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Friday, May 21, 2010

The Obama Administration And Hezbollah: Looking For Moderates In All The Wrong Places (Again)

Who can forget the last time the Obama Administration had decided to root out the moderates of an otherwise radical organization? Last year in March we read:
Biden: Taliban negotiations likely

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Tuesday that 70 percent of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan are essentially mercenaries who possibly could be negotiated with instead of fought, and said the United States likely will try this approach.

...President Obama on Friday left open the door to negotiating with elements of the Taliban as part of a counterinsurgency strategy first conceived and carried out in Iraq by Gen. David Petraeus, the former commander of military forces in Iraq who now oversees military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan as commander of CentCom.

In response to a question about how many of the Taliban might be considered "moderate" and therefore open to reconciliation, Mr. Biden ticked off some percentages.

"Five percent of the Taliban is incorrigible, not susceptible to anything other than being defeated. Another 25 percent or so are not quite sure, in my view, [of] the intensity of their commitment to the insurgency," Mr. Biden said during a press conference.

"And roughly 70 percent are involved because of the money, because of them being . . . paid," he said.
Now we are hearing about another attempt to find moderates to negotiate with--this time in Hezbollah. After failing to negotiate with the Iranians or to pull Syria away from Iran, now the US is reduced to finding moderates among a terrorist organization.

U.S. wants to build up Hezbollah moderates: adviser

The Obama administration is looking for ways to build up "moderate elements" within the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla movement and to diminish the influence of hard-liners, a top White House official said on Tuesday.

John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, met with Lebanese leaders during a recent visit.

"Hezbollah is a very interesting organization," Brennan told a Washington conference, citing its evolution from "purely a terrorist organization" to a militia to an organization that now has members within the parliament and the cabinet.
At least Brennan did not regale us with the percentages--but apparently, he has forgotten just how interesting Hezbollah actually is:
  • In April 1983, Hizbullah exploded a truck in front of the American embassy in Beirut, Lebanon--killing 63 employees, including the Middle East CIA director. 120 were wounded.
  • In October 1983, a Hizbullah suicide bomber blew up an American barracks in the Beirut airport, killing 241 U.S. Marines in their sleep and wounding another 81.
  • In December, the American embassy in Kuwait was bombed.
  • In March 1984, the CIA station chief in Lebanon, William Buckley, was kidnapped by Hizbullah and then murdered.
  • Buckley was the fourth American to be kidnapped in Beirut, and many more suffered the same fate between 1982 and 1992 (though not all died or were killed in captivity).
  • In September 1984, the U.S. embassy annex near Beirut was hit by yet another truck bomb (also traced to Hizbullah).
  • In December 1984, a Kuwaiti airliner was hijacked and two American passengers employed by the U.S. Agency for International Development were murdered.
  • The following June, Hizbullah operatives hijacked still another airliner, TWA flight 847. An American naval officer aboard the plane was shot, and his body was hurled onto the tarmac.

    [Condensed from World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win, by Norman Podhoretz]
Brennan also did not have any explanation as to how he planned to "promote" the moderates in Hezbollah when the US considers Hezbollah to be a "foreign terrorist organization" by the United States.

Not only does the plan appear to not have been thought through, it is not clear at all that anyone in the Obama administration has any real idea as to how Hezbollah works.

But Michael Totten--who has been in Lebanon and has spoken to members of Hezbollah--does:
There are no moderates within Hezbollah, at least not any who stand a chance of changing Hezbollah’s behavior. Sure, the terrorist militia has sent a handful of its members to parliament, as Brennan says, and once in a while they sound more reasonable than its secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, but these people are employees. They don’t make policy.

If you want to catch a glimpse of Hezbollah’s org chart, just rent a car in Beirut and drive south. You’ll see billboards and posters all over the place in the areas Hezbollah controls. Some show the portraits of “martyrs” killed in battle with Israel. Others show the mug shots of Hezbollah’s leadership, most prominently Nasrallah and his deceased military commander, truck bomber, and airplane hijacker Imad Mugniyeh. Alongside the pictures of Hezbollah’s leaders, you’ll also see Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the two “supreme guides” of the Islamic Republic regime in Iran.

It’s obvious, if you know who and what you’re looking at, that Hezbollah is still subservient to Khamenei. His face is almost as ubiquitous as that of Nasrallah and the deceased faqih Khomeini himself. Hezbollah’s state-within-a-state doesn’t even look like it’s in Lebanon. It looks like, and effectively is, an Iranian satellite. Iran’s heads of state appear everywhere down there, while Lebanon’s heads of state are personae non grata.

I’ve met those you might call moderate supporters of Hezbollah, Lebanese citizens who believe Hezbollah is there to defend Lebanon from Israel rather than to attack — which is not at all what anyone at the top thinks. Even if second-tier leaders were less belligerent, it wouldn’t matter. The organization takes its order from Tehran. Hezbollah won’t change until its masters change in Iran, and the U.S. is no more able to “build up” any imagined moderates within its ranks than it is able to replace Khamenei’s hated dictatorship with the Green Revolution.[emphasis added]
Indeed, the Obama administration--which has been so throughly outmaneuvered by Iran--is no more able to promote the moderates of Hezbollah than it is to pull Syria away from Iran. At this point, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah--indeed, the entire Muslim world--have seen how weak the Obama administration actually is.

And developments in the Middle East reflect that reality.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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