The Cable

HFAC to propose cutting aid to Pakistan, Lebanon, Palestine

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is set to mark up a fiscal 2012 State Department and foreign assistance authorization bill July 20, which proposes sweeping changes to the security assistance provided to several governments that have rocky relationships with the United States.

The draft version of the bill, obtained by The Cable, would prevent the allocation of any funds that fall under the State Department's jurisdiction to the government of Pakistan until the administration can reassure Congress that Pakistan is assisting with the investigation into who helped hide Osama bin Laden, a step that will include making bin Laden's relatives available to the U.S. government. Islamabad must also demonstrate that it is not holding up visas for U.S. personnel who are set to go to Pakistan and not diverting U.S.-provided weapons for purposes other than fighting terrorists along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

That would effectively defund the Kerry-Lugar aid program, which allocated $1.5 billion in fiscal 2012 and another $400 million in foreign military financing. $800 million in U.S. aid was also suspended earlier this month -- but those funds came from the Pentagon's coffers, not the State Department.

The bill would also prohibit the use of any State Department funding to assist the government of Lebanon until the White House certifies to Congress that no member of Hezbollah or any other terrorist group serves in a policy position in the Lebanese government -- a step that would currently be impossible, because Hezbollah is a major coalition partner in the current government. The Obama administration would also need to certify that Lebanon's security services are free from Hezbollah members, that all Lebanese government ministries are financially transparent, and that the Lebanese government is dismantling all foreign terrorist organizations, which includes Hezbollah

In other words, no foreign military financing or international military education and training (IMET) funding for Lebanon would be permitted if this bill, authored by HFAC Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), were to become law.

Similar restrictions on funding for the Palestinian Authority (PA) make it equally unlikely that any State Department assistance to the Palestinian Authority would be allowed. The bill would condition the aid on the president certifying that the PA is doing several things, including that they have "halted all anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian Authority-controlled electronic and print media and in schools, mosques, and other institutions it controls, and is replacing these materials, including textbooks, with materials that promote tolerance, peace, and coexistence with Israel."

Funding for Yemen would also face a series of difficult restrictions, including the stipulation that the president must certify that the Yemeni government "is not complicit in human rights abuses." Hundreds of protesters have been killed since the 5-month old uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is still recovering in Saudi Arabia.

Ros-Lehtinen's bill doesn't stop at restricting foreign assistance to countries that have fraught relations with the United States. The bill would also set into law that it "shall be the policy of the United States to uphold and act in accordance with all of the reassurances provided by the President in an April 14, 2004, letter to the Prime Minister of Israel."

That's a direct swipe at Obama's May 19 declaration that Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations should be based on 1967 borders with agreed swaps. The bill would also require the State Department to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

On China, Ros-Lehtinen's bill would call for a U.S. consulate in Tibet and a Tibet interest section in the U.S. embassy in Beijing. It would also eliminate the East-West Center in Hawaii, a think tank studying U.S.-China relations, and prohibit funding for the U.S.-China Center of Excellence on Nuclear Security that the two countries agreed to establish in January.

The bill also includes language on reinstating the "Mexico City Gag Rule," which would prevent funding for any non-governmental organization that discusses abortion. Republican members of HFAC are also expected to introduce amendments on everything from the United Nations to Libya.

Of course, the bill could change before Wednesday's markup. In fact, this is only the latest of several drafts that have been provided to The Cable over the last couple of weeks. We're told that this draft is close to what the final version that will be presented to the committee.

But that doesn't mean the bill will become law any time soon. Assuming the House leadership gives the bill floor time, it would still have to be reconciled with a version being drafted by the Senate. And the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by John Kerry (D-MA), isn't about to put forward a bill that contains such dramatic limits on the Obama administration's foreign policy.

HFAC staffers insist that they want to devise a strategy for their bill to become law by working with the Senate.

The last time a State Department authorization bill actually became law was 2005, although the House did pass one in 2009. Regardless, insiders see the bill as guidance for House appropriators, who plan to mark up the State Department and foreign assistance appropriations bill July 27. That bill could actually become law if Congress ever resolves the current budget crisis and tackles government funding levels for next year.

For those readers out there who aren't budget geeks, the authorization bill simply sets out policy and is not binding when it comes to dollar amounts. The appropriations bill sets funding, and as such actually places money in the State Department's coffers.

