...for the week ending August 1, 2008
I. Bills and Resolutions
II. Update - H. Con. Res. 362 and S. Res. 580
III. CUFI Comes to D
IV. HCFA/MESA Hearing on Lebanon
Congress breaks for its summer recess at the end of this week. They return to session on September 8.
I. BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS
(SYRIA) H. Res. 1398: Introduced 7/31/08 by Rep. Ackerman (D-NY) and no cosponsors, "Expressing the grave concern of Congress regarding the continued gross violations of political, civil, and human rights of the Syrian people by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, calling on the Government of Syria to immediately and unconditionally release prisoners of conscience and other political prisoners, and for other purposes." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(IRAN) S. Res. 636: Introduced 7/31/08 by Sen. Lieberman (I-CT) and 12 cosponsors, "recognizing the strategic success of the troop surge in Iraq and expressing gratitude to the members of the United States Armed Forces who made that success possible." The resolution includes two "whereas" clauses that reference Iran: first, there is a clause stating that ".by the end of 2006, large-scale sectarian violence was accelerating throughout Iraq, al Qaeda had established significant safe havens there, militias sponsored by the Government of Iran had seized effective control of large swaths of Iraq, and the Government of Iraq was suffering from political paralysis;" and further down, a clause stating that ".as a consequence of the success of the surge, militias backed by the Government of Iran have been routed from major population centers in Iraq and no longer control significant swaths of territory." Referred to the Committee on Armed Services.
(IRAN) H. Res. 1008: Introduced 2/28/08 by Rep. Kirk (R-IL) and currently having 56 cosponsors, "Condemning the persecution of Baha'is in Iran." On 7/30/08 the resolution was brought to the House floor under suspension of the rules; at the conclusion of debate, a vote was called, but further proceedings were postpined by the Chair (i.e., the vote was put off).
II. UPDATE -- H. CON. RES. 362 AND S. RES. 580
H. Con. Res. 362: No action has been taken in recent weeks to move forward with H. Con. Res. 362, in terms of either dealing with it in the Foreign Affairs Committee or bringing it to the floor under suspension of the rules. During this period, the resolution has continued to gather cosponsors; as of this writing, 261 members have signed on. At the same time numerous members (including cosponsors) have said that problematic language (language that some have perceived as calling for or sanctioning a blockade of Iran) must be removed before the resolution can be passed. In addition, four member who had cosponsored the measure have since removed their names as cosponsors. These are: Davis (D-IL), Cohen (D-TN), Allen (D-ME), and Clay (D-MO). During this period there has been little public pressure to move the resolution; notably, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) did not lobby for the resolution during their Hill visits last week (for details of the CUFI Conference, see Section III, below).
Instead, the Senate version states that the Senate, "demands that the President lead an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the pressure on the Government of Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, among other measures, banning the importation of refined petroleum products to Iran."
Nonetheless, with respect to the question of whether the Senate resolution could still be viewed as calling for or sanctioning a blockade, some observers have pointed out that there is still a serious problem: while backers of the House version have defended their wording in part by pointing out, accurately, that their text talks explicitly about stopping EXPORTS of refined petroleum products to Iran, the Senate version demands that the IMPORTATION of refined petroleum products to Iran. Even without the "stringent inspections" language, this formulation is still clearly problematic.
Apparently backers of the Senate version, even without a major grassroots campaign over the issue (of the kind taking place regarding H. Con. Res. 362) have recognized the problem, or perhaps have recognized that this could be a problem if they try to move the resolution to a vote. As a result, on 7/31/08, the office of Sen. Bayh (D-IN), one of the two original sponsors of the resolution, circulated a message to offices of all cosponsors of the resolution, stating that ".we are working with leadership and SFRC to move the bill, we are aware that it has several fixes that need to be made. Among them are two that we need your boss' ok on before proceeding. 1) On page 6 line 5, strike "importation" and insert in its place 'exportation'. 2) On page 6 line 5, strike 'banning' and insert in its place 'encouraging foreign governments to ban'. These revisions will not change the resolution's intent, nor would they change the tenor of the bill. They are simply technical fixes we'd like to make if we're able. We'd like to do this without reintroducing the bill, either on the floor or with SFRC assistance."
