Waleed Phares Image Credit: AP

Washington: It’s not just Paul Manafort. There’s another conspicuous figure advising Trump.

A one-time senior adviser to 2012 GOP candidate Mitt Romney and a provost at BAU International University, Waleed Phares, 58, was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon and migrated to the US in 1990.

He has degrees in law and political sciences from St. Joseph University in Beirut, a masters degree in international public law from the Universite de Lyons in France and a PhD in international and strategic studies from the University in Miami, Florida. He speaks Arabic, French and English fluently, writes columns weekly and is frequently interviewed in international, European, Russian and Arab media.

As per a 2011 Mother Jones investigative report, Phares was once a leading ideologue in an armed Christian faction during Lebanon’s grim, bloody sectarian civil conflict of the 1980s.

According to the Washington Post, former colleague and associate Toni Nissi said Phares “trained Lebanese militants in ideological beliefs justifying the war against Lebanon’s Muslim and Druze factions. He advocated the hard-line view that Lebanon’s Christians should work toward creating a separate, independent Christian enclave”.

Around this time, he was a close adviser to Samir Geaggea, a Lebanese warlord who rose from leading hit squads to becoming the executive chairman of the Lebanese Forces, the second largest Christian political party in Lebanon.

Phares soon became one of the group’s chief ideologists, working closely with the Lebanese Forces’ Fifth Bureau, a unit that specialised in psychological warfare.

Geagea wanted to professionalise the militia and therefore established a special school where officers would receive training in military tactics and ideology, according to the Washington Post.

The Lebanese factions were already sectarian but Geagea wanted religion to become a more prominent part of Lebanese Forces, for which he approached Phares. “[Samir Geagea] wanted to change them from a normal militia to a Christian army,” Nissi said.

“Phares was responsible for training the lead officers in the ideology of the Lebanese Forces.”

The most damning evidence against Trump’s Foreign Policy adviser is the militia’s involvement in slaughtering hundreds of Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites in Beirut’s Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982.

By the time a Syrian intervention stabilised Lebanon in the 1990s, Phares had moved to the US where he reinvented himself as an academic and positioned himself as a speaker on issues related to terrorism.

Well known as an anti-Muslim campaigner, he has penned books such as The Lost Spring, Coming Revolution and Future Jihad, where he argues that prior to 9/11, American foreign policy was essentially under the control of Islamist fundamentalists.

 

Letitia Jiju is an intern with Gulf News