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Cablegate: Lebanon: Frank Discussion at March 14 Policy Workshop

VZCZCXRO6973
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #0510 1051230
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 141230Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1520
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS BEIRUT 000510

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT PASS TO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: FRANK DISCUSSION AT MARCH 14 POLICY WORKSHOP

REF: Beirut 392

1. (U) On April 13, the anniversary of the beginning of Lebanon's
1975-90 civil war, the pro-government March 14 coaltion kicked off
its first workshop, one month after its convention. The workshop
included two sessions: Reactions to the March 14 political document
(reftel), and the Taif Agreement and Building a Modern State. More
than 70 civil society representatives attended the workshop. In
addition, representatives from the various March 14 political
parties attended, including March 14 SYG Fares Souaid, MP Samir
Franjieh, Future MP Moustapha Allouch, Lebanese Forces member Eddy
Abi Lamah and representatives of senior March 14 leaders Mohammad
Safadi, Amine Gemayel, and Nassib Lahoud and of Mohammad Hussein
Shamseddine, an independent Shia think tank representative.

2. (U) In his opening remarks, Souaid indicated there were numerous
reactions to the March 14 political document (reftel), including
international and local ones. He noted that the document was open
for debate to enrich it. He disclosed that a committee will be
formed to develop it further within certain political circles as
well as with the Lebanese diaspora. However, he stressed that the
basic elements of the document, such as Lebanon's independence,
sovereignty, and democratic political regime, will not be altered.
Antoine Haddad, the coordinator of all of the March 14 workshops,
said this workshop continue for three months, after which a final
political document will be released.

3. (U) Independent Shia think tank representative, Shamseddine
noted that the Lebanese state surrendered to the resistance's plan
under the era of Syrian tutelage. He said that Hizballah should
have surrendered its weapons to the state following the 2000 Israeli
withdrawal from Lebanon that was carried out in accordance with
UNSCR 425. "Unfortunately, the state of resistance was built in the
non-civilian state, and the resistance, i.e. Hizballah, became a
regional resistance hence making the Shia community a regional
confession," Shamseddine said. He expressed wonder at how the
Lebanese could find a social contract among themselves under this
definition of resistance.

4. (U) Other participants were critical of the March 14 document,
notably the section addressing the "culture of death and violence."
Youssef Bazzi, a Shia from the southern village of Bint Jbeil, said
March 14 should find a rhetoric that has resonance among the Shia,
and added that the classification of the Shia community as a culture
of violence is the incorrect approach to strip Hizballah from its
supporters. Yehia Jaber, another Shia attendee, said this document
reflects a culture of racism among March 14 and blamed March 14
members for failing to protect individuals who are at odds within
their own confession. George Koussaifi, another attendee, blamed
March 14 for not developing a political discourse that could attract
independent Shia toward March 14.

5. (U) Amal Makarem, a Druze academic attending the workshop,
indicated that all leaders should take responsibility for their own
mistakes rather than blaming others. She questioned if March 14
still wants to build a state that incorporates everyone, including
the Shia community. Nabil Khalifeh, a Lebanese University History
professor, asked what was the common denominator that brought March
14 leaders together, specifically that they were staunch rivals
during the civil war.

6. (SBU) Comment: This is the first in a series of workshops March
14 plans to launch as part of its public outreach campaign.
Although comments made by attendees were critical, the atmosphere
was candid, frank, and constructive. The March 14 Secretariat will
take the comments into account and build upon them before releasing
its final political document in three months time. Rumor has it
that MP Saad Hariri allocated USD 1.5 million for the secretariat to
carry out its mission. End comment.

SISON

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