I am told that George Mitchell has asked Frederic C. Hof to join his mission. Hof is best known for his expertise and extensive writings on Israeli-Syrian negotiations, including a new U.S. Institute for Peace study. But he was also the principal professional who drafted the report of the Mitchell Commission in 2001. I predicted that he would join the new mission, as soon as Mitchell's own role was disclsosed. I count Fred as one of the good guys on Syrian and Lebanese issues, though I have important differences with him on the Mitchell Report. Here is a sample of his Syria/Lebanon views, from a recent speech:
"My point, however, is not that Hassan Nasrallah is an Iranian stooge, spy, agent or employee. He is none of those things. Rather he is a trusted and esteemed colleague of the clerical leadership in Iran. Whether most of his organization's members know it or not and whether most Lebanese Shiites know it or not, he and his inner circle do what they do first and foremost to defend and project the existence and power of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I think this is an important consideration for diplomats of any country that would consider engaging Nasrallah and his inner circle. While I would not necessarily oppose engagement, I think I would keep in mind that the diplomatic center of gravity is located in Tehran, not in some bunker in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Hezbollah also means something to me personally, and in the interests of fairness and full disclosure I think I should be perfectly open about it, and here I refer to the leadership – not to the thousands of decent Lebanese who have looked to this organization for social services and physical protection. In the late 1980s when I was serving as an army officer in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, a friend of mine – Colonel Rich Higgins – was kidnapped by Hezbollah while he was serving as a UN military observer in Lebanon. I was part of a small team in the Pentagon that tried very hard, through many channels, to secure Rich's release. As it turned out, he had been tortured and killed months before our efforts to free him finally ended. I am one of a small handful of Americans who knows the exact manner of Rich's death. If I were to describe it to you now – which I will not – I can guarantee that a significant number of people in this room would become physically ill. When my former business partner Rich Armitage described Hezbollah a few years ago as the "A-Team" of international terrorism and suggested that there was a "blood debt" to be paid, he was referring to a leadership cadre that is steeped in blood and brutality. If Nasrallah and his closest associates come to a violent end in the current crisis you will not find me among the mourners. "