As Michael Young points out in his column in The Daily Star today, there’s a decent chance that Lebanon will soon find itself in a bit of a tight spot vis-à-vis the proposed UN resolution to sanction Iran.
Apparently, Obama administration officials believe that they can persuade China to get onboard, which would then put the resolution to a vote in the UN Security Council. Lebanon is currently the Arab representative, and Young’s point is that this issue has the potential to severely test the unity of Saad al-Hariri’s young administration:
If Lebanon votes in favor of a sanctions resolution, it will incur the wrath of Hizbullah; if it votes against a resolution, it risks provoking the ire of Arab states who want to see Iran contained, above all Saudi Arabia. And if Lebanon announces beforehand that it will abstain, the decision, if poorly promoted diplomatically, might provoke criticism that it is being wishy-washy, while the permanent Security Council members will be angry not to have the sole Arab representative supporting them. A choice to abstain could also lead to politicization of the vote issue, which would be used as leverage against Hariri and his majority, not least by a Syrian regime that relishes playing on Lebanese contradictions for its own political benefit.
What are Lebanon’s options? The only realistic option is for Beirut to very carefully prepare the ground for regional and international acceptance of a Lebanese abstention. Voting for or against a sanctions resolution will only split the government, and the country, forcing a confrontation that can only be resolved through the compromise of an abstention.
Just because Lebanon is damned-if-it-does, damned-if-it-doesn’t, that don’t mean you can’t vote! See the poll above.
Update: See here for the International Crisis Group’s briefing paper about China’s attitudes regarding the Iranian nuclear issue.