Which American offer did Bassil reject?

After the arrival of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States of America, in what represents a blatant and obvious “right move”, other countries and powers in the world started reanalyzing their positions, either in how they may adjust to the new American administration, or in finding new ways to improve their chances in confronting it.

In Lebanon, some may have been rejuvenated by the Trump “Oxygen”, in one way or another, silently betting on the continued deterioration of the cowboy disguised as a business man, in order to improve the equilibrium internally and regionally, in what resembles a longing to the times of the expanded American presence on the Lebanese scene.

Alas, as luck would have it that the ones hanging on to the status quo goes involved in a preset equation, starting with the election of General Michel Aoun to the presidency and the placement of Saad Hariri to the prime minister position, thus making it difficult to back off of the repercussions of the deal, regardless of whether they were convinced of it or against it.

Aside from that, President Michel Aoun did not hesitate, after Trump took over, to announce his position in supporting the resistance and against Israel, both verbally and visually, the fact that caused quite a few western as well as regional powers to criticize his proposals and stating that they are against the content of the UN resolution 1701as well the regional ideologies. In addition to the fact that some of the ‘professional’ instigators and specialists in evoking psychological fears expressed their concerns that such political statements and positions may lead to the suspension of American aid to the government and the Army, at a time when Lebanon faces many challenges.

In the midst of this external atmosphere, Minister Gebran Bassil visited Washington DC, where he participated in the national conference to combat ISIS at the State department, which was also attended by members of 68 countries of which 55 were foreign ministers.

And naturally, Mr. Bassil took advantage of his presence in the USA and met with a number of officials in both the State department and the department of defense as well as the national security in addition to a few members of Congress. It did not take Minister Bassil long for his diplomatic “radar” to pick the buzzing of the conservative administration, and he quickly realized that the latest Aoun position had left an uneasy feeling in the hearts of those closest to the decision making and influential parties, so he promptly proceeded to carve out these prejudicial thoughts that has arrived before him to Washington.

And in this way, Bassil assured during his official meetings as well the non official ones the need to maintain the American aid to Lebanon which faces terrorism and is accepting the major weight of the displaced people of the Syrian conflict. One can say that there understanding among those involved concerning this issue knowing that Trump had declared his plan to decrease all foreign aid by almost 27%.

Another challenge facing the minister Bassil was the fact that the US was increasing the financial pressure on Lebanon in general and on the banking industry in particular, in an attempt to increase the choke hold on Hezbollah and Iran. Here Bassil stressed that Lebanon should be set aside and not targeted in the quagmire that is the tug of war going on between Washington and Teheran.

When the subject of the statements of Aoun concerning the maintaining of the forces of resistance as long as the Lebanese army is unable to defend the land against the Israeli dangers, many American personalities, that Bassil had meetings with,  objected to the statements of president Aoun, Minister Bassil asked them: Will you guarantee us that Israel will not attack us in the future, and do you believe that it was the international resolutions are what liberated the occupied Lebanese territories?

Bassil then eluded to the role of the military saying: “the Army only receives its orders from the official political leadership, and it follows a truly national ideology, has never surrendered its arms to anyone, and has succeeded and is still triumphant in combating terrorism, so if there are people in the area that fight against each other we on the other hand are united against terrorism.”

And because the United States realizes the important role that the army has in opposing the extremists groups, they should be no worry concerning the fate of the military assistance that they provide, and there is information stating that the army will soon receive new tanks that they never received before. And while some Lebanese Americans occupy vital position in the political arena in the USA, Bassil met with what may be called the Lebanese political community comprised of members of congress, as well as symbols of the “Christian lobby” and Lebanese in particular.

The surprise was that Minister Bassil heard from some of the conservative Americans and the enthusiastic Lebanese a call for the reestablishment of the Christian glory days in Lebanon, accompanied with a show of readiness to assist and “work together” in order to achieve that goal mentioning the fact that we should take advantage of the presence of a president, like Donald Trump, to facilitate the mission.

Bassil responded to this offer by assuring that the benefit of the Christians lies in their openness with their Muslim partners in what concerns balance and sharing, and not by alienating them, warning them of the dangers of succumbing to “Islamophobia” and instructing them that the response to extremism is not through extremism but by reaffirming their attachment to their land and obtaining their rights without the need for violence against others.

Translated by Hala Hayek