By Jacob Kamaras/JNS.org
On a rainy day in Huffman, Texas—on the outskirts of Houston, America’s fourth-largest city, yet seemingly in the middle of nowhere—I search for the headquarters of the Global Peace Initiative (GPI). The destination plugged into my iPhone’s navigation app takes me to a cross-bearing building in an otherwise empty grass field. There’s no parking lot, but I slog through the muddy grass to the door. When nobody answers, I get back in the car and continue my search for GPI.
Minutes later, I receive a phone call from GPI’s founder, Dr. Kilari Anand (K.A.) Paul, a man who has been described as “the world’s most popular evangelist” by The New Republic and “the next Billy Graham” by the New York Times. He has also been referred to as a “modern-day Gandhi.” Indeed, Paul tells me, the seemingly deserted building is GPI’s office. Quite the humble environs for a man who says his charity and peace work has reached 148 countries, hundreds of thousands of orphans and widows in need, and the millions of people who have attended his peace rallies. Global media have reported on how he convinced Liberian dictator Charles Taylor to resign and persuaded Haitian rebel leader Guy Philippe to lay down his arms. Also in Paul’s travel log: meetings with late Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi, former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
After I enter the facility with K.A. Paul, what follows is a wide-ranging interview with someone who is best described as an international man of mystery. That man is also staunchly pro-Israel, which might surprise you given the aforementioned characters he has met with. His mission last summer: defeat the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. His current mission: muster the power of America’s 90 million evangelical Christians to help defeat Democratic contender Hillary Clinton in the 2016 American presidential election.
Paul, 52, was born in India and in 1989 first came to Houston, where he lives when he isn’t busy globetrotting. He calls this year’s presidential race “the most important election of our lifetime.” Why? He fears a victory by Clinton, the front-runner, over whomever emerges from a muddled Republican field. A prominent critic of the George W. Bush administration’s war in Iraq, Paul backed President Barack Obama in the 2008 election due to Obama’s opposition of the war. After seeing Obama’s foreign policy, including secretary of state Clinton’s handling of the Libya crisis and more recently the Iran deal, Paul is singing a much different tune on the Democrats.
At the same time, his criticism of political leaders continues to transcend partisan lines. For example, he blasts Republicans and Democrats alike for the Iraq war. Former Florida governor and struggling Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, says Paul, is “paying the price today” due to the war initiated during his brother’s presidency.
“But Jeb Bush was only a governor. Hillary Clinton voted for the Iraq war as a senator. [Vice President] Joe Biden voted for the Iraq war as a senator….We need to elect an outsider, who never voted for the Iraq war or the Libya hell, who understands foreign policy…who can hold these people accountable—Obama and Hillary Clinton—just like Bush is held accountable because of his brother’s stupid war,” Paul says.
“Therefore,” he continues, “I’m campaigning to these 90 million evangelicals, to as many as I can reach for the next nine months, to mobilize rallies, prayer rallies, so that our next president can reverse the Iran deal and protect the interests of Americans, Israelis, and the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) nations.”
Paul has been a state guest of Iran three times and calls Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif “a good friend.” So why did Paul spend last summer building a global coalition to oppose the nuclear deal? He puts it this way: “Why Iran? Why not Sudan?”
In 2010 and 2011, Paul says he spent eight months in Sudan trying to persuade President Omar al-Bashir to sacrifice 60 percent of the government’s wealth and 30 percent of its land to the Christian-majority southern part of the country. Ultimately, Bashir allowed a referendum for southern Sudan to secede and become an independent country. Paul laments that Sudan, despite its sacrifice, hasn’t seen the sanctions relief that America promised the African nation would receive—yet $150 billion in sanctions relief is coming Iran’s way in the nuclear deal.
Though the deal was signed under the watch of current Secretary of State John Kerry, the Wall Street Journal reported last year that Hillary Clinton, in her last months as secretary of state, “helped open the door to…an acceptance that Tehran would maintain at least some capacity to produce nuclear fuel.” The report cited a “string of high-level meetings” in 2012 in which “the secretary of state and White House concluded that they might have to let Iran continue to enrich uranium at small levels, if the diplomacy had any hope of succeeding.”
“We are not honoring our commitment to lift the sanctions on Sudan,” Paul tells JNS.org. “We are lifting sanctions on Iran, which is increasingly becoming more dangerous than ever before to all the Middle East and the rest of the world. What does this tell our friends?…Therefore, Hillary Clinton should not be elected, because she will continue Obama’s policies.”
