REPORT:  2022 Conference for a Free Lebanon


Policy strategies to liberate Lebanon from Iran’s occupation and disarm Hezbollah militia

April 26, 2022
Library of Congress
Members Room

OPENING REMARKS:

John Hajjar, Director for the World Council of the Cedars Revolution and Co-chair for the American Mideast Coalition for Democracy opened the conference by saying unequivocally the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, are evil. By holding this conference and hearing from the many policy makers and politicians involved, we are hoping to give the long-suffering Lebanese people a small measure of hope. We have a full day with five panels, each one hour in length. It is my great pleasure to introduce our first speaker: Congressman Darrell Issa.

Congressman Darrell Issa: It is fitting that this conference is being held in the Congressional Reading Room in the Library of Congress, where every book and every piece of music published in the United States are catalogued ad stored. All the knowledge of the world gathered over the past 225 years is stored here and Congress members are free to access it anytime day or night. One might wonder, then, why Congress members are so ill-educated.

Since 1948, Lebanon has been a democracy in name only and has been subject to foreign interference from one country after another. To make Lebanon a functioning democracy, it needs two things: the rule of law and an absence of corruption for which all groups are responsible: Maronite, Melchite, Druze, Sunni and Shia. Each blames the others for the corruption that is crippling the country. Lebanon needs a functioning bureaucracy which can account for funds – where it comes from and where it goes. Hezbollah is in charge of the country. Any money they pay out either comes from Iran or from Lebanese taxpayers – they are systematically looting the country.

America is supporting the Lebanese Armed Forces including paying the soldiers. We normally provide weaponry, but do not pay soldiers, but in this case an exception was made in order to keep the LAF together as a professional force. This has had bipartisan support. We are not trying to engage Hezbollah ad wipe it out, just provide a national security force other than Hezbollah. The people have to understand they need to unite and quit blaming each other in order to get rid of Hezbollah. The Shi’a need to ask the question why they are still poor. All the confessions in Lebanon need to unite not only against Hezbollah, but against corruption as well. The banking sector has collapsed and corruption harms investment.

Question about the Iran deal.

Answer: There are many Democrats who oppose re-opening the JCPOA. Bob Menendez is one who is vocal about it, but there are many more who are privately worried. The fact that we’re relying on Russia to help us could come right out of a Saturday Night Live skit. Lobby your Congress people on both sides of the isle.

Question about Hezbollah.

Answer: Hezbollah is designated a Foreign Terror Organization (FTO). There is broad bi-partisan support for Lebanon. We have only selectively sanctioned Lebanese banks used by Hezbollah; we need to be more aggressive in sanctioning banks and go after some European banks as well. Right now, since Hezbollah controls the ministries, they control which banks are considered legitimate.

Question about brain drain.

Answer: Just giving money to people, does not give them hope for the future. We need to stamp out corruption to encourage investment to give people jobs and hope for the future. In Congress, often we listen to lobbyists and benefit from their support, but then we vote against them if we feel its best for the country. The Lebanese need to learn how to do that.

Question about JCPOA.

Answer: President Reagan has a saying: It’s not that they’re stupid, it’s just that they know things that aren’t true. The Biden administration thinks by feeding the snake. It will stop being a snake. Iran’s agenda will always be to the detriment of America and moderate Shi’a and Sunnis.

Question about being afraid to take children to Lebanon.

Answer: It’s never a good time to visit Lebanon and it’s never a bad time. It’s not as dangerous as is sometimes portrayed. Vacationing in Mexico is about as dangerous. It’s good to visit to see for yourself the situation there.

Question: Since the LAF is infiltrated by Hezbollah, there is the perception in Lebanon that America is supporting Hezbollah.

Answer: All the various groups have individuals involved in corruption. Hezbollah collects taxes and distributes the funds as they see fit. We bring members of the LAF to the US for training. We ask them to pledge a separate oath to Lebanon and we want to teach a system of loyalty to the state not to their own religious or ethnic group. When fighting against ISIS, the LAF seemed to cooperate with Hezbollah, but in reality they only de-conflicted because ISIS had to be defeated. We need to convince the Shi’a to reject the answers they’ve been getting from Hezbollah.

Question: Why is it taking so long to find out who was responsible for the Port explosion?

Answer: There were so many people involved, that everyone and no one was responsible. The answer lies in the system of corruption. The fertilizer should never have been off-loaded and should never have been stored there. Hezbollah was taking it out for use in explosives through tunnels underneath. We need to look at the system, not try to find one person responsible.

Question about stopping Hezbollah members coming to America.

Answer: It is easy to deny visas even on information not completely verified, just credible.

John Hajjar: Thank you Congressman Issa.

