BY ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS
I have recently written about the British government’s misguided strategy of seeking to engage with Hamas and Hezbollah, in the hope that this will coax them into moderation. This debate was re ignited in May of this year when junior Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell stated in Parliament that the government was “exploring the possibility of limited and considered contacts” with Hezbollah’s ‘political wing’.
Apart from still clinging to the ridiculous notion that Hezbollah’s different wings are unconnected and separate entities, the FCO also displayed naiveté in assuming that for Hezbollah this engagement was anything more than a propaganda tool to help further legitimise the organisation in the eyes of the Lebanese electorate. Although already warned about being used by Hezbollah in this way, the FCO had to find out the hard way when, in one of their first meetings after Rammell’s comments, Hezbollah officials tried to film the proceedings so as to use them in run up to the June 7 Lebanese elections. This acted as something of a temporary wake-up call for David Miliband who announced that because of this, meetings with Hezbollah had ceased.
Unfortunately, this hiatus has not lasted long, with various news agencies in Beirut reporting that the British Ambassador to Lebanon, Frances Guy, held a meeting with Hezbollah parliamentary leader, Mohammad Raad, last Thursday. They discussed the recent elections and Raad claimed that “the doors are open to further meetings.”
From the perspective of the FCO, one of the suggested purposes of these meetings was to help secure the release of five British hostages held since May 2007 by the Iraqi Shiite terrorist group, Asaib al-Haq (League of the Righteous). On the 19th of June, the bodies of two of the five Britons, Jason Creswell and Jason Swindlehurst, were handed over to the British Embassy in Baghdad and fears are mounting for the wellbeing of the remaining three. Early reports indicate that the condition of the corpses suggested they had been killed months ago.
Asaib al-Haq has strong links with Hezbollah and is armed by Iran, and one of their demands was the release of a high-ranking Hezbollah military operative in Iraq called Ali Musa Daqduq, who was arrested by US forces in March 2007. According to a spokesman for Iraq’s Multinational Force, Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, Daqduq “was directed by senior Lebanese Hezbollah leadership to go to Iran and work with the [Iranian] Qods Force to train Iraqi extremists.” In the same raid, US forces also captured the head of Asaib al-Haq, Qais Qazali, who has also been identified as an al Quds agent. Iran’s al Quds Force provides support for all Iranian sponsored terrorist groups, including Hezbollah. Incidentally, it is interesting how both Ayatollah Khamenei and (the man who we should now all cease to refer to as ‘President’) Ahmedinejad had the audacity to invent criticisms about Britain’s meddling in Iranian affairs, at a time when their meddling has led directly to the kidnap and murder of British civilians.
Not only is the government now unconditionally and openly engaging with a proxy of an Iranian mullah regime which is now busy shooting and beating their own citizens, they are also engaging with a group which at the very least could have used its influence to release the British hostages and at worst has had an indirect, but nonetheless crucial, role in their murder. The question then remains: apart from serving to bolster and legitimise them and their murderous benefactors, what does engagement with terrorist groups achieve?