Kathryn Jean Lopez of NRO (thanks to RB) recently interviewed Barbara Newman, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and coauthor of Lightning Out of Lebanon: Hezbollah Terrorists on American Soil:
National Review Online: I did a double take when I saw that Kofi Annan was encouraging serious people to accept Hezbollah. But then the New York Times reported that people in the U.S. administration are thinking similarly. Can they really be serious? Can Hezbollah ever be a legitimate political movement anywhere?
Barbara Newman: I almost lost my breakfast Thursday, which luckily I hadn’t eaten yet, when I saw the New York Times page-one report today that Kofi Annan is encouraging the acceptance of Hezbollah as the preponderant power in Lebanon and the United States is thinking of yielding to this and France’s pressure to do just that.
I think the report is perhaps a trial balloon by our people to test the waters. But the unvarnished truth is that Hezbollah is the most dangerous terrorist group in the world. It has about 25,000 armed members and as we saw in the pro-Syrian march in Beirut, it can muster a million in the streets.
It’s no coincidence that former Deputy Secretary of State Armitage called them “the A team of terrorism.” They are disciplined, highly trained, with incredibly lethal equipment with a frighteningly good counterintelligence network. A former head of the FBI’s Hezbollah branch told me that “they are the best light infantry in the world and can strike the United States any time any where.” [That general sentiment] was echoed by last week’s testimony of both the CIA and FBI directors before the Senate in open hearings.
Hezbollah does have a dozen members in the Lebanese parliament, which shows how smart Hezbollah is; it is trying to go both way by having a political side and a standing terrorist apparatus.
Hezbollah doesn’t play politics the way we think of it. Its members are devoutly dedicated to the creation of a theocracy in Lebanon similar to that in Iran and to the eradication of the “Jewish entity” “” they don’t even say Israel is a state “” and to the obliteration of all U.S. influence in the Middle East. We are the “Big Satan” to them and Israel is “the little Satan.”
Those who advocate the position that Hezbollah can be brought into a moderate role by dealing with it politically, have never heard the speeches of its charismatic chief, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah when he calls for death to America. It’s like Chamberlain when he went to Munich and had never read Mein Kampf. These people mean what they say.
NRO:Just how big is Hezbollah?
Newman: Hezbollah has about 25,000 soldiers but its influence is far greater. It has members all over the world….
NRO: Now, in Lebanon: If Syria gets out, does Hezbollah take over? How can Hezbollah’s power be squashed by the Cedar Revolution “” does people power have that kind of power?
Newman: I believe that if Syria pulls out of Lebanon now, which “” by the way I don’t think will happen “” because the Bashar Assad regime would collapse “” Hezbollah would be the most powerful entity in Lebanon. It could easily smash the Lebanese army. The tragedy of all this is that the Cedar Revolution, the confluence of such previously vicious enemies, the Christians, the Sunnis, and the Druze, is occurring in a power vacuum. The Taif agreement, which ended the Lebanese civil war, forced all militias to disarm with the exception of Hezbollah. In the last ten years it has grown into a behemoth and we have done nothing about it.(…)
NRO: What should every American know about Hezbollah?
Newman: Every American should know that Hezbollah is a terrorist group whose ideology advocates the killing of Americans.