designate to attempt to break the year-long paralysis in forming a government.
US officials have dealt with Mr Mikati before, when he served as prime minister in 2005 and 2011, and are privately welcoming the pick. But publicly, the US is withholding judgment.
“The US renews its calls to quickly form a government that’s empowered and that’s also committed to implementing critical reforms,” State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter said this week.
Behind the scenes, diplomatic sources told The Nationalas the Biden team w in close discussions with European and Arab leaders regarding sanctions, operational means to prevent a complete collapse in Beirut.
This includes non-security-related aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces.
The Pentagon confirmed to The National that it was exploring new options.
“The Department of Defence is working closely with interagency and international partners exploring ways to provide additional emergency support to the" Lebanese Armed Forces, Pentagon spokeswoman Cindi King said.
The Biden administration had already planned to provide $120 million in aid to the Lebanese military in 2021, an increase from the $105m that was initially proposed for this year.
In June, the US gave the Lebanese Armed Forces $59m in cash as a reimbursement for counter-terrorism efforts under Section 1226 and is in the process of delivering three US Coastguard protector-class coastal patrol boats to the country.
Aram Nerguizian, a senior associate at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said Lebanon's currency crisis was forcing the armed forces to find new ways to sustain itself.
Source: The National