The US ambassador to Lebanon on Tuesday expressed concerns over the Hezbollah terrorist group’s growing role in the new Cabinet, saying it does not contribute to stability, reports The Associated Press.
Hezbollah and its allies gained more than half the seats of the 128-member Lebanese parliament in the election which took place in May of 2018.
In the newly formed Lebanese cabinet, which was announced several weeks ago, Hezbollah has named a health minister and two other posts. US officials have called on Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s new government to ensure the group does not receive support from public resources.
At a meeting with Hariri on Tuesday, Ambassador Elizabeth Richard said the Iran-backed Hezbollah continues to violate Lebanon’s policy of non-involvement in regional conflicts by fighting in “at least three countries.” She was likely referring to Syria, where the group fights alongside the government, and Iraq and Yemen, where Iran supports local armed groups.
“I was also very frank with the prime minister about U.S. concern over the growing role in the Cabinet of an organization that continues to maintain a militia that is not under the control of the government,” Richard told reporters after the meeting, according to AP.
She added that Hezbollah continues to make its own “national security decisions” that “endanger the rest of the country.”
The US views Hezbollah as a terrorist group, but is a strong supporter of Lebanon’s national army, supplying it with arms worth hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years.
Richard said last year alone, the United States provided more than $825 million in assistance, an increase from the year before. She said the US has also supported education and development programs to help Lebanese communities “deal with the unprecedented demands placed on them when their Syrian neighbors fled.”
A State Department official in December expressed concern over Hezbollah’s rising clout in Lebanon and said the United States hopes Lebanon's next government will work with it on areas of mutual interest.
Hezbollah is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the West and even by some Arab countries, but some of those designations, most notably in the EU and in Britain, make a distinction between Hezbollah’s “military wing” and its political arm.