Panel 2: Changing the Status quo

Mr. Fred Fleitz, Former Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary of the National Security Council in the Trump administration

Mr. Gabriel Noronha / Former Special Advisor-Iran Action Group at State Dept.

Dr. Walid Phares, Co-Secretary General Transatlantic Parliamentary Group. Remarks and moderator

Dr. Phares introduced the other two panelists and remarked that they were in the same room where the Trans-Atlantic Group on Counter terrorism to facilitate communication between the US Congress and the European parliament and to coordinate the response to terror.

Fred Fleitz: To weaken Hezbollah, we need to isolate Iran. This was the strategy under President Trump and it was working. Hezbollah’s money was drying up and Iran’s influence in the region was diminishing.  The Biden administration wants to re-enter a new and even worse Iran deal. The Biden deal would give Iran $90 billion in sanctions relief, $50 billion in increased revenue and $7 billion in cash. They are talking about removing the foreign terrorist designation from the IRGC, but still keeping sanctions on it. Our diplomats have not been allowed to even be part of discussions in Vienna. Russia has all the power in these negotiations, but fortunately, the talks are stalled. It is strange that European powers like Germany are negotiating this deal with Iran, while the regional powers – Saudi Arabia and Israel – are excluded. This is harming the US in the region and pushing Saudi Arabia and others to move toward China. If the administration would stand behind the Abraham Accords, other Arab states, including Lebanon, could normalize relations with Israel and begin developing economic ties like Morocco and the UAE are doing. The Abraham Accords have created stability and was a great diplomatic achievement.

Gabriel Noronha: Mr. Fleitz is right. We need to weaken Hezbollah by weakening Iran and drying up their funds. Hezbollah is spending $25 million in the upcoming Lebanese elections to influence the outcome. Many of the sanctions on Iran are not being enforced. We need to convinced other countries to stop trading with Iran, especially India. We’ve given Iran $50 billion already by not enforcing sanctions. We have 13 countries onboard with designating the IRCG as a terrorist organization, but France has not joined. They make the distinction between Hezbollah as a political party as opposed to its military wing. We need to pressure France on this issue. The State Department under Trump was working on drying up Iran’s ballistic missile financing as well as its terror financing, but all that work has stopped.

Walid Phares: When Lebanon succeeded in forcing Syria to withdraw from its territory with the help of the international community, the triggering event was the assassination of Rafiq Hariri which precipitated the Cedars Revolution. The people made their will known –Syria out and no armed militias. Unfortunately, UN Resolution 1559 which stipulated the disarming of all militias was never enforced with regard to Hezbollah. As a consequence, Hezbollah is now an occupying force in control of many of the country’s institutions. The Lebanese people again made their voice clear in the October revolt – no armed militias running the country – but the international community has done nothing. I am therefore proposing an interim plan for a free area within Lebanon where Hezbollah is not present and which can be protected by the Lebanese Army. This area could attract investment and be free of the corruption that is ruining the country. This is not the final answer but could provide a way forward.

Question about taking the IRGC off the FTO list.

Fleitz: One plan is to take the IRGC off the list but to keep it on a secret list and keep the sanctions on it.

Noronha: The IRGC is still trying to assassinate Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Bolton. If they remove the IRGC from the FTO list, there will likely be lawsuits.

Question about Russia and Ukraine – still not cutting off Russia’s money supply.

Noronha: One reason is Russia is selling oil o China. If the new JCPOA goes through, Russia will sell arms to Iran. Russia will be the big winner in the short term.

Fleitz: The deal stipulates that Iran’s enriched uranium will go to Russia and if any future administration pulls out of the deal like Trump did, then the uranium will go back to Iran. That is being engineered by the Biden administration.

Phares: China has recently signed a strategic agreement with Iran and right now, 80% of Asia is now under the influence of China, Russia and Iran and all three are now on the offensive: Russia in Ukraine, Iran in the Middle East and China is eyeing Taiwan. China also made a deal with the Solomon Islands in the Pacific. Any money going to Iran from the JCPO will go to Russia in the form of arms sales. The JCPOA strengthens all our enemies directly or indirectly.

Question about whether ISIS could come back.

Fleitz: We can defeat ISIS on the battlefield again, but we need to confront it as an ideological movement.

Noronha: I’m more concerned about a resurgent al Qaeda.

Question about whether Biden could be doing all this in the Middle East just to oppose Trump or if there is another reason.

Fleitz: The JCPOA was thought to be a major achievement and the Biden people want to restore it. Plus there has been a strong effort to reverse everything Trump did. Unfortunately, the truth is that the Left has no problem with a nuclear Iran. They think that if Israel has nukes, why not Iran? Not sure the Biden people understand the radical ideology held by the mullahs.

