March 15, 2005


Bush: Hezbollah could join mainstream (JENNIFER LOVEN, March 15, 2005, AP)

Hezbollah has been involved in Lebanese politics for over a decade, with an extensive social welfare program and nine lawmakers in the current 128-seat parliament. But it has steered away from major decision-making in national politics as its guerrilla army - the most organized and best-armed faction in Lebanon - focused on fighting Israel. Lebanon considers Hezbollah a legitimate resistance movement that led the guerrilla war against Israel's 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon.

Lately, Hezbollah has been flexing its political muscle by organization two huge pro-Syrian rallies.

A U.N. Security Council resolution demands that Hezbollah disarm and that Syria, which has 14,000 troops in Lebanon and has enormous control over political affairs there, withdraw its soldiers. The United States has long listed the Iranian-founded, anti-Israeli Shiite Muslim group as a terrorist organization.

Some European leaders and some in Lebanon have been urging the United States to back moves to nudge Hezbollah into mainstream political life in Lebanon. Maronite Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, a strong critic of Syria's control in Lebanon and a key opposition figure there, supports the integration of Hezbollah and is due at the White House on Wednesday for a meeting with Bush.

Bush appeared open to that idea, emphasizing the chance for Hezbollah to change its ways even as he issued new warnings to the group.

Folks who oppose democracy in the Middle East keep asking if the President is really prepared to accept a politics and governments that may not be overly friendly to us, at least initially. He keeps saying yes, but that only seems to confuse them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 15, 2005 4:07 PM
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