News   /   Interviews

Israel responsible for Lebanon’s troubles: Emile Lahoud

Emile Lahoud, former president of Lebanon

Press TV has conducted an interview with Emile Lahoud, the former president of Lebanon, to discuss Israel’s role in the ongoing tension in Lebanon.

The following transcript of the interview:

Press TV: I have already spoken to Amine Gemayel and Michel Aoun, you know how they interpret Lebanese politics but I would call you the voice of reason, a person who does not have conflict of interest, so maybe you can tell me what is going on in Lebanon. Why is it that we do not have an effective government, as we speak?

Lahoud: Well as you said now I am not in politics but I can tell you of my experience who 18 years – nine years as commander-in-chief and nine years as President – and when you are out of politics, you see the whole scene, you are not involved.

So I can tell you all our troubles in Lebanon have been since the creation of Israel in 48. [They] started at the time when the Israeli state was created and we had refugees coming to Lebanon and this later as you know we had troubles in Lebanon and meanwhile Israel who thinks twice about Lebanon because it is anti-Lebanon - as you know Lebanon is made out of 18 different sects of religion whereas Israel wants to have the state as a Jewish state - and since then the trouble started.

In summary, all our troubles come from Israel through the US because it has a lot of influence in electing the President of US and always I give an example George Bush, the father, who had been through all the important positions in the US, he became Senator, he was governor, he was head of the CIA, he was ambassador to the UN and then vice president and President, because the last year of his tenure, the first term, he did not give money to the Israeli army - at the time I remember ten billion dollars – and he was ousted in the second term whereas his son who his mother says about him that she was surprised he was elected because she was thinking  about another son, Jeb, and she said I do not think he will be up to it, well he was elected twice because he was helping Israel.

So the influence of Israel comes through the lobby they have in the US which they affect the election of the president and when something happens in the Middle East, Israel tells the Americans. Americans because of their AWACS the Saudis and the [Persian] Gulf [states] must do whatever they want so whatever they tell them they do and the Saudis and the [Persian] Gulf [states], they have the fanatic, the Takfiri [ideology], etc. and they tell them. So there is an indirect relation between the Takfiris and the Israelis.

And why I am saying that? Israel through this influence they have and I call it always it is the “aircraft carrier of the US in the Middle East”, it has everything for Israel - I mean to have the influence, the gas, the petrol, etc. So what is happening, the Israelis do not want to have stability in Lebanon. So through proxies - US, France, the West, etc. - they influence the Lebanese and they want to keep it on a confessional differences between the Lebanese so that they become weak, like we had they call it “the Spring Democracy”.

Well they have been trying to keep Lebanon with an election law that is very confessional whereas from my experience I found out that the problem of Lebanon will be solved very easily in changing only the law of the elections. Why? Because the member of parliament now must talk about his own sect of religion to be re-elected, whereas if you make Lebanon, and all Lebanon is four million people, I always give an example a small department in any other country where elections can take place very easily [for] four million people, they make it one circumspection so that the west will need the east of Lebanon, north of Lebanon needs Beirut, etc. so they talk national and when Lebanon talks national it is very strong.

Another reason that we have these troubles is that - I give myself as an example always, because it happened with me - is the corruption in Lebanon. When I was elected, I did not know any Saudi Arabians and I did not know even Syrians or anybody. All my studies were in the US and I am naval engineer, I was all my education in London. But when I arrived here, the first day I arrived, whenever there were problems - it has just started the resistance in Lebanon – the US ambassador would phone me - I was just appointed commander-in-chief and say why these terrorist are making trouble with the Israelis? So I would say, at the time they were occupying our land, so as a Lebanese I am the commander-in-chief of a national army, I have to help these Lebanese to regain their land. Let the Israelis go out, then we will talk and he did not like that.   

At the same time, the first week I was elected, I was surprised when the President of the Republic tells me to come and see him and I see in his office and this is something I said on televisions all over since 20 years but nobody listens why as you know the West has got a lot of media and they can show whatever they want. We do not have the media needed, so what happens – and this is very important, why corruption in Lebanon – is that the Saudis did not know me, suddenly I found the ex-head of the intelligence bureau in Lebanon, colonel Johnny Abdo, who was at the time I became ambassador of Lebanon in France with a suitcase on the table, he opened it in the presence of the President of the Republic. He says, ‘look general, this money since 82, I was nominated in 89, so seven years have passed, Sheikh … brings half a million dollars cash every month, not year, to the commander-in-chief and all commanders since 83, because many were changed since 83 until I was nominated, they get half a million dollar per month.’  

