Hezbollah is not just a threat to Lebanon and Lebanese democracy; it poses a threat to the U.S. and the West as well. In his 2002 address to the U.S. Institute for Peace, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Arbitrage stated that “Hezbollah may be the A-team of terrorists, and al-Qaida is actually the B-team.”
Mikati, a telecommunication tycoon and a billionaire, is a Sunni-Muslim caught between his sentiments toward his fellow Sunnis, and his dependence on Hezbollah’s good will to govern Lebanon. He is also caught in the middle between pleasing the wealthy Saudis and the more threatening Iranians and Syrians.
As far as Hakim is concerned, Mikati is merely “a marionette in the hands of the Hezbollah.” He believes that it does not matter who is prime minister leading the Hezbollah-controlled “March 8” camp. The bottom line is that “the person will implement the Hezbollah and Iran’s agenda.”
The global economic downturn has had a lesser effect on Lebanon, according to Hakim. Despite the upheaval in the Arab world, which caused economic instability, Lebanon is enjoying an upturn. On one hand, this is because aid is coming from Iran, most of which is obviously aimed at bolstering the Shiite population, and of course for military-related projects controlled by Hezbollah. And, on the other hand, the Saudis are providing aid to the Sunnis, and due to the economic decline in the Gulf, many Lebanese are returning home and buying properties, which has stimulated the local real estate market.
Another issue Hakim is passionate about is the role the Palestinians play in Lebanese life. He believes that in order to restore a semblance of harmony in Lebanon, actions must be taken to move the Palestinians out. The Palestinians, “are living miserable lives in Lebanon, and Lebanon is ill-equipped to provide for them,” he said. Moreover, he said, “The oil-rich Arab states have done little to alleviate Palestinian poverty.” Hakim’s solution is to remove the Palestinians from Lebanon and relocate them to the Arab Gulf states.
Concluding our conversation, Hakim quipped that for Christians like himself, the immediate hope is for the defeat of Obama by the Republicans in the next election, followed by a new Middle East strategy which would reward pro-Western elements in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East.