- Al Habtoor pinpoints to Iran as the biggest threat to global peace and stability
- Highlights economic sanction against Hezbollah and Iran not enough
- Calls for the empowerment of the Iranian people to rewrite their own future
- Encourages US to work Saudi Arabia as an ally in global strategy to uproot the ideology of violent extremism
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Founding Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group addressed hundreds of global leaders at the 27th annual Arab-US Policymakers Conference held at Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington DC on 31 October 2018. Khalaf Al Habtoor attended the annual conference hosted by The National Council on US-Arab Relations as guest of honour and keynote speaker for the third time. The annual conference brings together many of the foremost American and Arab specialists from government, military business and academe to analyse, discuss and debate issues of over-arching importance to the American and Arab people’s needs, concerns, interest, and key foreign policy objectives.
The theme of this year’s conference ‘What Paths Forward For America In And With The Arab Region?’ shed light on multiple dynamics of the overall relationship between the United States and Arab governments, economies and societies. The event was moderated by Dr John Duke Anthony, Founding President & CEO, National Council on US-Arab Relations.
In his keynote speech entitled, ‘Global Leaders Must Show Solidarity and Firm Action Against The Iranian Threat’, Al Habtoor called out world leaders to work in solidarity to isolate extremism propagated by Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards, Shiite militias and thus curb the global spread of terrorism.
Al Habtoor said, “The patience with which Iran is dealt with surprises me. Why are the United States and its Western allies so patient with Iran? Do they hope that Iran is the Prodigal Son who will one day return to the West’s arms and repent? That is a pipe dream. Iran’s defiance of the United States and the civilized world will never cease.”
Speaking on the mounting tension between the United States and Iran and recent economic sanctions issued by President Donald Trump earlier this month on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the attack on US Marines in Beirut, Al Habtoor reiterated, “Sanctioning Iran has not changed its aggressive behaviour towards its neighbours. Just the opposite. Tehran is more vocal than ever in its support of terrorism and hostility of the West.”
Al Habtoor voiced his concern over the Iran spreading its poison with Hezbollah across the Arab region. “Iran to me is fragile, Hezbollah is most powerful. If the Americans, the Israeli’s and the European are serious, they can dismantle the threat of Hezbollah and rescue to the Lebanese. The Lebanese are prisoners in their country. Members of Hezbollah are forming the government in Lebanon, I cannot understand it. We should not accept this.”
Al Habtoor called for real action be taken to destabilize and overturn the corrupt Iranian regime by empowering the oppressed people of Iran to rewrite their own future. “As for the Iranian regime’s support of terrorism, it can be stopped by eliminating its global terrorist arm Hezbollah and also by empowering the Iranian minorities who are continuously abused and crushed by the Revolutionary Guard, in particular the occupied Ahwazi people living in extreme poverty and stripped of their basic human right to freely practice their religion.”
Al Habtoor expressed his concern over the reaction of the international community during the investigation of the disappearance of Jamal bin Ahmad Khashoggi. “I am astonished that American lawmakers and media still call upon the United States to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia willing to damage a trusted seven-decades-long relationship. This is madness!” said Al Habtoor.
He encouraged the United States to recognize the Kingdom Saudi Arabia as a key ally in global strategy to uproot the ideology of violent extremism. “I urge US leaders to respect the Kingdom’s sovereignty. The law must take its course. America needs Saudi Arabia in the fight against terrorism. America needs Saudi Arabia to help contain Iran. America needs Saudi investments and purchases that create jobs. Let us focus on what is important!”
Following the keynote address, Al Habtoor sat down with Judith Miller, Manhattan Institute Adjunct Fellow, author and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter to discuss concerns over the existing instability in Yemen and the path forward to resolve the ongoing civil conflict. Al Habtoor said “In the Arabian Gulf, we support human rights and we prefer peace and negotiation. But the problem is that our governments have not received a response from Iran. We want to solve the crisis in Yemen through negotiation, we are against war.”
Al Habtoor also called for international cooperation to address the root causes of the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Africa. “No country is an island by itself. We share one planet. We are all responsible for finding solutions to common threats. We need to be partners in the decision-making.”
In relation to the policies adopted by President Donald Trump on the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Al Habtoor said that Arab nations and individuals have been trying for peace for a very long time, including billions in financial support to assist the Palestine people. “Definitely we need a Palestinian Independent State. But you need the proper people to negotiate. Negotiation is an art, rather than putting a gun to the head. I know that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a tough person, but I believe he is more open to accept the State of Palestine now.”
The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, founded in 1983, is an American non-profit, non-governmental, educational organisation dedicated to improving American knowledge and understanding of the Arab world. From its offices in Washington, D.C., and through the alumni of its educational programs spread all across the United States, the National Council works with sister organizations to share resources and maximise effectiveness.
In 2014, the National Council on US-Arab Relations honoured Khalaf Al Habtoor the Global Humanitarian and Business Achievement Award paying tribute to his international achievements, recognising his leadership in education, philanthropy and building bridges between East and West. In the same year, Al Habtoor was honoured with the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award at the C3 U.S.-Arab Summit’s annual conference held at the Union League Club in New York City in recognition of his long-term contribution to regional peace, prosperity, and cross-cultural understanding between East and West.