Britain's decision to establish contacts with the political arm of the terrorist group Hizballah is generating criticism from U.S. officials and some scorn from one popular Arab media outlet.
On Friday, a senior State Department official said the U.S. did not distinguish between political and militant wings of a terrorist group like Hizballah. The administration has indicated a willingness to meet with leaders of terror-sponsoring states like Iran and Syria, however. The official argued that a government is more inclined to respond to talks because "they have the interests of states and may respond to interaction."
That concept drew outright scorn from Al Sharq al Awsat, a progressive London-based Arabic daily, which mocked Britain's overture to Hizballah and talk that the U.S. might seek to engage elements of the Taliban by wondering if overtures to Al Qaeda were next:
"This is not sarcasm. It seems that the West understands 'opening up' in a different way. After they ignited our region with battles in response to the terrorist radicalism that was led by Al-Qa'ida in the 11 September events, the West seems to have recklessly decided to deal with extremism and radicals. After George W. Bush committed the mistake of dealing with every issue with confrontation and arms, the West now wants to deal with all its problems with extremism and extremists by calling for leniency and openness. The West has forgotten that excessive leniency is a fatal mistake that is no less dangerous than a hard-line attitude. But it must be said at this point that the successful US experiment with the tribal councils or Al-Sahwat in Iraq seems to have deepened the concept of openness toward the enemy but in a wrong manner."
Meanwhile, Hizballah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech Friday slamming the door on any potential U.S. overture:
"It's impossible that we would recognize Israel. Only the cowards recognize it. Whoever doesn't wish to fight should at least not recognize Israel. As long as there is such a terrorist and aggressive entity, we will never be able to renounce the resistance. The resistance is our life, our glory, our sacredness and our honor."
If Hizballah did want a dialogue with the U.S., Nasrallah said, it would be under terms imposed by his organization.
Glad he cleared that up.