US denies policy change on Hizbullah

Denies aide's comment implies a shift.

May 21, 2010 04:33
1 minute read.
 John Brennan, Assistant to the President and Depu

John Brennan, terrorism adviser. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

WASHINGTON – The US government has not changed its policy on Hizbullah, White House officials said after a top National Security Council advisor made comments implying a shift.

John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, told a Washington think tank Tuesday that while there were “certainly elements of Hizbullah that are truly a concern to us,” what the US needs to do “is find ways to diminish their influence within the organization and to try to build up the more moderate elements within Hizbullah.”

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Brennan was responding to a question on the possibility that the US would engage with Syria since it sponsors Hizbullah and poses other challenges in the region.

He made his comments in the course of describing changes in the organization from “purely a terrorist organization” to one that “now has members within the parliament, in the cabinet and others” as well as continues to be engaged in terrorist actions.

White House officials dismissed his statement as nothing more than an analytic discussion of Hizbullah’s evolution from a purely terror-oriented group to one that has become a political player in Lebanese government.

“Our policy regarding Hizbullah has not changed and is well known,” a White House official told The Jerusalem Post late Wednesday. He pointed out that Brennan himself noted that the US does not deal with Hizbullah, considered a terrorist organization by the American government.

“It is a foreign terrorist organization, we don’t deal with them,” Brennan said Tuesday.

The comments, however, fueled speculation of a shift in US policy or at least discussion of that possibility, as some Washington Middle East hands have been urging the administration to engage directly with groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas.

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