Who is Trump's new MidEast Advisor? Meet Walid Phares

Published November 20th, 2016 - 13:54 GMT

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President-elect Trump has announced political pundit and academic Walid Phares as his choice for Middle East advisor. Phares told Al Arabiya that he met Trump last December while he was pitching his consultancy services to five Republican presidential candidates, the Lebanese-born Maronite Christian has positioned himself as an expert on the threat of radical Islam. He’s a prolific writer with a bent towards Islamophobia, and a frequent guest on Fox News.

Last August, the CATO Institute – a think tank dedicated to public policy research – decried then- candidate Trump for his choice of foreign policy advisors (which at the time included Phares) declaring that he was “freezing out and discrediting the serious scholars who have been challenging the elite consensus for years, is making it less likely that we will have [a cohesive foreign policy].”

Trump campaigned on overturning decades of US foreign policy, and Phares agrees. They support recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. They urge unraveling the Iran arms deal, and hint at squashing Palestinian ambitions for a separate state. But the most provocative aspect of Phares is his pre-US-citizenship past.

A 2011 investigation by Mother Jones revealed he was once a leading ideologue in the Lebanese Forces' Fifth Bureau, a unit that specialized in psychological warfare during Lebanon's violent sectarian conflict in the 1980s. Phares may not have fired a gun, but he trained militants in ideological beliefs that justified the war against Lebanon's Muslims and Druze, an act that has some scholars accusing him of war crimes – specifically when Phalangist militia slaughtered hundreds of Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites in Beirut's Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

Buckle that seatbelt, and say hello to Trump’s new Middle East advisor.

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Born in Lebanon in 1957 to a Maronite Christian family, little is known about his childhood. He studied political science and sociology at the University of Beirut, and law at France’s University of Lyon. He practiced law in Beirut, becoming involved in politics. He later earned a PhD in international relations at University of Miami.
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Image 1 of 14:  1 / 14Born in Lebanon in 1957 to a Maronite Christian family, little is known about his childhood. He studied political science and sociology at the University of Beirut, and law at France’s University of Lyon. He practiced law in Beirut, becoming involved in politics. He later earned a PhD in international relations at University of Miami.

Enlarge
In 2011 Mother Jones reported that Phares played a prominent role in training Lebanese Forces fighters during Lebanon's bloody sectarian conflict. Author Adam Serwer wrote, 'During the 1980s, Phares...trained Lebanese militants in ideological beliefs justifying the war against Lebanon's Muslim and Druze factions, according to former colleagues.'
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Image 2 of 14:  2 / 14In 2011 Mother Jones reported that Phares played a prominent role in training Lebanese Forces fighters during Lebanon's bloody sectarian conflict. Author Adam Serwer wrote, "During the 1980s, Phares...trained Lebanese militants in ideological beliefs justifying the war against Lebanon's Muslim and Druze factions, according to former colleagues."

Enlarge
Phares moved to the US in 1990, he began teaching at Florida International University, later hired as a professor of Middle East studies at Florida Atlantic University in 1995. He also spent time as a researcher at Jeruslaem's Ariel Institute.
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Image 3 of 14:  3 / 14Phares moved to the US in 1990, he began teaching at Florida International University, later hired as a professor of Middle East studies at Florida Atlantic University in 1995. He also spent time as a researcher at Jeruslaem's Ariel Institute.

Enlarge
He's held many titles, from author to scholar to counterterrorism expert and political pundit on FOX News. A self-fashioned Middle East expert, he grew popular among neoconservatives, serving as a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which pushes hawkish policies from the War-On-Terror to a pro-Israel agenda.
Reduce

Image 4 of 14:  4 / 14He's held many titles, from author to scholar to counterterrorism expert and political pundit on FOX News. A self-fashioned Middle East expert, he grew popular among neoconservatives, serving as a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which pushes hawkish policies from the War-On-Terror to a pro-Israel agenda.

Enlarge
Phares has served as an 'Adviser to the Anti-Terrorism Caucus in the US House of Representatives ' since 2008. He was also foreign advisor to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 US presidential race. Civil rights groups condemned Romney, and now Trump, for relying on his 'expertise'.
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Image 5 of 14:  5 / 14Phares has served as an "Adviser to the Anti-Terrorism Caucus in the US House of Representatives " since 2008. He was also foreign advisor to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 US presidential race. Civil rights groups condemned Romney, and now Trump, for relying on his 'expertise'.

