It has long been an article of faith that the United States does not “talk to terrorists” — that to engage in dialogue with groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood would be tacitly to acknowledge their status as legitimate political actors. Not so, argues Middle East expert Mark Perry. In the absence of dialogue, we have lumped these groups together with Al Qaeda as part of a monolithic enemy defined by a visceral hatred of American values. In reality, while they hold deep grievances about specific US policies, they are ultimately far more defined by their opposition to the deliberately anti-political Salafist ideology of Al Qaeda.

Drawing on extensive interviews with Washington insiders, Perry describes fruitful covert meetings between members of the US armed forces and leaders of the Iraqi insurgency to demonstrate that talking to terrorists may be best way to end terrorism — controversial wisdom we ignore at our peril.

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