Assuming these fixes are accepted, the relevant paragraph would then read: "demands that the President lead an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the pressure on the Government of Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, among other measures, encouraging foreign governments to ban the exportation of refined petroleum products to Iran."
Analysis: It seems fair to assume that this is a serious effort to move S. Res. 580 to a vote. If this happens, and assuming the potential blockade-related controversy has already been neutralized, the resolution could be expected to pass without much difficulty. This, in turn, would likely create pressure for the House to similarly amend and pass H. Con. Res. 362. Given that most grassroots opposition to H. Con. Res. 362 has focused exclusively, or nearly exclusively, on the blockade issue, if the blockade issue is resolved this same grassroots may find itself in the awkward position of being called upon to now support the resolutions - resolutions that still represent a continuation of the sanctions-only approach that has long-characterized U.S. policy toward Iran.
APN position on H. Con. Res. 362 and S. Res. 580: APN, for the record, opposes this approach and for this reason opposes H. Con. Res. 362 and S. Res. 580, regardless of the blockade issue or how it may be resolved. Our position, which was included in full in the 7/11/08 edition of the Round-Up, noted:
"We view with grave concern Iran's determination to expand its nuclear program, the concomitant threat that Iran might produce nuclear weapons, and the danger a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to the national security interests of both the U.S. and Israel. APN has supported and continues to support targeted economic sanctions against Iran. However, we also recognize, and we urge Congress to recognize, that while sanctions can be a valuable tool for putting pressure on Iran, sanctions alone cannot replace diplomacy as a means of resolving differences between nations. Addressing the challenge of Iran requires a comprehensive strategy - combination of sanctions and diplomacy, carrots and sticks - and strong U.S. participation and leadership. We are not suggesting that diplomatic efforts will be easy nor that their success is a foregone conclusion; we are suggesting that a credible, sustained diplomatic effort is indispensable if the U.S. is serious about dealing with the threat posed by Iran...
"Unfortunately, H. Con. Res. 362/S. Res. 580, like many Congressional initiatives that have preceded it, does not
embody this kind of comprehensive strategy. Rather, it perpetuates and escalates the existing sticks-only
approach.. APN urges members of Congress to recognize that the best interests of both the U.S. and Israel demand
direct, sustained, and unconditional U.S.-led diplomacy and engagement with Iran. We urge members of Congress to
support and demand such a policy, and to reject the counterproductive approach to Iran embodied in H. Con. Res.
362/S. Res. 580."
III. CUFI COMES TO DC
As noted in the 7/18/08 edition of the Round-Up, July 20-23 was the 3rd annual Washington Conference of Christians United for Israel, led by Pastor John Hagee. Apparently as a result of unflattering media coverage in previous years, CUFI closed the entire conference to the media and the public, except for the gala dinner featuring (among others), Sen. Lieberman (I-CT). One might guess that CUFI was trying to avoid any repeat of what has happened in previous years, when journalists were able to interact with conference-goers, leading to on-camera comments by CUFI supporters, some of whom articulated arguably extreme religious/political beliefs that were at odds with the mainstream image that CUFI leaders wish to project to the public (for example, see Max Blumenthal's interviews at the 2007 conference, including with former Rep. Tom DeLay -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjMRgT5o-Ig&feature=related). As a result, there has been very little coverage of the content of the CUFI conference, other than the list of scheduled speakers and topics provided on the CUFI website.
