A senior American Middle East expert believes the United States should open talks with Hizbullah. Ryan Crocker, a recently retired State Department expert and former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, told the Senate that America should talk to Hizbullah in order to “mess with [their] mind.”
"Simply put, we cannot mess with our adversary's mind if we are not talking to him,” Crocker said. He advocated talks with Hizbullah members who are part of the Lebanese parliament and cabinet.
Crocker brought his experiences in Iraq as proof of his argument. “One thing I learned in my time in Iraq is that engagement can be extremely valuable in ending an insurgency. Sometimes persuasion and negotiation change minds,” he said.
Even if America cannot convince Hizbullah to abandon terrorism, “we would learn far more about the organization than we know now,” including its weaknesses, he argued.
Crocker also argued for strengthening the Lebanese army, despite the fact that the government coalition includes Hizbullah, which the U.S. has classified as a terrorist organization.
Senior officials in the Obama administration rejected Crocker's proposal. “Our policy is non-engagement with Hizbullah... and I don't anticipate that policy changing,” said senior State Department official Jeffrey Feltman. The U.S. might be willing to talk with Hizbullah if the group were to disband its armed forces and cease terrorist activity, he said, but not before.