Enlarge
Phares told pro-Egyptian news website Youm7 that Trump would pass legislation to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a 'terrorist group'. Last February, Congress had approved a similar motion, and the Senate referred a partner bill for consideration. Phares blames the legislative delay on Obama’s alleged support for the group.
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Image 6 of 14:  6 / 14Phares told pro-Egyptian news website Youm7 that Trump would pass legislation to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a "terrorist group". Last February, Congress had approved a similar motion, and the Senate referred a partner bill for consideration. Phares blames the legislative delay on Obama’s alleged support for the group.

Enlarge
Phares opposes the Iran nuclear deal, aligning with Trump’s stump speeches.  Earlier in the year he claimed that Iran earned billions of dollars when the US lifted sanctions, describing it as “the worst deal in history ever”.  He now sounds more conciliatory; telling BBC news that Trump will now likely “review” the agreement.
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Image 7 of 14:  7 / 14Phares opposes the Iran nuclear deal, aligning with Trump’s stump speeches. Earlier in the year he claimed that Iran earned billions of dollars when the US lifted sanctions, describing it as “the worst deal in history ever”. He now sounds more conciliatory; telling BBC news that Trump will now likely “review” the agreement.

Enlarge
Like his boss, he flipflops. In a recent BBC interview, Phares said that Trump was committed to moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but he would'nt do so unilaterally, contradicting Trump’s campaign rhetoric when he called Jerusalem “the eternal capital” of Israel and said he was “100% for” moving the embassy there.
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Image 8 of 14:  8 / 14Like his boss, he flipflops. In a recent BBC interview, Phares said that Trump was committed to moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but he would'nt do so unilaterally, contradicting Trump’s campaign rhetoric when he called Jerusalem “the eternal capital” of Israel and said he was “100% for” moving the embassy there.

Enlarge
The Council on American-Islamic Relations similarly slammed Romney for his ties to Phares in 2012. 'Dr Phares is nothing more than an ideologue who has devoted his life to warning of fantastical plots to bring all of Western civilization under the control of radical Islam,' the group said in a statement during the 2012 campaign.
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Image 9 of 14:  9 / 14The Council on American-Islamic Relations similarly slammed Romney for his ties to Phares in 2012. "Dr Phares is nothing more than an ideologue who has devoted his life to warning of fantastical plots to bring all of Western civilization under the control of radical Islam," the group said in a statement during the 2012 campaign.

Enlarge
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee denounced Trump's Phares alliance, describing Phares as a 'war criminal' who promotes Islamophobia. They said in a March release, “The decision to select a proven anti-Muslim propagandist as foreign policy adviser is particularly troubling in light of Trump’s escalating anti-Muslim rhetoric.”
Reduce

Image 10 of 14:  10 / 14The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee denounced Trump's Phares alliance, describing Phares as a "war criminal" who promotes Islamophobia. They said in a March release, “The decision to select a proven anti-Muslim propagandist as foreign policy adviser is particularly troubling in light of Trump’s escalating anti-Muslim rhetoric.”

Enlarge
US far-right website Breitbart came to Phares's defence in April, saying his critics were part of a coordinated campaign against security experts led by lawmakers and NGO leaders 'at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood and pro-Iran regime fronts'.  Steve Bannon, CEO of Trump's presidential campaign, is a former executive chairman of Breitbart News.
Reduce

Image 11 of 14:  11 / 14US far-right website Breitbart came to Phares's defence in April, saying his critics were part of a coordinated campaign against security experts led by lawmakers and NGO leaders "at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood and pro-Iran regime fronts". Steve Bannon, CEO of Trump's presidential campaign, is a former executive chairman of Breitbart News.

Enlarge
Sarah Stern, president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, endorses him. “He understood the rise of radical Islam in the MidEast. He understood early on what ISIS is. He understands that Islam is more than a religion, that it’s also an ideology and an ideology of conquest,” she added, “He is definitely a strong supporter of Israel.”
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Image 12 of 14:  12 / 14Sarah Stern, president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, endorses him. “He understood the rise of radical Islam in the MidEast. He understood early on what ISIS is. He understands that Islam is more than a religion, that it’s also an ideology and an ideology of conquest,” she added, “He is definitely a strong supporter of Israel.”

