Jan 9, 2013 No Comments ›› Infidel
(CNSNews.com) – CIA director-designate John Brennan’s stated views on the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah at times has appeared to be out of step with others in the Obama administration, which he has served as White House counterterrorism adviser since 2009.
Even before President Obama’s election, Brennan – who was Obama’s chief intelligence adviser during the 2008 presidential campaign – was promoting a shift in the U.S. approach to Hezbollah.
The Iranian- and Syrian-sponsored Shi’ite group, which also participates in Lebanese parliamentary politics, is blamed for attacks included a series of suicide bombings in Beirut in 1983 which killed more than 300 people, including 241 U.S. servicemen and 58 French troops.
In a July 2008 journal article suggesting policy on Iran for the next administration, Brennan wrote, “It would not be foolhardy, however, for the United States to tolerate, and even to encourage, greater assimilation of Hezbollah into Lebanon’s political system.”
He argued that the best hope for “reducing the influence of violent extremists within the organization – as well as the influence of extremist Iranian officials who view Hezbollah primarily as a pawn of Tehran – is to increase Hezbollah’s stake in Lebanon’s struggling democratic processes.”
Brennan wrote that doing so would require the U.S. to persuade Israel to drop its “aim of eliminating Hezbollah as a political force.”
(Like Obama’s nominees for secretaries of state and defense, Brennan is on record as supporting engagement with Tehran. In the same 2008 article he urged the next president to “implement a policy of engagement that encourages moderates in Iran without implying tolerance for Tehran’s historic support of terrorist activities.”)
Brennan took his views on Hezbollah into the administration, telling an August 2009 event in Washington that the group had “a terrorist core,” but adding that “a lot of Hezbollah individuals are in fact renouncing that type of terrorism and violence and are trying to participate in the political process in a very legitimate fashion.”
The State Department denied that the comments signaled a policy shift.
“We do not make any distinction between the political and military wings, and that is our policy,” said then-spokesman Robert Wood in response to questions about Brennan’s remarks. “Until Hezbollah decides that it’s going to change and stop carrying out the acts of terrorism and other acts that are causing instability in the region, there’s no reason for our policy to change.”
After a visit to Lebanon the following April, Brennan raised eyebrows when he was quoted as speaking about Hezbollah having “moderate elements” which the U.S. should try to “build up.”
The State Department again stressed that U.S. policy towards Hezbollah remained unchanged, with then-spokesman Philip Crowley saying it does not recognize “separate military and political wings,” and that Hezbollah must be disarmed in line with U.N. resolutions.
Several weeks later, a Reuters report on Brennan’s comments was cited during a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing on Hezbollah.
Then-assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs Jeffrey Feltman – a former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon – reaffirmed the position, telling the panel that the U.S. could rethink its policy if Hezbollah stopped maintaining a militia, abandoned “terrorist” activities and evolved into a “normal” part of Lebanon’s political fabric.