Noronha: Some in the administration think they can control the Shi’a and maybe think if Iran has nukes that will diminish the US,

Question: I see the Abraham Accords as part of the Trump strategy of maximum pressure on Iran. Have these efforts been stalled?

Fleitz: The relationship between Israel and the Arab states are continuing to normalize. The Biden administration hates it, especially Morocco getting the Western Sahara, but they’ve had no choice but to basically sign off.

Phares: The Abraham Accords are part of the natural evolution of the Middle East representing the rise of the Arab coalition and their alliance with Israel against Iran. The people of the region are making their voices heard against the Iran threat and against the Islamist threat – as when the Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown in Egypt. The people of Israel and the Arab world are interacting and trading. We need to bring in more countries and the Abraham Accords can’t be reversed. We need to talk about poet-war Syria and the status of the Kurds and other minorities.

Question about Lebanon joining the Accords – emphasis on love and peace.

Phares: The Phoenicians strengthened civilization all around the Mediterranean world without force – by trade.

Question: With Hezbollah in the government and institutions of Lebanon, how can we get them out?

Phares: The plan to create a free area is not the total answer, but we have to start somewhere. We first have to assemble all the elements – the Congress, the Europeans, the diaspora. Circumstances are changing day by day.

Lunch Program

BBC documentary on the Beirut Port explosion:

Dr. Rachid Rahme, who cared for 273 casualties in 6 hours, gave more statistics on the explosion: 200 people died instantly, over 7,000 were wounded, 37,000 apartments were damaged and 300,000 people made homeless including 80,000 children. It was the third most devastating explosion in the world. Hezbollah is obstructing the investigation into the origin of the explosion. One informant told investigators he took ammonium nitrate from the facility on orders from Hezbollah for years before the explosion. It was well known that it was there. Whatever the results of the upcoming election, Hezbollah will still be in control.  We need help to take our country back.

Brigitte Khair is running for Parliament in Lebanon against a Hezbollah ally. She said that after many civil wars and invasions, Lebanon is facing an existential problem – whether to survive under the identity of the free Lebanese Republic or to sink into a dictatorship. The Lebanese people are the hostages of Hezbollah which is using its illegal weapons and power to turn Lebanon into an Islamic extremist country. They started by turning it to a chaotic country. We are the new blood. We have solutions and are eager to make the necessary changes.

Chorbishop Seely Beggiani, Chairman of Commission on Lebanon from The Diocese of The Eparchy of Saint Maron said Lebanon is in crisis. When its economy collapsed the World Bank, US, France and other offered help immediately, but the Lebanese government has dragged its feet responding. The government is plainly flawed. Any other country in the world, would have responded quickly to the emergency. Lebanese government does not work. No one is ever held accountable for anything that happens. Elections coming up is like fighting over the deck chairs while the Titanic is at the bottom of the ocean. Where is the outrage? People are hungry, where is the sense of urgency?

Paul Hindi, President of the American-Lebanese Policy Institute Political Action Committee introduced Former MP Samy Gemayel/Chairman of Kataeb Party. Leads the opposition in Lebanon, known as a hardliner because he wants transparency and accountability. He resigned as MP in protest of the government’s responsibility for the port explosion. His brother, Pierre, was assassinated

Samy Gamayel: This is a delicate moment for Lebanon. The country is being held hostage by an armed militia which is financed and controlled by a foreign country. Therefore, it is not only a Lebanese issue, it is an issue for the international community. Hezbollah installed the corrupt President Michel Aoun and then changed the electoral law so that they can create any government they want. They have complete control of Lebanese institutions. There is no difference between Hezbollah and the state of Lebanon – the mafia-militia alliance. We are trying to fight this without getting dragged into Hezbollah’s playground – violence. We are trying to form a bloc in Parliament as an alternative to this state of affairs created by the corrupt ruling class.  The UN voted for resolution 1559 unanimously, but then no one stepped up to implement it. Not the US, UK, France, Russia, or China. We need our friends to help us – the hostage cannot free itself without outside help. We need everyone to push the US administration to help liberate Lebanon. The Hezbollah takeover has destroyed the economy and left the people inn deep poverty. After the election, we hope to bring our resistance bloc to the US Congress.

Sheikh Mohammad Haj Hassan of the Free Shi’a movement in Dearborn Michigan: Many Shi’a in Lebanon who are not under the thumb of Hezbollah have tried to organize politically and have been hit by the IRGC. They have been shot by Hezbollah. Hezbollah has kidnapped the justice system, the political system and Lebanese sovereignty. Hezbollah has stated: “Weapons are our religion.” This election is not the solution. The solution is to end the occupation of Lebanon by Iran.

