The following commentary was written by AIG, a reader of this blog. The post originated as a challenge from me to him, in the context of a discussion about the U.S. government’s likely response to a March 8th win in Lebanon’s upcoming elections. I told AIG that if he wanted to write a post arguing that a ‘Hizbullah-led’ government would prompt AIPAC to push the U.S. Congress to pass a Lebanese version of the Syria Accountability Act, I would publish his commentary. Needless to say, AIG’s views are not the views of the author of this blog.
A Lebanon Accountability Act?
by AIG for qifanabki.com
If the March 8 coalition wins the upcoming elections in Lebanon, what are the chances of a Lebanon Accountability Act (LAA) becoming law? (The LAA will be similar to the Syria Accountability Act but directed against Lebanon).
The main players to look at in order to answer these questions are:
1) March 14
2) The US administration
3) The US Congress
March 8th in general and Hizballah in particular will play no role at all since Nasrallah has cemented March 8th’s position with his latest proclamations. This leaves the other three players. March 14th may or may not join the government if March 8th wins. If they don’t, the chances of an LAA are greatly improved. If they do join the government, it will be slightly more difficult for the US to enact the LAA because the Lebanese government will have substantial international support and most importantly Saudi support.
However, the significant players are the US administration and the US Congress. Realistically, we must assume that if March 8th wins the election, and no matter which government is eventually formed, that the Republicans in Congress will float the LAA, putting the Democrats in Congress and the administration in a very uncomfortable position. To begin with, the Republicans will not float a full fledged LAA, but will challenge the financial and military aid given to Lebanon. Failing to understand that beyond the corner lurks the LAA, the Democrats in Congress and the administration will concede this battle. Politics in the US are not that nuanced and there is just no way any Congressperson will be able to explain why he would send American taxpayer’s hard earned money to “a country ruled by a terrorist organization” (that is how the Republicans will frame the discussion). So the financial and military aid to Lebanon will be stopped by an almost unanimous vote in both the House and the Senate.
With half the battle won, the next step would be for the Republicans to present the LAA. At its basis will be a demand for Lebanon to fully respect UN resolution 1701 just like the Syria Accountability Act demanded Syria respect 1559. Here is where things become interesting. Obama will be loathe to support such a resolution just as Bush was loathe at first to support the resolution against Syria. Why? Because these resolutions tie the hands of the administration and do not give it flexibility to pursue diplomacy as it sees fit. They may be seen as Congress “interfering” in the foreign policies the administration is trying to pursue. This will be an interesting battle of wills and all will depend on how much political capital Obama would be willing to expend on this issue.
My view is that since Obama has decided to proceed with several huge reforms at the beginning of his presidency including healthcare and energy, there is not a big chance that he will stand in the way of the LAA. He needs every ounce of goodwill that he can garner in Congress and the LAA would be a small price to pay in order to advance his ambitious domestic agenda. Let’s face it, the Midwest is much more important to Obama than the Mideast.
So all AIPAC has to do is persuade a majority in both houses to support the LAA. That will be a walk in the park as most members of Congress would be naturally inclined to support the LAA anyway. The bottom line is that there is a good chance that the LAA will pass and that Obama will sign it into law.
Why should AIPAC support the LAA? The answer is quite simple. Because it makes the life of the US and Israel much easier. It highlights the fact that for all practical purposes, Lebanon is the same as Hizballah and that Lebanon as a whole is responsible for Hizballah’s actions. This in turn will severely limit what Hizballah can do against Israel without risking a melt-down of Lebanon. The main advantage of this is that it will reduce the chances of another war significantly. The secondary advantage is that Hizballah will become much less of a card in the hands of Iran and Syria and the negotiating stance of the US and Israel is improved.