Enlarge
Matthew Duss, director of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, disagees, “Phares is one of [several] close Trump advisers with extremely troubling foreign-policy views which mirror those of Islamic extremists: Islam and the West are at war. It’s difficult to overstate how counterproductive it would be for the US to adopt this vision.”
Reduce

Image 13 of 14:  13 / 14Matthew Duss, director of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, disagees, “Phares is one of [several] close Trump advisers with extremely troubling foreign-policy views which mirror those of Islamic extremists: Islam and the West are at war. It’s difficult to overstate how counterproductive it would be for the US to adopt this vision.”

Enlarge
Now a US citizen, Phares is silent on his time with the Lebanese Forces' Fifth Bureau, a unit that specialized in psychological warfare. Abed Ayoub, of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said, “He was a warmonger and shouldn’t be near the White House. He was part of a militia that committed war crimes should be tried for that.”
Reduce

Image 14 of 14:  14 / 14Now a US citizen, Phares is silent on his time with the Lebanese Forces' Fifth Bureau, a unit that specialized in psychological warfare. Abed Ayoub, of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said, “He was a warmonger and shouldn’t be near the White House. He was part of a militia that committed war crimes should be tried for that.”

Enlarge

1

Born in Lebanon in 1957 to a Maronite Christian family, little is known about his childhood. He studied political science and sociology at the University of Beirut, and law at France’s University of Lyon. He practiced law in Beirut, becoming involved in politics. He later earned a PhD in international relations at University of Miami.

Image 1 of 14Born in Lebanon in 1957 to a Maronite Christian family, little is known about his childhood. He studied political science and sociology at the University of Beirut, and law at France’s University of Lyon. He practiced law in Beirut, becoming involved in politics. He later earned a PhD in international relations at University of Miami.

2

In 2011 Mother Jones reported that Phares played a prominent role in training Lebanese Forces fighters during Lebanon's bloody sectarian conflict. Author Adam Serwer wrote, 'During the 1980s, Phares...trained Lebanese militants in ideological beliefs justifying the war against Lebanon's Muslim and Druze factions, according to former colleagues.'

Image 2 of 14In 2011 Mother Jones reported that Phares played a prominent role in training Lebanese Forces fighters during Lebanon's bloody sectarian conflict. Author Adam Serwer wrote, "During the 1980s, Phares...trained Lebanese militants in ideological beliefs justifying the war against Lebanon's Muslim and Druze factions, according to former colleagues."

3

Phares moved to the US in 1990, he began teaching at Florida International University, later hired as a professor of Middle East studies at Florida Atlantic University in 1995. He also spent time as a researcher at Jeruslaem's Ariel Institute.

Image 3 of 14Phares moved to the US in 1990, he began teaching at Florida International University, later hired as a professor of Middle East studies at Florida Atlantic University in 1995. He also spent time as a researcher at Jeruslaem's Ariel Institute.

4

He's held many titles, from author to scholar to counterterrorism expert and political pundit on FOX News. A self-fashioned Middle East expert, he grew popular among neoconservatives, serving as a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which pushes hawkish policies from the War-On-Terror to a pro-Israel agenda.

Image 4 of 14He's held many titles, from author to scholar to counterterrorism expert and political pundit on FOX News. A self-fashioned Middle East expert, he grew popular among neoconservatives, serving as a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which pushes hawkish policies from the War-On-Terror to a pro-Israel agenda.

5

Phares has served as an 'Adviser to the Anti-Terrorism Caucus in the US House of Representatives ' since 2008. He was also foreign advisor to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 US presidential race. Civil rights groups condemned Romney, and now Trump, for relying on his 'expertise'.

Image 5 of 14Phares has served as an "Adviser to the Anti-Terrorism Caucus in the US House of Representatives " since 2008. He was also foreign advisor to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 US presidential race. Civil rights groups condemned Romney, and now Trump, for relying on his 'expertise'.

6

Phares told pro-Egyptian news website Youm7 that Trump would pass legislation to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a 'terrorist group'. Last February, Congress had approved a similar motion, and the Senate referred a partner bill for consideration. Phares blames the legislative delay on Obama’s alleged support for the group.

Image 6 of 14Phares told pro-Egyptian news website Youm7 that Trump would pass legislation to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a "terrorist group". Last February, Congress had approved a similar motion, and the Senate referred a partner bill for consideration. Phares blames the legislative delay on Obama’s alleged support for the group.

7

Phares opposes the Iran nuclear deal, aligning with Trump’s stump speeches.  Earlier in the year he claimed that Iran earned billions of dollars when the US lifted sanctions, describing it as “the worst deal in history ever”.  He now sounds more conciliatory; telling BBC news that Trump will now likely “review” the agreement.

