WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL), co-chair of the U.S. Lebanon Friendship Caucus, led a bipartisan letter with 86 colleagues to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging the United States to deploy humanitarian aid to the Lebanese people and support the efforts underway to address the impacts of the Beirut explosion. The letter was also led by co-chair of the U.S.-Lebanon Friendship Caucus Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL).
Rep. LaHood also introduced H.Res. 1077, expressing the sense of the U.S. House of Representative that the U.S. continues to support a strong relationship with Lebanon. This bipartisan resolution is cosponsored by Representatives Donna Shalala (D-FL), Garret Graves (R-LA), and Steve Stivers (R-OH).
“I take great pride in my Lebanese heritage and the strong Lebanese American community we have in central Illinois. The explosion that took place this week in Beirut is tragic and my condolences go out to the injured and the families who lost loved ones. Now more than ever, the United States’ support of Lebanon is critical. Humanitarian aid will help heal a country going through a tumultuous period and send a strong message that America supports a sovereign and independent Lebanon.
“As co-chair of the U.S.-Lebanon Friendship Caucus, I will continue to be a strong advocate in Congress for U.S. support of an independent Lebanese Armed Forces and efforts to root out corruption in the Lebanese public sector. We must continue to firmly oppose the rising influence of Hezbollah and other nonstate actors and recognize the need for an independent and apolitical Lebanese judiciary. A strong, sovereign Lebanon can provide stability in the Middle East, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to support a sustainable U.S.-Lebanon relationship.” said Congressman Darin LaHood.
“ATFL, a leadership organization comprised of prominent Americans of Lebanese heritage who support a strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Lebanon, appreciates the tremendous efforts of Congressman LaHood and the U.S.-Lebanon Friendship Caucus to highlight the critical nature of the US-Lebanon relationship and the importance of U.S. interests in the region, especially with regard to the Lebanese Armed Forces and the common values that bind our two countries together,” added Ed Gabriel, President and CEO of the American Task Force for Lebanon.
The greater Peoria, Illinois area is home to over 8,000 Lebanese Americans, one of the largest Lebanese populations in the country. Congressman LaHood’s great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from the village of Aitou in Northern Lebanon. The U.S. is home to over 14,000 immigrants from Aitou, many of whom live in Peoria, Illinois. Congressman LaHood has led two bipartisan Congressional delegation trips to Lebanon since joining Congress in 2015.
Full text of the legislation can be read here.
H.Res. 1077 is a House Resolution that expresses the sense of Congress on the continued importance of the U.S.-Lebanon relationship. The resolution expresses U.S. support for:
- Sovereignty, security, and independence of Lebanon as a U.S. ally
- The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) through continued U.S. military training and supplies of military equipment
- The role and presence of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
- U.S. institutions in Lebanon through programs like American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) and U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI)
- Strong opposition to Hezbollah influence in Lebanon
- Strong opposition to corruption in the Lebanese public sector
- Strong opposition to the politicization of the independent judiciary
Full text of the letter can be read attached or below.
August 7, 2020
The Honorable Michael Pompeo
United States Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C. Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Secretary Pompeo,
We write to express our deep condolences to the people of Lebanon after the devastating explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020, which, according to preliminary estimates, killed at least 100 people and injured over 4,000. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all Lebanese, especially the injured and the families who lost loved ones and are suffering from this tragedy.
In Congress, we work to support policies for a strong and stable relationship between the United States and Lebanon. We thank you for your comments and commitment to U.S. assistance to the Lebanese people as they begin to recover from this horrible event. We support the decision of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide approximately $15 million in immediate humanitarian assistance. However, given the economic and public health challenges already facing Lebanon, we urge you to consider additional support to address the immediate humanitarian crisis facing the country, aid in the recovery effort – including medical care and treatment for the injured and efforts for cleanup of the blast site and other impacted areas – and also remain consistent with the United States’ longstanding interest in a secure and independent Lebanon.
Given the vast economic impact from the damage to the Beirut port, the disruption of supplies for imported goods, and the loss of almost 80 percent of Lebanon’s grain and wheat reserves, continued American commitment to the Lebanese people will help address the estimated billions of dollars in losses and support long term stability in Lebanon and the region. As you know, the United States has a strong presence in Lebanon, including in hospitals like the American University of Beirut Medical Center and the Lebanese American University Medical Center – Rizk Hospital, which are already working around the clock to treat those who were wounded by the blast. American universities in Lebanon have also suffered significant damage. We are confident that emergency assistance can be provided to the people of Lebanon while adhering to appropriate vetting standards, particularly by working through vetted and approved Non-Governmental Organizations. We ask that Congress be apprised of any expenditures.
We recognize that Lebanon was facing many difficult challenges before this tragedy occurred, including an economic crisis, heightened tensions with nonstate actors, political disputes, and the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand the Lebanese government has placed the Lebanese Armed Forces in charge of the blast site, and we support the need for stability and peace at this difficult time. While we continue to assess how best the United States can be a partner in supporting humanitarian assistance to the people of Lebanon and continue our longstanding history of providing assistance in complicated environments, we affirm our support for a stable, independent, democratic, and sovereign Lebanon.
We urge you to continue deploying needed humanitarian relief for the people of Lebanon and support the multilateral efforts underway to address the impacts of the Beirut explosion. We thank you for your consideration as we continue, in our capacity in Congress, to support United States efforts to aid the people of Lebanon during this difficult time.