Outside the Box, or Out of Their Minds?

(Daily Star-Lebanon) Michael Young - An exchange is now taking place in some American policy circles over whether to engage Middle Eastern militant Islamist groups, particularly Hizbullah and Hamas. Last week, Mark Perry, author of a book advocating talking to Islamists, noted a recent report by senior officers in U.S. Central Command that proposed a new approach to Hizbullah and Hamas. Hizbullah, at least its leadership and security cadre, is an extension of Iran. The party is there primarily to defend and advance Iranian regional interests. That means that Hizbullah will never defy Iranian directives when it comes to matters as fundamental as the U.S. or Israel. As for Hamas, its ultimate ambition is to seize control of the Palestinian national movement, supplant Fatah, and redefine the conflict with Israel in terms the movement prefers. When these groups see Americans contorting themselves to justify flexibility toward militant Islamists, they assume, rightly, that their political strategy is working. Hizbullah has no desire to integrate into the Lebanese mainstream and never did. Rather, it seeks to neutralize the ability of the Lebanese state to challenge the party's military autonomy. Similarly, Hamas will only integrate into the Palestinian security forces once it is sure that it won't be obliged to surrender its freedom of military action. The "talk to Islamists" scheme is entirely America-centric, built on an assumption that the obstacles come from Washington and have nothing to do with the ideology and convictions of the Islamist groups themselves. It also rests on a Yankee notion that everyone secretly yearns to talk and that dialogue can resolve most issues. That's not innovative thinking; it's a case of transposing America to the minds of others, which is either naive or astonishingly smug.

2010-07-09 09:17:40

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