Elections, Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon, Syria

A Lebanon Accountability Act?

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?

lebanon_crosshairs

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.
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Discussion

21 thoughts on “A Lebanon Accountability Act?

  1. 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).

    Answer: Nil

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 17, 2009, 10:31 pm
  2. AP,
    Why?

    Posted by AIG | March 18, 2009, 1:09 am
  3. AIG,

    Because it would deter the Obama Adminstration’s foreign policy of throwing Israel under the bus.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 18, 2009, 2:39 am
  4. I love it! One visit to Kiryat Arba, and he’s already buying his settler-buddies’ “And Obama wants to take ALL THIS away from us!” I see AP’s recent trip to the Zionist Entity has done its job in solidifying any doubts he may have had about Obama. The new African-American President is determined to “throw Israel under the bus…” Hilarious.

    But I happen to agree with AP – a “Lebanon Accountability Act” will not even be suggested, because even the Republicans understand that Bush’s foreign policy (if you can call it that) has failed miserably, and that now it is Obama’s chance to fix it. Congress will want to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, when it comes to Iran, to Syria, to Israel/Palestine, and also to Lebanon.

    A smart Republican, hoping to take over next time around, would also consider letting Obama make his mistakes, and not try to interfere too much already at this stage. If Obama’s foreign policy, and in particular his choice in dialogue rather than force, will fail, the Republicans can always say – you see, you Democrats were wrong. But if it succeeds, no Republican is going to want to be on record as having yelled all along “You’re going about it all wrong, and I won’t support you!”

    For those reasons, I doubt such “LAA” would ever be passed, or even created. Having said that, I certainly DO hope that AIPAC will try to push for such “LAA”, because it will help Obama and everyone else recognize AIPAC’s blind-support of Israel, and in particular, of the Likud. It’s high time America understood precisely what AIPAC is all about.

    Posted by Shai | March 18, 2009, 8:59 am
  5. Shai,

    There is no doubt that the Obama-Clinton policy of appeasing the Arab rejectionists is now underway. You sound surprised.

    Israel will be fine until real negotiations start and Israeli security concerns will be ignored or when Israel will have to respond to real threats to the country. Either way, Israel’s hands will be tied tightly.

    And what will the Obama-Clinton policy be as the Islamic rejectionists continue to promote violence, nuclear proliferation, and quell freedoms? Nothing but more meetings and handshakes, and frequent flyer miles. The only losers will be those seeking peace and freedom. And I’m not just talking about Israelis (as Majid was trying to point out to you).

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 18, 2009, 1:58 pm
  6. What USA and Middle East need is a IAA (Israel Accountability Act) before demanding anybody else to be “accountable”. It is rather “hilarious” when US Congress and government demand Arab countries to respect UN resolutions and on the same time encourage Israel not to respect tens of UN resolutions.

    Posted by SimoHurtta | March 18, 2009, 2:00 pm
  7. AIG –

    I’d like to get your thoughts regarding the latest thread on SC.

    Shukran.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 18, 2009, 2:00 pm
  8. And what will the Obama-Clinton policy be as the Islamic rejectionists continue to promote violence, nuclear proliferation, and quell freedoms?

    Isn’t Akbar USA allowing the Jewish rejectionists (=Israel) to continue to promote violence, nuclear proliferation, and quell freedoms? Like numerous US regimes before “Obama-Clinton”.

    Occupation promotes violence, Israel has nukes and quells freedoms.

    Posted by SimoHurtta | March 18, 2009, 2:07 pm
  9. I have been thinking for a while that it makes no sense for Hizballah to win the elections and the new post by QN just strengthens my belief.

    Not only is it the case that Hizballah does not want responsibility for the economic situation in Lebanon (and the risk of an LAA), it cannot really afford becoming an integral part of Lebanon because then, as I have argued many times, it cannot function as a “resistance”. It would be left just with the rhetoric as is the case with Asad.

    But QN, don’t you begin to wonder a bit if Hizballah is really able to become a “regular” Lebanese party and play the political power game? They are playing an altogether different game.

    Posted by AIG | March 18, 2009, 5:52 pm
  10. As AIG suggests in comment #9, Hizbullah and its allies are gaming out the US, Israeli and March 14 response to any attempt to form a government.

    US officials are, no doubt, making it plain to both Syria and the March 8 members that they do not want to win elections and should not contemplate doing so.

    Even without an LAA,

    1. It would mean a cut off of aid to the Lebanese Military.

    2. Worse, Group 8 commitments of financial aid would be retracted.

    3. The US would have to boycott Hizb cabinet members.

    4. Britain has tentatively begun talking to Hizb, perhaps to open the way for acceptance of a March 8 victory at the polls, but many in the US administration have let it be known that they will not be following the British and will fight this gambit to open Western lines of direct communication and eventual peace.

    5. France is reiterating at every turn that it believes Doha is working and stands behind it, i.e. France wants the status quo to continue.

    6. Syria too has taken a similar line, but insists that whatever the election outcome, there must be a unity government – theoretically this means that Syria wants Hariri to accept to play second fiddle in a Lebanese government led by the opposition, which would make an LAA much harder to push through congress (If Hariri lobbied against it.)