However, the world learned a little more about the CUFI agenda this week, when Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) issued an alert about the Conference (copied in full, below), and posted the briefing memo provided by CUFI to its conference-goers, to prepare them for their meetings on Capital Hill (a memo summarizing the legislation on which CUFI was lobbying and CUFI arguments). CMEP is a coalition of 22 Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant national church bodies that work together in pursuit of a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict where two viable states, Israel and Palestine, live side- by-side within secure and recognized borders.
[Washington, DC- July 31, 2008] Last week, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) convened its annual "Washington-Israel summit" that included a day of lobby visits on Capitol Hill and a "Night to Honor Israel." Yet despite CUFI's stated objective to support Israel, absent from the group's public message or Congressional talking points (http://www.cmep.org/Legislative_Issues/CUFI_Talking_Points.pdf) was any support for Israel's current efforts, with U.S. encouragement, to negotiate a two-state peace agreement, an integral element to Israel's long-term security.
The three "asks" for CUFI's Congressional visits were support for the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act and providing military aid to Israel. The words "Palestinian" or "Israeli-Palestinian conflict" were nowhere to be found in the entire talking points document, nor was there any mention of Israel's participation in the Annapolis peace process launched by the United States last November.
Also missing from CUFI's message was support for or even acknowledgement of the current Israel-Syria talks being mediated by Turkey. Instead the only mention of Syria in the talking points was a warning to members of Congress that Israel's enemies, especially Syria, are "rapidly upgrading their military capabilities."
Commenting on CUFI's conference message, Ambassador (ret.) Warren Clark, Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) said, "It is unfortunate that a group coming to Washington to advocate in support of Israel would fail to support Israel's efforts to achieve the blessings of peace through a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians and other Arab neighbors."
In a newsletter to its supporters this week, CUFI described its third annual advocacy conference as an event when "Christians from all fifty states and around the world gathered in Washington, D.C. for the sole purpose of supporting the State of Israel." Yet Israel's leaders did not receive support for their diplomacy and peacemaking efforts. The head of Israel's Annapolis negotiating team, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, last December described the establishment of a Palestinian state as "not just a Palestinian dream - it is also an Israeli interest." In May, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called Israel's peace talks with Syria a "national duty." Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said a "democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state."
Christians United for Israel claims that it "unites all pro-Israel Christians in America under one umbrella."
However, there are a great many American Christians who support Israel's security and the creation of a viable
Palestinian state as essential to that goal. "As people of faith," Clark said, "we must not ignore the important
opportunity presented by the negotiations now underway to help end this tragic conflict".
IV. HCFA/MESA LEBANON HEARING
On 7/29/08 the House Committee on Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia held a hearing entitled "Update on the Situation in Lebanon," featuring former U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman as the sole witness.
Chairman Ackerman's (D-NY) opening statement:
"In the 19th century, a Scottish preacher named Alexander McLaren warned us that, quote, 'Our blunders mostly come from letting our wishes interpret our duties.' I fear that this habit has been at work on our policy in Lebanon and that the new state of affairs which exists in that country is as much the work of our and our allies' lack of energy and action as it is a product of the brutality and determination of Hezbollah and their Iranian and Syrian patrons.
"The practical consequences of the Doha Agreement are not yet fully clear, and I want state as plainly as I can that the future of Lebanon is not settled. Changes in Lebanon's electoral laws may produce more Hezbollah seats in the next election, but the shock of Hezbollah's war against the Lebanese state may have finally dealt an irreparable blow to the credibility of the delusional General Aoun and could result in the reallocation of his voters to other Christian blocs.
"Moreover, news reports that Hezbollah may have succeeded in stirring up the embers of Sunni militancy in Lebanon -- the consequences of which are far from clear. It should also be noted that General Suleiman is now President Suleiman, and that Prime Minister Siniora is still Prime Minister Siniora.
