Christianity in the Middle East: Hezbollah and Refugees

TIME: 9th February 2017, 13:00 – 14:00

VENUE: Committee Room 2, House of Lords
Palace of Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA

Dr Naji Emile Hayek
Member of the Lebanese Free Patriotic Movement

Baroness Cox: I don’t want to just read out what has already been sent out because I want to make the most of Dr Hayek’s time and then have time for open discussion. In addition to what has been sent out on the official CV which is extremely impressive, you might want to mention or highlight one or two things. He served in the Christian military in Lebanon, secondly you are a plastic surgeon and a professor of surgery at the Lebanese-American University and in personal terms you say that you are a fan of history. So we have a multitalented very wise and experienced speaker this afternoon and it is a great pleasure to introduce Dr Hayek.

Naji Hayek: Thank you very much. I would like to start by thanking the Henry Jackson Society and Baroness Cox as well as all the people that contributed to make this event happen. I feel privileged and honoured to be given a chance to speak at Westminster.

Christians in the Middle East need to be helped, not only the Lebanese Christians. These people are targeted because of the fact that they are Christians and because of a lack of tolerance that they have been subjected to for the past several hundreds of years.

I will today clarify and explain the reality of the situation without being politically correct. This is because the truth must come first so I will not be politically correct and I will say things the way that they are, they way that I believe they are and the way the reality is.

Understanding the dynamics of the Middle East has a mandatory path, it is a knowledge of its history that is linked to religion. In other words, the history of the Middle East was shaped by its religion. The Middle Eastern Christians are among some of the first people to adopt Christianity, they are not converted Muslims. As a matter of fact many Muslims have been ex Christians or Jews converted usually by the sword. The constitutions of most of the Arab countries being derived mostly from Sharia Law allowed the Christians no valuable political presence throughout the years which drove the majority to leave. The Iraqi and Syrian recent conflicts practically ended their presence. Lebanon is the only country in the Arab world that has always had a secular constitution. Christians being a majority until the last forty years have made them a very influential constituency with equal rights to the other communities.

The Lebanese Christians are mostly Catholics and Orthodox with a good size being Armenian, Syriac and Protestant churches. The biggest community is the Maronite Catholic community named after Saint Maron who lived in the beginning of the fifth century. It became an official church in the seventh century. It became a church by a daring act of democracy, when the people and the clergy decided that the religious leader or patriarch had to be elected, thus defying the Byzantine Emperor’s usual grip. The religious services are in Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke and the Aramaic alphabet is like the Hebrew alphabet.

Living to the East and looking the West, for them life was living in a continuous struggle to defend their values which have always revolved around freedom of religion and expression and around democracy in a land of violence and dictatorships. During the early years of the Islamic conquests around the year of seven hundred, the Maronites stopped the Islamic invasion of the Mediterranean shores. They stood firmly in their villages, unknown to the world until the eleven hundreds when they rushed to welcome and join the crusaders. The historians would describe them as valiant archers who were instrumental in winning battles.

In the year twelve fifty, twenty five thousand of their soldiers went to assist Saint Louis King of France who was taken prisoner by the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt. Only eight hundred of them returned home. In twelve eighty nine the last crusader stronghold fell to the Mamelukes, it was in Tripoli, Northern Lebanon protected by the surrounding Christian villages. The Lebanese Christians kept up their fight over the years against the Mamelukes and then the Ottomans. They never left their faith, they never left their values and they never left their weapons.

In the nineteenth century, when the whole of the Middle East was under the iron fist of the Turkish Sultan, only Mount Lebanon had its own ruling status with a Christian Head of State. By 1920 the Sykes-Picot agreement that put Lebanon under the French Mandate added some territory to the small Mount Lebanon creating its modern day borders. In 1943 Lebanon became an independent democracy.

