Pompeo in Lebanon to step up pressure on Hezbollah

“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,” Pompeo told reporters earlier this week.

By Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks with Lebanese leaders on Friday amid strong regional condemnation of President Donald Trump’s declaration that it’s time the U.S. recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

During his two-day visit, Pompeo is meeting with top officials, including some who are aligned with the Iran- and Syria-allied terrorist Hezbollah group.

The visit is the last leg of a Mideast tour that took Pompeo to Kuwait and Israel, where he lauded warm ties with Israel, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on at least three separate occasions, including an official visit to the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, and promised to step up pressure on Iran.

From Israel, Pompeo’s plane travelled through the Cypriot airspace, as Lebanon, which is technically in a state of war with Israel, bans direct flights from Israel.

Once on the ground, Pompeo was taken to the Interior Ministry for a brief meeting with Raya El-Hassan, who was named earlier this year as the Arab world’s first female minister in charge of security.

Pompeo also met with Lebanon’s powerful Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, before heading for a working lunch with Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The State Department’s deputy spokesman, Robert Palladino, said Pompeo highlighted in the meeting with Berri U.S. concerns about Hezbollah’s “destabilizing activities in Lebanon and the region” as well as the need to maintain calm along the border between Lebanon and Israel.

In his Lebanon visit, Pompeo hopes to step up pressure on Hezbollah, which wields more power than ever in parliament and the government.

“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,” Pompeo told reporters earlier this week.

“Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. You ask how tough I am going to be? It is a terrorist organization. Period. Full stop,” Pompeo said in Jerusalem on Thursday.