"I'm not suggesting that what happened in June was not an agonizing setback, was -- like a burst cyst, that the turmoil, distrust and hostility in Lebanon's political system has been fully vented, and the nation is now headed for recovery and healing. Not at all. What I am saying is that that Doha Agreement is a beginning, not an end, and that the struggle for Lebanon's independence and sovereignty is not even close to over, that the future of Lebanon as a state for all of its people, democratic and governed by the rule of law, has been delayed but cannot forever be denied.
"It's true that the recent Hezbollah insurrection has, by intimidation and murder, forced a new and unjust political status quo upon Lebanon. But I cannot and will not accept that the future of Lebanon is with a gang of vicious thugs hiding in clerics' robes and awaiting instructions from Teheran and Damascus. Lebanon is too diverse, too modern, too boisterous a society to be stuffed into the straitjacket of tyranny and religious or ideological conformity. In short, there has been no reason for Lebanon's allies to give up on a better future for that state and, by implication, the region as a whole.
"There is, however, serious need for us to review both our overall strategy and our tactics. What happened in Lebanon was absolutely foreseeable and probably preventable. Back in July of 2007 the situation in Lebanon was already deteriorating severely enough for Congress to address the issue. The House adopted H. Res. 548, which, quote, 'reaffirms its intention to continue to provide financial and material assistance to support the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the government of Lebanon, ' unquote. Although the political dynamics in Lebanon worsened in the fall of 2007, the Bush administration's response remains limited and tactical. The House, noting the slide, in October 2007 took up another resolution, H. Res. 738, which, quote, 'urged the president to use all peaceful means at the disposal of the United States to help safeguard Lebanon's sovereignty and independence,' unquote.
"Still the Bush administration, mired both in Iraq and a faith-based foreign policy where the president boldly declares his wishes and then prays for them to come true, remained strangely passive. While U.S. assistance to Lebanon had surged after 2006' war, it quickly reduced to the tens of millions of dollars, while Lebanon's enemies, both foreign and domestic, took advantage of our and our allies' relative frugality and poured huge investments into arms purchasing, social services, reconstruction efforts, and propaganda.
"On October 24th, Secretary Rice appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In person and in a letter I warned that the threats to Lebanon were urgent and that, I quote -- and I take no solace in quoting myself - 'Unless the United States responds appropriately to this challenge, I fear our allies in Lebanon will be overcome.' I suggested four policy responses -- a major presidential address declaring red lines for Lebanon's independence, aggressive sanctioning of the Syrian regime's key figures, creation of an international contact group for Lebanon, and additional assistance for Lebanon.
"Shortly thereafter, the secretary graciously responded by letter and reiterated her commitment and that of the president for Lebanon's sovereignty and independence and noted progress on the special tribunal, new sanctions on Syria, and a high-level meeting of interested foreign ministers in Istanbul. A good start but, unfortunately, not much more than that.
"In November, Assistant Secretary Welch appeared before this Subcommittee and heard this warning, quote, 'Lebanon is truly on the brink of either collapse of the Cedar Revolution or the return of civil war. Like most Lebanese, we want neither. For Lebanon to remain a sovereign and independent state ruled by a government elected and accountable only to the Lebanese people, the United States and the international community are going to have to act fast,' unquote. And still there was no noticeable shift or change in U.S. policy.
"As fall of 2007 passed into the spring of 2008, various Lebanese leaders came to Washington to plead for assistance and warn of the danger in Lebanon. These are brave, decent, and admirable people and they deserve every bit of the support we gave them. But there are significant failures on their side -- if that future is going to be different than the past -- must also be considered and remedied. As the Lebanese political crisis worsened and their own situation became more perilous, their focus became more and more narrow. Rather than relying -- rather than rallying the Lebanese people to save their state, they focused on rallying foreign support. Rather than exploiting the rancid hypocrisy and staggeringly obvious political liabilities of the March 8th opposition, they remained at war with each other over strategy and control of policy. Rather than reaching out to the large number of Lebanese Shi'ites who are not aligned with Hezbollah, they preferred to watch and wait.
