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Lebanon's 'Leader for Tomorrow' Hails Trump for 'Engaging the Region'

gemayel in a suit and white shirt being interviewed outside
Nadim Gemayel (Anwar Amro/Getty Images)

By Friday, 30 October 2020 06:06 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The Lebanese politician on many short lists to become a future president of his embattled nation strongly hailed President Donald Trump for his foreign policy and efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.

In a recent interview with Newsmax, Nadim Gemayel, member of the Lebanese parliament and scion to one of his country's illustrious political families, was careful not to endorse the U.S. president for reelection.

But Gemayel, 38, left little doubt that, like Trump himself, he has his favorite politicians in other countries.

"We feel today President Trump is engaging the region and he may change a lot by helping the peace treaty between the [United Arab] Emirates and Israel," he told us. "This is a major step toward peace in the region."

Summarizing the appeal of Trump's style in Lebanon, Gemayel said: "What [the Lebanese] really care about is deliverables. He delivers. Whatever you say, signing a peace between the Emirates and Israel is very, very big and something someone has not done in the last 25 years. A lot of [Persian] Gulf countries are coming this way also."

When Gemayel speaks on policy and politics, Lebanon listens. Like John F. Kennedy, his late father Bachir Gemayel is remembered as a charismatic leader who brought hope and optimism to his country only to be cut down in the prime of his life. Elected president in August 1982 as his country was occupied by Palestinians, Israelis, and Syrians, the elder Gemayel ordered the Lebanese Army to enter West Beirut and ordered Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Liberation Organization to leave Lebanon.

Both President Ronald Reagan and CIA Director William Casey saw the Lebanese president-elect as a pivotal leader in eventual peace in the Middle East.

Before he could take office in September of that year, Bachir Gemayel was dead at 34 — the victim of a bomb exploding in his Beirut headquarters.

The younger Gemayel also singled out for praise Trump's denunciation of Hezbollah — the Islamist political party and militant group that is a pivotal political player in Beirut — as a "menace."

But Gemayel and his allies in the Kataeb Party, a Christian democratic party, still hope for more if there is to be a second Trump term.

In his words, "[W]e believe if [Trump] could reach a point where he could pressure Iran in terms of Lebanese policy, we would appreciate that.

The weakening of Hezbollah and its eventual political demise is a goal sought by Gemayel and his political allies — conceding that this would take some time but hopeful that the Lebanese culture of embracing the free market would thrive minus Hezbollah.

"Everyone is more or less capitalistic and for an open market and investments and a reduction of the power of the state in the economy," he told us. "We like new openings for investment and things like that. This is not what Hezbollah's economics are. They are into complete control of the state and all the economic sector."

The parliamentarian underscored this by pointing out that "[Hezbollah] doesn't care about tourism or welfare. All they want is to transform the economy into an economy of resistance against Israel. By force and the power of arms."

As a result, Gemayel says, "Lebanon is getting on the same track as the Syrian economy, the Venezuelan economy, the Iranian economy, the North Korean economy. Hezbollah is, in effect, saying, 'We don't want a financial sector, we don't want a bank — we just want an economy similar to Syrian or North Korea.'"

Complete power for Hezbollah, he insists, would turn Lebanon into another Iran.

"It's not me who is saying this," he told us. Hezbollah leader Hassan "Nasrallah said it several times. He said, 'Our mentor, our ideology, and all our arms — everything comes from Iran. We are part of the Iranian Revolution. We are a small soldier in the big movement.' 

"They feel like they are sent by God and are here to implement their own ideology and their own political strategy. They impose all their political agenda on Lebanon and don't care about our interests. They only take care of the Iranian interests in the region."

Politicians who have stood up to Hezbollah have paid a price. Sunni Muslim Mohammad Chatta — economist, former ambassador to the U.S., and critic of Hezbollah — was killed in a car bombing in 2006. That same year, Gemayel's first cousin, Minister of Industry Pierre Gemayel, 34, was brutally gunned down in daylight after his car stopped for a traffic light.

"Hezbollah wants to show they're in control of everything," says Nadim Gemayel about the assassinations.

Hezbollah orchestrates the leadership of the Lebanese government, says Gemayel, noting that "[w]e stayed two years without an election until we were obliged to elect Michel Aoun president. It's the same with the rest of the government. Saad Hariri [a former prime minister currently trying to form a new government] is afraid for himself. He drives back and says we do what Hezbollah wants."

At 85, Aoun is expected to step down when his term expires in 2022. Given Lebanon's history of electing a Christian as president, we asked Gemayel if he wants the position.

"When the time comes and when this is a serious question," he replied, "I hope that the country will be a free and independent republic with a free and independent presidency where being president is being proud of representing the people — not being a marionette of Iran."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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The Lebanese politician on many short lists to become a future president of his embattled nation strongly hailed President Donald Trump for his foreign policy and efforts to bring peace to the Middle East. In a recent interview with Newsmax, Nadim Gemayel, member of the...
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Friday, 30 October 2020 06:06 AM
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