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Pompeo to talk defusing Hezbollah, Iran threat in Lebanon

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laughs during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in Jerusalem March 20, 2019

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to meet on Friday, March 22nd with leading Lebanese politicians, and top of his agenda is to use his influence to curb the influence of Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon’s political make-up.

Pompeo will also meet with Lebanon’s prime minister Saad Hariri, a close Western ally, and is also expected to ask him to make greater efforts to shield Lebanese policies from Iranian influence. 

“We’ll spend a lot of time talking with the Lebanese government about how we can help them disconnect from the threat that Iran and Hezbollah present to them,” Pompeo told reporters earlier this week, according to the Lebanese local newspaper, An-Nahar.

The Iran-aligned Hezbollah has managed to secure three cabinet seats in the newly-formed government under Hariri, the largest number it has ever taken, including the health ministry, which has one of the largest budgets.

This development has raised the alarm for US officials who stressed on Hariri’s national unity government to make sure that the militant group did not siphon-off public resources. In February, US Ambassador Elizabeth Richard expressed concerns over Hezbollah’s growing role in the new cabinet, saying it does not contribute to stability.

While the US will continue to provide military aid to the Lebanese army, using that as its leverage, Pompeo has said the US is also determined to make it harder for Hezbollah to operate.

“In Lebanon, Hezbollah is a major presence, but we won’t accept this as the status quo,” he said recently. “We want it [Lebanon] united and Iran out.”