Obama’s outreach to Iran, Hezbollah…
The Obama administration continues with its attempts to entice Iran into negotiations. You may have heard that, as part of this process, Washington has invited Iran to take part in discussions about the turmoil in Afghanistan (I intend to blog on this another time), but you may have missed another story that’s particularly revealing of the mindset behind this policy.
The United Kingdom, having received a green light from Obama, will resume diplomatic “contact” with Hezbollah. Hezbollah–the “Party of Allah”–is a major part of Iran’s jihadist vanguard in Lebanon (and globally). What explanation is given for this step?
Bill Rammell, a Foreign Office minister, said Britain would take up “carefully selected” contacts with the political wing of Hezbollah, but would continue to shun the organization’s military wing. A Foreign Office statement said Britain had “reconsidered our position on no contact with Hezbollah in light of more positive recent political developments in Lebanon,” including the formation of a national unity government in which Hezbollah is participating.
Two things leap out from this explanation.
Many people buy in to the view that Hezbollah (like Hamas) has a “political wing” and a distinct, separate “military wing.” Yet the so-called political side, which includes charities and medical care, is part and parcel of the group’s ideological goal. The social services demonstrate the group’s fidelity to Islamic morals (e.g., serving the poor) and provide a recruitment base and help build loyalty to the cause of jihad. Why treat this political/military distinction as if it were significant? Well, it’s a useful dodge if your goal is to pretend that a vicious organization is somehow non-vicious.
But, hold on, didn’t Mr. Rammell mention some “positive recent political developments in Lebanon”? He seems to be pointing to Hezbollah’s success in extorting from the Lebanese government a sweeping veto power over national policy. If this is “positive,” then so is the Taliban’s growing power in Pakistan and Afghanistan. So a major part of the impetus for renewing “contacts” with Hezbollah is that it has grown into a stronger force, its sponsor (Iran) has a broader reach across the Middle East, and now both are worse threats than they used to be.