Dr. Walid Phares
Britain's Double Vision of Hezbollah?
government’s announcement to open a dialogue with
"the political wing of Hizballah” is most troubling.
In a statement to a parliamentary committee, Bill
Rammell, the British foreign office’s minister for
Middle East affairs, rationalized the decision on
the grounds of what his office perceives to be "more
positive developments within Lebanon.”
This British declaration underscores a pervasive
failure to properly understand the structure of the
Iranian-backed terrorist organization. At worst, the
call to distinguish between the group's political
and military wings (in terms of decision-making) may
be driven by a desire to construct imaginary facts
for diplomatic and political purposes. Are officials
selling a false image of what Hizballah is so that
they join the foray of the "sitting, talking and
listening” with Iran and Syria's regimes now
Very possible. But it would have been much better to
inform the public that the government intends to
talk to a terrorist organization for purpose of
national interest, rather than claiming the talks
are only with the political wing. Eight years after
9/11 and the subsequent attacks worldwide, citizens
are much better informed about jihadi organizations
than they were in the 1990s. Officials in the UK and
the US must realize that claiming there are two
Hizballah(s) will not fly with most of the public.
Hizballah was founded by the Iranian
Islamic Revolutionary Guards, Pasdaran, in 1981. Its military
organization responsible for terror operations is part of the
Consultative Council (al majliss al Istisharee), which is
Hizballah’s supreme command, along with, the organization's legislators,
Fatwa clerics, financial executives and political operatives. This "politbureau"
of Hizballah oversees the military, security, doctrinal and political
actions of the entire apparatus -- there is no structural delineation.
Furthermore, the Jihad Council, Hizballah's War Department, which issues
the orders for acts of terror, is headed by the Secretary General of the
organization, Hassan Nasrallah and includes many of the organization’s
"political leaders”: Hashem Safi al Din, Hussein al Khalil, Abbas Ruhani,
Ibrahim Aqil, Fuad Shukr, Nabil Kauq and others.
Hizballah is not the IRA, which had a clearer delineation between its
militia and its military wing, the Sin Fein. Moreover, Lebanon is not
Northern Ireland. Yes, British citizens can be easily led to make the
comparison by government using the clichés by which most Britons
remember the IRA, but the attempt to fool the public will be short
lived. The lack of separation between Hizballah’s political and military
operations is well documented in public sources. Any suggestion to the
contrary is simply ridiculous.
If the British government wishes to make that distinction, they will
find themselves incapable of answering the most basic questions. Mr.
Nasrallah, Hizballah’s secretary general and purported partner in any
dialogue, is a la fois the chief political executive of the
organization and Hizballah's supreme military commander. How then will
meeting Nasrallah be political, when he is the commander in chief of the
militia and its security apparatuses? Will diplomats meet with him
between 9 and 11 AM when he is a secretary general and avoid him at
other hours when he wears his military hat? It simply doesn't make
If the British government wishes to engage in talks with a terrorist
organization, it must make that case and not obfuscate its true
intentions of working with the Hizballah’s political wing. At the end of
the day, Hizballah will remain who it is, who it says it is and who it
will continue to be: a terrorist organization devoted to Jihad against
the West. It is more honest to try to convince the public that time to
talk with Hizballah, Iran and Syria, and even perhaps Hamas, has come.
It will be more productive to acknowledge that some liberal democracies
aren't able to carry the load of a confrontation with the jihadists than
to attempt to rewrite history and reality.
Even if the British government chooses to engage with Hizballah -- which
is certainly a questionable strategy -- they should not do so on the
false pretense that there are "two Hizballah’s” just as there were two
IRA’s. There are not, and the British people are well aware of that
Moreover, any negotiations which are premised on such a mis-characterization
of the interlocutor cannot possibly succeed for the British. Hizballah,
on the other hand, can and likely will.
About Dr. Walid Phares
Dr. Walid Phares is the Director of Future Terrorism
Project at the Foundation for the
Democracies in Washington, a visiting scholar at the European Foundation
for Democracy and the author of the War of Ideas. Dr. Phares was one of the
architects of UNSCR 1559. He is also a Professor of Middle East
Studies at Florida Atlantic University and a contributing expert to FOX News.
Dr. Phares teaches Global Strategies at the National Defense
University. He serves as the secretary general of the
Transatlantic Parliamentary Group on Counter Terrorism. Professor Phares’
is the author of two critical books on the Islamofascist threat to Western
Civilization, "Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against the West”
and "The War of Ideas: Jihadism