Interview with John Hajjar: Lebanon is a bridge between east and west and should play a critical role in bringing both closer together


Lebanon is a bridge between east and west and should play a critical role in bringing both closer together
Written by: The Observer/Interview with John Hajjar/Conducted by Nader Moumneh

1) Hello John, I would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. You’re the US Director of the World Council of the Cedars Revolution (WCCR) and a Co-Chair of the American Mideast Coalition for Democracy, yet very few people know about your behind-the-scenes activities. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

My pleasure Nader. I am a second generation American Lebanese. No hyphen and American first! However, I’m very proud of my ancestry and have devoted a great deal of my free time promoting, lobbying and advocating for a free, sovereign, open and tolerant Lebanon that respects all of its citizens, their beliefs and diverse ethnicities. I believe that Lebanon has played and should play a significant role in upholding the values of Western Civilization especially the rule of law, free expression, equal rights for all of its citizens and freedom of religion so long as the expression thereof does not infringe on the rights of others. Lebanon is a bridge between east and west and should play a critical role in bringing both closer together.
I studied engineering then law and practiced as a lawyer for over ten years. I am now a commercial real estate developer and manager. I am married to my beautiful wife Astrid, who is of Lebanese origin also but born in Venezuela and the proud father of three children.
In my role as US Director of the WCCR, I was honored to work with a small team of very patriotic Lebanese in the Diaspora. We spent years lobbying, advocating and drafting policy papers and draft legislation that resulted in the passage of UNSCR 1559. We were pleased to see the resulting Cedar Revolution over a decade ago but remain vigilant as 1559 has yet to be fully implemented in letter and spirit. If Lebanon was truly free of armed militias and in full control of its destiny, it would be a beacon of freedom in the region.
Similarly, the AMCD seeks to affect policy in the US toward the region as the conditions of Islamism, despotism and lack of freedom are endemic throughout the region and our fellow Americans of ME descent- by virtue of their American experience- can be valuable advocates for our political leaders in crafting effective policies. This is especially true now that President Trump has been elected. We in the AMCD are a new group but we worked very hard for Mr. Trump and his message during the campaign and now as President we will continue to advocate for the support of freedom, moderation and the fight against Islamic fundamentalism.

2)  You have played an instrumental role in garnering support of Arab Americans to Donald Trump. Could you please shed some light on the wide support for President Trump among Arab-Americans?

ANSWER  : President Trump enjoyed wide support from Arab Americans as well as other ME Americans as I have stated above. In particular, those who have lived under oppressive regimes such as Iranians, Lebanese and, more recently, Turks heard Mr. Trump’s message and it resonated with them.
I had the honor of serving as Co-Chair of American Middle East Committee for Trump with Tom Harb and we were amazed at the level of support Mr. Trump received from our communities; Christian and Muslim, Arab, Turkish, Persian, Assyro-Chaldean and others. I will go even further that our large community support in Michigan was a key to his victory in that key battleground state.

3)  What is you take on President Trump’s policy of isolation against Iran and Saudi Arabia’s proposal to form a NATO-like military alliance of Muslim nations?
ANSWER : I like it. President Obama reversed the well settled policy of isolating the Iranian regime in favor of the JCPOA which has been disastrous by funding the Mullahs, strengthening their proxies and stoking the flames of war throughout the ME and extending their influence and control to the shores of the Mediterranean and beyond. Saudi Arabia has also fanned the flames of fundamentalism by spreading Wahhabism worldwide but have been engaged by Trump in an effort to help them see the futility and self-defeating nature of their policies. Trump knows how to use leverage and is doing all he can to bolster the domestic energy industry which is now a leader in the production of oil and gas and green power. The Saudis know that oil is now only a commodity and no longer a geopolitical tool. I’m sure Mr. Trump is using this ace in his dealings with King Salman.
The NATO like alliance is a great idea first promoted by Dr. Walid Phares. It will further isolate the Mullahs and strengthen the moderates in the region by binding them together against the forces of terror and extremism and in favor of stability, economic development and modernization.