Image 7 of 14Phares opposes the Iran nuclear deal, aligning with Trump’s stump speeches. Earlier in the year he claimed that Iran earned billions of dollars when the US lifted sanctions, describing it as “the worst deal in history ever”. He now sounds more conciliatory; telling BBC news that Trump will now likely “review” the agreement.

8

Like his boss, he flipflops. In a recent BBC interview, Phares said that Trump was committed to moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but he would'nt do so unilaterally, contradicting Trump’s campaign rhetoric when he called Jerusalem “the eternal capital” of Israel and said he was “100% for” moving the embassy there.

Image 8 of 14Like his boss, he flipflops. In a recent BBC interview, Phares said that Trump was committed to moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but he would'nt do so unilaterally, contradicting Trump’s campaign rhetoric when he called Jerusalem “the eternal capital” of Israel and said he was “100% for” moving the embassy there.

9

The Council on American-Islamic Relations similarly slammed Romney for his ties to Phares in 2012. 'Dr Phares is nothing more than an ideologue who has devoted his life to warning of fantastical plots to bring all of Western civilization under the control of radical Islam,' the group said in a statement during the 2012 campaign.

Image 9 of 14The Council on American-Islamic Relations similarly slammed Romney for his ties to Phares in 2012. "Dr Phares is nothing more than an ideologue who has devoted his life to warning of fantastical plots to bring all of Western civilization under the control of radical Islam," the group said in a statement during the 2012 campaign.

10

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee denounced Trump's Phares alliance, describing Phares as a 'war criminal' who promotes Islamophobia. They said in a March release, “The decision to select a proven anti-Muslim propagandist as foreign policy adviser is particularly troubling in light of Trump’s escalating anti-Muslim rhetoric.”

Image 10 of 14The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee denounced Trump's Phares alliance, describing Phares as a "war criminal" who promotes Islamophobia. They said in a March release, “The decision to select a proven anti-Muslim propagandist as foreign policy adviser is particularly troubling in light of Trump’s escalating anti-Muslim rhetoric.”

11

US far-right website Breitbart came to Phares's defence in April, saying his critics were part of a coordinated campaign against security experts led by lawmakers and NGO leaders 'at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood and pro-Iran regime fronts'.  Steve Bannon, CEO of Trump's presidential campaign, is a former executive chairman of Breitbart News.

Image 11 of 14US far-right website Breitbart came to Phares's defence in April, saying his critics were part of a coordinated campaign against security experts led by lawmakers and NGO leaders "at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood and pro-Iran regime fronts". Steve Bannon, CEO of Trump's presidential campaign, is a former executive chairman of Breitbart News.

12

Sarah Stern, president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, endorses him. “He understood the rise of radical Islam in the MidEast. He understood early on what ISIS is. He understands that Islam is more than a religion, that it’s also an ideology and an ideology of conquest,” she added, “He is definitely a strong supporter of Israel.”

Image 12 of 14Sarah Stern, president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, endorses him. “He understood the rise of radical Islam in the MidEast. He understood early on what ISIS is. He understands that Islam is more than a religion, that it’s also an ideology and an ideology of conquest,” she added, “He is definitely a strong supporter of Israel.”

13

Matthew Duss, director of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, disagees, “Phares is one of [several] close Trump advisers with extremely troubling foreign-policy views which mirror those of Islamic extremists: Islam and the West are at war. It’s difficult to overstate how counterproductive it would be for the US to adopt this vision.”

Image 13 of 14Matthew Duss, director of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, disagees, “Phares is one of [several] close Trump advisers with extremely troubling foreign-policy views which mirror those of Islamic extremists: Islam and the West are at war. It’s difficult to overstate how counterproductive it would be for the US to adopt this vision.”

14

Now a US citizen, Phares is silent on his time with the Lebanese Forces' Fifth Bureau, a unit that specialized in psychological warfare. Abed Ayoub, of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said, “He was a warmonger and shouldn’t be near the White House. He was part of a militia that committed war crimes should be tried for that.”

Image 14 of 14Now a US citizen, Phares is silent on his time with the Lebanese Forces' Fifth Bureau, a unit that specialized in psychological warfare. Abed Ayoub, of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said, “He was a warmonger and shouldn’t be near the White House. He was part of a militia that committed war crimes should be tried for that.”

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