Who is Issam Fares?

By Joseph Farah

Have you ever wondered why government officials take certain actions in spite of common sense, U.S. interests, even their own stated policy positions?

For instance, I have wondered why the U.S. war on terrorism has focused so little attention on one small country, Lebanon, that hosts more jihadist groups than any other in the world.

I have wondered why the U.S. is soft on Syria, one of the most brutal police states in the world and one that sponsors terrorism and continues to occupy Lebanon with tens of thousands of troops.

I have wondered why the U.S. doesn’t seek to destroy Hezbollah, a jihadist terrorist group responsible for the Marine barracks bombing in 1983 that killed 243 Americans – a group growing in strength and power and one that is tied operationally to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida.

I’ve wondered all these things for many months – until discovering what is probably the harsh truth.

American officials may have been bought off by powerful oil interests.

Yesterday, WorldNetDaily broke a news story piecing together the ties between the Bush administration and a man who uses his influence in Washington on behalf of Hezbollah and the Syrian police state.

That man is Issam Fares, deputy prime minister of Lebanon, a self-made billionaire and a close associate of Maj. General Ghazi Kanaan, head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon and the man known as the “kingmaker” in a small country dominated by Syria’s occupying military forces. He calls Hezbollah “a resistance party fighting the Israeli occupation.”

Fares, through his son, Nijad, a permanent resident alien of the U.S., and his U.S.-based businesses, has contributed heavily to the senatorial campaigns of now Department of Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. The family also contributed $100,000 to the Bush Inaugural. And Fares sponsored a speech by Secretary of State Colin Powell at Tufts University for a reported $59,000.

Fares oversees a worldwide, diversified conglomerate of oil, real estate and media interests. In 2000, he became deputy prime minister of Lebanon.

The family’s main U.S. business holding is the Houston-based Wedge Group, a big player in the oil services industry headed by William White, the former No. 2 official at the Energy Department during the Clinton administration.

That the Fares family is attempting to buy influence in high places in the United States seems self-evident.

“Arab-Americans must substantially increase contributions to political candidates,” wrote Nijad Fares in an opinion page article for the Detroit News, Dec, 16, 1996. “Even modest contributions help ensure that members of Congress and their staffs take phone calls and are more responsive to requests. Furthermore, the contributor must make explicit an interest in Middle East-related issues.”

The connection between the Fares family and the Bush family precedes the current administration. After leaving office in 1993, President George H.W. Bush received a $100,000 speaking fee from Fares. He also made a trip around the Persian Gulf in Fares’ private jet with the Lebanese businessman by his side. Former Secretary of State James Baker also received a $100,000 speaking fee.

When the news of Fares’ support of the Inauguration broke in the Jerusalem Post in 2000, Fares said he was happy with the “noble relationship” between himself and the Bush family.

“If the Zionist lobby and those revolving in its orbit are displeased with this relationship, it’s their own business,” he told the paper. “Anyway, envy is a killer.”

Beirut’s Daily Star reported last year that Fares has cultivated a network of connections with senior American officials that “would make most people blush with envy.”

It’s not unusual that a man of means like Fares would find friends in high places in America. But it is Fares’ allies in Lebanon – from Hezbollah to Kanaan – that make those connections shocking to me.

President Bush once told the nation that all the nations of the world would have to choose whether they were with us or with the terrorists. The Lebanese puppet regime under the domination of Syria has chosen sides. It supports the terrorists – the very terrorists who murdered our Marines in cold blood in 1983, the very terrorists who celebrated in the streets on Sept. 11, the very terrorists who maintain operational alliances with al-Qaida.

Why, then, are we entertaining their friends in the White House?