Here I will deviate and address a common misconception in this day of unverified communication. The media has abandoned its status of accurate reporting, in spite of all this history speaks for itself. Lebanon was the first democracy in the Middle East and continues to this day as a Parliamentary Republic. Though constitutionally a secular state, there has been a sense that power will be shared among the religious communities. The President is always a Maronite Christian, the Head of Parliament is Shia and the Prime Minister is Sunni Muslim. The high governmental positions are equally split among the Muslims and the Christians. Between 1943 and 1990 the regime was Presidential, the Head of State would appoint a Sunni Prime Minister and a sectarian distribution of the Parliament was sixty percent Christian and forty percent Muslim.

I am going to speak a little bit about the demographics of Lebanon which are unknown to many people. In 1913 Lebanon was smaller in size and the Christians constituted seventy nine point six percent of its population. The World War One Turkish targeted starvation that decimated one third of them together with a flux of immigration towards the Americas greatly reduced this percentage. Also the new borders of 1920 added a large Muslim community to the greater Lebanon. In the 1932 Census, Christians had become sixty two percent of the population. In 2016 the Christians account for barely forty percent of the population and this is mainly due to the difference in birth rates among the communities and to the mass of Islamic naturalisations.

The golden days of Lebanon were between 1943 and 1975, it was the Switzerland of the Middle East and it was its playground. It had American and French Universities and independent newspapers and intellectual freedom of expression. It also had the beaches, the bars and the casinos. This is why all the Arabs came: it had a very strong economy and powerful central government. It also had 400,000 armed Palestinians that were welcomed after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, five years after the creation of the state of Lebanon.

Because the Arab states never really accepted the idea of a Christian led Lebanon, these Palestinians were used to exert terror on the Lebanese people and under the cover of a fight for the land. They had their own army, backed and financed by Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gadaffi and other dictators. The big bang was in 1975 when the Palestinians, the Pan-Arabists and their Communist allies tried to overthrow the central regime. They succeeded in destabilising the army on a sectarian basis and the country was split in half. Armed Christians fought heroically, in the 1970s and 1980s Lebanon faced what the world is facing now. It was a real Jihad like ISIS nowadays, bearded and scary looking Jihadists poured from all Arab countries to kill the Lebanese capitalistic influenced country.

In 1976 a Shia contingent that was supposedly mandated by the Arab League to stop the fighting ended up joining the terrorists and acting as an occupation army. Up until 1990 the army and legal central government were still in a geographically independent region led by General Michel Aoun, the head of an interim constitutional government who actively tried to free the country from Syrian hegemony. When Hafez Assad of Syria struck a deal with the US government in exchange for a symbolic contribution in the First Gulf War, he got the green light to invade the last standing Christian free area and topple the constitutional government under the watching blind eyes of the world.

A major Syrian offensive with full aerial and mechanised support invaded the free areas. This military coup forced General Michel Aoun to seek asylum in France. A bogus agreement signed in Saudi Arabia ended the occupation, it stripped the President of many of his powers and put them under the control of the Sunni Prime Minister. The decline in Christian power sharing started at a rapid pace.

Since then the Syrian regime imposed an establishment similar to what it had: a police state ruled the country and the corruption increased to unprecedented levels. The Prime Minister a Saudi billionaire Rafic Hariri fully executed the Syrian wishes. His economic policies along with his corrupt entourage put Lebanon in a huge debt which it is still struggling to get rid of. He controlled the finances and enriched his own people and the Syrian officers, he specifically targeted the Christians from all sides. Their leaders were either jailed or sent out of the country, he controlled the financial and political life of Lebanon and left all issues to the Syrian regime. This led to a booming in the formation of clandestine groups, this is what led to Hezbollah flourishing and becoming a high level political and military party. The whole world was watching and practically blessing but the aggression against Lebanon achieved since 1975 led to the following:

Firstly, drastically damaging the Christian grip on Lebanon by reducing the power of the President meant that fully submissive Presidents were appointed. Changing the democracy by naturalising hundreds and thousands of non-Christians, this is what led to the decrease in the Christian percentage. Weakening the political powers of the Christians by stripping them of their important political positions and using a despotic and still ongoing gerrymandering of the electoral system leading to a control of most of the Christian elected members of parliament. The only partial failure of the Syrians was in their quest to change the Lebanese Army by shifting it from being a Western trained army to an Eastern-bloc kind of army. The reason for their semi-failure was that the Christian officers that controlled the military, as well as many of their fellow Muslim comrades, had trained in the West and had spent their years fighting against the Syrian and the Palestinian terrorists. They were also still loyal to their old commander General Michel Aoun, in spite of all of the above the Lebanese kept the flame of the resistance lit. They peacefully defied the occupation by demonstrating against the collaborators and boycotting them.

