June 26, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8142

UAE Businessman Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor: Lebanon Needs New Politicians, Who Do Not Capitulate To Hizbullah

June 26, 2019
United Arab Emirates | Special Dispatch No. 8142

In a June 12, 2019 column in the English-language Kuwaiti daily Arab Times, titled "Wanted – A Fresh Crop of Lebanese Sunni Politicians," UAE businessman Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor wrote that Lebanon needs new Sunni leaders to replace the current ones, who capitulate to Iran's proxy Hizbullah that has taken over the country. Lebanon's present leaders, says Habtoor, are so intimidated by Hizbullah that they have given up the struggle against it in favor of an "if you can't beat them, join them" mentality. As an example he presents Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'd Al-Hariri, who recently stated that Hizbullah has a right to keep its weapons. Al-Habtoor concedes that Al-Hariri may have no choice but to accept the reality of Hizbullah's weapons, but asks why he felt the need to "publicly announce that a terror group is free to maintain a private arsenal." He urges the Lebanese people to replace "the failed old guard" with leaders who place the good of the country before their own interests.

The following are excerpts from his column:[1]

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor  (source: Arab Times, Kuwait)

"There was a time when I considered Beirut as my second home. It was one of my favorite vacation destinations, and I was more than happy to invest heavily in a place I believed had enormous potential. But, that was before it evolved into an Iranian satellite hiding beneath the façade of a confessional democracy.

"Looking at the mess poor Lebanon is in today, I can only cherish wonderful memories and pray for a solution capable of smashing Hezbollah's suffocating chains. However, I am seriously disappointed to note that the opposition, in particular the Sunni parties, appear to have given up the struggle.

"There used to be a fine balance between the political influence of Sunnis and Shi'ites who together makeup an estimated 52 percent of the country 6.9 million population. The precise demographical statistics are unknown. There has been no census since 1932 because the issue is thought to be too sensitive yet for sure Shiite militias with the cooperation of certain Christian and Druze capitulators have seized the upper hand.

"Unfortunately, the current Sunni leadership has been so intimidated by Hezbollah, Iran's armed proxy branded terrorist by the US and the world, that its role in maintaining Lebanon's security and economic growth as well as defending the interests of this core Lebanese community has been diminished. Decision-making has been replaced by 'if you can’t beat them, join them' type acquiescence.

"Sunni leaders among others lack the courage to rock the boat afraid to upset the status quo. They pretend to resist Hassan Nasrallah's diktats and they often attempt to temporarily block parliamentary measures they disagree with before caving to the demands of Hezbollah and its politically Nabih Berri's Amal Movement.

"Following 29 months of arm-twisting during which time the country stagnated, in 2016 Hezbollah succeeded in anointing Michel Aoun as president and accepted Sa'd Hariri's prime ministerial bid only to throw boulders in his way of forming a government. Not content with choosing the president, Hezbollah muscled-in on the province of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet portfolio.

"Last year, Hariri described himself as 'the father of Sunnis' in Lebanon but whether or not he deserves that title is up for discussion... Prime Minister Sa'd Hariri has recently blessed Hezbollah's 'right' to keep its weapons. Admittedly he does not have much choice, but why publicly announce that a terror group is free to maintain a private arsenal? Corruption is rife on his watch and the debt-laden economy is tanking. An austerity budget is being implemented involving cuts to benefits, public services and wages. That was greeted with protests from various sectors last month and once people feel the pain there will likely be many more.

"Druze leader Walid Jumblatt thinks of himself as a kingmaker and punches above his weight. He is a survivor who changes sides according to the wind. When recently asked about his relationship with Hezbollah, he said: 'we view them as an essential power in Lebanon, a political and military power…' Like almost all Lebanese leaders regardless of sect Jumblatt refrains from open criticism of Hezbollah...

"In my view, the absence of strong leadership makes Sunnis easy prey. I would, therefore, urge the Lebanese to dislodge the failed old guard. They should be retired and replaced with leaders who put the country before their own benefit; leaders like former prime ministers Riad Al-Solh, Saeb Salam and Rafik Hariri, men whose loyalty to their country was absolute and who stood in defense of Sunnis, Christians, Shiites and all who are proud to call themselves Lebanese."


[1] Arab Times (Kuwait), June 12, 2019.

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