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- U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon: Founder
- Middle East Forum: Member, Board of Governors
- Peaceworks: Member, Board of Advisers
- Middle East Intelligence Bulletin: Publisher
- Blackhawk Partners Inc.: Owner, President, CEO
- Mindsfield: Equity and Venture Capital Consultant
- TerraNova Inc.: Managing Director
- TechCapital Access LLC: Founder, Managing Partner
- Tower Hill Securities/THCG, Inc.: Former Managing Director
- Interbank Capital Group: Former Senior Partner
- Ladenburg Thalmann: Former Banker
- American University, Beirut: B.S., Economics, 1982
- University of Pennsylvania: MBA, 1984
Ziad Abdelnour is a Lebanese-American investment banker and hawkish political activist on Middle East affairs. CEO of a New York investment firm called Blackhawk Partners, Abdelnour’s hardline views have drawn him into joint campaigns with neoconservatives and other Likud-aligned figures in the United States, including Daniel Pipes of the Middle East. Forum.
In 1997, Abdelnour founded the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon (USCFL), which had as one of its initial aims ending the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. As part of his work with USCFL, Abdelnour recruited a number of high profile neoconservatives figures, including Michael Ledeen, Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith, and Frank Gaffney, all of whom were listed as supporters of USCFL. By 2006, Abdelnour had begun to describe himself as a neoconservative, according to the New York Times.
After the election of President Barack Obama, USCFL appeared to distance itself from its association with neoconservatism. A statement posted on the group’s “About” page said, “Bad rumors say that the USCFL is the front of some ‘shady’ force plotting with some organizations out there against Lebanon’s interests. Just to set the record straight, we are NOT a front of any foreign entity; whether Syrian, Israeli or whatever and we are fully funded by our members, supporters and other constituents…. We are neither right wing nor left wing. We are neither Republicans nor Democrats. We are neither neo-cons nor doves. We are just the ultimate lobbyists and powerbrokers for a Free and Democratic Lebanon; Syria; Iraq and every other country in the Middle East out there. Period.”
USCLF’s website, however, continued to feature (as of May 2010) the names of many prominent individuals often associated with neoconservative causes. Among its “Recommended Experts” were Fouad Ajami, Ilan Berman, Patrick Clawson, William Kristol, Michael Rubin, Robert Satloff, and Meyrav Wurmser. Similarly, the group’s “International Advisory Board” included such figures as Morris Amitay, former head of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; Paula Dobrianksy, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs under President George W. Bush; Rachel Ehrenfeld, a controversial author on terrorist funding issues; Brigitte Gabriel of the American Congress for Truth; Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy; Michael Ledeen and Cliff May of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies; Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute; former CIA director James Woolsey; and David Wurmser, co-founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute.
Abdelnour’s best known collaboration with neoconservatives was the 2000 report “Ending Syria’s Occupation of Lebanon: The U.S. Role?” which was coproduced with Daniel Pipes and the Middle East Forum (MEF) (for several years, until 2004, USCFL and MEF also jointly published an online journal called the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin). The report called for the United States to force Syria from Lebanon and to disarm it of its alleged weapons of mass destruction. “Ending Syria’s Occupation of Lebanon: The U.S. Role?” also argued that “Syrian rule in Lebanon stands in direct opposition to American ideals” and criticized the United States for engaging rather than confronting the regime. Among the document’s signers were several soon-to-be Bush administration officials, including Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith, Michael Rubin, David Wurmser, and Paula Dobriansky. Other signers included Richard Perle, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Ledeen, and Gaffney.
In promoting U.S. military intervention in Lebanon, Abdelnour once suggested that getting Syrian troops out of Lebanon would help the U.S. cause in Iraq. Writing in the rightwing Jerusalem Post, Abdelnour argued, “The departure of Syrian forces in Lebanon would also bolster the democratization of Iraq. … The restoration of Lebanese democracy would provide a model for a democratic Iraq and reinforce its political transformation.”
Before Syria ended its occupation in 2005, Abdelnour made bombastic claims to the media about his efforts to get Syria out of Lebanon. Reported the New York Press in September 2003: “Abdelnour explains that he’s in contact with his people in the Levant ‘all the time.’ He ticks off the names of groups with names like the Free Patriotic Movement and The Lebanese Forces. … By the time Abdelnour finishes explaining the vigor of his countrymen to me, he ups the estimate of his force strength. ‘We’re talking tens of thousands,’ he says. As wars go, Abdelnour’s is antiseptic. His men are already in position to execute a rout: ‘It’s not going to take three weeks, like in Iraq. It’ll take 48 hours.’ And once Hezbollah sees the Syrian military and intelligence services flooding westward across the border, the keepers of the Khomeinist flame can start numbering their days. ‘Wip[ing] out’ what Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage once described as the ‘A-Team of terrorism’ should only take another 48 hours, he continues, suggesting it’s a job ‘for either the Israelis or the Americans.’”
Together with Syria, Hezbollah has long been Abdelnour’s bête noir. During the 2006 summer war between Israel and Hezbollah, Abdelnour told the New York Times: “There is no other way but to absolutely annihilate Hezbollah. …. I bleed when I see my country suffering like this, but you can’t build a Hong Kong and harbor terrorists. The Lebanese cannot have their cake and eat it, too.'”
Abdelnour is frequently cited in the media arguing that Israel and Hezbollah are on the verge of war. In July 2009, during a period of heightened tensions along the Israel-Lebanon border, Abdelnour told Xinhua news agency that there was “no other way around” a new conflict. “It’s bound to happen sooner or later.”
Nearly a year later, in April 2010, Abdelnour was again forecasting war. Asked by a reporter whether war was likely, he said, “Without a doubt,” adding that the only way to avoid it would be to contain Iran, “which is not going to happen.”
The Beirut-born Abdelnour made his fortune in the 1980s on Wall Street as a junk-bond salesman and has run “a series of funds that make private-equity investments in security and technology companies.” He is owner and president of Blackhawk Partners, Inc., a New York-based private commodities trading and investment firm. According to his biography on the Blackhawk website, “Once referred to by the New York Times as one of the 100 most creative and fiercest investment bankers on Wall Street, Ziad K. Abdelnour is a dealmaker, trader and financier with over 20 year experience in merchant banking, private equity, alternative investments and physical commodities trading. Since 1985, Mr. Abdelnour has been involved in over 125 transactions totaling over $30 billion in the investment banking, high yield bond and distressed debt markets and has been widely recognized for playing an integral role in those three key market sectors.”
In March 2007, Abdelnour donated $2,500 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, to which he had given $600 the previous year. Abdelnour has donated to both Republican and Democratic candidates, including former Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI), former Sen. George Mitchell (D-ME), and Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D-NY). Abdelnour donated $2,000 to the American Task Force for Lebanon PAC in 1992. That same year he also gave $1,000 to Rep. Nick Rahall’s (D-WV) Friends of Lebanon Dinner Committee, of which Rahall’s lobbyist sister Tanya was treasurer. (For all campaign donation information, see OpenSecrets.org, PoliticalMoneyLine.com, and NewsMeat.com.)