But Paul’s opposition of Clinton is about more than policy. It’s personal.
Paul says that in August 2011, during Clinton’s time as secretary of state, he spent 27 days in Libya negotiating with the Gaddafi regime to accede to America’s demands regarding the Libyan civil war. He describes Gaddafi, the notorious dictator who was eventually killed in October of that year, as a “changed man” during the last decade of his life.
“[Gaddafi] was evil. He was a dictator. Ruthless. But he was a born-again believer, you could say. He did whatever America wanted. Finally, during the war, he agreed to every condition Hillary Clinton asked for through her friend, General Wesley Clark, who was on the phone with me at least two or three dozen times when I was in Libya,” Paul recalls.
Paul’s team provides me with a letter (click here to read it) dated Aug. 19, 2011, from then-Libyan prime minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi to President Obama. Copying Paul and his fellow American negotiator in Libya, former member of Congress Walter Fauntroy, on the letter, Mahmoudi writes that Libya, in “joint cooperation with the United States,” will “work jointly in the newfound spirit of cooperation between our governments.” According to the letter, Gaddafi was prepared to “immediately” cease fire in the civil war, give Libyans a chance “to choose their government and the way of governing based on freedom,” and agree to the principle that a political solution in Libya would be reached “without interference” from Gaddafi.
The White House, the State Department, and Clark all did not respond to JNS.org’s requests for comment on the letter.
Paul says he emailed the letter to Clark, who mailed and faxed it to the White House and the State Department. He says Clark relayed messages that Obama and Clinton were both pleased with the letter. But Paul claims the Obama administration never followed through on a promise to send a helicopter to Libya to bring Paul and Fauntroy home. Instead, Paul says that with the help of a CIA operative, he managed to escape Libya on a 39-hour boat ride to Malta. At the time, media outlets in Paul’s native India had presumed he was dead.
Yet here Paul is on a rainy day in Texas, speaking with me about his international adventures, which he continues to undertake despite the Bush administration’s alleged grounding of his private 747 plane a decade ago. Today, he says, the plane remains grounded in Tijuana, Mexico. (Click here and here for the most recent documentation of the whereabouts of Paul’s “Global Peace Ambassadors” plane.)
So why does Paul meet with world leaders—dictators and democracy practitioners alike—and what makes them willing to meet with him? The evangelist says his success derives from his peace rallies.
“We don’t take money, like every other evangelist or preacher or rabbi takes,” he says. “We don’t sell books like everybody else sells. I don’t promote just a religious agenda, but a peace agenda. Therefore, everybody who has got nothing to lose, who is hungry for peace, comes to my rallies.”
When “millions of people” attend your rallies, Paul says, you have the ear of presidents and prime ministers.
“The message of peace resonates with everybody,” he says. “Go to the Middle East. Go to Israel and Palestine. You’ll see how many people want peace. It is the leaders that need to be changed.”
Paul supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but says he isn’t sure that will ever happen “because now, nobody trusts American leadership. Without proper American leadership, it’s not going to happen.”
In 2000, when Ehud Barak was Israel’s prime minister and Arafat was the Palestinians’ leader, Paul says he “had hopes” that peace was achievable. I ask Paul for his impressions of Arafat. He responds, “Why talk about a dead man? But [he was] a very unique person. That’s all I can say right now.”
Paul has also met several times with Mahmoud Abbas, the current Palestinian leader. Asked if he believes Abbas is committed to peace, Paul answers, “He really wanted to get the peace deal [with Israel] done. He’s caught in a very unique spot between the West and the East. All the fanatics and extremists in the Muslim community hate him, and all the right-wing Western leaders say he doesn’t do enough. So it’s very hard.”
It’s mandatory for every Christian, Paul explains, “to pray for Israel every day, support Israel in every way, because a young man—a good-looking boy called Jesus—2,000 years ago died for all humanity and shed his precious blood, and commanded all of us to pray for Israel.”
Given the stakes, Paul argues that it’s “a sin” for Christians to fail to vote in the 2016 election. Paul says he’s “asking God if He wants me to campaign in this country,” and unless “God shuts the doors,” the evangelist vows to continue to rally support for “anybody but Hillary.”
“I’m not a typical evangelist, one-sided,” says Paul. “I look out for peace, because millions of innocent people are dying and starving and suffering. My passion on the ground is that I am a practical person. Do what is right, and ask God for guidance.”
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