Post-Cedar Lebanon


Thanassis Cambanis, who’s covered the Middle East for The Boston Globe and The New York Times, has an original commentary out for Middle East Progress on how to deal with the new Lebanese realities rather than the fantasies of the Cedar Revolution:

In short, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran are stronger in Lebanon that any point in the last decade. In order to foster better ties with a Lebanese government that includes Hezbollah as well as the pro-Western coalition, U.S. policy makers should consider building stronger relations with ambiguous Lebanese politicians who must deal with Hezbollah as a practical matter. And Washington might have to make a thorny choice: find a way to deal with a government dominated by Hezbollah, or else cut off all ties and relations with one of the few states in the Middle East where a real battle of ideas has been joined. The dialogue in Lebanon is no less critical because of the struggle between Hezbollah, which maintains its own independent military, and those who want the state at last to exercise a real monopoly on security.

It will no doubt be awkward to find a way to forge relations with a state that has at its center a group defined as terrorist by Washington and several European countries including Britain, and which remains in a state of war with Israel, America’s closest Middle East ally. But more complex political quandaries have been resolved, and in this case the formula will probably involve Americans talking directly to independents that have close ties to Hezbollah, rather than party officials themselves.

To add an obvious addendum to this, clearly policy toward Lebanon will be impacted by whether or not the United States chooses to aggressively pursue the seemingly promising possibility of Israel-Syria peace talks. But it seems to me that this kind of approach to Lebanon would be a useful complement to an approach to Syria.