Panel 3: Hezbollah global activities including Latin America

Joseph Humire / National Security Expert

Daniel Di Martino / Expert on Venezuela

Dr. Emanuelle Ottolenghi, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy

Mrs. Astrid Hajjar Moderator

Mrs. Hajjar: Hezbollah operates all around the world, but in the panel we are concentrating on their operation in Latin America, specifically Venezuela. They have developed a very elaborate and complicated network of drug trafficking and money laundering involving the Lebanese diaspora in Latin America, the Middle East, Europe and the US. Venezuela is of paramount strategic importance to Hezbollah.

Daniel Di Martino:  Many Syrians and Lebanese went to Latin America in the 1950s and 60s. After the Iranian revolution, many fled to Venezuela. Hugo Chavez cooperated with Syria, Iran and Hezbollah to help him stay in power. Iranian construction firms helped to build in Venezuela. The US slapped secondary sanctions of Venezuela for cooperating with Iran. The goal of sanctions was not to overthrow the regimes, but to reduce the capacity of the regimes to cause harm. Venezuelan bank accounts are frozen in the US reducing their money flow. The Trump administration began interdicting shipments of arms and oil flowing between Iran and Venezuela, but that seems to have stopped under Biden. The two countries cooperate to sidestep sanctions.

Joseph Humire: Venezuela allowed Hezbollah to operate freely. This speaker has bee an expert witness in many terrorism trials in Latin America and the US. One such trial involved a man named Hamdar who was a Lebanese national who entered Peru on a tourist visa. He quickly married a Peruvian woman who also had US citizenship. Shortly thereafter, she went to the US to live with her ex-husband. He kept a low profile and established regular habits. The Peruvian authorities were watching him. The wife returned and he became reclusive. She left again and then he doesn’t leave the apartment at all. The authorities are alerted and raid the apartment. They find thousands of reconnaissance photos of Lima and traces of nitroglycerine and black powder from TNT on his hands. They also find his real identity – similar name, different spelling. He admitted that Hezbollah sent him to Peru to take the photos. The Peruvians didn’t even know what Hezbollah was. This case and others have spurred many Latin American countries to put Hezbollah on the foreign terrorist list and to sanction their activities.

Dr. Emanuelle Ottolenghi: Taking a global view, there is a clear convergence between the drug crime networks and terror networks. Many outwardly respectable Lebanese businesspeople in the diaspora are secretly involved with narcotics trafficking and money laundering. There is a system of complicity and control stemming from personal bonds of village, family, clan and faith and Iran is pulling the strings. Colombian drug traffickers and Hezbollah drug traffickers cooperate. They use used car lots in the US to launder money. They use leverage over people who are not hard-core Hezbollah, just well-positioned to help them – one young man married to the daughter of a customs official, for example. There are intermarriages between Hezbollah connected families and Colombian cartel connected families creating a complicated mafia-like organization with tentacles all over the world, from Africa to Europe to Australia to the Middle East to Latin America to the United States. When one part is shut down, they just move their operations elsewhere. The bulk of the revenue goes back to Hezbollah.

Panel 4: Hezbollah’s Impact on Lebanese Financial Crisis, Corruption, Civil Society, and upcoming election

Leaders via Zoom from Lebanon:

Former Minister General Ashraf Rifi

Former MP Dr. Fares Souaid (Chairman of National Council to remove Iranian occupation)

Judge Peter Germanous

MP (Resigned) Nadim Gemayel

Candidate Majid Harb

Candidate Camile Chamoun Jr./Chairman of the Sovereign Front

Tom Harb /coordinator

Former MP Dr. Fares Souaid: There is no Lebanese state independent of Hezbollah. All the main economic and political decisions for Lebanon are taken by Hezbollah. The first step is not to ask for support from outside, but to unite within Lebanon. There is no national anti-Hezbollah, anti-Iranian occupation movement within Lebanon. Many minority groups support Hezbollah for their own reasons. The Sunni are weak after their defeat in Syria fighting against Assad who is supported by Iran and Moscow. The Christians are a huge part of Hezbollah support as they see their alliance with Hezbollah as protection against the Sunni majority in the region. The Alawi and the Druze communities in Syria is also aligned with the Shi’a against the Sunni. The minorities in Lebanon are afraid of Hezbollah and the only resistance is from a minority within the minority communities. That is what needs to change.

Judge Peter Germanous: Iran is destroying Lebanon by financing and controlling political parties and armed militias. Iran has caused the economic collapse of the country which has caused a mass exodus of tens of thousands. Iran is also buying up land now being sold at bargain prices. The coming election is anything but democratic.

Question: Do you think the investigation into the port bombing will yield any results?

Judge Germanous: Hezbollah controls the deep state and any inquiry that could affect their influence won’t happen. Only a suicidal officer or judge would go against Hezbollah.

