Following Beirut Blast, Shaheen & Bipartisan Group of Senators Call on Administration to Help Stabilize Lebanon and Respond to Demands for Reform

August 19, 2020

Senators Urge State, USAID to Lead Longer-Term Diplomatic Efforts to Help Lebanon Recover and Encourage Reform

(Washington, DC) — U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a bipartisan group of Senators including Chris Murphy (D-CT), James Lankford (R-OK), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and David Perdue (R-GA) called on the Trump administration today to lead an international effort to help the Lebanese people recover in the aftermath of the Beirut blast that killed more than 220 people and injured thousands of others. In a letter to State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo and Acting USAID Administrator John Barsa, the Senators said long-term financial support should be conditioned on Lebanon’s leaders committing to reforms, called for a transparent and independent investigation into the cause of this explosion, and stressed why it is in U.S. strategic interests to not see Lebanon fall further into economic decline.

The Senators wrote, “It is sadly telling that there is little to no faith in providing assistance directly to the Lebanese government due to its rampant corruption.  As such, while responding to the short-term needs of the Lebanese people is paramount, we hope that this disaster will refocus the U.S. and international community on the necessity of addressing Lebanon’s deep-seated governance crisis that has brought us to this moment.  Fundamentally, the explosion is symptomatic of a corrupt governing system that has consistently failed to provide even the most basic services to the Lebanese people. Lebanon needs leaders who will finally commit to a clear set of economic, public transparency, and anticorruption reforms to rebuild effectively.”

“It is in the United States’ interest to have a stable and secure Lebanon. Iran is eager to exploit this tragedy to further expand its influence, and we know that Chinese financing to Lebanon would not require the reforms that are desperately needed at this critical juncture. Therefore, we urge you to lead a robust longer-term effort to yield the reforms needed to help the Lebanese people suffering under a collapsed economy and gross government mismanagement,” the Senators continued.

Read the full text of the letter here.

Earlier this month, Shaheen worked with a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce a Senate Resolution regarding the explosion in the Port of Beirut, Lebanon on August 4, 2020. The bipartisan resolution extends heartfelt condolences to the people of Lebanon on behalf of the U.S. Senate and reiterates support for ongoing U.S. government efforts to provide emergency humanitarian relief in concert with other international partners to those impacted.