    7. Hariri has publicly denounced such a possibility, claiming that he will play no part in an opposition led government. In fact, Hariri has begun denouncing Doha as well, suggesting that he may retract support for a “blocking third” mechanism if his group wins elections.

    8. This brings us back to a continuation of Doha, which the French are supporting as the best option to avoid upsetting the Lebanese applecart and keeping any one faction from trying do do an end run around the others or trying to “exploit” elections to gain more power. (Certainly makes a mockery of elections but not of the Lebanese concept of sectarian power sharing.)

    9. Syria has refused to name an ambassador to Lebanon and insulted the Lebanese when they opened theirs in Damascus the other day by pretending to get the day wrong. Some unnamed officials claimed that Syria would not name an ambassador until Lebanese politicians are more polite – meaning Geagea and Jumblat. Syria is letting March 14 and the US know that the normalization process between Syria and Lebanon that the French have set out will not go through unless the election process goes smoothly, Doha is respected, and Syria’s and Hizbullah’s opponents do not go back on the war path to try to disenfranchise it or disarm it. In other words, normalization is a two way street.

    In conclusion, I suggest that Hizbullah will remain in the opposition but try to make clear that it is doing so out of magnanimity and forbearance. Thus, if Lebanon’s problems get worse, they can be blamed on March 14’s stubbornness and its loyalty to Israel and the West.

    If Israel and America can deliver for the Lebanese under these conditions, March 14 will come out the winner and will grow in popularity.

    If Lebanon stagnates and popular anger grows at the treatment of the Palestinians, America’s inability to improve conditions in the region, and continued fragmentation and paralysis in Lebanon, then the Lebanese will grow weary of the “Western-Israeli” solution and will swing further toward the opposition.

    Posted by Joshua Landis | March 18, 2009, 7:07 pm
  11. QN, I have just read your post about Hizb wanting to lose the elections. I had not seen it before writing my comment above. It seems that everyone is coming to the same conclusion. We stress different causes, but arrive at the same end. Best, JL

    Posted by Joshua Landis | March 18, 2009, 7:41 pm
  12. AIG,

    Sure I wonder about it, but the problem is that there is no such thing as a “regular” Lebanese party, at least not one that I’d like the Hizb to emulate. There are no policy-based parties… they are all cults of personality, including the Free Patriotic Movement. Ironically, if any party has the wherewithal (in terms of organization, structure, messaging, strategy, and a strong existing base, etc.) to become a truly political machine, it is Hizbullah. Of course, Hizbullah is just as sectarian as everyone else.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 19, 2009, 11:16 am
  13. QN,

    What is it about Hizbullah that makes them so attractive? makes me wish I could understand Arabic? Even those that should be completely opposed to them, seem like they can’t help some level of admiration.

    Posted by netsp | March 19, 2009, 12:16 pm
  14. Netsp… I’m tempted to quote Louis Armstrong in response to your question (“If you gotta ask, you’ll never know…”) 🙂

    I’ll let the others weigh in on this first…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 19, 2009, 12:27 pm
  15. QN,

    Let’s make the problem even harder: Why do Americans in Dearborn support HA?

    There are many answers and some of them include Israel and standing up to it. But the real answer is that the Maronites have been treating the Shia in Lebanon like shit for centuries. Hizballah allow the Shia to channel an historical resentment. Their appeal is very similar to that of the Shas movement in Israel which plays on the historical resentment of Ashkenazi Jews by some Jews from the Arab speaking countries.

    Posted by AIG | March 19, 2009, 5:10 pm
  16. I’d like to thin it’s something more then projection of power.

    Posted by netsp | March 20, 2009, 1:08 am
  17. AIG –

    Re: The “LAA”

    Here’s an example of why the US isn’t going to pressure further any terror-supporting country.

    Here’s what Charles Johnson of LGF said about Obama’s address to the Iranian government yesterday (3-19):

    The mullahs are laughing today, knowing that Barack Obama will do nothing to stop them from gaining the ultimate weapon. This isn’t just ill-advised, it’s disastrous. Barack Obama just hung a huge “Kick Me” sign on America’s back.

    US Policy under the Obama government will now be termed the “Kick Me” Foreign Policy. Hillary termed it “Smart Power”, but I think we all know that’s slightly inaccurate.;)

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 20, 2009, 5:49 pm
  18. AP,
    You may be right. That plus the cool reception Ashkenazi received in the US means that Obama has decided to take a huge chance with Iran. For the sake of everybody I hope he knows what he is doing.

    Posted by AIG | March 20, 2009, 10:15 pm
  19. For the sake of everybody I hope he knows what he is doing.

    AIG –

    Sorry for the bad news, but my president doesn’t have a clue. Apparently his role as a community organizer in Chicago isn’t going to help him.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 21, 2009, 12:28 am

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Will the U.S. Punish Lebanon For Electing The Opposition? « Qifa Nabki - April 27, 2009

  2. Pingback: Syria Comment » Archives » US Will Work with Lebanon Opposition - Experts Say - April 27, 2009

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