When it comes to the Middle East, alarms have been raised in some corners over Romney’s decision to appoint as his top adviser on the region, Walid Phares, (what the left calls Mitt’s ‘scary’ Middle East advisor) a leading figure in right-wing Christian militias during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 Civil War.
Daily Star Critics have also focused on Phares’ subsequent roles in the United States, where he has served as a terrorism expert for Fox News, CNN, and other networks as well as a terrorism advisor to the U.S. House of Representatives. During these shows, he has warned that jihadists are the enemy, and that the U.S. must act preemptively to defeat them.
“An adviser on the Middle East should be more sensitive and neutral. Walid Phares is very extreme. He leans toward being an Islamo-phobe,” Warren David, president of the Arab-American civil rights group, the Anti-Discrimination Committee told The Daily Star. “I would think that most Lebanese Christians don’t agree with his viewpoints.” (And how wrong you would be)
Phares has reportedly declared that Lebanese Christians were ethnically distinct from Arabs, and during the Civil War he “lectured militiamen, telling them they were part of a civilizational holy war,” according to an October investigative report by the U.S. magazine Mother Jones.
Since his arrival in the U.S. in 1990, he has reportedly been featured as a Middle East expert by the David Project, Israel’s college campus coalition; and the anti-jihadist groups Jihad Watch and Middle East Forum; he is also an associate with Israel’s Ariel Center for Policy Research and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, an organization established after 9/11, which advocates U.S. military intervention in Muslim-majority countries.
“Anyone comfortable with those associations should not be advising the president,” says Corey Saylor, National Legislative Director at the (Muslim Brotherhood front group) Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who has been researching Phares’ background for about a year, ever since his appointment last February as a witness at hearings by the House Committee on Homeland Security entitled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response.”
And according to CAIR’s research, in 1999 the World Lebanese Organization, founded by Phares, included among its “leading members” both “Col. Sharbel Baraket, former deputy commander of the [South Lebanese Army], and Etienne Sakr, head of the radical Guardians of the Cedars group.”
The Guardians of the Cedars’ mission statement includes restoring Lebanon’s alphabet “to its Phoenician origins after liberating it from the defacement that was caused by the Arabic language” and “cutting down the number of foreigners in Lebanon…” The South Lebanese Army were allied with Israel during the 1975-1990 Civil War.
CAIR’s Saylor believes that Romney’s selection of Phares shows the Republican candidate’s growing conservative leaning. He believes that the relatively extreme views being put forth might be a case of politicians playing to their bases to win the primary before the general election, noting that in the past some candidates have said they would move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a promise never fulfilled when they reach power.
“Once the process plays out, then we’ll see the real rhetoric,” he says. Still, the thought Phares having a key advisory position, even at this stage, doesn’t sit well with some.
Jim Abourezk, a former Democratic senator from South Dakota, whose family hails from south Lebanon, told The Daily Star that although he believes Romney is unlikely to reach the presidency, “A right-wing Lebanese (advisor) would be a disaster for Romney and a disaster for the country. (It’s probably one of the main reasons he could win)