Two Kuwaiti newspapers have reported that U.S. officials have been holding indirect secret talks with the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah over the past year, using Britain as a mediator.
Al-Rai on Wednesday quoted senior British government sources who said while British diplomats are engaging in direct talks with Hezbollah leaders over issues including the fight against Al Qaeda and other Middle East challenges, they are conveying information to the U.S.
The talks “are aimed at keeping tabs on the changes in the region and the world, and prepare for the upcoming return of Iran to the international community,” diplomatic sources in Washington told the Kuwaiti paper, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The State Department classifies Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization, thus U.S. officials are barred from meeting with leaders of the group that has been responsible for scores of American deaths including the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut which killed 241 American service members.
Still, sources told Al-Rai that the U.S. is open to hearing what Hezbollah has to say and to “warm up to a direct relationship in the future.”
Al-Rai also reported that during a conversation last week between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and British Prime Minister David Cameron, Rouhani reportedly characterized the talks with Hezbollah as being within the context of negotiations between Iran and the West over its nuclear program.
Earlier this month, another Kuwaiti newspaper al-Anbaa reported that U.S. embassy officials in Lebanon have been holding the indirect talks with Hezbollah, a claim the U.S. embassy has denied.
That report was based on information provided by a Lebanese member of parliament who is part of the March 14 Alliance. The lawmaker said that “relations between the Hezbollah and the US are developing positively.”
The March 14 Alliance is a Lebanese political coalition that opposes Hezbollah, as well as Syrian and Iranian influence on Lebanon.
The source further noted that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in a recent speech did not include any criticism of U.S. foreign policy in Lebanon or the Middle East, an omission the member of parliament believed was noteworthy,Israel National News reported.
The U.S. embassy in Lebanon denied that report earlier in November, telling Lebanon’s Naharnet, “No official at the embassy has or is engaged in discussion with members of the terrorist organization Hezbollah.”
“If true, the rapprochement marks a continuing shift in U.S. foreign policy towards Iran and its regional allies, and will do little to assuage the growing feelings of abandonment by America’s traditional allies in the region – in particular the Arab Gulf States and Israel,” wrote Israel National News, which also characterized it as “a remarkable shift in relations.”
The claim follows reports in the American and Israeli media in recent weeks that Obama administration officials held secret face-to-face talks with Iran for a year to negotiate key details of the agreement over Iran’s nuclear program that was sealed in Geneva last weekend.