“US does not object” to Lebanese government that includes Hizballah

hezbollah_recruitsNo surprise here. This is consistent with Obama’s foreign policy throughout his presidency. “Hook, line, and sinker,” by Tony Badran for Now, January 23:

The Obama administration finally got what it wanted as the Geneva II conference kicked off yesterday with the stated purpose of joining together the Assad regime and the opposition in a transitional government. At the same time, another farcical production is underway in Beirut, as efforts continue to form a unity government including Hezbollah and the March 14 bloc. As with its Syrian iteration, the formation of such a Lebanese government appears to have US backing. Sensing a convergence with American preferences, Hezbollah is playing up to Washington, seeking to leverage the US position to its advantage.

Renewed talk of a national unity government took many in Beirut by surprise, especially when former Prime Minister Saad Hariri appeared open to the idea. So far it remains unclear what motivated Hariri’s decision, but what is curious is that a potential partnership with Hezbollah in government looks to be receiving approval from Washington.

Over the past several weeks, the pro-Hezbollah media has published alleged quotes by David Hale, US ambassador to Lebanon, as well as by another unnamed US official weighing in on the question of forming a unity government. Last December, as there was talk of President Suleiman forming a neutral government, the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper published what it claimed was Ambassador Hale’s counsel on the matter to Suleiman’s advisor. According to Al-Akhbar, Hale allegedly expressed “America’s understanding of Saudi Arabia’s rejection of Hezbollah’s participation in any government. However, America fears the reaction of Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran to such a step. For these reactions could lead to a total loss of stability, and maybe worse, to total Hezbollah and Syrian control over Lebanon.” Hale, Al-Akhbar proceeded to say, then counseled Suleiman’s advisor to support the efforts of Walid Jumblatt, who was working for a unity government with Hezbollah.

Then earlier this month, the pro-Hezbollah newspaper As-Safir quoted another unnamed US official making that point more explicitly. “If the obligatory gateway to forming a new government in Lebanon is partnership with Hezbollah, then the US does not object, especially since the reality and composition of Lebanon attest without a doubt that there is no possibility to form a government without Hezbollah.”

It’s tempting to dismiss these quotes as the pro-Hezbollah media’s self-serving propaganda, even if the US embassy has not yet publicly denied them. At the same time, however, they reveal how US policy in the region is allowing Iran and its assets to leverage Washington’s posture to press their advantage. The US considers Sunni Islamist groups to be the principal threat to stability in the region. The White House approach is to work with functioning governments to prevent extremists from emerging or growing. Accordingly, Tehran and its allies from Baghdad to Beirut have zeroed in on a single message, which they understand resonates well in Washington: fighting terrorism. Iran’s regional assets understand that this brings the US onside to undercut their domestic, Sunni, adversaries….

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