Just a week after the August 4 Beirut port explosion the Trump administration is about to ramp up a "maximum economic pressure" campaign on Lebanon targeting Hezbollah and its allies.
With the country reeling in the wake of the deadly blast - its worst disaster going back to the destruction and death of the 2006 war - Washington is attempting to "drive a wedge between Hezbollah and its allies as part of a broader effort to contain the Shiite force backed by Tehran," as The Wall Street Journal writes.
Just days ago France's Emmanuel Macron personally urged Trump to "reinvest" in Lebanon instead of a sanctions campaign, apparently to no avail.
And now on Wednesday, WSJ breaks the following:
President Trump has used sanctions as a central tool in his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. Now some in his administration want to see the White House turn the screws in Lebanon.
Specifically the new punitive measures are being described as "anticorruption sanctions against prominent Lebanese politicians and businessmen." One US official described to WSJ that it's clearly ‘maximum pressure’ aimed at Lebanon, but ultimately targeting Tehran's proxies.
The Trump administration hopes to "shape" any future government away from Hezbollah's influence, or even its allies. Of course, this comes at the worst possible time for the devastated country, also given estimates of at least three billion dollars in damage to hard-hit Beirut districts closest to the impact of last Tuesday's massive explosion.
As many observers have noted, Hezbollah is deeply involved and embedded in the Lebanese political system, with elected members of parliament, close ties with banks, and even hospitals and public services in various parts of the country, particularly the south.
Lebanon has generously hosted refugees for many years.— UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) August 11, 2020
The explosion last week has devastated the capital, and thousands of people have lost their homes.
We stand with Lebanon and the people of #Beirut. pic.twitter.com/FCuUWhzkRz
This also comes at a time of severe economic woes, a banking sector in crisis, plunging currency, and after the entire government including the prime minister stepped down amid popular anger and protest over authorities negligently allowing over 2,500 tons of ammonium nitrate to languish at Beirut's port for years, paving the way for Lebanon's third government in less than a year.