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Cablegate: Lebanon: March 14 Secretariat with S/P Gordon: Looking

VZCZCXRO1172
PP RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHKUK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #0839 1561626
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041626Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2172
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2465
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2760
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS BEIRUT 000839

SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PINR EAID UNSC LE SY IR
SUBJECT: LEBANON: MARCH 14 SECRETARIAT WITH S/P GORDON: LOOKING
AHEAD TO 2009 ELECTIONS

1. (SBU) Summary: Middle East Regional developments and the 2009
election in Lebanon were foremost in the minds of March 14
Secretariat members who hosted a dinner for Policy Planning Director
David Gordon during his June 2-3 visit to Lebanon. Discouraged
after the May events and the May 21 Doha agreement, the Secretariat
is nevertheless looking ahead for ways to win the 2009 elections,
but point to competition with Iranian-funded Hizballah and securing
the support of Christians as key challenges. End summary.

2. (SBU) On June 2, members of the March 14 Secretariat hosted a
dinner in honor of David Gordon, Director of Policy Planning. CDA
Sison, DCM, Pol/Econ Chief, Executive Assistant, Senior LES
Political Advisor, and Policy Planning officers Todd Deatherage and
Whitley Wolman also attended the dinner. Attendees from March 14
were Fares Suaid, Secretary General of the Secretariat; Qornet
Shewan MP Samir Franjieh; Lebanese Forces member Edy Abi Lamaa;
former MP and advisor to Saad Hariri Ghattas Khoury; member of
former MP Nassib Lahoud's Democratic Renewal Movement Antoine
Haddad; and member of the Phalange Party and son-in-law of former
President Amine Gemayel Michel Mecattaf.

3. (SBU) Suaid relayed that March 14 currently is analyzing the
"side effects" of the May 7 events, but added that March 14
stalwarts Walid Jumblatt and Saad Hariri are in a much better mood
after the election of President Michel Sleiman. He said that March
14 is often left in the dark about regional developments, such as
the Syrian-Israeli talks and Iran's relationship with the U.S. after
recent developments in Iraq. Souaid further noted that Hizballah
SYG Hassan Nasrallah is trying to send the message that the
resistance is the only model, vice negotiations, that can restore
Arab rights. Souaid added that March 14 should continue its
pressure on the issue of Hizballah's weapons in order to balance
Hizballah's influence; otherwise, President Sleiman will find
himself "inside the state of Hizballah" after two years.

4. (SBU) Antoine Haddad called the May 21 Doha agreement a
transitional one, stressing that March 14's struggle for an
independent and sovereign Lebanon remains the same. The election of
President Sleiman opens the door for a new way forward, Haddad said,
and March 14's objective should be to win the parliamentary
elections scheduled for 2009. He said that March 14's struggle is
not a domestic one, but rather has a regional dimension because Iran
and Syria are implicated. He said Iran, through various statements,
is saying that it won a round in Lebanon (events of May 7) and that
Iran's offensive will continue. He believed March 14 has enough
time to reshape itself, but noted that March 14 does not have a road
map to achieve its goals. He expressed concerns that the U.S.
presidential election will have adverse effects on the activities of
March 14, without elaborating.

5. (SBU) Michel Mecattaf, advisor and son-in-law to former President
Amine Gemayel, said March 14 should reinstate its regular meetings
and consolidate the alliance. He said "people believe that March 14
is on a downward slope and might shift to the March 8 camp." He
added that Doha consolidated Hizballah's grip on the Shia community
and Hariri's grip on the Sunni community. The struggle during the
2009 parliamentary elections is going to be in the Christian areas
and whoever obtains the Christian votes could shift the majority in
parliament, either toward March 14 or March 8.

6. (SBU) Mecattaf also believes that Iran will pour money into its
allies in order to ensure their success in the next parliamentary
elections. He claimed that Iran has allocated $400 million to be
spent by Gebran Bassil, Michel Aoun's son-in-law, once Bassil
receives the public works portfolio in the next cabinet. He said
this amount will be spent in the predominately Christian Metn region
in order to consolidate Aoun's popularity in that district which has
eight MPs. Mettacaf also said that Iran will raise its
contributions substantially to reach $1.4 billion to be spent in the
various regions.

7. (U) S/P Director Gordon did not have an opportunity to review
this message before departing Lebanon.

SISON

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