"Benjamin Franklin warned our Founding Fathers. He said we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we will hang separately. And in the end, this lesson was not absorbed in Lebanon. So what now?
"Number one, no deal on the special tribunal, period, full stop. No one knows what it will do or say, and we -- and more importantly the Lebanese -- are entitled to find out.
"Second, the United States cannot continue to try to shape events in the region by reading the newspapers. As a number of analysts have recently described, a great number of political deals in the region are in negotiation or are being put into effect, and our net input into nearly every one of them is zero. Nobody in the history of any sport ever scored from the bench.
"Third, what is done is done. The reality in Lebanon is what it is, regardless of our likes or dislikes, and we have to go back to work on building up the strength of our allies. But this time I think we have to focus not only on the capacity of Lebanese governing institutions, but also on helping our friend learn some important lessons about coalition building, grassroots politics, political outreach, voter registration and mobilization.
"Ultimately, as people who believe that Lebanon must be governed by and for the Lebanese people, we must recognize that this democratic test is the true center of gravity in the struggle for Lebanon's future. It is Lebanon's best hope and it is a challenge Lebanon's enemies can never hope of winning."
KEY Q&A EXCERPTS
The Question of US Diplomatic Engagement
Ackerman: .Earlier this month, a group of Syrians associated with the Assad regime came to Washington and were supposed to meet with Secretary Walsh -- Welch. It turned out that the meeting didn't happen. Can you tell us what the administration's policy is regarding engagement with Syria? Are we now following the Israeli model, where we conduct our bilateral relations indirectly? And is there a way for America to engage with Syria without appearing to sell out Lebanon's sovereignty and stability?
Feltman: Mr. Chairman, at this time -- of course, as you know, we have an embassy in Damascus. Syria has an embassy in Washington. We have diplomatic --
Ackerman: Is there an ambassador in our embassy?
Feltman: Our embassy is headed by a very capable charge, senior Foreign Service officer.
Ackerman: I take that as a no?
Feltman: It is a charge d'affaires. It is not an - our ambassador was withdrawn in the aftermath of the brutal assassination of Rafik Hariri in February 2005. At the time, we continue to limit our diplomatic engagement with the Syrians. The Syrians know what we want to see. What we want to see is Syria comply with the international obligations regarding Lebanon. We want to see an end to the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah across the Syrian border. We want to see an end to Syrian interference in Lebanon. We want to see Syria do more to stop the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq. We want to see the end of Syrian support for Palestinian rejectionists. Hamas, PIJ, et cetera are still based in Damascus.
Ackerman: How's all that working out?
Feltman: As I said, we are limiting our diplomatic engagement pending -- pending some change in Syrian behavior. At the same -
Ackerman: So we got our fingers crossed.
Performance of and US Support for the Lebanese Armed Forces
Rep. Wilson (R-SC): .As we look ahead how effective has the expanded U.S. assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces been in improving the performance of the LAF? And how would you respond to critics who argue that the inability of the LAF to defend against Palestinian organizations is the result of insufficient training or lack of sophisticated equipment?
Feltman: Mr. Congressman, I think that the -- first of all, we're making a long-term investment in the state. We're making a long-term investment in the security of the state. We are investing in one of the -- in a national institution that enjoys almost universal respect among the Lebanese. I think that this is a very, very good investment. We're not the only country that is a partner with the Lebanese Armed Forces. There's a multilateral effort to support the Lebanese Armed Forces. Now if you want to -- let's evaluate the performance of the Lebanese Armed Forces for a minute. First of all, keep in mind that this force -- very proud force -- it has the respect of the people, but they're about the size of the New York police force. It's not an enormous standing army. There is no draft in Lebanon.
There are many, many security problems in Lebanon. Palestinian refugee camps -- with problems inside the Palestinian refugee camps, the Lebanese Armed Forces basically have to deploy a brigade to every one of those Palestinian refugee camps, to make sure the problems -- intra-Palestinian problems, Sunni extremists -- don't spill out into danger -- and endanger Lebanon's security.
