Belmont Club

Talking to Hezbollah

The Guardian describes Britain’s newest diplomatic initiative. Talking to the Hezbollah.

Britain overturned its policy on a key Middle East issue yesterday by agreeing to talk to Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia movement which fights Israel and is banned as a terrorist organisation by the US.

Bill Rammell, the Foreign Office minister, told MPs the government would authorise “carefully selected” contacts with the political wing of Hezbollah, which is represented in the Lebanese parliament. Other EU countries, including France, already deal with the group.

The move, urged privately by British diplomats for some time, may be partially intended to encourage the US to follow suit as Barack Obama’s administration pursues a fresh approach of engagement with parties shunned by George Bush.


The Hezbollah is a state within a state. Despite the fact that it is formally part of the Lebanese government, it is actually a rival to it and is widely perceived as a proxy for both Damascus and Teheran. By talking to Hezbollah directly, Britain is treating with a force that is subversive to what is nominally a sovereign government.

However that may be, it would be interesting to know whether:

  • Gordon Brown and Barack Obama discussed this during their recent meeting
  • This is a trial balloon to enable the US to follow suit without undue embarassment
  • This is another one of Hillary Clinton’s bright ideas to “peel Syria away from Iran”

The coming days will provide answers we can parse. Until then take it easy and don’t peregruzka your imaginations.

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