Majid Harb: We are living in what our own President describes as hell. Just yesterday, some people tried to escape Lebanon by sea and seven dies including a baby girl. It tells you something when people are willing to risk their children at sea rather than stay in Lebanon. Where did it all go wrong? It went wrong when we allowed our country to be controlled by thugs. They are even stealing and selling oil and gas which was purchased by the Lebanese taxpayers. They own their own bank with operates outside the regular banking system. They gain government contracts without bidding for them and they have allowed the Lebanese people to be used as guinea pigs for experimental Iranian drugs. The authorities who are supposed to be protecting us are being used as tools of Hezbollah. We have filed several lawsuits against Hezbollah and they are always dismissed within hours of filing. We need the West to sanction these judges – 70% are acting as corrupt tools of Hezbollah.

Tom Harb read the following statement from former Minister General Ashraf Rifi:  Over the past decades Lebanon has been subjected to a terrible depletion of its sovereignty, security, economy and population, and this depletion has turned it into a country governed by hazard and doom, into a captive nation used by Iran to fulfill its ambitions and project, in which Iran plans to penetrate and control any Arab country where it can find a foothold, and it is no secret that Lebanon is the crown jewel of the Persian project where Iran has equipped and trained an armed faction charged with controlling Lebanon’s decisions for the benefit of Iran. Among this faction’s tasks is to spearhead Iranian intervention in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, and to sow disruption and establish militias in the Arab Gulf states.

The International Special Tribunal for Lebanon accused Hezbollah of assassinating (former prime minister) Rafik Hariri, while the martyrs of the Independence Revolution succumbed in a wave of endless assassinations aimed at subjugating the independence movement of the Lebanese. Hezbollah carried out armed incursions, overturned the results of elections, and imposed the election of the president of the republic, the formation of governments, and the electoral law. Thus, the country became occupied, and its economy fell as a result of the alliance of arms and corruption. As a result, Hezbollah protected his ruling class and maneuvered to stop, divide and demonize the revolutions of March 14, 2005 and October 17, 2019, which almost succeeded in toppling the Hezbollah regime.

The Lebanese people have paid a heavy price and have revolted several times, so that their years are almost in a continuous revolution. Parallel to this constant struggle, the Lebanese people won the support of the international community and international public opinion, but this was not enough to protect the Lebanese model, which is one of the oldest and most rooted democratic models in the region.

Lebanon is only the remnants of a country, where journalists and free authors are assassinated, and most recently Lukman Slim was assassinated in Hezbollah’s territory, and then his case was closed without investigation. These crimes have occurred without the perpetrators being punished, and this encourages more crimes to be committed.

International resolutions related to Lebanon have been issued, the most important of which are UNSC Resolutions 1559, 1701 and 1680, all of which are aimed at restoring Lebanon’s sovereignty and legitimate authority over its land and demarcating the border with Syria, but these resolutions have been hollowed out and remain almost ink on paper, and are still awaiting implementation, while the situation is deteriorating.

Pending the implementation of the comprehensive solution, we propose what can be considered a partial solution: to implement the strategy of imposing the power of legitimate arms, i.e. the Lebanese Army, in areas where Hezbollah does not control the populations, and thus large areas of Lebanon would be under the authority of legitimate security agencies and outside Hezbollah’s ability to spreading chaos, intimidation and assassination, because Lebanon is a pluralistic country, and no single component can impose its opinion on other components.

Without overstatement, Lebanon is entrusted to the free world, and if the latter abandons its role, this will pave the way for more countries to fall under the yoke of tutelage and tyranny, and this is why we look forward to placing Lebanon in a strategic position in the Middle East and returning it to the role it played before its fall in the hands of chaos, violence and instability.

MP (Resigned) Nadim Gemayel: In this coming election, Lebanon will make a choice between freedom and totalitarianism. We have been paying the price for having elected an ally of Hezbollah as President. Now Hezbollah has changed the electoral laws to ensure their victory. Lebanon belongs to the free world and we want to go back to that direction again. We need the support of the Arab World, the US and the EU. Twenty two journalists and activists have been assassinated since 2005 for trying to fight Hezbollah. We need help to unite internally and expel Hezbollah.

Candidate Camile Chamoun Jr.: Hezbollah’s drug smuggling activities alone should be enough for the free world to intervene in our sorry situation more energetically. The coming elections may help, but currently, Lebanon is a failed state. Our economy, infrastructure, hospitals, electrical grid are all in shambles. People are assassinated and no one is held responsible.

When you in the diaspora vote, we are asking that the votes be tallied before they are sent to Lebanon. We don’t want ballots to disappear as they have before.