Finally, the huge and mainly Christian diaspora, nearly four times the size of Lebanon, succeeded in passing a law in the US Congress that ensured the withdrawal of the Syrian Army. Upon the withdrawal of the Syrian Army in 2005, General Michel Aoun was able to come back to lead the Free Patriotic Movement and this after fifteen years of forced asylum. Dr Samir Geagea, the commander of the Lebanese forces now political party, was freed out of an eleven year brutal captivity. In 2016, the two aforementioned rival Christian parties joined ranks and the result was the full support of the candidacy of General Michel Aoun for President. General Aoun was elected on the 31st of October 2016 to become, since the 1970s, the only President with significant Christian popular and parliamentary support. For the First time it was a Lebanese head of state not one imposed by the regional powers not by the Arabs and not by the Syrians.

What is the actual political situation in Lebanon? The newly elected President was the ex-commander of the Lebanese Army, an ex-interim Prime Minister is trained in France and the United States. His military life was spent in trenches and tents fighting. General Aoun was one of President Bachir Gemayel’s closest aides. His plans for the country are clear and his past actions speak for the future, he believes and fights for human rights and the freedom of expression for all people. President Aoun’s friend and mentor was the late Charles Malik one of the core writers of the Declaration of Human Rights Charter at the United Nations.

General Aoun is the founder of the Free Patriotic Movement which is practically the only fully democratic party in Lebanon and probably the Arab world. The Party’s parliamentary leaders are chosen via internal primaries. No parties in committee shall be appointed without a women’s constituent and despite having a Christian majority it’s a fully secular party and aims to separate religion from the states.

General Aoun’s personal charisma as well as unprecedented amount of Lebanese popularity and a major parliamentary coalition gives us hope to bring back Lebanon to its global age.

The Lebanese approach to Islam was originally based on a tradition of political autonomy which challenged the premise of Islamic supremacy based on the very basis of the modern notion of human rights, constitutional statehood and religious and cultural pluralism. Our political system is based on the confluence of two complimentary systems, the National Pact and the Constitution. The current implosive dynamics of the Arab world have led to the disintegration of numerous states of the Arab League are likely to pursue their course, short of forging political solutions to tackle this huge sense of ethnic and religious dynamics and stop their operational platforms. Our ability to withstand the pressure of Syrian and Iraq to negotiate a solution to the ongoing conflicts and the containment of the political and security effects.

What are the main challenges of actual Lebanon?

One, the Islamic world is split between Shia let by Iran and Sunni led by the Gulf States. Syria that occupies our eastern and northern border has imploded and no matter how much neutrality we claim, the inter-sectarian Islamic rivalry of the region have come to Lebanon. The Lebanese government, like all of the free world, has to deal with the legal Syrian regime, the alternative hasn’t been a British form of Democracy but rather the theocracy of a gang of criminals, trigger happy throat slitters that would certainly make a worse neighbour than Assad. A stable Syria is a stable and refugee free Lebanon. The critical role of the international arbitrations is the solutions to these comparted conflicts. If these comparted conflicts were underway to rational and equitable solutions and contain their destructive consequences on Europe and the prospect of international peace.

Two, we have at least 1.5 million Syrian refugees to Lebanon’s four million that fled the war and are benefitting from a quite generous system, public schools which give them free education with some assistance of European and English donors. They constitute a financial and security burden on our people, the percentage of crime is much higher now and their poverty makes them prone to radicalisation. They are not paying either for electricity nor for any utilities and unlike the situation in both Turkey and Jordan, they unlawfully compete with the Lebanese merchants and constitute a cheap labour source, driving the population to immigration. The government repeatedly requests foreign and UN financial aid whose contribution has been relatively insignificant when taking into account that the amount of refugees is close to half of the population. Convenience refugees need to be moved back to their country where there are many safe and war free areas that can accommodate them. This is where the free world should intervene, you do not have to take them and we do not have to keep them.

