Ahead Of AIPAC Conference, Israeli Pressure On US For Red Lines On Iran Picks Up Steam

This article originally appeared at LobeLog, a blog well worth following if you want up to date and incisive analysis of US foreign policy on the Mideast. 

With the annual policy convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) coming up in just a few days, many observers are expecting this to be the time when Israel pushes its hardest on the United States to take a more aggressive stance in its ongoing confrontation with Iran over the latter’s nuclear program.

With four days to go, it seems that the Israeli push is picking up steam.

Ha’aretz reports today that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to “publicly harden his line against Iran” before he meets with US President Barack Obama on March 5. This is an important piece of timing, as Obama will be speaking at the AIPAC conference on the 4th, the day before Netanyahu meets with him.

To an extent, then, Netanyahu is already making it clear to the AIPAC audience what they should be looking for in the President’s speech, as well as communicating a warning to Obama about what Netanyahu expects from him.

This is only one piece of the gathering pressure. Obama will be walking into something of a lion’s den at AIPAC, much more so than last year, when the President spent weeks after the conference dealing with the political fallout from wide, and often intentional, misinterpretations of his speech and his testy scenes with the Israeli Prime Minister. Continue reading

US Senators Press Lebanon on International Tribunal

American leaders continue to demonstrate that changes in the rest of the world, and the deep flaws in our foreign policy which they reveal, will have no impact on our thinking whatsoever. The latest case in point is the position staked out by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) with regard to Lebanon.

Remember Lebanon? Subsequent events have pushed Lebanon out of the news in the United States and even, to a lesser extent, in Israel, which has more reason to be concerned with what goes on there. But the collapse of Lebanon’s government at the beginning of this year remains at issue, and, with all the consternation these days

Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain

about where a post-Mubarak Egypt will end up, Lebanon has at least as much potential for both international intrigue and internal strife as any country in the Middle East.

Lebanon’s political situation is always precarious; it’s only a matter of degree. But with a caretaker government currently in power and the still-looming announcement of indictments by the UN’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), Lebanon is a powder keg. And it’s not happening in a vacuum.

The two competing coalitions are each in the favor of a different array of outside actors. The March 8 Alliance, which currently holds 70 of the 128 seats in Parliament, includes Hezbollah and is sympathetic to Syria and Iran. The March 14 Alliance features former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement and enjoys much stronger relationships with France, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The STL was set up to investigate the assassination of Hariri’s father, Rafik Hariri, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, a widely respected leader who was also opposed to the Syrian presence in his country.

Not surprisingly, the STL was, at first, expected to point the accusing finger at Syria. Now, the talk is centered on Hezbollah. The arrest and imprisonment for four years without charge of four pro-Syrian generals who were later freed for lack of evidence greatly increased the politicization of the STL, and this continued as Hezbollah went on a rhetorical offensive about it, including accusing Israel of Hariri’s murder.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah’s speculations about Israeli responsibility have only minimal evidentiary support, but they are not impossible either. But they served their purpose in further undermining the STL’s credibility.

Hezbollah and Syria both had motive to kill Hariri, and if both or either were involved, they would have every reason to do anything they can to discredit the STL. But the fact that supposedly key testimony has been retracted and that many accusations of false testimony have been leveled; that the direction of accusations was leaked to the public at such an early stage; that four Lebanese generals were jailed for four years without trial or charge and then freed for lack of evidence; that Hariri has publicly retracted his accusations against Syria for the killing of his father; and the campaign against it by Hezbollah and Syria, including the theory of Israeli involvement have all combined to cast the legitimacy into doubt should be giving us serious pause. It isn’t, apparently. Continue reading