Bahaa Hariri meets with US State Department, Biden administration officials in Washington, D.C.

Bahaa Hariri meets with US State Department, Biden administration officials in Washington, D.C.
Bahaa Hariri discussed sanctions and support for the Lebanese Armed Forces with Biden officials and the US State Department.
3 min read
10 December, 2021
Bahaa Hariri backs "Sawa li-Lubnan" a political movement planning to launch an electoral list in the 2022 elections [Getty]

Bahaa Hariri, the billionaire son of slain Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and brother of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, is in Washington, D.C., where he has met with a number of US governmental officials.

The purpose of Hariri’s visit to D.C., which is in its second week, is to “inform and educate the administration, Congress, experts, think tanks and [Lebanese] diaspora on the efforts Bahaa is doing in Lebanon,” Price Floyd, director of campaigns and communications for the CT Group, told The New Arab.

“The meetings have all been very positive, and it’s been a very successful set of meetings,” Floyd said.

As part of his visit, Hariri has met with Biden administration officials and members of the State Department Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. The primary topics discussed during these meetings were the need to continue sanctions on certain Lebanese officials as well as to continue support for the Lebanese Armed Forces, according to Floyd.

The US Treasury has sanctioned a number of Lebanese individuals for corruption and support to Hezbollah, including business moguls Jihad al-Arab and Dana Khoury.

Floyd said that “Hariri appreciated the sanctions effort that the US is doing and asked them to continue. They said to watch and see what’s coming.”

The US State Department did not respond to The New Arab's request for comment.

Hariri funds and backs a number of projects in Lebanon, most notably Sawa li-Lubnan and media company “Sawt Beirut International”. Hariri largely stayed out of Lebanese politics following his father’s assassination in 2005, handling his father’s business empire while his brother, Saad, managed his political legacy.

Hariri came back on to the Lebanese political scene during the Lebanese October revolution in 2019, when millions took to the streets demanding an end to the corruption which has plagued Lebanon for so long. Hariri began to criticize the entire political establishment, including his brother Saad.

Since then, he has continued to voice criticism of Lebanon’s political elite. He has been particularly vocal in opposition to the Shia militia group Hezbollah and its Iranian backers. Despite his sudden political activism, Hariri has denied any desire to occupy political office in Lebanon.

In May, Sawa li-Lubnan (“Together for Lebanon” in English) was launched as a political group to “root out corruption and deliver economic prosperity.”

The organisation has opened more than a dozen offices across Lebanon, organised charitable drives and erected thousands of billboards across the country with slogans such as “The future is between your hands.”. The group is solely funded by Hariri.

Sawa is planning to launch an electoral list in advance of the 2022 elections, tentatively scheduled for 27 March. It will back candidates who “believe in change” and present its own candidates in districts where it sees no viable frontrunners.

Hariri also discussed Sawa’s activities with US congresspeople and Lebanese diaspora groups. According to Floyd, the groups were “very impressed” with Sawa’s actions, particularly the billboards.

Hariri has accompanied his backing for political movements in Lebanon with action in Washington. He hired the Washington branch of the CT Group, a political consulting and campaigns firm that has advised politicians like Boris Johnson, in September, for $50,000 a month.

Since then, the CT Group has circulated materials in Washington such as articles about Sawa li-Lubnan and letters to US officials such as Victoria Nuland, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. It has also published extensive polling it has done in Lebanon about the population’s view of political issues in the country and on electoral issues.

Hariri has also met with government officials in the UK and other countries, Floyd added.