When Elizabeth Dibble met Hizbullah or the great missed opportunity for peacebuilding in Lebanon in 2005
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Dibble just visited Lebanon.
The press release does not mention it, but one must recall that it was Dibble and the Bush administration as a whole – including Ambassador Feltman – which lost a major opportunity in 2005, after the Syrians were deftly kicked out, to draw Hizbullah deeper into the muck of the Lebanese political process (look at the results now 7 years too late!).
Hizbullah – as they later acknowledged – sent the affiliated-interim labor mnister Trad Hamade to meet with Dibble and others in DC shortly after the syrians left, following Hariri’s assassination. The object was, with the Party’s backs pressed against the Lebanese Spidar web, to work out a modus vivendi.
Dibble and the Bush folks – apparently not TOO pressed yet in Iraq, believing so much in their own great transformative powers in the region and armed with the facile notion that Hizbullah was a total evil – rejected the overture (akin to the Khamenei letter rejection) outright. No future discussions, it seems, and no pursuit of this difficult track. Instead – although the Bush folks relented and allowed the Quadripartite alliance to move ahead in June 2005 where hizbullah ran and won with the most pro-american parties in the country and then joined the government – the Bush folks quickly pushed a hard stick policy of using direct pressure and then massive force – via the July 2006 war – in order to directly challenge and destabilize hizbullah. The Quadripartite alliance was quickly unmasked as a temporary means to gain the majority via Shiite votes and then railroad Hizbullah into submission.
As I wrote here, this was exactly the wrong policy to take on a suddenly weakened Hizbullah, especially since the US and its allies were so preponderantly powerful at the time… i.e. they had the material flexibility to take some risks and address some of the party’s main grievances as well as their constituents’ grievances.
By August 2006 and May 2008 the policy was in shreds and the price was paid mainly by Lebanese… and everyone lives with this policy failure to this day (what would Syria have looked like now if the US had been able to undermine Hizbullah’s ability and desire to exercise violence by drawing it in closer and undermining its various claims, alliances etc.!)
Remember too at this point that Amb Feltman made the fateful mistake of believing his m14 allies and thereby excluded Aoun – well, did not agree to Aoun’s terms or anything approaching it.
The mentality, as we now also know from wikileaks, was such that the US and its most hardline m14 allies could HAVE IT ALL…. In any case, when dealing with pure evil this was the only way, TOTAL VICTORY.
The image of that dual failure then: February 2006 when the A team leader of terrorism for the americans sits in a church with the most popular christian leader in the mideast, Aoun, and signs what has become an enduring political alliance through TREMENDOUS upheavel (even though at this point of course severely weakened).
Here is the Reuters story of the Dibble-Trad fallout.
23.07.2005 – 10:05 By Ayat Basma
BEIRUT (Reuters) – A Lebanese minister close to Hizbollah has urged the United States to take the group off its “terror list” and seek a way to start a dialogue with its leaders. “I call on the U.S. to change its stance towards Hizbollah and I support direct dialogue between the two sides to that effect,” Labour Minister Trad Hamadeh told Reuters in an interview on Friday night.
Hamadeh, who held talks with U.S. officials in Washington earlier this year, was described this month by a U.S. diplomatic source as a “channel of communication” between the U.S. and the Shi’ite Muslim group. “Describing me as a channel of communication is deceptive … I am a minister of Lebanon, not a messenger,” Hamadeh said. “The talks I had were part of dialogue aimed at safeguarding the interests of my country.”
He said direct communication between Hizbollah and Washington would be more productive than contact through intermediaries.
“The diplomacy of shutting doors and entering through windows is not a dynamic one. It lacks the capacity, efficiency and the competence needed to produce results,” Hamadeh said.
Hamadeh, who has no official rank within pro-Syria Hizbollah, kept his post in a new government line-up announced on Tuesday, three months after Damascus withdrew its forces from Lebanon after nearly 30 years. Hizbollah was represented in the cabinet for the first time after the party won 14 seats in parliament in last month’s elections. Hamadeh said his meetings with U.S. officials including Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Elizabeth Dibble, took place with Hizbollah’s blessing.
“I met with Dibble but not before discussing it with the parliamentary bloc that supported and named me (to the government),” he said…”