Three, we still have the Palestinian problem; four hundred thousand Palestinians are living in camps and they are well armed and outside the control of the central government. They have multiple factions, each one backed and financed and manipulated by a different country with many of them embracing terror and fully supporting ISIS. The camps are safe havens and hideouts for all kinds of criminals and terrorists. In 2007 the camp in Northern Lebanon had to be stormed by the Lebanese Army after it came under the full control of al-Qaeda. The international community needs to assist us in disarming them and maybe have them temporarily welcome them in countries that have a larger geography and better economy, awaiting a solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Four, there has been an electoral law established by the Syrian-Saudi coalition in Lebanon aimed at drowning Christian conscriptions with larger Muslim ones. The new President and his Christian coalition are having a hard time getting the other half of the country to give back what they have illegally usurped during the Syrian occupation. The latest attempt to get rid of the gerrymandering has been a failure despite the determination of the new President.

Five, Lebanon suffers from corruption due to a combination of long standing chaos. The reformist new establishment has vowed to reduce corruption by passing new laws and imposing strict punishment in activities that link to corruption. For the first time, we have an anti-corruption Ministry and the Office of the President is already working on an e-government system that will drastically reduce human contact to obtain government services thus eliminating the need for bribery.

Six, human rights and gender equality are another main challenge for our new area; laws have already been prepared by the Free Patriotic Movement in order to bring Lebanon to the rank of first-world countries in that regard. A serious reform of the Judiciary system has already started and it will clear the way for a better functioning of the state.

Seven, Lebanon has always been an open society even during the dark times of the war. Seventy percent of the schools are private, students are taught Arabic, French and English since their second grade. By ten years of age kids are trilingual, science and math are taught in either French or English not Arabic. The Education system is a mirror image of the French or English systems. The menus and restaurants are in English or French with almost no Arabic, even the store signs are eighty percent English. In comparison to Middle Eastern countries, women are by far less veiled and dress codes are similar to European cities. There is full religious freedom with churches that are equally functional in both Christian and Muslim areas. The Jewish community that had left the country during the war came back several years ago to rebuild the downtown synagogue, now it is a fully rebuilt and functional synagogue.

Eight, the important one: Hezbollah. The most controversial reality that Lebanon faces is Hezbollah, whose functioning army was mostly as a result of the state void during the Syrian occupation. Through military indoctrination, this party has most of the support of the Shias as well as a good number of Sunnis. They also gained some Christian popularity because they backed many Christian requests related to the rights and power stolen by the so-called agreement. In addition to the liberation of the Aramaic Christian Syrian towns occupied by ISIS. The Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon is attributed to Hezbollah and stopping the Israeli incursion in 2006 added to the perception of Hezbollah in the collective Lebanese consciousness. Their slogans revolve around Lebanese liberation of Lebanon and their struggle for an independent Palestine.

These are quite appealing subjects in the Muslim world, had there been more drifts between the Islamic sects then Hezbollah would be even more popular in the Middle East. The recent participation in the Syrian War has been contested mostly by Sunnis and Christians. The Sunnis don’t want them to have a pact with Assad and the Christians believe that they are drawing them into a regional conflict. The reality is that ISIS needed access to the Mediterranean and Lebanon seemed to be the weakest spot. They tried many infiltrations and we had to put up with many suicide bombers. Their involvement in Syria helped keep the conflict outside of our borders, the benefit to the Syrian regime was just a collateral one.

Unfortunately, this day our army is not prepared enough to launch a pre-emptive military action to protect our borders. All the Lebanese people, the President first, wanted a defence strategy in order to protect Lebanon from Assad aggressions. This would pave the way for Hezbollah to become a purely political party. Even the chief of Hezbollah has declared multiple times that they will be ready to lay down their arms when the Army is ready.