So I thought he wanted to help the army, I said, ‘very nicely, why don’t you give it to the government and the government puts it in the money of the army like the public money the army gets and we spend it on the army?’ so he says, ‘No. you must understand this money is to buy the officers to bring them to your side so that you have most of these soldiers with you.’ So I said, ‘how these officers and soldiers will fight and are ready to die for their land if they get money every month and I get the rest of the money?’ and I stood up and I said, ‘I do not want that.’  So the President said,’ I told you, he is mad’ - because they had known my mentality before – ‘ so give it to me.’ and the President of the Republic at the time … who was taking every month half a million dollars cash for himself to spend like he wants.  

Why I am saying that? If they tried with me as commander and later when I became President, some other Arab countries came and said, ‘Okay, this is five million.’ I remember when came with a suitcase … the week I was elected as President. These are things that happen. Why I am telling you, just to tell you why there is no state in Lebanon.      

Press TV: So it was not only Saudi Arabia?

Lahoud: Other Arab countries as well and I remember very well Johnny Abdo as well at the time he said and these Arab countries, but now you are elected President, why are you afraid. Because they thought I was afraid to take the money because I wanted to become President.  

No. they do not believe that it is my duty not to take this money and when they told me that I asked for the commander of the Republican Guard and he said what are you doing, he said he will put you in prison, they ran away and what I am saying, that if the commander-in-chief in Lebanon who they do not know, they tried to bribe him with half a million dollars a month, and then the President of the Republic with half a million dollars a month plus, because I knew that after me, the next President, he was asking from Qatar and help me in that and that because I do not have money. It is not true. The state has money to make for example with finding excuses to make barracks for soldiers but the money is there in the state. But no, they would take in the name of the barracks and put them in their pocket.

So what I am saying that if the commander takes and the President, I mean they tried to bribe the commander and they tried to bribe the President, so in between you have members of parliament, you have ministers, you have Prime Ministers, you have speakers of the House, so I think like they tried the commander and the President, they tried the others and I remember on television the guy that was asking me the question, he said, ‘why don’t they come up on television and say  the same thing?’ I said because all of them were bribed and they cannot talk about it.

Why I am saying that? Because whenever there is an important matter to be solved in Lebanon, the people that are paying them will tell them, ‘look, you are getting every month, you want me to tell the world that you were being bribed?’ so they make blackmail.  

Press TV: So they are doing it right now as well, the Saudis are still bribing top Lebanese politicians, as we speak?

Lahoud: Sure. If they did not know me, they tried in 89 and then later when I was President until I left 18 years, but when I became president I stopped the money because the money was arriving to some offices as well and I remember very well the first meeting I had been one month in office, the President of the Republic who knew that I refused the money and he was taking it but he was trying to play politics, I remember at midnight he woke me up and said they are asking you to come to the council of ministers. At the time the council of ministers was still in western Beirut because the army was divided for one year until we went to … where we made the united command and I arrived at midnight and I did not know because at the time Walid Jumblatt was not still friendly with Hariri, Hariri at the very beginning, the end of 89, beginning of 90, because he was not getting the money at the time but later they became very friends, so you can find why they became friends.   

Anyway, so the President I remember all the ministers were witnesses, they were there. He asked me like this. He said, ‘commander-in-chief, we are asking you in the middle of the night because Walid Jumblatt is saying that there are some officers in the army that used to take money from outside their salary. What do you say?’ And he knew very well a month before what happened but he thought I would be afraid because the President was asking. I said, ‘yes, there were officers and I stopped that.’ And he said, ‘why don’t you put them in prison?’ I said, ‘you know very well President that they pay cash and you were a witness,’ in front of all the ministers.  And I had been at the time on the two-months nominated as commander.

