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Cablegate: Lebanon: March 14 Leaders Appeal for Stronger Usg

VZCZCXRO0996
OO RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #0652/01 1322132
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 112132Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1799
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2251
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2557
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIRUT 000652

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ELA
ALSO FOR A/S SILVERBERG AND PDAS WARLICK
USUN FOR KHALILZAD/WOLFF/KUMAR/PHEE
NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/YERGER/GAVITO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/10/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER PINR ASEC UNSC EAIR SA IR LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: MARCH 14 LEADERS APPEAL FOR STRONGER USG
SUPPORT

REF: A. BEIRUT 642

B. BEIRUT 618
C. BEIRUT 648

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires a.i. Michele J. Sison for reasons 1.4
(b) and (d).

SUMMARY
--------

1. (C) On May 11, Phalange leader and former President Amine
Gemayel, Social Affairs Minister Nayla Mouawad, and
Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh impressed upon the
Charge the gravity of the situation and pressed her for
stronger U.S. support for March 14. Believing that a
Hizballah victory could be imminent, they proposed several
ideas, including extending UN Security Council resolution
1701 to Beirut International Airport, the port, and access
roads, imposing an air ban by the U.S. against Syria, and
arming their own militias with U.S. assistance. They said
they felt let down by the U.S. and the international
communities. They expressed their dismay at Lebanese Armed
Forces (LAF) Commander Michel Sleiman's contradictory public
statement and his private letter to PM Siniora, asserting
that he is a "concierge" for Hizballah. They are not
surprised to see LAF officers resigning as a result of
Sleiman's "unwillingness" to protect the Lebanese. End
summary.

TELL WASHINGTON: THE SITUATION
IS VERY GRAVE; WE NEED SUPPORT
-------------------------------

2. (C) At 1500 on May 11, the Charge, accompanied by Defense
Attach and PolOff, met with Phalange leader and former
President Amine Gemayel and his advisor Michel Mecattaf,
Social Affairs Minister Nayla Mouawad and her son Michel
Mouawad, and Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh at
Gemayel's residence in Beirut. Gemayel wanted the Charge to
communicate to Washington the gravity of the situation and to
report back that the March 14 leaders are "very worried."
Holding in his hand the statements made by Secretary Rice and
the White House on May 9, Gemayel commented that the
statements fell short of what he was expecting, and that he
was hoping for more support from Washington. He said he
needed to be sure that the U.S. is as concerned as March 14
and that the U.S. Government was aware of the gravity of the
situation. The Charge assured the March 14 leaders that
Washington is very concerned and does not want to see any
more loss of life and wants Hizballah's aggression stopped
immediately.

3. (C) "It is not a minor crisis," Gemayel warned. "We may
be at the end of an Iranian/Syrian process to take over
Lebanon." He added to the Charge, "We have to stop Syria and
Iran or else you will be presenting your credentials to
Damascus. It will be very dangerous if the March 14 alliance
has to surrender. It will be a catastrophe for Lebanon and a
bad message to the U.S.'s allies elsewhere," he stated. He
suggested the U.S. consider "tough, precise, and serious
measures" against Iran and its proxies.

4. (C) Gemayel said that any compromise is equal to a
disaster because a compromise gives Hizballah and Iran the
incentive to "take more" in Lebanon. Gemayel expressed March
14's dedication to do whatever is necessary to defeat
Hizballah. However, March 14 needs to feel they are backed
by the international community with "words and
effectiveness." Gemayel said, "We are ready to offer more
martrs like my son Pierre if that is what it takes" (Pierre
Gemayel, assassinated in November 2006, had served as
Industry and Trade Minister.)

DISAPPOINTED IN INTERNATIONAL,
ARAB SUPPORT
------------------------------

5. (C) Telecommunications Minister Hamadeh interjected, "At
the most critical moment, we see Europe and the U.S. acting
most passively." He expressed his disappointment with
European and U.S. responses. "We don't count anymore on our

BEIRUT 00000652 002 OF 003


international friends. We believe we've been dumped and
fooled." Gemayel chimed in, "The statements from the Arabs
are nonsense!"

