Hizbullah Is Not the IRA

(Now Lebanon) Tony Badran - One analogy that has gained currency in recent years is the comparison between Islamist groups and the Irish Republican Army. The point of the comparison is to show that as the IRA was purportedly co-opted through dialogue, the same method can be applied to other armed organizations as well. Hence, the argument runs, only such a peaceful process, and not military coercion, will lead to any given group's decision to abandon violence, and ultimately to disarm and integrate into democratic politics. Engagement is further facilitated by distinguishing a group's "military wing" from its ostensibly more moderate or pragmatic "political wing." But that's not how Hizbullah works. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times last spring, Hizbullah's deputy secretary general, Naim Qassem, dismissed the supposed dichotomy outright. "All political, social and jihad work is tied to the decisions of this leadership," he said. "The same leadership that directs the parliamentary and government work also leads jihad actions." To make the case that engagement in peaceful dialogue is what leads to moderation and disarmament is to distort the historical record regarding the IRA as well. The British did not bring the IRA "in from the cold" through peaceful talks with its "political wing." Rather they forced them to the table. It was not the Brits but the IRA that initiated talks when its armed struggle had reached a stalemate. The writer is a research fellow with the Center for Terrorism Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

2010-02-08 08:03:20

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