The US on Saturday welcomed the European Union’s adoption of a legal framework for a sanctions regime targeting individuals and entities who are responsible for undermining democracy or the rule of law in Lebanon.
The sanctions regime is seen as the fruit of cooperation between Washington and the EU. It came amid reports predicting that the US could take a similar step in the near future.
“Sanctions are intended, among other things, to compel changes in behavior, and promote accountability for corrupt actors and leaders,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
Last Friday, the EU adopted the sanctions regime to impose sanctions on officials in Lebanon with hopes to speed up the formation of a government and enact the measures required to steer the country towards a sustainable recovery.
It came only hours after Spokesperson of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Agnes Von Der Muhl said that France is ready, with its European and international partners, to increase the pressure on Lebanese politicians to quickly form a fully operational government capable of launching the reforms that the situation demands and which are the prerequisite of any structural assistance.
Meanwhile, the Washington Institute for Near Easters affairs published a testimony submitted to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Middle East by Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker to diagnose Lebanon’s incapacitated institutions and prescribe remedies for its entrenched corruption and Iranian-Hezbollah domination.
Schenker said that even if a government was formed in Beirut today, it would take time for reforms to be implemented and for IMF funds to be disbursed and start having an impact.
“Lebanon’s recovery, even in a best-case scenario, will be measured in decades,” he wrote, adding that as frustrations and hunger increase, so too will petty and violent crime.
According to Schenker, Washington should persist in sanctioning Lebanese political elites, regardless of sect, who perpetuate the system of endemic corruption that has led the state to ruin.
“This includes designating not only Hezbollah officials, but also its political allies and others who obstruct the formation of a reform-oriented government and the implementation of reforms,” the Taube Senior Fellow at The Washington Institute said.
At the financial level, Schenker explained that efforts should be made to claw back funds stolen through corruption from the Lebanese people, but the vast majority of this money is unlikely ever to be returned.