Saudi-Iran deal could have ‘calming’ effect on Lebanon, region: Senior US diplomat

“I don’t really see the Saudis fostering a proxy war in the region. I do see Iran doing that,” the senior State Department official said.

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A senior State Department official said Thursday that the Biden administration remains focused on the Middle East and North Africa, adding that the recent Saudi-Iran normalization deal could have “calming” effects on the region.

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf also voiced concern over the instability in several countries, such as Lebanon and Tunisia.


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“The administration remains focused on our enduring interests in the Middle East and North Africa,” Leaf said in a call with reporters.

Leaf recently returned from a trip to the region, which included stops in Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Lebanon.

Asked about the recent China-backed agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Leaf said any efforts to de-escalate regional tensions were welcomed.

Leaf cautioned that the agreement would be implemented first, and it remained to be seen whether Iran would live up to its commitments in halting lethal aid and training to militias in Yemen and others that continue to attack Saudi Arabia.

“I don’t really see the Saudis fostering a proxy war in the region. I do see Iran doing that, and if this [new deal] leads to a broader cessation of such activity by Iran, I think it will surely have a calming and beneficial effect for Lebanon as well as other countries in the region,” the top US diplomat for the Middle East said.

Leaf sounded the alarm over the deteriorating situation in Beirut and criticized Lebanese leaders for lacking a sense of urgency to make decisions needed to help the situation.

“Helping the Lebanese people through their time of crises remains a priority for the US as we urge Lebanese leaders to adopt a sense of urgency that they clearly have lacked, and a sense of seriousness and making the critical decisions and taking the critical steps that will put the country on the path out of the current unprecedented crisis,” she said.

Leaf said Lebanon did not have an alternative to the proposed deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if it wanted to begin an economic recovery. Since reaching a staff-level agreement with the IMF almost a year ago, Lebanese officials have failed to implement the needed reforms to conclude the deal, including restructuring its debt and banking sector, and reforming the state-run electricity company.

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