How do you respond to a democratically elected governing party that just happens to be a terrorist outfit? I guess that depends who the outfit is. According to an unconfirmed report citing the U.S. Ambassador to Nepal, Nancy Powell, the State Dept. is ironing out the final “technicalities” needed to remove the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), winners of Nepal’s recent elections, from its terrorism watch list. Now, there are several terrorist listings maintained by the U.S. government, including the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, the Terrorist Exclusion List, and EO 13324 (an executive order issued in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks), with varying and sometimes overlapping consequences depending on which list a group winds up on. The CNP-M was listed in 2003 exclusively pursuant to EO 13324, as opposed to Hamas, for instance, which appears on all three.
Still, should the report prove accurate, the dramatically different American reaction to the CPN-M’s electoral victory compared to that of Hamas in 2006 seems to be noteworthy, at the very least. There are obviously enormous differences in the strategic implications of the two situations, but with all the attention that Jimmy Carter’s meeting with Hamas officials has brought the issue, the developments in Nepal either provide a necessary precedent for opening a dialogue, or else an unnecessary illustration of inconsistent policy almost certain to feed Palestinian resentment growing out of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
What I find most interesting is that by all reports, the American policy debate vis à vis Hamas seems to lagging far behind what’s taking place in Israel, where talking to Hamas is no longer a fringe idea, but one that’s been adopted by some very reasonable and legitimate political and security figures. In fact, by most accounts, discusions are already happening through Egyptian backchannels. I’m not sure whether Carter’s visit helps or hurts those efforts. But I think over the past two years, we’ve gotten a pretty good idea of what not talking to Hamas will achieve.