In February 2013, Hizbullah deputy secretary-general Sheikh Na’im Qassem said that the Americans had “contacted us in various ways and via mediators and asked to sit down with us. We answered via the mediators that the images [of such a meeting] would do no good, and that the only thing that would help is a change in your [i.e. the Americans'] mentality and your recognition of the legitimate rights of peoples.”
This statement, if authentic, could attest to a change of strategy vis-à-vis Hizbullah on the part of the U.S., which declared Hizbullah a terrorist organization in 1990. According to Lebanese media reports, the U.S. administration has been conducting contacts with it since April-May 2012; these contacts, mostly indirect and through intermediaries, have more recently become direct as well. The reports state that at first, the U.S. administration and Hizbullah exchanged intelligence information, but later expanded the contacts into a diplomatic and political relationship, and even into dealings concerning domestic Lebanese politics.
The media reports focus on the relationship between the U.S. and the director of Lebanon’s General Security Directorate, ‘Abbas Ibrahim; although it is an official Lebanese body, this directorate, and Ibrahim himself, are close to Hizbullah. Before heading General Security, from 2005 to 2008, Ibrahim headed military intelligence in South Lebanon – and, according to many Lebanese Sunnis, this apparatus and those in charge of it in South Lebanon are pro-Hizbullah. At Qatar’s request, Ibrahim also mediated between this country and Hizbullah in November 2013.
This paper will review the reports on the contacts and the relationship between the U.S. and Hizbullah, on the development of these contacts and this relationship, on their possible reasons and purposes, and on their possible connection with the shift in U.S. foreign policy towards Iran and towards the entire region.
Direct And Indirect CIA-Hizbullah Security Cooperation
According to Lebanese media reports, indirect CIA-Hizbullah contacts were apparently initiated by the U.S., and have been underway since at least April 2012, conducted by the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and Hizbullah through Ibrahim. These contacts culminated in cooperation fighting Al-Qaeda and its offshoots and other extremist Sunni organizations. It should be noted that since Hizbullah’s announcement of its military involvement in Syria, it has been targeted by Sunni terrorist organizations operating in Syria and Lebanon, which have attacked Hizbullah itself as well as Shi’ite population centers in Lebanon considered to be Hizbullah strongholds.
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