U.S. Denies Report That It's Mulling Strategic Dialogue With Hezbollah

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor stressed the U.S.'s unwavering no-contact policy with Hezbollah, denying allegations otherwise reported in a Washington Post article published Friday.

The U.S. has denied allegations that the U.S. is considering reaching out to political elements in Hezbollah, reported the Washington Post Friday.

White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told Haaretz that “U.S. policy toward Hezbollah has not changed and is not changing. Hezbollah is a designated foreign terrorist organization and our efforts against the group are in line with that status."

Hezbollah flag

The spokesman reiterated the United States' no-contact policy with Hezbollah as with other terrorist organizations, and the policy is not being considered for change.”

According to the Washington Post report, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is considering reaching out to the political elements in Hezbollah, stressing that the at this stage it was an intelligence effort, not a policymaking one.

In an opinion piece appearing on the newspaper's online edition, columnist David Ignatius indicated that Washington was considering an effort similar to the one the U.K, implemented "during the 1990s with Sinn Fein, the legal political wing of the terrorist Irish Republican Army."

"That outreach led to breakthrough peace talks and settlement of a conflict that had been raging for more than a century," Ignatius wrote, adding that several U.S. officials were expected to endorse dialogue with political elements of both Hezbollah and the Taliban in an upcoming intelligence report.

Writing of the effect recent Mideast turmoil may have had on Obama's decision to accept these recommendations, the Washington Post writer said that the "political time bomb ticking away in the [intelligence report] is the question of whether the United States should seek some kind of direct or indirect engagement with Hezbollah — at least with its political wing."
"Officials who support this course argue that the organization is like the IRA or the PLO — with nonmilitary components that can be drawn into a dialogue," Ignatius added.

Ignatius quotes in his article one intelligence official, John Brennan, known for supporting a move toward dialogue with the Lebanese militant group, as saying that while "Hezbollah started out as purely a terrorist organization back in the early ’80s," it has "evolved significantly over time."

"The bottom line," the Washington Post article concluded, "is that after a decade of American wars in the Middle East, the Obama administration is increasingly looking for ways to talk with adversaries and draw them into a process of dialogue."

"The world is changing, and perhaps so should U.S. policy," he added.