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Lebanon: Republicans in Congress call for sanctions against political class

The letters come amid Lebanon’s continued political paralysis, economic crisis and rising tensions with Israel. Some members of Congress are calling for sanctions on parliament speaker Nabih Berri, an ally of Hezbollah.
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads the 12th parliamentary session to elect a new president in the capital Beirut's downtown district on June 14, 2023 amid bitter divisions between the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah and its opponents. Lawmakers in crisis-hit Lebanon failed for a 12th time to elect a new president, with bitter divisions between the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah and its opponents marring the vote. (Photo by ANWAR AMRO / AFP) (Photo by ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Several members of Congress wrote to the Biden administration on Thursday calling for stronger US policy toward Lebanon, with one arguing that Iranian influence is increasing in the crisis-stricken country.

“We must take a more assertive role in shaping Lebanon's trajectory or risk losing Lebanon entirely as an Iranian client state,” wrote Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) in a letter to US President Joe Biden seen by Al-Monitor.

Risch's letter was sent ahead of the third anniversary of the horrific Beirut port explosion on Friday. Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Darin LaHood (R-IL) and Max Miller (R-OH) also penned a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday expressing their concerns with the administration's Lebanon policy. 

Risch, who is the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, characterized current US policy towards Lebanon as “life support,” saying it has “failed to deliver results” as the Lebanese government has yet to implement reforms. Risch called on the administration to both support viable Lebanese politicians and counter Iran’s allies in the country more strongly.

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