Omar Karami: "Arabs and Muslims feel the U.S. administration is not an honest power broker"
- Interview with Omar Karami, a former Prime Minister of Lebanon, conducted by Manuela Paraipan, WSN Editor Broader Middle East -
WSN: The national dialog restarted recently. What is the likely outcome?
Omar Karami: I don't think there will be any outcome from it. There is only one important point: the defence strategy. Every participant sitting at the table has made up their mind about it, and nobody is going to change the positions they have already declared. Because of this, is [the dialog] is not going anywhere. I told them through a statement that it is a stillborn child.
WSN: No point in having a dialog then?
Omar Karami: Any other subjects they may want to discuss are not legitimate in this format. We have state institutions and a Constitution to turn to.
WSN: In terms of political and security reforms, which ones are priorities?
Omar Karami: Many things to be reformed but I don't know if such a government is able to go through with any. According to democratic method this is an abnormal government. You can't put majority and minority together to govern. The majority should lead and the minority should be in opposition. From 1943 until now the system has been deteriorating. What we have is a team of religious groups that control the system. We can't reach our objectives, the reforms you are asking about, in this environment. We have in our constitution a national committee for abolishing the sectarian feature; let anyone be president or prime-minister, and so on. It will be their programme that puts a person in a position, not other considerations. Two ills attack our political life: political money and religious affiliation.
WSN: How do you asses the regional situation?
Omar Karami: The whole situation is complicated: daily threats from Israel, and regional conditions are anything but stable.
WSN: Are Hezbollah's weapons a source of instability?
Omar Karami: Israel threatens us, and is the only state in the world that has not declared its borders. We don't know when they will come to occupy more land. The United States and Europe are giving them modern, advanced weaponry. The army of Lebanon, and the armies of the Arab world have no chance against Israel. They would destroy us in one or two hours. Yet in 2000, when they [Israel] left most of our lands in the south, and in 2006, in the war they declared against Lebanon, they could not achieve their purpose for the first time. The resistance was able to prevent Israel from achieving its objective. That is why we can't give you, dissolve, or do anything against Hezbollah.
WSN: There are Lebanese parties that see the weaponry of Hezbollah as an internal threat.
Omar Karami: We live in a free country. They can say whatever they like. Nobody is capable now of taking away those arms. The majority of the parties, in parliament and government, are with Hezbollah. The majority camp changed after Walid Jumblatt left.
WSN: There are no more March 14 and March 8 groups?
Omar Karami: In name only, but not anymore. Even Saad Hariri is neutral.
WSN: What is your opinion on Lebanon and Syria's relationship? How is it developing?
Omar Karami: Very well. What's going on under the table is very good. Soon you will see more advancement.
WSN: Is it moving towards a state-to-state relation?
Omar Karami: More than that. While nobody is against it, it does depend on the individuals you put in this relationship.
WSN: How do you see regional trends? Where are they heading?
Omar Karami: As I said before, there is no option except resistance, whether it is Hamas, Hezbollah or others. We are not against Israel. No one is going to throw them in the sea, as some said in the past, but we need peace. Peace based on justice and reality. Israel has not implemented any of the UN Security Council resolutions. How can you react to this, apart from doing what Syria and Iran are doing?
WSN: Is the Palestinian conflict at the core of the Arab - Israeli conflict?
Omar Karami: Of course. Solve it, or people will be convinced we are not reaching anywhere.
WSN: Why the media campaign against President Sleiman and General Riffi?
Omar Karami: I wonder.... it is our right to criticize anybody in the government, even the president.
WSN: It is not the problem of criticism. It seemed there was a message.
Omar Karami: Why not? Maybe. Let it be more if it is done in a civilized way. Why should the president not be held accountable?
WSN: Is the influence of the United States decreasing in the region?
Omar Karami: Arabs and Muslims feel the U.S. administration is not an honest power broker. They don't even care about our basic rights. How can we welcome them?
WSN: Is Lebanon heading towards a conflict?
Omar Karami: I think there will be no conflict. This time, Israel is going to have a difficult time even if it tries to do something. Last time, they destroyed a lot, but they also counted on a fast war, and it was a long one. There is a balance now, and Israel will hesitate to restart conflict with Lebanon or Syria.
WSN: Do you think that Syria would support Lebanon military should a conflict start?
Omar Karami: I don't know. You should ask Bashar Asad.
WSN: Any role for the Europeans?
Omar Karami: Unfortunately, the Europeans will do what the Americans tell them to do.
WSN: I appreciate your time sir.