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Cablegate: Lebanon: General Rifi Says Isf Is Doing Its Job

VZCZCXRO3316
OO RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #0680/01 1341814
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 131814Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1848
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2277
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2581
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 000680

SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/12/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER PINR ASEC UNSC EAIR SA IR LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: GENERAL RIFI SAYS ISF IS DOING ITS JOB

REF: A. BEIRUT 641
B. BEIRUT 669

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

SUMMARY
--------

1. (C) Director General of Internal Security Forces (ISF)
General Ashraf Rifi reported on the tensions throughout
Lebanon, expressing concern for the fighting in his hometown
of Tripoli. He confirmed that the ISF is doing a good job
fulfilling its duty of community policing and maintaining law
and order. He characterized the relationship between the ISF
and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) as "O.K.," commenting on
the failure of the LAF to prevent Hizballah from taking over
Beirut. Although Beirut International Airport is open for
private planes, he cautioned against its use by the
Americans. He said the Rene Mouawad/Kleyate airport in the
north could be operable for commercial airlines, but that big
planes would need to cross Syrian airspace when landing. He
added that while the Beirut Port is closed for administrative
reasons, the port in Tripoli can service large ships.

2. (C) Rifi said no ISF officers were resigning and
attributed LAF resignations as symbolic, noting that those
officers are still reporting to duty. In appreciation for
receiving U.S. assistance, Rifi showed the Charge the ISF's
latest magazine which features the ISF graduating class
marching in front of the Charge -- an image that angered
Hizballah. He also noted that six of the twelve U.S.-funded
refurbished armored personnel carriers were deployed in
Beirut, including in front of the Ministry of Interior. End
summary.

FRUITS OF U.S. ASSISTANCE
-------------------------

3. (C) The Charge, accompanied by A/RSO and PolOff, met with
Director General of Internal Security Forces (ISF) General
Rifi at the ISF headquarters on May 12. He showed the Charge
the current edition of the ISF's magazine, which featured on
its cover the graduates of a $60 million INL-funded police
cadet training program marching in front of the Charge. This
picture of ISF officers honoring the Charge received much
criticism from Hizballah. Rifi proudly told the Charge that
he was not hesitating to distribute copies of the magazine.

4. (C) The Charge remarked to Rifi that we had passed by
armored personnel carriers (APCs) in front of the Central
Bank and the Ministry of Interior. Rifi reported that six of
the twelve refurbished APCs funded by the U.S. (INL) are now
deployed.

FIGHTING IN TRIPOLI
-------------------

5. (C) Rifi, who is from Tripoli and has his family there,
expressed his concern about the fighting. He said the
fighting was between the Alawi residents in Jabal Mohsin and
the Sunni/Future Movement area of Bab al-Tabbaneh. He noted
that the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) had been deployed in
northern Tripoli, but that tensions remain.

AND "ORDER" IN BEIRUT;
CONCERNED SUNNI U.S.
CITIZENS
---------------------

6. (C) Noting that the ISF, charged with maintaining law and
order, does not have much involvement with controlling
Beirut, he assessed that West Beirut is in a "tough"
situation now. He alluded to poor Sunni residents in Tariq
Jdeideh, and noted to the Charge that the Sunni
Lebanese-Americans living in Shia areas appear the most
concerned about their safety. Rifi dismissed reports of
violence in the Hamra area earlier in the morning, saying it
was an isolated incident.

7. (C) Rifi said the ISF is conducting regular community

BEIRUT 00000680 002 OF 002


policing in the Chouf and Aley districts, where there have
been clashes between the Druze and Hizballah. He said the
situation today requires a military mission, not a policing
mission.

AIRPORT AND PORT
OPERABILITY
----------------

8. (C) The road to the Beirut International Airport (BIA)
remains closed, Rifi reported, though private planes have
been landing and using local roads. He cautioned against the
Americans using BIA, even in emergency cases. The Rene
Mouawad/Kleyate airport in the north can be used, he
suggested, but it would require the bigger planes to fly over
Syrian airspace when landing. Nevertheless, he said, the
airport and runways are in good condition. The Port is
closes, Rifi reported, but only because the workers cannot
get to work. He said that the Tripoli port is operational
and capable of servicing large ships.

LAF - ISF RELATIONS
-------------------

9. (C) Rifi told the Charge that the working relationship
between the ISF and LAF is "O.K." He clarified, "It is not
acceptable that the LAF had let Hizballah control Beirut."
He believes that the tendered resignations by Sunni LAF
officers (Ref A) are a symbolic message to LAF Commander
General Sleiman, telling him that the LAF has to protect the
Lebanese citizens. Rifi does not believe they intend to
actually resign, noting that they are still reporting to
work. He added that there have been no ISF resignations.

THE WAY FORWARD
---------------

10. (C) Now, we are just hoping for a political consensus,
Rifi said. If not, he continued, the situation will become
worse. He added that every political faction has been
preparing for civil war by arming itself, citing the Sunnis
in the north as an example: "They are preparing and they are
not afraid of Hizballah." If Hizballah enters Christian
areas, Rifi predicted, it will embarrass Free Patriotic
Movement leader Michel Aoun. It would be a delicate
situation, Rifi continued, saying that he could not guess how
Aoun would react.

11. (C) He believed some Christians have been asking Lebanese
Forces leader Samir Geagea to supply them. (Note: We saw
Rifi later in the afternoon at his close friend Saad Hariri's
residence, and Geagea reported to us that he had also met
with Rifi on May 12 to request Rifi's assistance in buying
ammunition from other countries, Ref B. End note.)

12. (C) Rifi expressed his concern that the Palestinian
refugees could enter the conflict to join their fellow
Sunnis, nothing that Mrs. Bahia Hariri (former PM Rafiq
Hariri's sister) has been providing social services to the
refugees from Ein el Hilwah camp.
SISON

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