Cablegate: Lebanon: Jumblatt Concerned About Uniiic Delays,
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
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O 081559Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BEIRUT 000490
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NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/YERGER
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/07/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PARM PINR KPAL MASS SY IS LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: JUMBLATT CONCERNED ABOUT UNIIIC DELAYS,
SUNNI MILITIAS, AND HIZBALLAH FIBER OPTIC NETWORK
REF: A. BEIRUT 480
B. BEIRUT 479
C. BEIRUT 392
D. BEIRUT 391
BEIRUT 00000490 001.2 OF 004
Classified By: CDA Michele J. Sison for reasons
section 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (S) Druze leader Walid Jumblatt expressed concerns about
information he had received that former UNIIIC Commissioner
Serge Brammertz failed to act for the past year-and-a-half to
act on a key lead discovered by Internal Security Forces
Intelligence Officer Wissam Eid, who was assassinated one
week after he discussed the lead with Brammertz' replacement,
Daniel Bellemare. Jumblatt also was concerned about reports
that Saad Hariri's Future Movement was training Sunni
militias in Beirut and Tripoli. Finally, Jumblatt wondered
why PM Siniora was not reacting to Telecom Minister Hamadeh's
recent report on Hizballah's fiber optic network in Lebanon.
2. (C) Jumblatt applauded the March 14's Secretariat's
efforts to unite the coalition (while criticizing March 14
leaders for saying different things publicly), called
Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Commander Michel Sleiman's
announcement of early retirement "stupid," and said the
Patriarch was now favoring a "mini" cabinet. Jumblatt
objected to Speaker Berri's apparent attempts to be received
by the French National Assembly, and agreed on the need for
March 14 to develop better relationships with independent
Shia. End summary.
3. (C) Charge Sison, accompanied by Pol/Econ Chief, met with
Druze leader Walid Jumblatt at his home in Clemenceau on
April 8. Jumblatt was pleased to hear from the Charge that
March 14 leader Saad Hariri would return to Lebanon before
the April 17-18 visit of NEA A/S Welch. He agreed that
Saad's prolonged absence was "not good," especially if it was
for purely business reasons, and that the jokes circulating
about Saad abiding by the Saudi warning to its citizens to
leave Lebanon were a "bad sign."
4. (C) Jumblatt acknowledged that the current visit of PM
Siniora to Saudi Arabia, where he would join Saad in a
meeting with King Abdullah, was a positive development.
However, he noted, the Saudis had yet to follow through with
their promised $1 billion deposit for Lebanon's Central Bank,
he noted, which indicated they were "not serious."
UNIIIC SAT ON INFORMATION?
5. (S) Jumblatt revealed what he deemed a "very serious blow"
to the UN Commission investigating the assassination of
former PM Rafiq Hariri and others. According to information
he received from Internal Security Forces (ISF) Intelligence
Director Wissam Hassan the previous evening, Wissam Eid, who
worked for Hassan and was assassinated January 25, had
discovered a year and a half ago a link between Abd al-Majid
Qasim Ghamlush and a network of 17 other cell phone numbers.
Former UNIIIC Commissioner Brammertz reportedly did not act
upon this information.
6. (S) In January 2008, however, after Daniel Bellemare took
over as Commissioner, Eid met with Bellemare, and was killed
one week later. (Note: UNIIIC contacts have confirmed to us
that Eid had met with Bellemare exactly one week prior to his
death. End note.) The assassination of Hizballah leader
Imad Mougnieh followed two weeks later, leading Jumblatt to
believe there was a link between Ramloush and Mougnieh,
"assuming Ramloush was still alive."
7. (C) The one and a half year delay was a bad sign, Jumblatt
continued, suggesting that UNIIIC's case, so far, is weak.
Bellemare's request for a six-month extension of UNIIIC's
mandate confirms this. But as time goes on, more suspects
will disappear and more assassinations will occur, Jumblatt
SUNNI MILITIA PROBLEM
8. (S) The second issue Jumblatt raised was Saad's reported
training of Sunni militias in Lebanon (allegedly 15,000
members in Beirut and more in Tripoli). In establishing his
own "security agencies" in Beirut and Tripoli, Saad was being
badly advised by "some people," Jumblatt said, such as ISF
General Ashraf Rifi. In his meeting with Jumblatt, Hassan
admitted having knowledge that members of Saad's Future
Movement were being trained. Hassan reportedly opposed such
training, but "people around Saad" (i.e., Rifi) were telling
him to go ahead. (Note: The Jordanians have refused to
train Internal Security Forces (ISF) members hand-picked and
vetted by the Embassy to participate in a DA/ATA-funded
Terrorism Crime Scene Investigation program, reportedly
because they don't want to be involved in training "Saad's
militia." End note.) Jumblatt said Saad's militia would
cause significant damage to March 14, especially because
Geagea's Lebanese Forces and Suleiman Franjieh's Marada were
in line to train their own forces.
9. (C) Meanwhile, the LAF has lost its morale after the
January 27 clash with Shia protesters. Jumblatt also decried
the casualties inflicted on innocent civilians every time
celebratory -- and illegal -- gunshots are fired following a
major political speech.
10. (C) Jumblatt's last agenda item was the recent report on
Hizballah's (illegal) fiber optics network in Lebanon.
According to fellow Druze and Telecom Minister Marwan
Hamadeh, under whose auspices the report had been prepared,
the report had not yet officially been presented to PM
Siniora, because the "security apparatus" was hesitating to
make it official. Jumblatt said that LAF G-2 Intelligence
Director George Khoury and ISF General Rifi were talking
about coordinating the report with Hizballah security chief
Wafiq Safa, who reportedly warned that any action taken
against the network would be considered an "act of war."