Our Constitution originally called for decentralization of the government and more local control. Right now the Mount Lebanon area contributes 70% of all taxes collected, but receives only about 12 % of that back to cover our needs. Autonomous regions where our tax money could be reinvested locally would help a lot. The Arab world has sent billions of dollars to Lebanon over the last 30 years, but it has all been stolen. Furthermore, the government crashed the banking system by borrowing so much the banks couldn’t cover deposits and people lost their life savings. Local autonomous regions would go a long way toward helping the situation.

Panel 5: Hezbollah and Iran impact on Lebanon: Judiciary System, Beirut Port Explosion and the aftermath

Dr. Antoine Saad / International Attorney

Mrs Guila Fakhoury / Amer Fakhoury Foundation

Mr. Elie Mahfoud / President of the Change Movement

Mr. Bryan Lieb / Iranian-Americans for Liberty

Dr Viviane Haber Moderator

Bryan Lieb: Hezbollah would not exist without the backing of Iran. They both despise the US and want to destroy Israel. They both want Islam to take over the world and anyone who doesn’t conform is isolated and even murdered. No terror organization in the world has received mor funding than Hezbollah and that funding is increasing after the Biden administration decided not to enforce the sanctions on Iran. A few years ago, Iran had about 3 or 4 billion dollars in international reserves. Now they have 30 billion. Iran is selling a billion dollars’ worth of oil to China every month. As a result, the IRGC, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis in Yemen, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terror groups are getting increased funding from Iran. Just the fact that the administration considered removing the IRGC from the foreign terrorist list projects weakness. Iran, Russia, China are forming a new alliance against the West which would not have happened if another person was in the White House. The US should partner with the people of Lebanon, not their government – same with Iran. The Iranian people could be partners for peace if their government fell and the entire Middle East and the world would benefit.

Question about out missile defense and if we could defend against an ballistic missile attack by Iran.

Answer: I don’t see anything but appeasement of the Iranians coming from the Biden White House.

Question about whether the Iranian diaspora and Lebanese diaspora could unite with the Israeli officials to influence the Congress and administration.

Answer: Good idea. I know that Iranian-Americans are 100% behind the Abraham Accords and Israel.

Response from questioner: That is what we are trying to do at the American Mideast Coalition for Democracy.

Dr. Antoine Saad:  In July of 2015, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed during a Democratic administration, and in 2018 during a Republican administration the United States pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal.  But this did not alter the US stance on the status of the Iranian National Guard and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations.  Despite the classification and designation of these organizations as such, they continued their sinister plots to wreak havoc wherever the government of Iran wills it.

It has become evident that however vital, the sanctions on Tehran are not sufficient to halt the aggression that started in 1979.  Perhaps we need to consider a more direct way of dealing with this aggression as in how the Kurds and the opposition forces in Syria faced off the Iranian surrogates.  The same scenario played out similarly in Yemen and in Iraq when the Iranian aggressors and their proxies were curbed, and the Iranian hegemony stopped.

Lebanon is my homeland.  It is in danger of losing its identity.  The identity that it has held for thousands of years. The identity that has spread knowledge, education, and innovation throughout the world. Through well-known scholars and humanitarians like Dr. Charles Malek, Dr. Michael DeBakey and Mr. Danny Thomas to name a few.  It is mind boggling to realize that the country that boasts the very first Law school in the world, The Law School of Berytus, is being overtaken by lawless thugs dressed in black, otherwise known as Hezbollah.   Strong unequivocal support is needed to help those willing to stand as the defenders of freedom and human rights.  Clear precise support is needed to stand overwhelmingly against the deliberate take over by Iran’s proxy Hezbollah and its corrupt allies choking the Lebanese constitution and government.

From this point we need to move forward by identifying what common interests we have that will bind us in this endeavor and drive us strategically to support those that are standing in opposition to the Iranian and Hezbollah takeover of Lebanon. The following is a six-point plan that can be a means to this goal:

  1. Enriching the Lebanese Armed Forces with state-of-the-art weaponry that can overshadow the stockpile of modern weapons that Hezbollah brandishes.  This will stop the proliferation of the Hezbollah influence outside their political and religious perimeter.
  2. Supporting all political forces that are pushing for upholding lawful authority and legitimacy with political and financial means.  This will create a second line of defense to credibly challenge Hezbollah and its allies, giving priority to the Lebanese Armed Forces.
  3. Supporting all legitimate Lebanese institutions that are not under Hezbollah influence.
  4. An organized unified front must be established to create an environment of growth and stability where new ports, airports with private administration and a new independent taxation system that can operate without any undue influence and interference from Hezbollah.  Moreover, this united front must set as one of its goals the establishment of rules and regulations that restrict the use of the military court to military issues and personnel.
  5. Upholding the presence of the Civil State in areas that are liberated from Hezbollah’s grasp, this to attract those fleeing the rule of the Iranian Islamic State (Welayet al-Fakih)
  6. Finally, and when necessary, the creation of a Free Zone with defined borders that is independent politically, constitutionally, militarily from the Hezbollah Zone.

