Last month, I shared a Washington podium with Alastair Crooke, a former British diplomat and intelligence operative who’s become a champion of “peaceful dialogue” with Hamas and Hezbollah. (Here’s a Haaretz report on his meetings with these guys in Beirut, here’s another from the Daily Star, here’s a third from the Forward, and a fourth from the New Statesman.) Crooke belongs to that band of intelligence types who ran the Afghan jihadists against the Soviets (he was the first secretary at the British embassy in Islamabad in the 1980s). He and his colleagues in his “Conflicts Forum” would like another shot at stroking extremists to get them to do our bidding.
I’ve posted my panel remarks over at Sandstorm. I’ve resigned myself to engagement by Western governments with certain Islamists, and I don’t care if do-gooders (or do-badders) like Crooke muck around with the worst of them. But as you’ll see from my presentation, I’m dead-set against any U.S. move that would legitimate Hamas and Hezbollah–two groups that cling to jihadist premises, plot terrorist acts, and operate as armed militias. Alas, it now looks like the Bush administration is willing to roll the dice on Abu Mazen’s idea of coopting Hamas through elections, and Israel has had to fall in line. I don’t expect any good to come of this, and a strong Hamas showing will kill off the already-weak prospects for renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Read the full entry for my full argument.
Update: I go back and forth with Abu Aardvark about this entry.