Friday 23 Feb 2018 | 17:56 | SYDNEY
Friday 23 Feb 2018 | 17:56 | SYDNEY

Hizbullah: Look who's talking



24 March 2009 12:49

In contrast to the Obama Administration's initial efforts to engage Iran, the Administration has taken an entirely different tack in dealing with non-state actors in the Middle East.

Rather than be seen to lend groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah international legitimacy by addressing them as it would a national leadership, the White House has been far more low-key, leaving it to a spokesperson to lay out, with little if any hint of soft language, the conditions for these parties to conduct talks with the US. Needless to say, Hizbullah's Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah's reply in a televised speech reiterated the party's position that it would not recognise the state of Israel nor forego its arms in order to undertake talks with the US. 

On the other side of the Atlantic, the UK's recent announcement that it has approved low-level diplomatic contact with the political 'wing' of Hizbullah has caused some consternation in Washington circles and underlines the challenges in dealing with a semi-state actor such as Hizbullah. While the US position is that it is not possible to separate the military and political wings of organisations like Hizbullah, the UK has decided that it is able to do so. Given that the UK has virtually no historical and few commercial links with Lebanon, and a very small immigrant Lebanese population, the potential political boost to Hizbullah of recognition from the UK Government is limited. 

London has obviously decided that dialogue with a major Lebanese political player ahead of the elections suits its national interest better than isolating the entire organisation. While publicly critical, it is also possible that the US will see the UK move as representing a potential 'back door' to pass messages to the Shi'a organisation's parliamentary leadership.

Photo by Flickr user madmonk, used under a Creative Commons license.

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