What I want to say in summary, Israel by their proxies - America, France, some western countries, they have a lot of power in the world, Saudi Arabia, the [Persian] Gulf states, etc. they want to keep Lebanon in corruption and in confessionalism because they do not allow them to have an election law.

And because of that I say now they say the most important thing is to elect the President. Even if they bring the best President, he will not be able to do anything with such a parliament. You say what is the solution, I said it may times, you make all Lebanon one  … and so that for example the … as they call them or the Christians say but the Muslims are more, so they take our seats, they keep the same number of seats for each confession. For example now there are 35 Maronites in the 128 member parliament, they will keep 35 but they will be elected by all Lebanon not the Christians elected by Christians and every time he is elected, the Christian member of parliament, he will say I brought to the Christians, he will not say I  brought to the Lebanese. And that is why during our tenure we were talking national though the parliament was not national but we could make a national army because we were not saying Maronite. I am proud to be a Maronite but I am a Maronite in my church not in the state. In the state I am here when I am responsible for the good of the people not for the good of myself and my family and this is very important that the people know the corruption started there and most of our politicians are being bribed by every month until now they get money. Some of them changed their policy, they are not anymore with them but they still get the money and they get from other places. You cannot build a state with corruption and confessionalism.

Press TV: I was asking Amine Gemayel who killed your son Pierre; he said I do not know, it is still being investigated. Then I asked Michel Aoun who do you think killed Amine Gemayel’s son? Michel Aoun says that he sees Israel as the prime suspect in this, all the assassinations - Rafic Hariri, Pierre Gemayel and many others. Who do you think is killing these people in Lebanon?  

Lahoud: That is another reason just to prove to you that the corruption and confessionalism are brought from Israel and when it does not work, they declare war on Lebanon. We had it. They were occupying our land for 28 years and then in 2000 because we united a national army so we could defend the back of the resistance and we won on Israel. In 2006 we won on Israel and when they cannot do anything, they go to assassinations.

I can tell you when the assassination of Hariri happened, the first week I had an international media that came to Lebanon, I still have the interview. The first thing he said it was …, the French, I mean all over the world and it was all direct. He told me is that, exactly and the world was watching a week after the killing of Hariri, he said all the world says that you and President of Syria killed Hariri. What do you have to say? He said why are you so surprised? I said, ‘do you have a proof?’ he said no. I said when you do not have a proof, you see who benefits most. I said Hariri did whatever we wanted. He asked me to make my term longer three years and he came and elected that and during that time, it is all written, he said Hariri we are going through very difficult times and we have to have a strong President. And only two days ago before his killing his son went, I remember it was a Saturday evening, he came, Saad Hariri to Faraya in the mountain, there was snow, two days before he was killed with Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd at the time he was the most influential in Saudi Arabia, his father Fahd was the King and they said we did not want to take from your time in the office. We came here just to say hello and invite you for dinner and we like to be together. I said no, I will invite you to dinner. Maybe next week we will talk about it and Saad at the time said my father sends his best and he is in Beirut. I said can I talk to him? He said just now he will call you and he called me and things were going fine.

So he said who? I said the enemies of Lebanon killed him. He said how? I said because they want to change the resistance and they are against the resistance, the Israelis. With me being President, they cannot so they want to make something very big so that there is turmoil in Lebanon and like this they can change the power in Lebanon. That is what they did. And he said how can Israel do it? I am saying 2005. I said the same thing I just told you. I said Israel talks to the US, US to Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia to the fundamentalists, extremists and they might have done it but the idea comes from there.

Press TV: So you see an Israeli-American-Saudi alliance behind the killing of Rafic Hariri?

Lahoud: It could be. I am saying if you do not have any proof, you look for who benefits the most. Israel benefits the most and the other countries do what Israel wants in the Middle East. And the proof is that now ten years have passed, nobody knows who killed him. Why? Because the satellite that was watching over the area where he was being killed was US and Israeli and both of them, the US says at that time ‘it was not working’. The Israelis say we do not want to give you any news. And all they are doing now just asking. First they accused us, they found there is nothing. They accused the officers that were responsible of security, put them in prison for years and they let them out because they are innocent. Third, they accused Syria, it did not work. Now they are accusing Hezbollah but who benefits most?  So the same thing with all the killings in Lebanon whether it is Pierre Gemayel and you know very well he was a very good politician and the others and I can tell you that whenever Israel cannot do anything it works with confessionalism, indirect because they do not pay, they have the Saudis and the [Persian] Gulf [states] paying and if it does not work it is killing.

