When Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, his main message was not about Syria, Hezbollah, or even Iran. He told the assembled lawmakers that the U.S. had to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before it could make progress on those other pressing regional issues.
“He feels that the growth of terrorism and the instability in his country and elsewhere is still an outgrowth of the inability to find peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and that the lack of progress there continues to jeopardize not only Lebanon but other states as well,” the committee’s ranking Republican Richard Lugar, R-IN, told The Cable upon exiting the meeting.
Hariri made a plea for more military assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces, a subject of internal administration debate in Washington, but did not comment on concerns that Syria is transferring new long-range missiles to Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group that Washington has designated a terrorist organization.
“He did not accuse the Syrians but he did acknowledge that Hezbollah does have arms,” said Lugar. “When asked ‘Why don’t you disarm them?’ he responded, ‘That would lead to civil war.'” Lawmakers, many of whom have a personal affinity for Hariri and travel to Beirut often, decided not to press the issue.
“We did not get into the specific armaments that Syria has given Hezbollah,” Lugar said. “It didn’t happen to arise in this conversation.”…….. lawmakers didn’t ask Hariri to do anything specific to advance that objective, Kerry said. “I think he’s been an enormously helpful partner with respect to the issues in the region.”
Not everyone thinks the Lebanese prime minister has been so helpful, especially when he reportedly said last month, “Threats that Lebanon now has huge missiles are similar to what they used to say about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”…
Kerry, who just returned from a trip to Syria, declined to say if he had made any progress with the government there. “I just had discussions about the normal things,” he said.