Nowadays Hezbollah has twelve members out of a hundred and twenty eight. Help us bring a strong army that can defend our territory and we will all request Hezbollah’s disbandment. Here, I should seize the opportunity to thank the UK for offering military assistance to the Lebanese Army by building block houses, many terrorist incursions have been foiled thanks to these posts. Much more is to be done, the army that was weakened by the occupation should be equipped again. The commander of the Lebanese Army is always Christian and our officers are solely trained by European and American armies and our military equipment is mostly British and French. These three countries are the only ones that provide us any support, we do not get any old Soviet bloc kind of assistance. Give us appropriate tools and we want to be the sole defender of our homeland, we will instantly takeover full control of Lebanese security. A major misconception that I hear all the time is that Hezbollah controls the Lebanese Army and that is one hundred percent untrue. They are two distinct entities that do not exchange neither military equipment nor soldiers.

I will end by a sentence that I took from a Romanian priest, he wrote a book in French entitled Christ in Lebanon: From Moses to the Palestinians in the late 1970s. He says “the Christians in Lebanon will not leave their land but to go to heaven, they will remain faithful to their belief crucified at the mountain of Lebanon.” Thank you.

Baroness Cox: Thank you very much for such a powerful and comprehensive and challenging and thought provoking presentation. Absolutely superb, I am going to forego the privilege of the Chair of asking the first question; I have got so many and I might not stop. So, I’ll open it up for questions, I do have my own questions if people are still thinking but would anyone ask very much to ask a question?

Question 1: The problems for Christians in Lebanon are not being equalled in the region but it appears that there are a large number of Christians out there looking for a new home. So, to what extent could many of those Christians be rehoused in Lebanon, is that your hope and to what extent is it being done already.

Naji Hayek: Well, many of the Christians in Lebanon, obviously because they identify with the West, makes it easy for them to go to England, America or any European country. There is a big exodus but some of them are holding the ground and staying despite the difficulties and some of them decided to leave and Europe and America are welcoming them.

Question: But with regard to say Syrian Christians?

Naji Hayek: We have some of the Syrian Christians. There are almost no Iraqi Christians left, there were almost a million people and now maybe ten percent of them are left. The Syrian Christians have left, many have left. The difference between the Lebanese Christians and all these other Christians are that all Lebanese Christians are still strong in Lebanon. The President has to be Christian and the commander of the Army has to be Christian so they still feel a little security whereas in other countries they do not feel anything. The Iraqi Christians were massacred massively, they did not have any weapons or anything whereas when it comes to our case as Lebanese Christians, we are equipped militarily and we can defend ourselves to an extent.

Question 2: My name is John Wilkin. Something you touched on, can you give a bit more background on the distinction between your Party and the Phalange, have any differences been resolved there?

Naji Hayek: The Phalange are now mainly the Lebanese Forces. We had some problems in the early days but now we formed an alliance that led to the election of General Aoun as the President of Lebanon. So, now we pretty much are alike so all of the old problems are now gone.

Question 3: How do you foresee the future of the Lebanese Government related to bringing peace between Lebanon and Israel?

Naji Hayek: There is no prospect of peace with Israel. This is because in 1949 the borders became quite and we had a non-aggression agreement between us. So until the whole story of the Middle East is told, we cannot make a decision. We are a small country, it is certain that we cannot make a solution to bring peace without a full solution to the problem of the Middle East.

Question 4: I took part in the Civil War in 1974. I would like to thank you for fighting for our military and ask one question. We know that in Lebanon for a long time we had a state within a state. The 2006 War was a needless war and the Iranians were pouring weapons into the conflict constantly. So now with the election of General Aoun as the President are there any sold steps to empower the Lebanese Government and abolish any other state within a state?

Naji Hayek: Yes, good question. You are right, the decision of war and peace has to be in the hands of the central government. What the President is going to do, soon enough, is call for a reunion of all the political factions in Lebanon to put down a defence strategy that decides defending the borders and even the inside of Lebanon. When we have this defence strategy, we will know what we need to implement. This is why I am stressing on the fact that the world needs to help the Lebanese Army, because when we set the strategy that to defend the country we need five hundred tanks or an army of seventy thousand, I am just giving numbers like this. When we decide that then the whole world should come and help us in doing this. If we cannot achieve that then who is going to protect the borders and Hezbollah is going to keep saying that they are the sole defenders of the borders. The reality is that has Hezbollah not been on the border with Syria, ISIS would have come and we do not want that but we want the Lebanese Army to defend the country only. This is why the President is going to start to implement new steps in regard to this defence strategy.