Jumblatt provided Charge with a copy of the map indicating
the location of the network.
11. (C) Jumblatt expressed perplexity at Siniora's failure to
push on the report. (Note: LAF Commander Sleiman asked the
same question in his conversation last week with the Charge.
End Note.) Defense Minister Elias Murr reportedly was
blaming Khoury for the delay.
NEXT STEPS FOR MARCH 14
12. (C) Jumblatt complained that March 14 (in part due to
Saad's absence) did not yet have a unified position on
cabinet expansion, nor on how to respond to Speaker Berri's
call for a new National Dialogue. Pulling out a power point
presentation prepared by the March 14 Secretariat, he
confirmed, however, that the Secretariat was consulting with
March 14 leaders on the way forward. One of the
Secretariat's ideas was to hold an international conference
for Lebanon, though it was not clear how, where, or who would
host such a conference. He agreed with the Charge that March
14 needed to be proactive, especially to combat the "Lebanon
fatigue" that was spreading not only in the international
community, but also in his hometown Chouf region, where the
people he met with were fed up with the situation.
13. (C) Never one to mince words, Jumblatt called Lebanese
Armed Forces (LAF) Commander Michel Sleiman's recent
announcement that he planned to retire August 21, three
months before the end of his commission, "stupid." Jumblatt
interpreted the announcement as a warning to both the
majority and opposition to hurry up with the election. It's
as if he's asking us to beg him to stay, Jumblatt said,
adding, "He's a nice guy, but not too bright." He called the
As-Safir newspaper editor who had interviewed Sleiman "a bad
PATRIARCH FOR MINI-CABINET?
14. (C) Noting that Druze MP Wael Abu Four had met with
Patriarch Sfeir the previous day, Jumblatt commented that a
lot of people "close to the Syrians" were seeing him lately.
The Patriarch reportedly was "nervous" about pro-Syrian
Marada leader Suleiman Franjieh (who has made several
outrageous public statements against the Patriarch in recent
months) and was demanding an apology. Sfeir knows that Free
Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun was behind the attacks,
Jumblatt said, hence Bishop Matar's recent efforts to
reconcile Aoun with the Patriarch.
15. (C) On the ongoing political crisis, the Patriarch
reportedly favored a "mini" transitional cabinet (NFI).
Jumblatt had not heard, as some of other contacts have
claimed recently, that the Patriarch was beginning to accept
the idea of a simple majority election.
BERRI TO BE RECEIVED
BY FRENCH PARLIAMENT?
16. (C) Jumblatt also had heard that Speaker Berri was trying
to get an audience with the French National Assembly during
his upcoming trip to Paris. Can you imagine how bad this
would look, he asked rhetorically, if they receive the
Lebanese Speaker who has kept parliament closed for 17
months? French CDA Andre Parant told Charge Sison April 5
that, to the best of his knowledge, no invitation was
forthcoming from either the Assemblee Nationale or the French
REACHING OUT TO SHIA
17. (C) The Charge, noting that some independent Shia were
frustrated with their lack of access to March 14 leaders,
especially Saad Hariri, asked what March 14 was doing to
develop this relationship. Jumblatt said Saad had received
money from the Saudis for cultivating both Sunnis and Shia,
which he was distributing through Future MPs Okab Saqr and
Bassem Saba'. He agreed with the Charge, however, that it
was not possible to "buy" Shia support and that more effort
was needed. He encouraged the Charge to talk directly to
Saad about it or to Saudi Ambassador Khoja, and said he would
do the same. Some Shia might prefer to deal directly with
the Saudis, he explained. But they also need to have their
own independent identity, he added.
18. (C) As for his own Shia contacts, Jumblatt, noting that
he was having lunch with Ibrahim Shamsaddine later that day,
said he also dealt with the Mufti of Tyre, Sayyed Ali
al-Amin, whom he labeled "acceptable." He also cited Riad
Assad and Youssef Khalil as other good Shia interlocutors,
though he dismissed former Ambassador Khalil al-Khalil,
recalling his "special militias with the Israelis" during
Lebanon's civil war.
19. (C) Note: Shemsaddine, son of Higher Shia Council leader
Mohammad Mehdi Shemsaddine, is frequently mentioned as a
possible Shia minister in an expanded Siniora cabinet.
Ambassador al-Khalil was one of the few Shia who attended the
recent March 14 convention, as well as a March 13 dinner
hosted by the Charge for independent Shia (Refs C and B).
Al-Khalil's distant cousin Youssef, who also attended the
Charge's dinner, is a close Embassy contact who has a
reputation as an impressive and well-respected Central Bank
official. Riad Assad also is a well-known and respected
contact and a rival of Ahmad Assad, who earned a scant 700
votes compared to Riad's 55,000 in the 2005 parliamentary
elections. End note.
20. (C) Jumblatt was in reasonably good spirits during this
meeting. With the political situation still at an impasse
and Saad's extended (more than six weeks by our calendar)
stay abroad, Jumblatt's focus was clearly on intelligence
matters. His concerns about Sunni militias are
understandable, given that in the past such militias were
used against his own Druze forces.
21. (C) Though he applauded March 14's efforts to unify the
coalition, he offered little insights into his own views on
next steps. In the past he has shied away from talk of a
simple majority president based on the belief that March 14
did not have sufficient international (especially U.S.)
support to go this route. For the time being it seems he,
like many in Lebanon, are waiting for the next big event;
while we hope that March 14's efforts and those of Saad and
Siniora in Saudi Arabia -- or even Berri's current Arab trip
-- will lead to a breakthrough, we share Jumblatt's concerns
that more assassinations, reports of militia build-ups, and
illegal networks will be the reality on the ground instead.