Just as the West Bank in Palestine is not under the influence of Iran, as well as Hasaka and Aleppo in northern Syria, which are not subject to the influence of the Assad regime, and Erbil in Iraq, which is not affected by the proxies of Iran, and just as the Greek side of Cyprus is not under the influence of the Erdogan regime, so why not create a  Free Zone in Lebanon that is not affected by the Iranian occupation weapons, and have it as a free, democratic region that is friendly to the free world.

Mrs Guila Fakhoury, daughter of Amer Fakoury, spoke about her father’s illegal detention in Lebanon where he was tortured and forced to sign false statements, such as that he had an Israeli passport, which he did not have. The judges and President Aoun all knew he was innocent, yet they held him anyway. The Trump administration negotiated with the Hezbollah-dominated government and he was eventually released, but died shortly afterward. The family suspects he was poisoned. We need to keep pressure on the administration to help free Lebanon from Iranian occupation.

Eli Mahfoud:  Hezbollah is anathema to Lebanon’s traditional place between East and West. Hezbollah gains power through threats and violence while working through the political system. It is incompatible with national sovereignty, multi-culturalism, democracy and the rule of law. Iran is creating a land bridge to the Mediterranean through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon to the borders of Golan. Iran has forced Lebanon into conflicts and wars it does not want. It blocks the free movement of people and even prevents the LAF from entering any Hezbollah military compound spread throughout the country. Forbes magazine raked Hezbollah the #1 richest terrorist organization in the world with 1.1 billion dollars I annual income – 700 million comes from Iran and the rest from its international criminal enterprises.  We call on the UN to implement resolutions 1701 and 1559 and for the Taif agreement to be enforced in cooperation with the Arab League and for Hezbollah and all their cronies to be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court.

Closing Remarks by Toufic Hindi, Lebanese politician and strategist

First remark: Lebanon is under Iranian occupation

The fate of Lebanon, as in any country, is determined by the balance of forces, the main component of which in a country under occupation or dominated by a militia is the military-security component. It precedes in importance the other components be it political, popular, economic, financial and cultural.

After the election of General Michel Aoun to the Presidency of the Republic in 2016 and the 2018 parliamentary elections through which Hezbollah gained the majority, the strategic decision of any Government, irrespective of its composition and nature, remains in its hands. Thus, one can say that Hezbollah controls the three constitutional institutions.

Externally, the Vienna talks are going on so far without success, knowing that the two major issues of ballistic missiles and Iranian expansion in the region remain outside the scope of negotiations.

Conclusion 1: Lebanon is under Iranian occupation via Hezbollah regardless of the success of Vienna talks

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Second remark: Constitutional processes in an occupied Lebanon

The “Lebanese state” is not only a failed state or a rogue state. Lebanon is living in a situation of non-state.

In Lebanon, the State of Institutions, the Constitution, and the Law are absent.

The virtual State is only a tool in the hands of Hezbollah.

Therefore, there is no way for national salvation and change through using constitutional processes (parliamentary and presidential elections and the formation of governments).

Conclusion 2: Coexisting with the occupier and the rogue political class under its control in Parliament, Government, and dialogue bodies, would only benefit to Hezbollah.

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Third remark: Elections, Hezbollah and the International Community

After the formation of the Mikati government, the Lebanese political scene went hysterical concerning the parliamentary elections to be held on May 15, portrayed by many political forces as an existential turning point.

Meanwhile, the West whose main goal is to normalize its relations with Iran in order to conclude illusory juicy deals with it, is now practicing a “realpolitik” approach concerning Hezbollah and its cronies.

Therefore, Lebanese political factions who are blindly sharing such complacent Western approach towards Iran at this stage is similar to what happened in the early nineties, when the West gave a free hand to Hafez El Assad in Lebanon. Whoever participated in the Syrian-Lebanese security system at that time, on the basis of practicing “realpolitik”, either ended his life as a martyr like Rafik Hariri, or as a convict pursuant to a suspended death sentence like Walid Jumblatt.

Let’s remember that the Syrian occupation didn’t end through elections or formation of Governments, but through a non-violent sovereigntist movement which faced a Lebanese State under occupation. It began with the boycott of elections in 1992, took shape with Cornet Chehwan in 2001 and evolved into a massive popular movement in 14th of March 2005, mirroring the will of Lebanese people to free themselves from the Syrian occupation.