Baroness Cox: I will ask two questions if I may and give others a chance to think. I go from this meeting this afternoon to open a debate on Syria and speak in a debate on Sudan and I would just like to pick up on those two with regard to Lebanon.

As you know I visited Syria last September and the message that we got from the Syrian people we met, and we met a very broad spectrum like the Grand Mufti and the Syrian Patriarch and religious leaders up in Aleppo and lots of other people, was absolutely consistently their horror at British Governments’ foreign policy which was to impose regime change. This is because they believed that regime change, because there was no moderate armed opposition left, would just lead to another Iraq and another Libya.

I’m opening a debate on Syria this afternoon, the Foreign Office did not want me to go in the first place and they don’t like me challenging British foreign policy. I would love to know, given Syria’s dubious involvement in Lebanon, what the present relationship is between Lebanon and Syria and whether you agree with the analysis that Assad is no angel but the alternative would be worse?

Naji Hayek: You ask the question that you answered. I agree with you, the problem is that the alternative to Assad is not a British style democracy. These are criminals, for us as Lebanese we would like to see a fully democratic Syria but the problem is that we get Assad but whoever is replacing him is a criminal so I think that getting rid of ISIS is an important step and getting rid of ISIS and after that there is a need for a peace conference on Syria and the peace conference will lead to a better democracy in Syria.

You cannot impose quick democracy on people because if you impose quick democracy on people they get radicalised because they are bullied and indoctrinated by the Mullah. So if you tell them that they are fully democratic then they become ISIS and they become something like that. So, you need to keep Assad in power and try to negotiate a deal with him in which he gives more freedom to his people. When this happens, the democratic process will go in a crescendo way, if you do it in an abrupt way then it will lead to chaos. This is my opinion and I think that the way that the Arab population has been raised and lived for fifteen hundred years means that it would be too brutal to give them full democracy. You have to guide them into democracy because democracy is something that you learn and it is a way of life and you cannot just tell anybody to live like this.

Baroness Cox: I think that there are many ISIS related groups who would move in. My second question on the role of Lebanon, I do a lot of work in these countries and you have this kind of crescent because you have al-Qaeda, you have ISIS and then you have al-Shabaab and the Sudanese government who are supporting those. How do you see Lebanon managing to hold out against this growing and very well supported Islamist crescent of groups?

Naji Hayek: You know what, The Lebanese Muslims lived a different life than the Muslims in Iraq or in Syrian or in Sudan and as such they are not radicalised because they were slowly driven into a more democratic way. The problem is that the influence we get from Saudi Arabia and all of the Gulf States that give them money because poverty leads to radicalisation. If you get a family that has ten kids and the guy cannot feed his family then if you get a Saudi billionaire that can give him a thousand dollars a month then he can lead him into blowing up something. It is no different than the ghettos here where people are poor and they become criminals or sell drugs. The way that Lebanon has protected itself is by protecting itself first and being open to the West also. You have been to Lebanon and it is different, many people think that Lebanon is like a closed country with veiled women. If you go to Lebanon and to the beaches and the ladies are more naked than here. It is a very open society both Christian and Muslim, before we got these radical Islamists that started pouring money into Lebanon, the country was very open. The most important thing is to dry the money and is to dry the channels that give them the money. You say: how does ISIS live? Someone is giving them money, if you allow Gulf States to send in two billion dollars then they keep fighting, these people are getting funded.

Baroness Cox: The UK are supporting Islamists in Syria.

Naji Hayek: The UK for example say that they want to liberate Syria from Assad but you have ISIS. What do you get? You get chaos like Iraq, Iraq is a full blown disaster and a full failure.

Baroness Cox: Thank you that reassures me on what I am going to say in an hour’s time.