The -- there was a very moving picture, as you might have seen, at the end of that war in -- at the end of that war in the summer of 2006, when the Lebanese Armed Forces agreed for the first time since the late '60s to deploy to the south of the country. They didn't have the equipment to do so. They were using tow trucks to try to move their equipment down. They were ill-equipped and ill-prepared, but yet they went out and did it. This is raw material that, again, is worth investing in.
Right now the Lebanese Armed Forces are setting up checkpoints, doing house -- doing house searches, providing buffer zones between Alawites and Sunnis in Tripoli to try to reduce the clashes in Tripoli. They've done the same thing in the Bekaa Valley. I see a qualitative improvement in Lebanese armed performance, but the -- but the -- that the -- one of the primary reasons why we are investing in the Lebanese Armed Forces is because the Lebanese people need to feel that they have a capable army that is able to defend Lebanon's security and sovereignty. This is the long-term proposition, but it reduces the need of the Lebanese to rely on private militias, on feudal leaders for their protection if they see that they have a national capable organization.
There's one very dramatic day I'd like to -- if -- I'd like to relate, December 1st, 2006. Hezbollah and Michel Aoun -- but mostly Hezbollah -- had gathered in the square around the prime minister's office. This was after the -- after the Shi'a ministers and one Christian minister had resigned from the cabinet. They were basically besieging the seat of government.
The -- they had -- the Hezbollah mobs had closed off all roads to the prime minister's office. It was impossible to get in or out. In a very courageous move, the Lebanese army reopened those -- reopened roads, confined Hezbollah mobs, protected the institutions of the state. I'm not sure if any of us watching it that morning -- how it developed -- would have protected the Lebanese armed forces would have done that, but they proved on that day that they were protecting the state. They weren't protecting a person or that person, they were protecting the state institution.
The new Electoral Law
Wilson: .given the amended electoral law, what is the likelihood that parliamentary elections in 2009 will change the composition of the government, and what is your perception of the future of Lebanon's constitutional process if the political gridlock persists after the election?
Feltman: The election law that was used in 2005 -- I don't think can be used again is my personal assessment. It's up for the Lebanese to decide. This is a Lebanese decision. It's not for the international community to decide what's the right law for Lebanon's election. But given the strange gerrymandering of districting that the law encompassed, I don't think that the Lebanese particularly want to use that law again. At Doha, they agreed to use a smaller electoral district basing. And I think that people at Doha, like any good politicians, were calculating who's going to win, who's going to -- from that -- from using) smaller districts. My guess is that you're going to have a parliament that is roughly similar to what the parliament is today. You're going to have a deeply divided parliament. I think that truly reflects the Lebanon body politic today is that there's two visions of Lebanon at play. There's one vision that's allied with Syria and Iran. There's another vision of Lebanon that's looking westward, that's playing on Lebanon's cosmopolitan roots. And I think that any election law is going to result in elections that reflect that split -- any fair election law. I don't like that answer, but I think that that's the truth.
And it's why our commitment to Lebanon needs to be long-term, to help build those institutions of the state. The more that the state institutions can be effective, can be publicly accountable, can be responsive to the needs of the Lebanese people, to their constitutional institutions, the less the Lebanese, I believe, are going to feel that they have to rely on traditional tribal leaders, on militias, things like that.
Is Israel Providing Information about the Location of UXO in Lebanon?
