Ah, it appears my earlier skepticism on reports that the White House was adopting a more flexible Lebanon policy appears to be well-warranted. Condoleeza Rice is now saying that the U.S. has no plans to make nice with Hezbollah after all. What’s interesting, though, is that European leaders are now seeing fit to take a harder line against the Islamic militant group, though they’re not ready to call it a “terrorist group” just yet.
I was going to just leave this post at that, with maybe a link to this excellent Carnegie briefing on Lebanon (for those who need a concise refresher), but the EU about-face here is just asking for a bit of freewheeling speculation. So off we go. It’s entirely possible that Europe is trying to convince the Bush administration that it too can take a tough stance on various militant groups or recalcitrant regimes or what have you. In the case of Hezbollah, I don’t think a hard line is the way to go. On the other hand, though, one of the things that seems to be preventing the U.S. from getting more heavily involved in the ongoing EU negotiations on Iran’s nuclear weapons program—involvement that would really be quite helpful—is the fact that the Bush administration doesn’t think Europe will “get tough” on Iran if talks fall apart.
So we may be seeing some interesting convergence here. The White House earlier sidled over to the French multilateralist view on Syrian withdrawal, and the EU gives a little on U.S. views of Hezbollah. Hopefully the end result is sensible policy all around, but the process is important here too. Let’s hope it’s not illusory.