On February 22nd, a US delegation of officials, headed by Senator Robert Corker, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, conducted a series of meetings with President Aoun and other senior officials during a visit to Lebanon. Subsequently, President Aoun and Senator Corker expressed their satisfaction with the discourses and renewed their pledge for continued and strong relations between the two countries. The focus was primarily on the U.S. steadfast support of the Lebanese army; a support that will certainly “maintain Lebanon’s stability,” as affirmed by President Aoun.
However, following the visit, there have been several articles depicting a totally different outcome of these meetings. Some unverified sources conveyed that the discussions between the two teams were rather negative, unsuccessful, and non-conducive to any substantial (and much needed) support.
The media team at the Lebanese American Council for Democracy reached out to Mr. Gabriel Issa, the founder of the LACD, who is currently in Lebanon, to acquire an explanation of the disparate reports.
LACD Media: Mr. Issa, you are aware of the US delegation’s visit to Lebanon in February. There are published articles in the media relaying a negative outcome of the meetings between Senator Corker and President Aoun. Could you enlighten us on the situation?
Mr. Issa: To be honest with you, these are rumors rather than facts. As opposed to these unsubstantiated articles, I can assert that the meetings were very positive, constructive, and promising.
LACD Media: So, you were present during the meetings?
Mr. Issa: What I am conveying to you is firsthand information. I am aware of the meetings and more importantly, of their results. I can assure you that the meetings were productive, optimistic, and encouraging. A strong accord was clearly noted between the U.S. team and Lebanese President. From the U.S. side, the support for the president and the Lebanese military was clearly formulated.
LACD Media: We heard (and read) that the U.S. is contemplating halting the military aid to the Lebanese Army. Is this true?
Mr. Issa: To the contrary, both the U.S. Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and President Aoun understand the Lebanese Army’s critical role in fighting terrorism and hence, the need to keep it strong and adequately equipped.
In fact, upon President Aoun’s request for an increase in the military aid from the US, the delegation has promised to take his request into serious consideration. Both teams fully understand that the vital support for the Lebanese Army enhances its capabilities and thus, enables it to protect Lebanon on its own. I can tell you that the U.S. is eager to continue solidifying the rapport with President Aoun and supporting the Lebanese army.
LACD Media: These articles clearly contradict what you are telling us and create a lot of confusion.
Mr. Issa: Ok; let the people decide whom to believe: Firsthand information from a reliable source with a 30-year track record in successful U.S.-Lebanese political relations OR journalists who attribute bits of information to sources from other sources??
By the way, I will be more than happy to discuss the topic with these journalists, IF they have tangible information from credible and authentic sources.
LACD Media: Why would the media resort to disseminating rumors and false news?
Mr. Issa: Honestly, I started to have suspicions that there is an orchestrated campaign to cause conflicts and disagreements between this president and the U.S., while effectively, President Aoun is intent to maintain strong relations with the U.S. Additionally, U.S. officials shared with us that Ambassador Elizabeth Richard was satisfied with the meetings, unlike what the articles attributed to her.
LACD Media: Are you speaking in the name of the Lebanese President?
Mr. Issa: No. I am genuinely relaying how the president felt about the visit. I do not hold an official position. I am speaking as a concerned citizen and a witness of direct information.
These articles are immensely damaging to Lebanon. I hope that the journalists who convey such false information understand that they are compromising the truth in ways severely detrimental to our country. I feel that my duty is to respond and explain. As I told you before, I will be happy to reply to these writers and refute all the rumors they are spreading.
LACD Media: Mr. Issa, thank you for illuminating this issue.