PROPOSING "PRECISE MEASURES"
----------------------------

6. (C) Noting that March 14 leaders Saad Hariri and Walid
Jumblatt are "under siege", Social Affairs Minister Mouawad
proposed several "precise measures" to show the rest of the
country that March 14 "has not lost." She dismissed the idea
of an Arab peacekeeping force in Lebanon (Ref A), saying that
it would not work. She first recommended extending UN
Security Council resolution 1701 to Beirut International
Airport, the port, and access roads.

7. (C) Second, she suggested stronger sanctions placed
against Syria by the U.S., such as a ban on air travel.
"Syria should not be able to use its airport until we can use
ours," she remarked, noting that one of the last planes to
land at Beirut International Airport (BIA) was an Iranian
flight. (Michel Mecattaf joked, "We don't want an air ban,
we want air strikes!" Nayla Mouawad confirmed that the Rene
Mouawad airport, also known as Kleyate in the north was
operable for commercial flights, but that the air traffic
control tower was located in Beirut. She added that PM
Siniora had inquired about the airport's operability the
previous day. (Note: Defense Attach remarked that the
control tower issue could be resolved. End note.)

8. (C) Mouawad's third suggestion was to arm March 14
supporters. Gemayel said that the March 14 leaders know how
to ready their militias, but would need "quiet support" from
the U.S., stressing that they would need arms within the next
five to six days in order to defeat Hizballah.

9. (C) Mouawad suggested that a valuable short-term solution
would be a visit to Beirut by a quadripartite delegation
composed of the Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis, and Kuwaitis.
During the meeting, we received a press report that the Arab
League foreign ministers were proposing a National Dialogue
with two representatives each from the opposition and from
March 14, and an Arab FM. Gemayel called this proposal
"junk!"

SLEIMAN'S CONTRADICTING
LETTER AND PUBLIC STATEMENT
---------------------------

10. (C) Mouawad asserted that the Cabinet does not want to
retract its decisions to transfer the head of airport
security and declare Hizballah's fiber optics network illegal
(Ref B). Gemayel stated that Lebanese Armed Forces Commander
Michel Sleiman is "doing a dirty job." Gemayel explained
that immediately after Sleiman's declaration yesterday (Ref
C), Sleiman sent a letter to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora
informing the PM that he had investigated the Cabinet's
decisions and that the government should cancel its
decisions. The letter contradicts his statement, Mouawad
reasoned. (Note: The statement said that the LAF would
investigate the decisions, whereas Sleiman's letter stated
that he had already investigated the matters, and now the
Cabinet should revoke its decisions. End note.)

11. (C) Gemayel remarked that Sleiman's public declaration
was an attempt to demonstrate that Beirut is returning to
normal and that the LAF has control over Beirut. "Sleiman is
a concierge for Hizballah," he claimed. He continued, "We
are seeing the final sprint of Syria and Iran, through its
instrument, Hizballah."

12. (C) Hamadeh noted that Sleiman's public statement gave
fodder to Syria to declare at the Arab League foreign
ministers' meeting in Cairo (taking place during this
meeting) that the Cabinet initiated this crisis with its
decisions. Hamadeh confided that Siniora was unsure how to
instruct Acting Foreign Minister Tareq Mitri to respond to
Sleiman's declaration at the Arab League meeting. (Note:
The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation was reporting
escalating clashes in Aley between Druze and Hizbollah
fighters during the meeting, and a distraught Hamadeh

BEIRUT 00000652 003 OF 003


departed for Druze leader Walid Jumblatt's residence. End
note.)

INTERPRETING LAF RESIGNATIONS
-----------------------------

13. (C) The meeting was interrupted by a press report that
senior Sunni commander Brigadier General Abdulhamid Darewish
resigned from the LAF. The group concurred that, "An officer
who respects himself cannot accept what the LAF has been
doing." Michel Mouawad insisted that the LAF was not
neutral, adding that March 14 leaders had been counting on
the protection of the LAF and had consequently not prepared
their own militias.

COMMENT
-------

14. (C) Clearly distraught, the March 14 leaders were
practically begging us to do something, anything, to prevent
further erosion and possible evaporation of their political
terrain. The March 14 leaders exhibited a sense of urgency
and concern that we did not observe with others today. End
Comment.
SISON

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