Can Secularisation and Transparency in Lebanon Break Hezbollah’s Stranglehold?
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Can Secularisation and Transparency in Lebanon Break Hezbollah’s Stranglehold?
17 January @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
The Iranian proxy Hezbollah wields significant power in Lebanon, and presents a major challenge to efforts to improve the country’s international image. This event aims to delve into the multifaceted challenges confronting Lebanon concerning its democratic future. It will concentrate on the far-reaching consequences of sectarianism and corruption, as well as the security threats posed by Hezbollah. The overarching objective is to heighten awareness among Members of Parliament and other attendees about these pressing issues, fostering an understanding of the intricate dynamics at play.
The primary focus of the discussion is to not only shed light on the challenges faced by Lebanon but also to chart a course toward practical solutions. By doing so, the intention is to identify actionable measures through which the United Kingdom can play a role in promoting democratic values and principles in Lebanon. These might include opportunities in a new secular Lebanese republic, ensuring transparency in the judiciary and addressing the issue of increasing radicalisation.
By kind invitation of Nicola Richards MP, The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to welcome the anti-corruption campaigner and businessman Omar Harfouch to discuss the ongoing challenges which Lebanon is facing, the country’s chances for a democratic future and the radicalisation and terrorism threats emanating from Hezbollah.
Omar Harfouch is a pianist-composer, businessman and politician who lives in Paris but remains very attached to his native Lebanon. As a young man he set up the very first FM radio station in post-Soviet Ukraine, later becoming a publisher both there and in France. He is currently the director of ‘Entrevue’, a monthly magazine published in France. Omar composed a piece for piano and orchestra called ‘Save one life – you save many’ which received its world premiere at the European Commission in December 2023. He is proud to be honorary president of Brussels-based international NGO Dialogue & Diversity which organised the event, a Jewish initiative of intercultural dialogue bringing together Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and non-confessionals around one same project: to promote the understanding and acceptance of our differences – of sex, religion or culture in order to reduce stereotypes and consolidate a more inclusive society.
His vision is for Lebanon to be a prosperous homeland for its diverse population, secure from sectarian and ideological discrimination. He is committed to addressing human rights issues such as women’s rights, the environment, and the rights of minorities including Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. He is particularly concerned to increase transparency in governmental and judicial institutions and to fight against corruption, having spoken on these issues in many places including the European Parliament, European Commission, French Senate, various European parliaments, and the United Nations in Geneva. Omar Harfouch promotes economic peace with Israel, following historic agreements between the two countries on the maritime border and de facto recognition of the state of Israel by Lebanon, as well as normalisation with Syria and the return of Syrian refugees to their country of origin.
Barak Seener is a Senior Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and the founder of Strategic Intelligentia and the Gulf Futures Forum. Previously, Barak was a Global Intelligence Manager at HSBC and the Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on whose behalf he has debriefed international defence and security policy makers and diplomats on matters relating to Middle East security. Barak has lectured at NATO as well as the Royal College for Defence Studies. He also staged the world’s first, and hugely successful conference in London at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on Palestinian statehood. This examined the security Implications for the Region bringing together leading Israelis, Palestinians, US and European representatives in London 2011. Prior to joining RUSI, Barak was one of the Henry Jackson Society’s founders in Westminster and was the Henry Jackson Society’s Greater Middle East Section Director.
Barak published a book in 2018 entitled, ‘Commercial Risks Entering the Iranian Market: Why sanctions make investment in the Islamic Republic of Iran a high-risk proposition.’
Barak has published and provided analysis and expert commentary for a range of international broadcasters including Al-Jazeera, BBC, CNN, Chinese CCTV, Fox News, Sky News, Voice of America, and news outlets such as Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, the Evening Standard, Jerusalem Post and Xinhua.
Barak has published in publications including Newsweek, the National Interest, the American Interest, Jane’s Intelligence Review and Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst on counter-terrorism, US-China dynamics, risks to supply chains, globalization and the end of the liberal international order, transatlantic relations, universal jurisdiction, nuclear proliferation and Middle East issues including the Arab Spring, tensions in Libya, Egypt and Syria, strategic and security dynamic between Iran and the Gulf, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Nicola Richards MP was elected as the Member of Parliament for West Bromwich East in December 2019. She currently serves as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt MP.
After being elected to Parliament, she has been a member of both the Education Select Committee and the Women and Equalities Select Committee. She is currently the Conservative Party’s representative on the International Young Democratic Union. After graduating from the University of Birmingham, Nicola worked in public relations for the Jewish Leadership Council and the Holocaust Educational Trust.
The Henry Jackson Society was pleased to welcome Omar Harfouch in the House of Commons by the kind invitation of Nicola Richards MP. Omar Harfouch spoke about his goal of reforming the Lebanese political system by first and foremost eradicating corruption. He emphasised his efforts to pursue corrupt officials in Lebanon through tracking their money, especially that which is either provided through Western aid or is held in Western banks; he described his evolving success in doing so, notably freezing $1.6 billion of Lebanese officials’ corrupt money. Mr. Harfouch pointed out that US and European governments are often complicit in the ongoing corruption, choosing to turn a blind eye to it for the sake of short-term strategic gain, at the expense of potential long-term issues. Aside from his immediate fight against corruption, he expressed a desire to normalise relations with Israel for the greater good of Lebanon, emphasising that Hezbollah’s views are not representative of the vast majority of the Lebanese population so long as Israel does not occupy Lebanese land. Moreover, Mr. Harfouch spoke about advocating human rights in Lebanon, seeking greater rights for women, the LGBT community, and stateless Palestinians. The campaigner went to address questions concerning his personal security, sustainability of his movement, and seeking aid from the Lebanese diaspora.
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