The United States is considering severing its economic ties with Lebanon if a Hezbollah-affiliated prime minister takes over, a U.S. diplomat was quoted as saying in Sunday's edition of the London-based Saudi paper Asharq Al Awsat.
There has been no official announcement from Washington on the matter, but the statement is enough to encourage Hezbollah to keep arguing that the United States is acting behind the scenes to keep Saad Hariri, who is staying on as a caretaker prime minister, in office.
Hezbollah, which has toppled the Western-backed government, also says the U.S. administration has pressured Hariri to reject the Syrian-Saudi proposal that was supposed to resolve the country's political crisis. That stalemate stems from a UN tribunal's investigation of the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Saad Hariri's father.
If the U.S. diplomat was indeed reflecting the Obama administration's position, the United States could ultimately suspend its military aid to the Lebanese Army.
The U.S. aid is meant to help Lebanon implement UN Resolution 1701, which calls on the Lebanese Army to deploy throughout the country, including in the Hezbollah stronghold of southern Lebanon, and prevent Hezbollah from acquiring more weapons.
All the same, such a move by Washington won't have much of an impact if European countries, especially France, don't get on the bandwagon.
The collapse of the Western-backed government was a blow to the United States and its Arab allies, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Many fear that the political crisis could lead to street protests and violence.
American diplomacy in the Middle East suffered a setback last week when Saudi Arabia abandoned efforts to mediate the political crisis in Lebanon. The withdrawal of the U.S. ally is one of the latest signs that the competition over influence in Lebanon is tipping in favor of Hezbollah and its patrons Iran and Syria.
The U.S.- and Saudi-backed coalition issued a statement last week saying Hezbollah and its allies are trying to turn Lebanon into an "Iranian base" in the region.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now