The British 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 underway?
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 sense.
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 fact.
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.