Diplomacy

Critics Fault Tillerson for Saying that Hezbollah is Part of “Political Process” in Lebanon

Experts on Lebanese and Middle East politics have slammed remarks by United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who told reporters that Hezbollah was “part of the political process” in Lebanon at a press conference in Jordan on Wednesday.

“No. Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese political process in the same way that the IRGC is part of the Iranian political process. Through fear, intimidation and violence. We need to counter it not recognize it,” Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an expert on Iran’s influence across the Middle East, wrote. He continued, “Hezbollah needs to be disarmed under UNSCRs 1559 and 1701 not recognized as a legitimate political actor. It is not.”

Responding to Dubowitz’s earlier comment, Alireza Nader, an independent Middle East analyst observed, “No Hezbollah does not need to be recognized as part of political process. The Iranian regime, and by proxy its allies such as Hezbollah, are under intense pressure as Islamic Republic faces internal rebellion. A good opportunity to increase pressure against Regime/Hezbollah.”

Robert Danin, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations wrote, “This is not the messaging the US should be advancing in the run up to Lebanon’s May elections. How about: the US does not accept as legitimate a group being a terrorist organization with its own military wing separate from the state AND a legitimate political party in that state?”

Tony Badran, a research fellow specializing in Lebanese politics at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote about Tillerson’s characterization of Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon as political on Twitter, “That’s what happens when 1- your policy is to support Lebanon, Iran’s terror HQ, 2- you send the Sec of State there. Result: you make a fool of yourself.” He added later, “Tillerson’s comment encapsulates the idiocy of the US Lebanon policy, which is predicated on distinguishing between Hezbollah and Lebanon when no such distinction exists. It only makes you sound stupid.”

Later, when Tillerson traveled to Lebanon, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil made him wait. In response to the diplomatic snub, Hudson Institute senior fellow Lee Smith observed, “SecState is ill served by Dept & admin that didn’t advise against visit to Beirut. US is ill served by policy that strengthens Hezbollah & allies, like the thugs who showed up Tillerson. US must stop supporting LAF & Iranian-run terror state.”

Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem, famously boasted in 2009 that Hezbollah does not “have a military wing and a political one; we don’t have Hezbollah on one hand and the resistance party on the other…Every element of Hezbollah, from commanders to members as well as our various capabilities, are in the service of the resistance, and we have nothing but the resistance as a priority.”

In 2013, Hezbollah spokesman Ammar Moussawi said, “Everyone knows that Hezbollah’s political and military wings are one and the same.”

[Photo: U.S. Department of State / YouTube]