Negotiating with Iran provides legitimacy to its Lebanese proxy: Hezbollah.
Hezbollah can destroy any target within Israel, a senior commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) recently said, while US officials say Syrian forces have transferred advanced guided missiles to the group in Lebanon, which is considered a terrorist organization by the US, European Union (EU), Israel, and other countries.
The Iranian interim-deal reached in late November between Iran and the P5+1 – the US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany — is beset with numerous detriments, including aiding Iran to continue to fund its terrorist wing in Lebanon.
The US and its allies only stand to lose from a deal that grants Tehran the right to enrich uranium; allows Iran to continue its construction of a processing facility and reactor at Arak; provides sanctions relief of what some sources estimate to be at least $20 billion, enabling Iran to support the death of civilians in Syria as well as terrorist organizations; and recognizes the regime as a legitimate state actor. There are reports that the US has already released $8 billion in Iranian assets frozen in 1979.
Iran, designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984, has "increased its terrorist-related activity," according to the US State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism for 2012. Iran serves as the life-blood of the US-designated terrorist organization Hezbollah.
The Lebanese Shi'ite group receives millions of dollars from Iran each year, as well as operational and logistical support, training, and weaponry. Iran’s rearming of Hezbollah following the 2006 war with Israel is "in direct violation of UNSCR 1701," according to the State Department report.
Inspired by the ideology of the Iranian Revolution, Hezbollah, "the party of God," was born in 1982 out of the IRGC to fight Israel — perceived as an extension of the US — and Western imperialism, and to establish an Islamic movement in Lebanon. Hezbollah was created during the Lebanese Civil War, which lasted from 1975 to 1990 and resulted in divisions among different sects. The war provided room for Iran to unify Shi'ite militias interested in driving out foreign forces and international peacekeepers from Lebanon.
Iran sent fighters to Lebanon who successfully built their militia among Shi'ite-populated areas in the Beqaa Valley, Beirut, and southern Lebanon. Relations between upcoming Hezbollah players and Iran began in the mid-1970s. Pro-Khomeini Shi'ites living in Lebanon cultivated relationships with like-minded Shi'ite militants – most notoriously with Imad Mughniyeh, the future leader of Hezbollah who worked closely with IRGC commanders.
Recognizing Iran at the negotiating table implicitly offers legitimacy to Hezbollah.
Hezbollah was responsible for the 1983 US Embassy bombing in Beirut, killing 63 people, including 17 Americans. That same year, a Hezbollah suicide bomber attacked the US Marine barracks in Lebanon, killing 241 American military personnel stationed in Beirut. A second bomber attacked the French barracks, killing 58 French paratroopers.
The group is responsible for numerous and deadly airplane hijackings, bombings, kidnappings, and the murder of Americans, Jews, Israelis, and citizens of other nationalities across the world, and continues to call for "death to America" and "death to Israel."
The Iranian-backed Hezbollah is defending the Bashar al-Assad regime, fighting US-backed Syrian rebels and al-Qaeda-linked jihadist groups both in Syria and on Lebanese soil. The group plans to "defend Lebanon, Palestine, the Palestinian cause and Syria which is the backbone of resistance," which Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared in November.
Some suggest that Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict has strengthened the organization’s military capabilities.
The US and Hezbollah are speaking indirectly through British channels, according to a report in Kuwaiti newspaper al-Rai, which the Jerusalem Post reported in late November. The talks "are aimed at keeping tabs on the changes in the region and the world, and [to] prepare for the upcoming return of Iran to the international community," the Jerusalem Post stated.
If the report is accurate, it serves as an affront to Israel, Western nations targeted by Hezbollah, including the US, and indicates a dramatic change in American policy. In January, a State Department spokeswoman said that "the United States does not negotiate with terrorists,” regarding the consideration to release Omar Abdel-Rahman, the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center attack.
Lessons from History
Offering a terrorist organization legitimacy proved to be catastrophic when Israel signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993. The PLO, founded in 1964 by the Arab League with the goal of destroying Israel through "armed struggle," was labeled a terrorist organization by the US until 1991.
Under the command of Yasser Arafat, the PLO conducted a countless number of terrorist attacks against innocent Israeli citizens in Israel and around the world. The organization is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis as well as a number of US citizens.
The PLO and its splinter groups waged attacks in the form of hijackings, suicide bombings, targeted killings and kidnappings, including the Munich Massacre of 1972 conducted by the group Black September, in which Palestinian terrorists murdered 11 Israeli Olympic team members.
According to the Oslo Accords, Arafat agreed to end all forms of terror and recognize Israel's right to exist. In exchange, Israel, under the leadership of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, agreed to expand the Palestinian-ruled territories, withdraw from parts of Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and provide the PLO with autonomous rule.
Israel conceded control to the PLO as part of the accords in 1994, 1995 and 1997. In July 2000, Israeli and American negotiators offered Arafat plans for peace, which were all rejected without a counter offer.
Instead, the negotiations were followed by Arafat’s calls for violence and the al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000. Israel’s efforts to negotiate with the PLO only led to a rise in terrorism. Violence and terrorist attacks against Israel launched by the PLO’s splinter groups, as well as Hamas, Hezbollah and other organizations, continue regularly to this day.
Regardless of whether the report of talks between the US and Hezbollah is accurate, negotiating with Iran offers political legitimacy to its terrorist wing. Providing credibility to an organization that continues to wage violence against innocent civilians through acts of terror is not the path toward peace, but a policy of appeasement that typically results in the shedding of more innocent blood.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.