Question 5: Thank you. The elephant in the room so far has been the lack of mention of the new government in the USA. I’d like to hear your opinion on what kind of policy you think that they should adopt.

Naji Hayek: We have excellent relations with the US Government. We have always had these kind of relations and President Aoun when he was living in asylum was working with the US Congress and the US Government to make the Syrians get out of Lebanon. We have very good relations as the Lebanese Army is the fifth army in regards to US help. The US gives military assistance to many countries, the first one is Israel and after that it may be Egypt, I don’t know, but the number five is Lebanon. Last year we got three hundred to five hundred million dollars’ worth of military assistance and I think that this is good. The Saudi’s were supposed to give us military assistance, now the Saudi’s want to contribute like many other countries. They understood that what we need to do is to give the Army weapons so that you can tell Hezbollah “thank you, but you are not needed anymore.” Even the chief of Hezbollah said that he would lay his weapons down if the Army is ready.

Question 6: It is remarkable about Lebanon that they have hosted four million refugees and they have had a Civil War, so it is a great tribute. You mention the goal of what has to happen to smash ISIS and this is one of the things that the new administration has said that they are going to do. There was an actual plan to smash ISIS and it was delayed. If ISIS were actually smashed, what will happen to the fighters that will have survived such battles and in what direction are they likely to go?

Naji Hayek: Well, most of them, if you crush them and hit tem hard then most of what is left of them usually lay down their arms and go back to normal life or you can punish them and send them to prison. Many of these peoples are not Syrian so you have to send them back to their own countries and this could be a problem that we will have to deal with. Unfortunately, they will become like the Afghani Arabs that went and fought the Soviets in Afghanistan and came back radicalised. Now, the good thing is that we have the Russians’ support because they want to get rid of these people and we certainly hope that we do that because when we get rid of these people then I am pretty certain that something can be done about Assad. I have no idea, but I suppose we understand that things cannot go back to how they used to be.

Baroness Cox: Time for one more question because eyes are trained on the clock and we have to be out before the hour, two if they are very brief.

Question 7: Can you elaborate more on your relationship with Hezbollah because it seems that you come light handed on Hezbollah and we all know that Hezbollah is the Shia version of the Muslim Brotherhood and their ultimate goal is to undermine Christians in the Middle East and destroy the State of Israel?

Naji Hayek: Yes, you have to remember something: we as Christians living in Lebanon do not live alone and have to live with all the people that constitute Lebanon and one of them is Hezbollah. He have to talk to Hezbollah and when we did talk to Hezbollah we made what we call a Memorandum of Understanding. These had ten clear points and these ten clear points that we both signed talking about a pluralist Lebanon and government and Lebanese refugees in Israel so it stops there. What happened is that in our problems in Lebanon, in our political problems, Hezbollah backed the Christian demands to get some of the powers that were taken from us. When somebody does this for you then you do not go against them, you have no other choice. In our battle to get an elector law, they somehow backed us. Now things are different but this is the reason that we cannot go against them. When General Aoun came to Lebanon in 2005, Hezbollah was there because all the world left the Syrians and the Iranians to arm them and keep them ready. We came there and we found them, we do not have the luxury of getting angry at them because we need the world to help us to build a strong Lebanese Army when the world helps us then we will definitely ask Hezbollah to lay down their weapons or there will be a problem.

Question 8: My name is Sarah Rose. Can I ask whether the chaos in Iraq was a result of the Americans putting a stooge of Iran into the Government? Without that I think that Iraq could have been better.

Naji Hayek: That is one thing: putting a stooge of Iran, dismantling the Iraqi Army sending five hundred thousand men who used to be soldiers to go home and not be paid anything anymore, then someone else will start giving them money to blow things up.

Baroness Cox: It is very good to stop a party when people want more and it is clear that people do want more. So, than you for giving us a time where we all want more and for much to take away. I love people who are politically incorrect and I don’t think that you were sufficiently politically incorrect but you told the truth and that is what matters because only the truth will make us free. So, thank you so much and can we thank our speaker very warmly indeed.


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