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Cablegate: Lebanon: Saad Hariri: Low Expectations for Doha,

VZCZCXRO5628
OO RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #0704/01 1362225
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 152225Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1912
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY 1210
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2313
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2618
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIRUT 000704

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ELA
USUN FOR WOLFF/PHEE/KUMAR
NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/YERGER/GAVITO
DOD FOR OSD EDELMAN/LONG/KIMMITT/DALTON

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/15/2018
TAGS: PGOV PTER PHUM PINR KJUS MASS IR AR SY IS LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: SAAD HARIRI: LOW EXPECTATIONS FOR DOHA,
IRAN HAS TAKEN OVER LEBANON

REF: A. BEIRUT 698
B. BEIRUT 697
C. BEIRUT 688

BEIRUT 00000704 001.2 OF 003


Classified By: CDA Michele J. Sison for reasons section
1.4 (b) and (d).

SUMMARY
--------

1. (C) Future Movement leader Saad Hariri confirmed the death
of top Hizballah military leader General Abu al-Fadl in a May
15 meeting with the Charge. Political leaders were preparing
to meet in Doha on May 16 to relaunch the National Dialogue,
though both enthusiasm and expectations for the talks, viewed
as yet another opposition stalling tactic, are low. In
Saad's view, Iran already had taken over Lebanon. The events
of the past week have reopened deep wounds in Lebanon that
would be difficult to heal. Bolstering the Lebanese army was
the only way to confront Hizballah. The majority, meanwhile,
was now negotiating from a position of weakness, while
Hizballah had gained newfound strength. End summary.

DESPITE RESERVATIONS,
POLITICAL LEADERS HEAD TO DOHA
------------------------------

2. (C) Charge Sison, accompanied by A/DCM and DATT, met with
Future Movement leader Saad Hariri at his home in Qoreitem at
1830 on May 15, just as the Arab League delegation was
beginning its pressconference announcing that Lebanese
political leders would meet in Doha on May 16 to relaunch
the National Dialogue. Hariri advisors Ghattas Khoury and
Nader Hariri, Boutros Harb, and Hariri notetaker also
attended the meeting. The Charge, who had met with Walid
Jumblatt earlier in the day (Ref A), noted that the Druze
leader did not plan to attend the National Dialogue in Doha,
citing the need to visit villages in the Chouf affected by
recent fighting. Saad assured her that Walid would be
convinced to come, which Walid himself later confirmed to the
Charge by phone.

3. (C) The Charge also noted that Aoun (Ref B) had expressed
dissatisfaction with Doha "formula" of 14 top political
leaders, which Saad ascribed to Aoun's dislike of MP Michel
Murr (father of Defense Minister Elias Murr), representing
the Greek Orthodox Christians. Hariri did not react to the
Charge's comment that Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel
Aoun hoped to secure either the Ministry of Finance or
Interior for his party, other than to say, "I won't discuss
ministries." Asked about recent renewed talk of a 10-10-10
cabinet, Nader quipped, "We won't give Aoun the pleasure."
Aoun wants to stop the Dialogue by increasing his own
demands, Saad said, when what he really wants is to be
president. Some of us have doubts regarding Lebanese Armed
Forces (LAF) Commander General Michel Sleiman, Saad admitted,
shooting a look at Boutros and eliciting laughs from both men
(Note: Harb, one of March 14's two preferred candidates for
president, had himself hoped to become the consensus
candidate by reaching out to Speaker Nabih Berri. End
note.).

4. (C) Saad said Arab League delegation head Qatari Prime
Minister and Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassin did not expect
the talks to last more than three days. Harb, however, added
that the 1989 Taif negotiations -- also expected to last a
mere three days -- expanded into 24.

DEEP WOUNDS REOPENED
--------------------

5. (C) Saad did not appear optimistic that Doha would produce
a solution to the on going political crisis, repeating a grim
"we'll see" several times throughout the meeting. "The
wounds are very deep," he said, and the events of the last
week had reopened many of them to the extent that they might
not be healed easily. The army had managed to "put sense
into the people" and prevented a near-massacre of Sunnis near

BEIRUT 00000704 002.2 OF 003


Tripoli, but for how long?

6. (C) Hizballah, however, had suffered more casualties than
were being reported, Saad said, claiming they had lost 45-50
supporters, including Hizballah General Abu al-Fadl, whom
Saad described as an "Intervention Regiment Commander."
(Note: We believe al-Fadl was one of the top Hizballah
military leaders. End note.) Al-Fadl's death was the
catalyst for Hizballah's attack in the Chouf, he claimed,
prompting Walid Jumblatt's counterattack. Although the
violence had since calmed down, "there will be a next round,"
he warned, "but I am not going to become a militia."

