Trump's New Foreign Policy Adviser Is a Hardcore Neocon Tied to Notorious Lebanese Militia That Massacred Civilians

Walid Phares was a key figure with the Lebanese Forces, which were behind the Sabra and Shatila massacres.

Photo Credit: Institute of World Politics

GOP frontrunner Donald Trump revealed Monday that his foreign policy team will include Walid Phares, a neoconservative pundit and professor with ties to Lebanon’s right-wing, brutal Christian Maronite militias that carried out horrific massacres during the country’s civil war.

In a private meeting with the editorial board of the Washington Post, Trump named five of his advisers for the first time. “Walid Phares, who you probably know. Ph.D., adviser to the House of Representatives," said the multi-billionaire. "He’s a counter-terrorism expert.”

A former Middle East adviser to Mitt Romney’s failed presidential campaign, Phares has sought to minimize his ties to Christian militias. But a Mother Jones investigation by Adam Serwer in 2011 revealed he was a key figure in the Lebanese Forces, an umbrella group of Christian militias that aimed to create a Christian-only enclave modeled after Israel.

Phares' former colleagues testify that he worked "closely with the Lebanese Forces' Fifth Bureau, a unit that specialized in psychological warfare," Serwer wrote, becoming "one of the group's chief ideologists."

According to Régina Sneifer, who served in the Fifth Bureau of the Lebanese Forces in 1981 as a teenager and was interviewed by Serwer, Phares “justified our fighting against the Muslims by saying we should have our own country, our own state, our own entity, and we have to be separate."

The Lebanese Forces carried out horrific killings during the war, including the 1982 massacres of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in western Beirut. The militias were aided by the Israeli military in carrying out these attacks, which took an unknown number of lives, with some estimating thousands were slain.

Foreign policy journalist Jim Lobe once noted that Phares is “controversial for his past ties to the militant Phalange movement in Lebanon.”

Following the rise of General Michel Auon to Lebanon’s presidency, Phares joined the Lebanese Front, which “consisted of various sectarian groupings and militia,” according to the Lebanese-American professor As`ad AbuKhalil. “He served as vice chair of another front’s political leadership committee, headed by a man named Etienne Saqr, whose Guardians of Cedar militia voiced the slogan ‘Kill a Palestinian and you shall enter Heaven.’”

After moving to the United States, Phares fashioned himself into a Middle East expert and became 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. According to his bio, Phares has served as an "Adviser to the Anti-Terrorism Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2008."

Phares' deeply Islamophobic writings have sought to portray a fundamental clash between Islam and the West. He once wrote, “Western-minded people, or non-Jihadi individuals in the Arab world, understand the concept of deterrence. The jihadists, Salafists, or Khomeinists alike, are brought up to feed from the martyrdom of their leaders and brothers in arms and take strength from that, so that they don't react in fear.”

Phares was featured as an expert in the 2009 film The Third Jihad, produced by the Clarion Project, labeled an "anti-Muslim group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.

*This article has been revised after publication. 

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

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