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Cablegate: Lebanon: Jumblatt Wants to Be Ready for the "Next

VZCZCXRO5541
PP RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #0698/01 1362011
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 152011Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1897
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2301
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2603
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 000698

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: 05/14/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER PINR ASEC UNSC EAIR SA IR LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: JUMBLATT WANTS TO BE READY FOR THE "NEXT
ROUND"

REF: A. BEIRUT 677
B. BEIRUT 618
C. BEIRUT 690
D. BEIRUT 688

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

SUMMARY
--------

1. (C) March 14/Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader
Walid Jumblatt told us on May 15 that he wants to prepare his
Druze PSP fighters by secretly supplying them with weapons,
in order to be ready for the "next round" of fighting with
Hizballah. He originally planned to delay going to Doha by
three or four days for the Arab League-hosted round of talks
(scheduled for May 16) with Lebanon's political leaders so
that he could visit his Druze constituents in the north (19
of whom were killed in the clashes with Hizballah) and make a
quick stop to see his friends in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
However, Jumblatt later called Charge to report that he had
received the Saudis' blessing to go to Doha and planned to
depart the following day with Saad Hariri.

2. (C) Jumblatt is willing to accept a ten-ten-ten cabinet
division, with March 14 leader Saad Hariri as the Prime
Minister. The Minister of Finance is the most important
post, followed by the Minister of Interior, according to
Jumblatt, who expects that the majority will not be able to
choose both the Finance and Defense Ministers. He suggested
the U.S. could help by providing assistance to open up the
Kleyate/Rene Mouawad airport in the north, though not
immediately, and by urging Israeli leaders to refrain from
public statements of support for the GOL. End summary.

ARAB LEAGUE DELEGATION
MAKING ITS ROUNDS
----------------------

3. (C) The Charge, accompanied by Defense Attache and PolOff,
met with March 14/Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader
Walid Jumblatt and Druze Minister of Information and MP Ghazi
Aridi at Jumblatt's well-fortified Clemenceau residence at
1400 local time on May 15. Jumblatt, who was better-rested
and in stronger form than when we last saw him on May 12 (Ref
A), said he would be leaving Clemenceau for the first time in
days for a one-on-one meeting with Qatari Prime Minister and
Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim, who is heading the Arab
League's delegation to Beirut. Jumblatt noted that Jassim
had met with Hizballah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem
earlier in the day, followed by a meeting with Prime Minister
Fouad Siniora.

4. (C) Jumblatt told us that last night (May 14) he was
prepared to rescind the Cabinet's May 5 controversial
decisions to transfer the head of airport security and
declare Hizballah's fiber optics network illegal (Ref B), but
March 14/Future Movement leader Saad Hariri wanted to delay
revocation until today. Wissam Hassan, from the Internal
Security Forces' information (intelligence) bureau, passed on
a message from Wafiq Safa, Hizballah's liaison with the GOL,
that if the decisions were not revoked that night (May 14),
it would appear to Hizballah that the Cabinet changed its
mind. (Note: Ultimately, the Cabinet did rescind the
decisions as expected, Ref C. End note.)

5. (C) The statement would call for a National Dialogue to
agree on a new electoral law and on a national unity cabinet,
Jumblatt said. It also contains a sentence that all parties
agree "not to use weapons to solve internal conflicts."
(Note: We heard this sentence has been a sticking point. The
final statement reads, "All parties must promise to refrain
from returning to arms or violence to achieve political
ends." End note.)

WILL DELAY GOING
TO DOHA
----------------

6. (C) Aware that the Arab League delegation is planning to

BEIRUT 00000698 002 OF 003


host a round of talks in Doha tomorrow (May 16), Jumblatt
said that he will go, but not until Monday or Tuesday (May
19, 20) because he first needed to go see his constituency in
the Chouf, and then he wanted to see his allies in Saudi
Arabia and Egypt. He added that his interlocutors in Saudi
Arabia feel frustrated and isolated. He said in the
meantime, he would send Telecommunications Minister Marwan
Hamadeh to represent him. (Note: In a subsequent meeting,
septel, Future Movement leader Saad Hariri assured the Charge
that he would get Walid on board, literally and figuratively.
End note.)

7. (C) At 2230 Walid Jumblatt telephoned Charge to say he had
clearance to go to Doha from the Saudis. The Saudi
relationship was very important, he said. King Abdullah had
been a good friend of his father, Kamal Jumblatt. He had had
telephone conversations since he last saw the Charge at 1400
with Prince Bandar and Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Khoja
(still in Riyadh). Walid had asked to see King Abdullah of
Saudi Arabia, but Prince Bandar told him there was no need,
he had the Saudis' blessing to go to Doha; "we want you to go
to Doha." Prince Faisal told him in a separate conversation
that, "We are with you. Go ahead, go to Qatar." Walid said
he had only met the Arab League delegation head Qatari Prime
Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim (HbJ),
whereas with the Saudis his family had a longstanding
friendship. HbJ seemed friendly, Walid reported, but he had
wanted to check with the Saudis first. He planned to go the
next morning to the Chouf to tour villages affected by recent
fighting there, with large press coverage, before departing
for Doha at 1730 with Saad.

