TACOMA, Washington — Following years of political turmoil, a mysterious chemical explosion and an ongoing pandemic, the crisis in Lebanon continues to worsen. The United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs is responsible for the legislation regarding foreign assistance. This encompasses developing assistance, national security developments and peacekeeping. Members of the committee stepped up to write and sign a letter advocating for U.S. officials to offer increased assistance for the crisis in Lebanon.
In Congressman Gregory Meeks’s letter, he expressed concern about the worsening economic and political crisis in Lebanon. A total of 24 other members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee signed this letter. According to a press release from the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, it read, “Supporting Lebanon at this critical time is not only a humanitarian and economic imperative but also a necessity to prevent such actors from further undermining Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty.”
Committee members who signed the letter asked for four immediate responses from the Sectary of State Anthony Blinken. Members asked for a financial assistance program to support political changes and prevent instability in Lebanon. They also called for direct aid to those most impacted by the political crisis and an investigation into the 2020 Beirut port explosion.
“We support policies that advance a strong and stable U.S.-Lebanon relationship and a just, prosperous and independent future for the Lebanese people,” Rep. Meeks wrote in the letter. There has been no official response to this letter. Currently, there are no new U.S. initiatives to assist with the crisis in Lebanon.
Lebanon’s Political and Humanitarian Crisis
In 2019, the Lebanese government announced new taxes, targeting users of Whatsapp calls. Protests broke out against the government and they quickly became violent, leading to the current crisis in Lebanon. Early in 2020, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures forced protestors to go home. However, they returned upon permitting safety measures.
According to Human Rights Watch, deep poverty already affected many people in Lebanon, but this crisis has made it harder for people to access healthcare and food. Moreover, many people impacted by the crisis in Lebanon are refugees. Lebanon is home to more than 865,530 registered Syrian refugees.
The 2020 Beirut Explosion
In August 2020, an explosion occurred at the Beirut Port, killing more than 200 people and injuring 5,000. According to The New York Times, the explosion came from the improper storage of more than 2,000 tons of hazardous chemicals.
The Lebanese people advocated for the government to deeply investigate the explosion. However, since many of the parties involved were protected by the authority of the government, not enough action was being done. As a result, the Lebanese people lost faith in their government.
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According to The New York Times, a second judge in Lebanon, Judge Tarek Bitar, has started investigating the 2020 explosion. Judge Bitar is still facing hurdles in fully investigating political affiliates. He most recently attempted to remove the protections so he could thoroughly investigate the politicians.
Today, many people are struggling to obtain essentials because of rising prices on goods and services. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to deepen the crisis in Lebanon, more resources and assistance are urgently needed like those proposed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
– Monica Mellon