Press TV: Regarding the situation in Syria, do you think the Russian airstrikes, the military campaign that [Russian President] Vladimir Putin is putting up in Syria right now is capable of turning the page? It is going to be a game changer in Syria?

Lahoud: Of course, I believe [so], and I know that I’m a military man. It takes a little time. But now the forces have changed. Before I tell you about when it started in Syria, I was on an interview in al-Manar and I was asked how much [I] think Bashar [al-Assad] will stay in office, because at that time Tunis…took only a week and Egypt two weeks and Libya was burning. So they said how long he will last? I said you will be surprised. First, Russia will make a veto for the first time. He said why? I said because if they don’t make a veto what happens in Syria, the next step will be the Chechya in the middle of [the Russian capital city of] Moscow so they have to make [a veto]. I mean, between countries there is not because he asked me is it so much friendly with the president of Syria? I said it’s not friendliness; it is the interest of Russia to do that, and the interest of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) as well. And, I said now Iran is standing by Syria and standing by the resistance, next it will be Russia and all the BRICS, and for the first time when I mean the state world leader has finished, and now it goes back to what it was before in the Soviet, but at the same time I said Iran will have a big role in all that. And, too, I said I know the president, he is a leader and [a nationalist] and he is strong and he can take it because he has a strong leadership. Second, they have an army that believes in Syria, it’s not confessionalism like in other countries. Third, I said the people of Syria mostly are with the president that’s why he will win. But then, it was taking a long time and Russia came in. The next step, it will hurry things and it doesn’t mean that there will be a victory on the field. No, because slowly they’re going to come to an agreement and it started in [the Austrian capital city of ] Vienna to [reach the] agreement not like before. France, for example, I mean during [Jacques] Chirac because he was getting money from Hariri and everybody knows [that], now he is staying in the house of Hariri in [the French capital city of] Paris! Now! And he made the [United Nations Security Council resolution] 1559. Why he made it? Because I stood next to the resistance against Israel. They don’t like such [behavior], why I’m saying that because the same thing happened with President Assad. Why they are against him? I’m sure if he would have done like other…presidents or kings of Arabs like they are doing now they would have kept him for one hundred years because he is against Israel … because Israel is trying to take our rights, and because of that they don’t want him. And I remember very well at the time when I said that. They said how much time it will take? I said the long time until the world’s [way of thinking] changes. And now it has changed because the Russians will hurry things up and at the end, they will have to come to an agreement and now you can hear some of the countries, who I mean at the very beginning were 100 percent of Arab countries expected that Syria, I mean the president, will leave. …Now they are changing their thought. But still for example [French President] Francois Hollande … he said for three years if he accepts to stay who will accept it? But … it is the people to decide not Hollande; it’s not even Russia or anybody. In Syria, it is up to the people to elect the president. They have elected him in the middle of the war and if they elect him again he’ll keep the [presidency]. It’s not what the Arab countries want and especially they think like it was before that ‘this guy we don’t like we change him with somebody else.’ That’s what they tried with me and I’m talking by experience. In 2005, they started sending me threats that they will kill me if I stay. When I went to do in the UN, I remember very well the UN official said ‘look! we’ll find a place where you will go to Sweden and with your families and then like this you’ll be in peace because of the tribunal etc.’

I said I’m staying until the last day and that’s what I did. They are not used to that. And because of that, we are going to win because we are lucky to have men ready to die for the land whether it is in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iran in all these countries that believe in pride. Why you are doing that? It was too much easier for me to take the bribery, the money, and do like … 99 percent of the Lebanese officials now. And I would have said forever now that everybody would have been happy but where is the pride? Where is, I mean, the good of our children who are going to stay in this country? Because of that I say it was a very good thing that Russia went in. It will hurry things up and we are winning, as you see, as we go along.

Press TV: As a military man, do you think it’s better for Lebanon to have just one army, I mean Hezbollah puts down its weapons and joins the national army or no, the current status goes, the current situation that we have right now, the situation that won the war against Israel in 2006 is the best way of defending Lebanon?