NEED TO "COOL DOWN"
HIS DRUZE FIGHTERS
-------------------

8. (C) Jumblatt was anxious to see his fellow Druze, who lost
19 fighters during the clashes against Hizballah (and 50-60
Druze were wounded). Jumblatt said, "Everyone was mutilated.
Girls, boys, and women took up knives because they had no
weapons and were fighting rockets." He reported that their
morale was good, but he has to go to "cool things down." He
told us that four to five of his men who had been kidnapped
were still held, but were expected to be released today.

PREPARING FOR ROUND TWO
-----------------------

9. (C) "Looking ahead," he said, "we have to prepare for
another round. We have to be covert about it and
well-organized." He conceded that Hizballah won "the first
round," adding that while hoping for a second round, his
Druze supporters in the Chouf were afraid. He said he did
not know yet how he will get the needed supplies, noting that
Lebanese Forces MP Tony Zahra wants to work with Saad Hariri
to see if the Saudis would be willing to supply weapons.

10. (C) Jumblatt said he does not want to provoke Hizballah,
but stated that he and his PSP fighters need time to breathe
and resupply. He suggested he needed land mines, but the
Charge and Defense Attache strongly discouraged this idea.
He said the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) needed a redeployment
strategy, and even recommended conscription because the LAF
needs to be everywhere but currently lacks the manpower.

NEW CABINET FORMULATIONS
------------------------

11. (C) Jumblatt said he will try to participate in the new
Cabinet. A 10-10-10 division, with Saad as the Prime
Minister, is acceptable, he said, as is a 13-7-10 division.
He added that the opposition had used force to try and secure
a blocking minority, so "Let's give them 11 seats and keep 16
or 17 for the majority" (meaning only one position will be
chosen by the president). (Note: In the subsequent meeting
with Saad Hariri, Saad's advisor and cousin Nader dismissed
the possibility of 10-10-10, stating, "We will not give Berri
this pleasure. End note.)

FINANCE, INTERIOR
MINISTRIES ARE KEY

BEIRUT 00000698 003 OF 003


------------------

12. (C) Noting that he had not yet heard the opposition's
demands on specific posts, Jumblatt initially said, "The
Ministry of Defense is not that important." (Note:
Yesterday, May 14, we heard Defense Minister Elias Murr plead
that the Defense Ministry is the most important post, Ref D.
End note.) As for the Ministry of Interior, Jumblatt said,
LAF Commander Sleiman can choose a candidate, adding that he
did not have any idea who Sleiman would designate. Later in
the meeting, he said that a strong individual should be
chosen as the Interior Minister.

14. (C) Jumblatt reconsidered and agreed that the Defense
Ministry is important, and said that its current minister,
Elias Murr, should remain in this post. He reported that he
had not heard who was being considered as the next LAF
Commander, though he knew Georges Khoury, the Director
General of the LAF G-2 (military intelligence) was "willing"
to serve in this role. (Comment: We are well aware of
Khoury's designs on becoming the next LAF Commander. End
comment.)

15. (C) Minister Aridi chimed in to argue that the Ministry
of Finance is very important, from the perspective of the
Prime Minister. Aridi supposed that the majority could not
choose both the Finance and Defense Ministers, and that Free
Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun would ask for the
Finance post if the majority controlled the Defense Ministry.
Aridi predicted that the next Foreign Minister would be a
weak figure from the opposition, "another Salloukh" (current
yet supposedly resigned FM).

16. (C) Jumblatt expressed his fear about a sectarian war
erupting in Beirut, arguing for the government to be presided
by a moderate Sunni -- Saad Hariri as the next prime minister
-- so that "we don't have Zarqawis (leader of Al Qaeda in
Iraq) in Beirut and Tripoli."

USG SHOULD HELP OPEN
UP NORTHERN AIRPORT
--------------------

17. (C) Jumblatt supported opening up the Kleyate/Rene
Mouawad airport in the north, suggesting that the U.S. could
assist with technical improvements for cargo and passenger
planes. He thought it was a good idea in case another
escalation occurred which closed down Beirut International
Airport (BIA). He cautioned that this idea not be pursued
immediately because he did not wish to convey the message
that the majority is "abandoning BIA."

18. (C) His final message to us was a strong plea to ensure
no Israeli leaders make any statements of support for the GOL
or the Arab League Foreign Ministers' initiative.
SISON

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