Rahall (D-WV): .Ambassador Feltman, I'd like to raise an issue with you that I raised personally with the prime minister of Israel, Mr. Olmert, during Speaker Nancy Pelosi's codel in March of '07, and then raised it again with the speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Nabih Berri, a few days later, and that is in regard to cluster munitions. I'd like to quote from Assistant Secretary David Welch, when he said at a subcommittee hearing on the Middle East and South Asia over a year ago -- that being April 18th of '07 -- that Israel -- and I quote - 'Israel has not yet provided detailed information on its utilization of certain weapons, cluster munitions in Lebanon during the July/August '06 conflict. The U.S. has done likewise independently. We are still awaiting further information from the government of Israel.' End quote. My question would be if we have ever received such information or the Lebanese have received such information from the government of Israel about these cluster munitions that may still be hidden in southern Lebanon and still may pose a danger to innocent civilian life. The Israelis, of course -- Prime Minister Olmert himself has said we have provided all the information necessary. The Lebanese would dispute that.
Feltman: Congressman Rahall, there has been a lot of back and forth between this committee -- of course, you're a member of this committee today, but there's been some briefings for committee staff and for committee members on this issue, and we're happy to come up and talk to you as well about this. The short answer is that we wanted to see the Israelis provide the information to the United Nations. The Israelis have provided information twice to the United Nations. We had some questions about the timing, but they have now provided information twice to the United Nations. I'd refer you to the United Nations about whether -- about the quality of this information, but they have done it. At the same time, we're also working, with the support of Congress of course, to actually clean up the problem on the ground. There's been great progress made in decontamination that we have worked on with the Lebanese and with international NGOs in order to clean up the problem on the ground.
Rahall: I appreciate that, but did Secretary of State Rice respond to Senator Patrick Leahy's request for this information that he made in an April 9th of this year hearing of his subcommittee on the Senate Appropriations Committee?
Feltman: You know, I'm not familiar with the letter itself. I can't imagine we wouldn't have responded. Mr. Congressman, I'll get back to you on that.
Rahall: Okay, I appreciate it.
Rahall: .Let me turn very quickly to Shebaa Farms and ask, is the administration relying strictly on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to carry the water, so to speak, on this issue, or is the administration also engaged with Israel or other parties regarding Shebaa? And if it is, if there is an Israeli withdrawal, wouldn't it be better that the Lebanese get credit for it, thereby not only delegitimizing the reason for Hezbollah's presence, but also shoring up the government of Lebanon?
Feltman: The lead in the Shebaa Farms issue should be the Syrian and the Lebanese government. That should be the lead, because it's up to the Syrians and the Lebanese to demarcate their border. The Syrians continue to say, well, this is impossible because Israel occupies the area. I guess they've never heard of things like satellite imagery and GPS, et cetera. But so the lead should be the Syrian and Lebanese governments. The Lebanese have said repeatedly that they're ready to demarcate the border. The Syrians have not responded, or have responded ambiguously, saying things like, well, we'll start demarcating at the very north and work down. Well, where is the problem area? The problem area is at Shebaa. But in terms of the U.N. role, yes, the U.N. has a very important role. It was incorporated in 1701, that Security Council resolution that led to the cessation of hostilities in 2006. The secretary- general was asked to address the issue of Shebaa Farm. He appointed a cartographer. The cartographer worked on the territorial definition of Shebaa Farms: When we say Shebaa Farms, what are we talking about? How big is that area? And the cartographer has now reported to the secretary-general that, based on the documents, the maps, that he's said that he has a pretty good idea of what Shebaa Farms is in terms of territory. It's different from sovereignty. The sovereignty has to be determined between the Lebanese and the Syrians, and it's the Syrians who are so far proving to be the obstacle. I'm sure the Syrians want to keep this issue alive forever in order to give Hezbollah a pretext to press the government of Lebanon, to keep Lebanon-Israeli relations as low as possible.
The secretary would definitely like to see this issue resolved. She has talked to the secretary-general, she's talked to the Israelis, she's talked to the Lebanese. She would like to see this resolved in the context of resolving all of those 1701 issues.
Rahall: Do you understand my point about the Lebanese government getting the credit for it?
Feltman: Yes. I understood it very clearly, Mr. Congressman.
For more information, contact Lara Friedman, APN Director of Policy and Government Relations, at 202/728-1893, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.