Lahoud: I’m going to go back to the first time I knew there was a resistance in Lebanon. I didn’t know before. I used to read Western newspapers and if they said something about the resistance until 1981 it was a little thing. And always there was a fight between resistance Hezbollah and Amal [Movement] at the time. And the Lebanese army was with Amal, hitting Hezbollah. So the army knew Amal not Hezbollah. When did I know about them? When I was given the order in 1990 - when just the army was united … by force, the president didn’t want- not to unite the army in all sects, in all confessions, in each brigade because there used to be Maronite brigade, Druze brigade, Shia brigade etc. So when I started making a national brigade … president calls me and at the time I remember there was the chief of staff [Hikmat] al-Shihabi with him and [Abdul Halim] Khaddam and all were there; prime minister, minister, speaker of the house, and he said I don’t want you to make it. Maybe he was afraid they kill each other because they were at work for twenty years, Christians, Muslims, etc. I said it is my duty and I’m going to do it and if you don’t like you’ll find another commander in chief. So, he said to Shihabi OK, talk to him because Shihabi at the time we had become friends we had been … together since 1989 until the unification. So Shihabi asked me the president doesn’t want and if you keep it a few years he knows I’m your friend what do you think? I said tell him that you told me he said that’s all? I said yes. So, I went straight up to the ministry instead of waiting one month because it takes time to make the plans. I said what have you done until now? They said only this area. I said you start tomorrow. So I said either it takes me off the commander or I succeed because if I had kept it as it was, for example now what is happening in Arsal which brigade will [you] send … ? Now you can send because it is national brigade. So a week after, the president saw that there were soldiers going from one place, so he asked what is happening. He said they are mixing the religious factions in the brigade. They laughed at me and they told me something and they did something else. So he made the speech that he was with the mixing of the brigades. That’s Lebanon. Anyway, so when after that I was given an order to go to the south. I arrived in the south at 6:00 in the morning. I found the commander, who was supposed to go and take the area of the south, was sleeping. I woke him up and said what’s happening? You’re sleeping and I gave orders we started going at 6:00. He said the president of the republic talked to me and told me not to go.