But all this popular build-up couldn’t deliver if a real change of the military balance of forces didn’t occur. The massive military American presence in Iraq and the Bush Administration ultimatum to Assad, coupled with the 1559 resolution and the paramount of the sovereigntist movement in 14th March 2005, caused the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon on the 26th of April 2005. 

Unhappily, the catastrophic behavior of the March 14’s main components towards Hezbollah, permitted the replacement of the Syrian occupation by the Iranian occupation.

Let’s remember also that the 14th March coalition did have the majority of the Parliament in 2005 and 2009 and yet couldn’t liberate Lebanon.

Conclusion 3: Holding elections under occupation only serves the occupation.

***

Fourth remark: The outcome of elections

Hezbollah together with the corrupt, murderous rogue political class operating under its control, albeit in different forms, possess strong elements in the electoral process which would allow them to be victorious.

Thus, there is no way for those struggling for sovereignty and change to win the majority.

The International Community would then be facing a difficult choice between a parliamentary vacuum and hence the total collapse of the non-State or an extension of the term of the current Parliament. No doubt that it will choose the second option and impose it on the whole political class.

Conclusion 4: Hezbollah will maintain its parliamentary majority, whether elections were held or not, with a bonus in the first case which will provide it with a renewed legitimacy.

***

General Conclusion:

The Lebanese problem is therefore not intrinsically Lebanese.

Lebanon has become a ticking time bomb for security, stability and peace in the region and in the world.

The roadmap we propose for regional and international security, stability and peace is as follows:

  1. The implementation of a Security Council resolution placing resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701 under chapter 7 and expanding the tasks of UNIFIL.
  2. A Security Council Resolution placing Lebanon under an international mandate in accordance with Chapters 12 and 13 of the United Nations Charter or through the invocation of Human Rights to confront the criminal political class.
  3. It is only after the cleansing of all state institutions of political clientelism and corruption and the stabilization of the situation in Lebanon within the framework of the aforementioned international supervision that the legislative elections could be held in accordance with a new electoral law. They would be followed by the presidential election and the formation of a government that would pave the way for the lifting of international tutelage and the recovery of Lebanon at all levels. The Mandatory Authorities should form a temporary Lebanese military-civilian Authority to do, under its supervision, “the big cleaning” of the state apparatus.

Result: renewed confidence of the Lebanese people in the Lebanese State, as well as renewed confidence of the international and Arab community, and of the Lebanese diaspora in the Lebanese State, paving the way for a rapid recovery of Lebanon economically, financially, socially and culturally.

Addendum:
American Lebanese Policy Institute, PAC Policy Document on Lebanon

Background:

Lebanon is witnessing today the worst economic, financial and political crisis in 100 years. Unlike the rest of the world, that is affecting by external events, the situation in Lebanon is caused by the mismanagement of the state, deep state corruption, and the rule of a mafia and a militia alliance for the past 30 years.

Lebanon is also in a hostage situation. The Iranian Regime is taking the country away from its historical role and positioning to become a proxy for the Iranian regime and a bargaining card in the hands of Hezbollah to use against its Arab neighbors and the world.

The United States and Lebanon enjoyed fruitful and close relationship for the past century and even more. The United States was and still is the favorite destination for Lebanese Immigrants who found their place and role in the US social fabric and are working for the growth and prosperity of the United States as their homeland.

However, nowadays, the Hezbollah-led establishment is trying to drift Lebanon away from its close ties with the US and to establish a new status-quo where Lebanon becomes part of the anti-US axis in the MENA region. As proud Americans, we will use all our powers to stop this attempt and work closely with like-minded people in the US and Lebanon in order to bring back peace and prosperity to Lebanon and its people with the support of the US administration and the US people.

Policy priorities:

Under these principles and goals, the ALPI-PAC is keeping a close eye on the upcoming parliamentary elections in Lebanon, scheduled to take place on May 15th, as a peaceful opportunity for the Lebanese people to save their country and continue the change movement that started with the October 17th 2019 uprising in Lebanon.

In order to help the Lebanese people in their peaceful demand for change, prosperity and peace, the ALPI-PAC proposes the following steps on the US decision makers, to be based on for any policy, bill or Executive Order that targets Lebanon and the US-Lebanese relations:

1.       Pressure for the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and1701, in particular the closes pertaining to the disarmament of all militias on Lebanese soil and the protection of Lebanon’s borders with Syria to stop weapons and money smuggling to Hezbollah. By sealing that border “the government” can stop the flow of arms and most importantly the cash to Hezbollah.

2.       Broaden the reach of the Magnitsky Act targeting the corrupt and those who prevent the government from operating and those who are strangling the judiciary

3.       Asking the International community to support a call to transfer the investigation of the Beirut Blast to an International Tribunal.


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