And for those out there who are budget geeks, give this a closer look. If you find any other noteworthy provisions, e-mail your humble Cable guy (and budget geek) at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

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The Cable

U.S. recognition of the Libyan rebel government leaves many questions unanswered

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced today in Istanbul that the United States now recognizes the Libyan rebels' Transitional National Council (TNC) as the country's official government. But that's only the beginning of the drive to get the rebels the financial and diplomatic help they are pleading for.

It took a full four months following the White House's decision to attack Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi for the administration to abandon its recognition of Qaddafi's regime. The administration played all sorts of word games, such as calling the TNC "the legitimate and credible interlocutor for the Libyan people," but such statements weren't enough to enable the TNC to get their hands on some of the over $30 billion of frozen assets the rebels say they need to help the Libyan people and successfully wage war against the Qaddafi regime.

The final administration decision to officially recognize the TNC was made at a principal's committee meeting at the White House on Thursday, while Clinton was on the plane to Istanbul. Undersecretary of State and deputy secretary-nominee Bill Burns attended on behalf of the State Department. It was the third high-level meeting on the topic in the last two weeks.

Clinton announced the U.S. decision to recognize the rebels after hearing from the TNC leaders at the Libya Contact Group. "The assurances the TNC offered today reinforce our confidence that it is the appropriate interlocutor for the United States in dealing with Libya's present and addressing Libya's future. That is why I announced earlier that until an interim authority is in place, the United States will recognize the TNC as the legitimate governing authority for Libya, and we will deal with it on that basis. In contrast, the United States views the Qadhafi regime as no longer having legitimate authority in Libya," she said.

"We still have to work through various legal issues, but we expect this step on recognition will enable the TNC to access additional sources of funding." 

Indeed, there are a number of legal issues to sort out. First of all, it's unclear how the various U.N. and U.S. sanctions that have been levied on Libya since March will now be applied, considering that the TNC is now seen as the "Libyan government."

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970 prohibits sending arms to Libya. Does that now apply to the rebels? Does the White House now have to rescind executive orders on Libya, some of which call for restrictions aimed against the "Government of Libya"?

Former Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey, now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The Cable in an interview today that there are several issues left to be resolved before the TNC gets its hands on Qaddafi's frozen assets.

For example, he said that the U.N. sanctions that freeze the assets of the Libyan government represent another obstacle the administration would need to overcome.

"The financial institutions that hold these assets are going to require explicit permission before they will let the money go anywhere," said Levey. "The administration must figure out a way to provide legal assurance to anyone holding these assets that if they release them to the rebels, they are abiding by their legal obligations."

On the diplomatic front, a number of questions remain unanswered: Will the U.S. embassy in Tripoli be reopened in Benghazi? Will U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz now go to Benghazi, or will resident envoy Chris Stevens be named ambassador? "We haven't yet made a determination on any further formal steps there in terms of titles and so forth," a senior State Department official said.

Will the United States push for TNC recognition at the United Nations? "In terms of formal membership in international institutions and the like, that's something we're continuing to look at and consult with others on," the official explained.

Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), the foursome that had been pushing hardest for TNC recognition, are now switching their focus to pressing the administration to speedily answer all of these unresolved questions.

"Recognition should now open the door for more robust U.S. and international support for the TNC, including facilitating their access to the frozen assets of the Qaddafi regime for the benefit of the Libyan people and to support the NATO mission. We strongly urge the administration to remove any remaining obstacles to the TNC's ability to gain access to these frozen assets as soon as possible," the senators said in a statement today.

"We also urge the Administration to increase our diplomatic presence in Benghazi, designate a U.S. ambassador to the TNC, and give the TNC's representatives in Washington and New York full diplomatic rights and privileges."

Ali Aujali, Qaddafi's former ambassador to Washington who defected to become the official TNC representative, told The Cable in an interview today that he expected many of those issues to be resolved in the coming days.

The TNC hopes to retake control of the official Libyan embassy space in Washington's Watergate Complex this weekend, he said, and he expects to be soon granted full diplomatic status, although he has not been contacted directly by the State Department since the announcement was made.

"We are very happy, this will make our lives much easier," Aujali said. "Now we have the confidence to go to the United Nations and ask for full recognition."

Aujali was also confident the legal issues related to the recognition would get worked out, although he didn't have any specifics. He said the sanctions against Qaddafi must be maintained, regardless of the legal details.

"The embargo has to be against Qaddafi and Qaddafi's people -- that should stay until Qaddafi is gone. As long as he's there, there's still danger," he said.

While many questions remain, Clinton's announcement went a long way to assuring the Libyan rebels that the United States is on their side and is at least somewhat responsive to their concerns, according to Aujali.

"This is a historical day," he said.