Lebanon crisis

US tells Lebanon not to fear sanctions over energy supply plans, PM’s office says

Senior Republican lawmakers and a former US official quickly hit out at the Biden administration for what they said would be aiding Syria’s Assad regime.

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The US ambassador to Lebanon told the Lebanese government it should not fear a US sanctions law over its plans to receive energy supplies from the region, the office of Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Friday.

Lebanon, which is grappling with a deep financial crisis, is seeking to import energy from fellow Arab states to ease an acute power shortage.

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However, supplies would have to transit Syria, which is subject to a US sanctions law.

US Ambassador Dorothy Shea handed Mikati a letter from the US Treasury Department “to answer some of the concerns the Lebanese authorities had regarding regional energy agreements that the United States helped facilitate between Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt,” the statement from the prime minister’s office said.

Under a plan agreed between Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Syria in September, Egyptian gas would be piped to Lebanon via Jordan and Syria to help boost Lebanon’s power output, which now delivers a few hours a day of electricity at best.

The plan, which has US backing, aims to pump the gas through an Arab pipeline established about 20 years ago.

However, the plan has been complicated by US sanctions on the Syrian government, under President Bashar al-Assad, prompting Lebanese officials to ask Washington to grant an exemption. Damascus has said it was ready to cooperate.

Senior Republican lawmakers and former US officials quickly hit out at the Biden administration.

“Exceptionally poor advice. Lebanon should absolutely worry about violating US sanctions. So should every other country involved,” Senator Ted Cruz tweeted.

He added: “Congress isn’t going to allow Team Biden to enrich Iran’s proxies, especially not bloody tyrants like Assad. US sanctions will be enforced.”

Congressman Joe Wilson echoed Cruz’s sentiment. “The Caesar Act is clear. Congress will hold Biden accountable for any sanctions relief provided to Assad. Lebanon’s energy and economic crisis will not be solved by enriching mass murderer Assad and Iran’s proxies,” he said.

Former US Special Envoy for Syria Joel Rayburn said it appeared that the Biden administration was “willfully misinterpreting US law.”

“It appears the Biden admin is willfully misinterpreting US law to offer other countries a “guarantee” that will die the day Congress changes hands, if not before. Never will they convince 1/2 of Congress that saving Lebanon requires diverting massive fuel or cash to Assad,” Rayburn said.

Read more: End Hezbollah’s terrorist hegemony, Saudi envoy tells Lebanon’s politicians

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