Akouri and Breidy’s Consideration for Ambassadorship to Lebanon Unlikely

“We have not received confirmation from the White House that these individuals are under consideration for the position of U.S. Ambassador in Lebanon” was the reply from every media source propagating the questionable news. And chances are, they will not receive a confirmation any time soon. The reasons are many, but mainly revolving around the well-known requirements for selecting a U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon; requirements that both candidates do not possess.

Reportedly, John Akouri is the president and CEO of the Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce in Michigan. He is also a former city councilman in Farmington Hills and he co-chaired President Donald Trump’s campaign in Michigan. Tony Breidy (also spelled Brady), on the other hand, is a self-proclaimed advisor to California Republican Representative Duncan Hunter who is under an ongoing criminal investigation by the Department of Justice for alleged ethics violations, including but not limited to misuse of campaigns funds on family trips.

While these two individuals could be appointed U.S. ambassadors, they are very unlikely to be appointed as ambassadors to Lebanon. Specifically, the issues affecting the claims of these two alleged nominations are at least two: the dual citizenship and the fact that they are not career diplomats. The issue of dual citizenship of Department of State employees and applicants for employment has recently been the topic of a Department policy, which explains that “[d]ual citizenship can present a security issue whether to permit access to classified information which affects recruitment, employment, and assignments.” Furthermore, Dual citizenship also presents a serious issue in the assignment of staff to overseas posts. For example, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations does not provide diplomatic privileges and immunities for dual nationals; most countries do not unilaterally grant such privileges and immunities. Consequently, the Department will not assign an employee to a country where he or she is a citizen.

Moreover, the post in Lebanon has always been reserved to a career diplomat and a look at the long list of former U.S. Ambassadors to Lebanon shows that all had prior posts and were career diplomats. Indeed, while Lebanese newspapers and blogposts continue to spread rumors about the possible consideration of Akouri and Breidy, they are ignoring the traditional process, which is executed as follows: An ambassador may be a career Foreign Service Officer or a political appointee. In either case, the president nominates the ambassador but the Senate must confirm him/her. Confirmation refers to the Constitutional “Advice and Consent” power of the Senate required for appointing ambassadors and other high Officers of the United States. The nomination is passed to the Senate committee of Foreign Affairs. Committee hearings allow a close examination of the nominee, looking for partisanship and views on public policy. They can also summon supporters and opponents to testify. Committees are permitted to conduct their own investigations into the nominees, as they are not always provided with the information gathered by the White House’s investigation. Once committee hearings are closed, most committees have a set amount of time before a vote is taken on whether the nominee is reported to the Senate favorably, unfavorably or without recommendation.

The two individuals are known to be closely affiliated with a specific faction in Lebanon and their ability to deal with all Lebanese groups and act as representatives of the U.S. Government will be decidedly shaped by their own political and biased background; something that the U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee could not and will not allow.

Without any confirmation or proof from U.S. officials, some Lebanese and Lebanese-American media sources will continue to disseminate claims that Akouri and Breidy are put on a “short list” of U.S. Ambassador nominees to Lebanon. While we would be more than thrilled to have a native Lebanese in the post of U.S. Ambassador, we are convinced that these candidates may not meet the basic requirements for ambassadorship to Lebanon.

Marlene Sabeh
LACD Media