The Daily Star
Hezbollah and Russia’s efforts to blame Washington for “instigating” the nationwide anti-government protests have fallen short, a U.S. official said this week.
“During these protests, Hezbollah, with some echoes from Russia, has tried to blame the United States for instigating the protests. Those efforts have fallen short,” Joey Hood, the principal deputy assistant secretary at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs said Wednesday.
“Protesters in Lebanon know they are not the puppets of external influence,” said Hood, who was giving a testimony before the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism.
The U.S. official blasted Iran’s support to Hezbollah as “leaving the Lebanese people on the losing end,” adding that Washington remained concerned over Hezbollah’s role in the protests.
The hearing was held to discuss ways in which the U.S. can help Lebanese and Iraqi citizens “achieve the stability, security, and economic prosperity that their leaders have not delivered,” Hood said.
Hood added at the hearing that the two countries had not seen “nearly enough investment” in expanding economic opportunities, “leaving many young people no better off today than they were 10 years ago.”
Hook took a swipe at Iran and Russia for not providing the range of humanitarian, economic and security assistance that the U.S. does. “Since 2006, we have provided more than $2 billion to help strengthen the Lebanese Armed Forces … This is what we mean when we say America is a force for good in Lebanon,” he said.
Hook linked the current demonstrations with those of previous one, such as the “You Stink” “protests over failed garbage collection in Lebanon.”
As Hood explained the nationwide protests in Lebanon, he said they were “unparalleled in their national characters and the way that Lebanon citizens … have become involved.”
But he once again blamed Hezbollah and “its political partners” for refusing to agree to a new technocratic government.
But Hook admitted that the U.S. was working with key allies and the international community to discuss “how we would assist with these reforms to avert a full-blown economic crisis and create the conditions for economic recovery.”
“Lebanon will go nowhere,” Hood said, until “the sectarian leaders that fuel the political parties support real and immediate reforms.”
The U.S. official hailed the Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces for protecting protesters and allowing them to express themselves.