I said but there is a government decision… it’s the government that decides. And if you don’t take it straight for me you are not any more my commander I had another officer. I said you are in command. So the president phones said please we have changed our mind. We don’t want to go to the south. Why? Because Israel didn’t want the national army inside because during that time they didn’t think much of the army… So, I said when the government says we will go back. So, we had the fight with the people who didn’t want us in some Palestinian camps to go to the south. And, after one week, it was the first time what you call baptême du feu, which means the first time the army mixed during all the time since independence we never had a brigade with all confessions,  in name only. So, it was the first time that this army was tried in battle and…they became all factions of all we had killed from many confessions and they felt that they were one blood. It’s not the confession that changes that it is the Lebanese. So, we went to the South and I remember because the commander who was going to take charge … he said look we have some - [what] they used to call armed personnel make trouble in the South …. At that time Israel was occupying our land and then there was the UN to keep between us and Israel. And so, there are people who are making trouble. He said in the past, 20 years before, when he was still a lieutenant; he was given orders to catch … the Palestinians and put them in prison.  What do you want us to do? I said who are they, Palestinians? No I said the Lebanese. He said yes. The Israelis are occupying their land and they want to go in to free their villages. I said they are the resistance. And you the army you back them up. They’re backed whenever they go in and you will be like one army. But where you are now, there is no resistance, you are the resistance … and that’s how it started. The army and the resistance and the population and this made us have the liberation. And, at the time I remember our still commander in chief and the president called me and sometimes we had trouble …. An order was given by Hariri at the time, there was for one week bombardments on Lebanon because Hezbollah had made I mean an operation on Israel and so they were answering back and Hariri at the end at that time he used to be afraid. He had a house in Syria he would go and sit in his house. One week, after the fire stopped, he came back and called me to come and see him. I was in the South. I came to him. He said look commander! I’m just coming from Syria. Syria wants to finish with these armed people… these terrorists and you will finish them. I still remember he said … which means flame flowers. I said you are talking about the Lebanese they want to go back to their land. He said … if you don’t do it somebody else is going to take your place. I said look for somebody else. He phones me at midnight. And He said [Boutros Boutros] Ghali at the same time would like to talk to you… you will not be responsible if you are afraid. Because they think like they are. They are afraid. I said I’m not going because it’s against my conscious. How can a Lebanese national army hit the Lebanese people who want to go to their villages? He said but I told you Syria wants like this, the United Nations wants like this, we want like this. He said maybe if you make an order written, and he made the order written so that I don’t say that it is my … order it came from the government. He sent me the order from the government. Next day, I said find another commander.  I went home. So, an officer that was in the meeting went to Syria and talked to an aide of President Hafez al-Assad and he said the commander has left because an order was given and they said Syria said that I didn’t say. He looked all around, he found that Abdul Halim Khaddam, who was responsible in Lebanon, said it, because he used to take money from Hariri. I’m telling you things that happened with me. Now, I’m out of politics. So that the new generation learns for our children not for me. Because of that, he said, I want to meet him. I had already been a commander for four years. And it was the first time I met Hafez al-Assad. And in that meeting, he told me he didn’t know anything about that. And he said you did very well …. And, what I’m saying is that I did that without knowing Hezbollah. Why? Because I learnt all as I said I’m an engineer from England and my studies in the military in the US. I learnt in the US … I remember courses about strategy, one of them was that the US could not overcome Vietnam because the Vietnamese had guerilla warfare. And the guerilla warfare you use it when you don’t have weapons and personnel as strong as your enemy. So you use the guerilla. So, I backed the guerilla and I was sure we will win and we won in 2000 and 2006. And, I remember, very well in 2006 as well I was on television. They said do you think they will do another war with Lebanon? I said no, why? They said Israelis are very cowards. They saw they cannot go inside Lebanon now they will find Syria or Iran who back the resistance but they will not do anything in Lebanon. That’s what happened. They … wanted to start the war because of the atomic … and they didn’t want the agreement etc. with Iran when it worked in Syria, they wanted to take out who backs the resistance. And, all that was happening because Israel could not go inside Lebanon. But, what I’m going to say now [and] is the most important for our children is that if now the solution is going to happen and … it will not all finish but it will be shown that the world has accepted that Syria … the war will stop there. So, what will happen? Do you think Israel will accept that, of course, not. Israel got a slap, [a] very strong one, from Lebanon. And it got it from the resistance.

And, unfortunately, we and especially the Arabs think about today, they don’t think about tomorrow. I’m saying like I said four years before that Syria, Assad, will win and Russia will go in. And it is too now. Now, I’m saying in less than four years if you don’t make a law in Lebanon, electoral law, one single conscription for all Lebanon… and for democracy proportionate and for nationality…. If you don’t do that, if you make two single conscriptions, before four years, Israelis are going to make something worse than the assassination of Hariri and make a confessional war in Lebanon like what happened in Syria. What happens would hit many heads with one stone. First, the resistance, when its houses are burning inside Lebanon you cannot fight outside Lebanon. Second, all the parliamentary people that are confessionals each one to be reelected will say it is the Shia that kills, it is the Sunni that kills. The accuse each other. Third, from here, when there is war it will go on to Syria again after all the trouble they have taken to make Syria at peace the Russians etc. It will go from Lebanon to Syria from Syria it will go to Russia to the BRICS. So, we will lose. With Syria, we have a combat. If in Lebanon, they don’t do this law, it’s not only for the good of Lebanon, it must be done it is the good of all the countries that believe in right and pride. If they don’t do it in Lebanon, remember [in] two or three years there will be very big thing that’s happening in Lebanon and it will go to Syria and to Russia etc.

Press TV: That Surprising election win in Turkey by the AKP (Justice and Development Party), led by Priem Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, many people are thinking whether the current government in Turkey is going to keep supporting those militants those terrorists in Syria or is going to change its policies in the new term. What’s your message to President Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu? 

Lahoud: I hope he learns the lessons of history, because histories are recurring …. He saw that when he used to talk about two weeks it will last Syria…. I hope he learns from that and he comes back to reason not to back fanatics and set on a table and think about the good of the whole Middle East. 

Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Press TV News Roku