A change of mind on U.S. policy towards Hamas and Hezbollah?

Lately, there’s been some rumblings about the United States ditching its foolhardy policy of boycotting the so-called “terrorist” groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

Designated as “foreign terrorist organizations” by the State Department, both of these groups have strong footholds in their respective societies, Palestine and Lebanon.  They both have been participants in the electoral process in those countries, demonstrating the breadth of their support on the ground.  But the United States has attempted to isolate, boycott and support Israeli wars meant to destroy these resistance groups.  It hasn’t worked, though.

Mark Perry, a top-notch journalist for Foreign Policy magazine, has a interesting article published today on the U.S. military “thinking outside the box” on Hamas and Hezbollah.  I recommend reading the whole article:

While it is anathema to broach the subject of engaging militant groups like Hizballah* and Hamas in official Washington circles (to say nothing of Israel), that is exactly what a team of senior intelligence officers at U.S. Central Command — CENTCOM — has been doing. In a “Red Team” report issued on May 7 and entitled “Managing Hizballah and Hamas,” senior CENTCOM intelligence officers question the current U.S. policy of isolating and marginalizing the two movements. Instead, the Red Team recommends a mix of strategies that would integrate the two organizations into their respective political mainstreams. While a Red Team exercise is deliberately designed to provide senior commanders with briefings and assumptions that challenge accepted strategies, the report is at once provocative, controversial — and at odds with current U.S. policy.

Among its other findings, the five-page report calls for the integration of Hizballah into the Lebanese Armed Forces, and Hamas into the Palestinian security forces led by Fatah, the party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The Red Team’s conclusion, expressed in the final sentence of the executive summary, is perhaps its most controversial finding: “The U.S. role of assistance to an integrated Lebanese defense force that includes Hizballah; and the continued training of Palestinian security forces in a Palestinian entity that includes Hamas in its government, would be more effective than providing assistance to entities — the government of Lebanon and Fatah — that represent only a part of the Lebanese and Palestinian populace respectively” (emphasis in the original). The report goes on to note that while Hizballah and Hamas “embrace staunch anti-Israel rejectionist policies,” the two groups are “pragmatic and opportunistic.”

One has to say, though, that I don’t see the Obama administration following CENTCOM’s lead on this.   Midterm Congressional elections are coming up, and the Israel lobby would hammer the Obama administration, and by extension some Democrats, if this became policy.  Furthermore, the Obama administration has proven to be quite similar to the Bush administration, minus some rhetorical changes, when it comes to the Middle East.  I’m sure Dennis Ross, a Israel-firster who seemingly has a large role to play in this administration’s Middle East policy,  is one player preventing any sort of conciliatory moves towards Hamas or Hezbollah.

On a related note, check out this hilarious Fox News clip (h/t Israeli blogger Didi Remez on Twitter).

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