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Hale: Daesh, Hezbollah on "top of perils" in Lebanon

BEIRUT | / NNA - November 14, 2014, 20h24
Photo: National News Agency
The American Lebanese Chamber of Commerce on Friday held a dialogue session with the US Ambassador to Lebanon, David Hale, during a lunch banquet at the Eau De Vie Restaurant, Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut, attended by Chamber Head, Selim Zeani, and scores of economic, banking, trade and business dignitaries.
In his delivered remarks, Ambassador Hale said: "I want to thank Amcham for hosting this lunch and for once again giving me the opportunity to meet representatives of the American business community in Lebanon. I am also pleased to recognize Amcham's continuing efforts to promote Lebanese-American trade relations. Salim, thanks to you, to Amcham's board, and to its members, for all that you do."

He added: "I am proud of all parts of the American-Lebanese relationship, not least its trade dimension. Despite all the headwinds that this country faces, commercial activity between Lebanon and America is witnessing a golden decade. U.S. exports have quadrupled since 2005, exceeding $1.5 billion in 2013. America ranked as Lebanon's top trading partner from 2008 to 2012. There remains a huge potential for even more trade and business opportunities between our two countries."

The Ambassador said: "You know better than anyone: it is truly remarkable that the Lebanese economy is managing to grow at all, given the domestic and regional difficulties. Even in the face of those significant challenges, the Lebanese people and economy are demonstrating extraordinary resilience."

He went on to say: "But why settle for "surprising" growth? Just think what it would be like if Lebanon was able to focus on what the Lebanese people are demanding: real economic reforms that create jobs and growth, improve the infrastructure, provide cost-effective electricity for all, boost internet service, and eliminate unnecessary burdens on business. Your businesses would excel. Foreign investment would soar. People would prosper."

The Ambassador added: "Stability is the missing key to economic success. Today, nothing threatens that stability more than ISIL. ISIL is intimidating, yes; but it is not invincible. We have all witnessed the brutality it unleashed on the poor residents of Mosul, Abu Ali, Mount Sinjar, Raqqah, and elsewhere. When ISIL began to manifest itself in Lebanon, we all rang the alarm - and we all responded, with determination. And by "we," I mean of course your army and other security services, your government, and your friends, such as the United States."

He said: "Together, we are stronger than ISIL in every way, from the struggle on the battlefield to the war of ideas. In fact, the most important fight against ISIL is taking place on the ideological battleground. Our most potent weapon against the spread of extremist ideology is a counter message that denies the validity of extremism and violence, promotes positive values, and reaches those most at risk of recruitment and radicalization."

"We can all be emphatically clear: ISIL represents no religion; it represents no faith. In fact, all religions, including Islam and Christianity, have shared values. They uphold the value of human life, cherish the dignity of the individual, promote acceptance of others, and know that life on this earth should be a shared story of advancing our communities together, accommodating each other, and protecting vulnerable members of our society," he added.

"As we face once again a group of terrorists who take it upon themselves to kill and destroy, moderates from all backgrounds should know one thing: strength is on our side because our values are more powerful than those of any extremist. These are the values that have built great civilizations, in the East and in the West. They are the foundation of any healthy society. It is imperative that we work together, across religious, cultural and geographic boundaries, to convince all people to resist the extremist message and embrace our common values of mutual respect." he noted.

Hale said: "Together, we can degrade and defeat these extremists, but we need to be strong, unified, and united. This is why the United States is leading a broad-based coalition against ISIL in partnership with key Arab allies and more than 60 countries from around the world."

"The United States and some coalition partners have conducted nearly 900 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. The goal of the airstrikes is to limit ISIL's ability to control territory, project power elsewhere, and conduct operations. But this military fight cannot be won from the air alone. This is why we are supporting our regional partners with the tools they need to combat ISIL on the ground," he said.

"We are substantially increasing our support for the security forces in Iraq. That is our first focus: to solidify the Iraqi government and their security forces, and enable them to push ISIL back. In Syria, we face a complicated situation that is not going to be resolved anytime soon. We are trying to get a moderate opposition in Syria that can serve as a partner with us on the ground - a core group that we can vet and work with, and have confidence in. The goal is to have a group that can help regain territory from ISIL, and then ultimately serve as a responsible party to sit at the table in eventual political negotiations to resolve the conflict," he said.

"But there are other critical lines of effort. Together with the international community, we are cutting off ISIL's lifelines of foreign fighters and funding, focusing especially on its smuggled oil. And we will continue to support those communities most vulnerable to the spillover from the crisis. Here in Lebanon, the United States has contributed nearly $600 million to help Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities since the start of the Syrian crisis. We will continue to give more. On October 28, we announced an additional $10 million in humanitarian assistance, the majority of which will be directed to host community projects in Lebanon," he added.

He went on to say: "We also are committed to supporting the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Internal Security Forces as they fight terrorism and secure Lebanon's borders. Since the early August battles in Arsal, we have expedited the deliveries of hundreds of weapons, mortars, grenade launchers, and Hellfire missiles. We have sent millions of rounds of ammunition. We are working with the army to acquire new contact aircraft, as well as many other modern pieces of weaponry."

He added: "But we all know defeating ISIL alone will not restore stability to Lebanon. We all know there are underlying problems. Lebanon's leaders had entered into a National Dialogue to address them. They had agreed to the Baabda Declaration as an important milestone on the path to stability. Until that dialogue advances, and its principles are not just agreed to but adhered to, the risks to this country's stability will remain very real. High on the list of risks is the continued ability of one militia, Hezbollah, to bear arms and act with impunity. So long as that is the case, stability will be absent, and growth impeded. The security institutions of the state should have the capability, and sole legitimacy, to defend Lebanon's territory. For they alone - and not a militia - are accountable to the people. Decisions of war and peace, of life and death - which affect every Lebanese citizen - should be vested in a constitutional government accountable to the Lebanese people, not a militia accountable to a foreign government."

He also pointed out: "This is no time for political paralysis or the erosion of Lebanon's political institutions. This is a time to rely on the strengths of your constitution, not to pull it down. Extremist groups like ISIL were bred in chaos; they thrive in chaos. The best way to defeat them is through unity. Every day that goes by with the presidency vacant is another day when Lebanon is deprived of this important symbol of national unity. We have called on Lebanon's parliament to elect a president as soon as possible, and in accordance with the country's constitution. The election of a president is a decision entirely for the Lebanese to take, but take it, they must."

"The United States is committed to a strong partnership with the Lebanese people as we confront the extremist threat together. Businesses here in Lebanon risk further losses if ISIL continues to grow unabated. There is huge potential for even more trade and business opportunities our two countries. Together, we can ensure that the political and security environment exists for this potential to become reality. Together, we can ensure that Lebanon remains open to investment, open to entrepreneurs, and open to the dreams and aspirations of every Lebanese citizen," the Ambassador concluded.
#USA, #United_States, #US_in_Lebanon, #David_Hale, #IS, #ISIS, #Islamic_state, #Hezbollah
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