4) How do you envisage the end of Iran’s hegemony in the Middle East and could you dwell on the convergence of US-Iran national security interests in Iraq?
ANSWER : Sadly, the Mullahs end was in sight in 2009 during the Green Revolution but Obama did all he could to ignore the plight of the Iranians marching-and dying- in the streets. I believe the Mullahs are more fragile than they appear. The Iranian people have a proud history, culture and civilization that has stood against fundamentalism and extremism. When the conditions are right, they will rise again.
I am less sanguine on the near term in Iraq as the Mullahs hold great sway over the government and Shi’a militias that have liberated Mosul and other areas from IS. I think President Abadi has done a great job and hope that he will resist as much as possible the strong arm from Tehran.

5) The World Council of the Cedars Revolution (WCCR) has repeatedly underlined the importance of the full implementation of UNSCR 1559 and the extension of Lebanese government control over all Lebanese territory. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is tightening the noose on Hezbollah, in an effort to deprive the Iran-sponsored Lebanese party of its financial resources. But Hezbollah will not budge an inch. Does the WCCR have an elaborate plan for the disarmament of Lebanese militias and have you discussed the re-enforcement of UNSCR 1559 with US and UN officials?
ANSWER : The WCCR has consistently for over a decade held fast to full implementation of UNSCR 1559 in our dealings with several US administrations, the UN and the European Parliament. We will not relent until Hezbollah is fully disarmed and all Palestinian groups are as well. Hopefully, with the price of oil at a low, their sponsors in Tehran isolated and weakened we will see the beginning of the end soon.

6) The Syrian refugee crisis has seriously destabilized Lebanon. Hezbollah is constantly pressuring the Lebanese government to negotiate the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland with the Assad regime. Needless to say, this is a thinly veiled attempt to legitimize the embattled Baathist regime. Is the Trump administration taking concrete steps towards creating a safe zone in northern Syria and do you envision an end to the refugee crisis in the foreseeable future?
ANSWER : Safe zones need to be created in Syria and Iraq for refugees and for the protection of innocent minorities that have suffered disproportionately such as Christians and Yezidis. Trump campaigned on safe zones and must make them a reality but, as of now, I’m not aware of any actions in that direction. We will keep the pressure on him as he has been a man of his word.

7)  Do you expect a new détente between Russia and the United States and will the Trump administration let Russia decide Syrian President Bashar Assad’s fate?
ANSWER :President Obama allowed and expansionist Putin to march into Crimea, Ukraine and Syria. The results have been disastrous. Trump has to do his best to work with our allies in the region, as he is doing, while avoiding direct confrontation with Putin. Eventually, Trump will need to formulate and implement his policy or the Mullahs will solidify their land bridge to the Mediterranean. My guess is Trump would allow a neutered Assad to survive in a rump state and Putin could keep and expand their base in Tartus. In exchange, I hope Trump can split Putin from the Mullahs.

8) The United States and Iraq declared victory over ISIS in Mosul. Is this the beginning of the end for Al-Qaeda offshoot group?
ANSWER : Let’s hope so! But we also need to be vigilant and continue to be brutal in exterminating these savages. My fear is what comes next which necessitates the need for a brutally honest discussion of the ideology that breeds these terrorists. In the West we must get beyond our politically correct mindset for the sake of survival.

9)  Are conditions ripening for an independent Kurdish state in Northern Iraq and would Turkey tolerate the creation of a Kurdish-run region in Syria?
ANSWER : I believe so and we shall soon find out when the Kurds vote. Erdogan will not tolerate a Kurdish state along the border of Syria and Turkey but the Kurds stand to gain independence at long last at least in northern Iraq.
East and could

10) Is there a future for Christians in the new Middle East?
ANSWER : With Christ all things are possible. I am a Christian and, therefore, hopeful by nature. Christianity first took root in the ME and will grow there once again.

11) Any last words or comments?
ANSWER : It has been a pleasure answering these thoughtful questions. I look