7. (C) Hizballah had tried to remove any mention of its arms
from the agenda, but failed, he said, attributing its
acceptance of the National Dialogue to its need to "get out
of the streets," which tarnished its image in the Arab world.
Another dangerous development was the multiplication of
internet sites promoting jihadists, and Hizballah's
irresponsible decision to air pictures of mutilations on
videos and U-Tube.

IRAN HAS TAKEN OVER
-------------------

8. (C) The agreement to relaunch the National Dialogue did
not change the reality that Iran has taken over Lebanon, Saad
said. They have demonstrated that, if they don't have a
blocking minority, they will use arms to prevent the
government from taking actions. Berri himself had threatened
at 2200 the previous evening (whilst the cabinet was still in
the middle of a five-hour debate on whether to rescind its
May 5 decisions to confront Hizballah) that if the government
did not, he could not be held responsible for any actions on
the ground. As I told you six months ago, Saad said, the
Syrians and Iranians will pull a Gaza in Lebanon.

HELP LAF FIGHT HIZBALLAH "TERRORISTS"
-------------------------------------

9. (C) Saad also repeated several times that Lebanon was now
the U.S.'s problem. The Charge responded that the purpose of
Acting CENTCOM Commander LTG Dempsey's March 14 visit to
Beirut had been to show support for the LAF as a state
institution and stress to Sleiman that the $331 million in
U.S. assistance over the past two years was contingent upon
the LAF doing its job (Ref C). Saad agreed that Sleiman's
attempt to blame the Internal Security Forces (ISF) was not
credible, since the ISF was under his LAF command during
emergencies.

10. (C) Saad stressed that the LAF's performance over the
past week should not affect U.S. assistance; on the contrary,
if the LAF had been better equipped, it would have been able
to stand up better to the M-16s, Russian missiles and RPGs of
the Hizballah "terrorists." We need a Marshall Plan for the
army. Unfortunately, equipment was taking "forever and ever"
to reach Lebanon; we are still waiting for helicopters and
HumVees. The Charge responded that the U.S. would soon send
a significant shipment of ammunition, and was working on the
questions of uparmored Humvees, night vision goggles, and
body armor.

AOUN STILL A PROBLEM
--------------------

11. (C) Hariri did not react to the Charge's comment that
Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun hoped to secure
either the Ministry of Finance or Interior for his party,
other than to say, "I won't discuss ministries." Asked about
recent renewed talk of a 10-10-10 cabinet, Nader quipped, "We
won't give Aoun the pleasure." Aoun wants to stop the
Dialogue by increasing his own demands, Saad said, when what
he really wants is to be president. Some of us have doubts
regarding Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Commander General
Michel Sleiman, Saad admitted, shooting a look at Boutros and
eliciting laughs from both men (Note: Harb, one of March
14's two preferred candidates for president, had himself

BEIRUT 00000704 003.2 OF 003


hoped to become the consensus candidate by reaching out to
Speaker Nabih Berri. End note.).

DISAPPOINTMENT WITH LAF,
DISAPPOINTMENT WITH INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
--------------------------------------

12. (C) Following the Charge's meeting with Saad, A/DCM spoke
privately with Nader Hariri, who expressed dismay at the lack
of international response to Hizballah's takeover of downtown
Beirut. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waited five days
before returning the majority's telephone call, he said, and
the French were not much better. Furthermore, readouts he
had received from (unspecified) French-Egyptian discussions
also were lacking in substance in terms of what to do about
Lebanon. Asked why the government had taken what it knew
would be controversial decisions on the eve of a major labor
demonstration, making it easy for Hizballah to turn the
demonstrations into a political protest, and just when March
had been gearing up to force an election on May 13, Nader
said that Defense Minister Elias Murr had assured the cabinet
that the LAF would defend the government's decision, and that
in any case Hizballah would have found another excuse to
start trouble.

13. (C) Nader, noting that the Bristol Hotel, a mere 300
meters away (and, ironically, home of the 2004 Bristol
Gathering that denounced the extension of then President
Lahoud) had been taken over by Hizballah, said that the
Future Movement had made a difficult but conscience decision
not to distribute arms to its followers. He explained that
Rafiq Hariri did not have blood on his hands, and his son did
not want to see himself transformed into a militia leader
either. Nader did not expect the Doha talks to produce much,
dismissing them as yet another stalling technique by the
opposition until the tide turned more in its favor. The
majority, meanwhile, was now negotiating from a position of
weakness, while Hizballah had gained newfound strength.
SISON

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