The Party of Allah attempts a makeover. “Hezbollah Seeks Legitimacy,” from AP, with thanks to Rebecca Bynum:
BEIRUT, Lebanon – As its Syrian backers leave Lebanon, Hezbollah is seeking to transform its image domestically and in the West – from guerrilla group condemned as terrorist by the United States to political party respected for playing a serious, productive role in Lebanese politics.
As part of this attempted makeover, Hezbollah sent a senior representative to a meeting in Beirut last month with American and British intellectuals, including former government and intelligence officials, to talk about the group, which Washington accuses of killing hundreds of Americans in terror attacks in the 1980s.
“It was an opportunity for us to present our views and break the stereotypical image that Israel has propagated of the group,” said Nawaf al-Mussawi, Hezbollah politburo member in charge of international relations, who fielded questions for three hours at the meeting….
The decision to attend the meeting by Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group whose name means Party of God, is part of the strategy to gain international legitimacy and domestic recognition as a major player in Lebanon’s complex politics after decades during which the faction focused mostly on fighting Israel.
Jamal Khashoggi, media adviser to Prince Turki, the Saudi ambassador to London, who was present at the Beirut discussions, said the meeting offered the chance to “build tiny bridges” with factions the West rarely talks to, Khashoggi said.
“Nobody knows where it will lead,” said Khashoggi.
Whether Hezbollah’s attempt is genuine or just political opportunism remains to be seen. But even President Bush suggested Hezbollah could change its image when he called on it last month to lay down its arms and prove it was not a terrorist group.
But if Hizballah’s jihadist goals remain the same, does it really matter what tactics they use to achieve them? So they’re willing to use democractic tactics to achieve anti-democratic goals — I should throw a party?
The U.S. government blames Hezbollah for numerous attacks since the 1980s, including the bombings of a U.S. Marine barracks and U.S. Embassy in Beirut. The group has also been accused of striking the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish cultural center in separate bombings in Argentina in the early 1990s that killed scores. Hezbollah denies the claims.
In public addresses, Hezbollah’s belligerent anti-Israel and anti-U.S. rhetoric has not abated. But away from a domestic audience, the group’s shrewd, savvy leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, has said he is ready to discuss the current arrangement the party has had for years with the Lebanese army, a formula that has allowed it to continue bearing arms under the slogan of protecting Lebanon from Israeli aggression.
“We don’t carry arms as a hobby, but we feel responsible toward our country,” Nasrallah said last month.
One solution could be incorporating members of Hezbollah into the army and deploying them in the south – which could satisfy the U.N. call for disarmament while also retaining Hezbollah’s firepower.
Even Israel has noted a change in Hezbollah’s tactics, with one Israeli security official saying recently that the militant group is scaling back its support of attacks against Israelis by radical Palestinian groups….
Great. But again: if the goals of Islamic hegemony remain the same, do the tactics designed to achieve this goal really matter?
In Lebanon and the Arab world, Hezbollah has gained hero status for driving Israel out after an 18-year occupation. But Hezbollah has been on the State Department’s list of terror groups since the list’s inception in 1997.
This reporter is repeating a historical lie perpetuated by jihadists. Hizballah did not drive Israel out of southern Lebanon. Israel withdrew voluntarily.
Washington has been pushing Syria to disarm the group, and a price for a rapprochement between the two countries – and indeed for an improvement of relations between Iran and the United States – could be the disarming of Hezbollah. Both Syria and Iran back Hezbollah, with Tehran reportedly providing the group with an estimated $10 million to $20 million monthly. The political turmoil that followed Hariri’s death – including anti-Syrian protests, and the resignation of the government – has presented Hezbollah with an opportunity to project itself as a capable conciliator and an indispensable player….
Oh yeah. Iran wants to kiss and make up with the US; disarming Hizballah is the mullahs’ big opportunity to do that. Why is our govenment so blinded by wishful thinking? Is no one in the Administration or State Department aware of the constant anti-US venom Iranian officials at all levels of government spew every day? Why are American newspapers and TV and radio networks not covering Iran’s unrelenting message of total hostility? Do they think we’re better off not knowing?