Search

 

Cablegate: Tfle01: Aoun's Advisors Propose Different Paths

VZCZCXRO2418
OO RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK
DE RUEHLB #2417/01 1991833
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 181833Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4694
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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 02 BEIRUT 002417

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/SINGH/HARDING

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/18/2016
TAGS: IS LE MOPS PGOV PREL PTER SY
SUBJECT: TFLE01: AOUN'S ADVISORS PROPOSE DIFFERENT PATHS

Classified By: Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman. Reason: Section 1.4 (b).

SUMMARY
-------

1. (C) While Michel Aoun's close advisor Gebran Bassil
continues to defend Hizballah's actions (but with less energy
than before), Aoun's other influential advisors MP Farid
el-Khazen and MP Ibrahim Kanaan unambiguously stated to
poloff that Hizballah deliberately started the current cycle
of violence and will be held accountable by the people of
Lebanon. While Kanaan was more moderate in his condemnation
of Hizballah, el-Khazen pulled no punches. He said any
cease-fire would be worthless unless it was accompanied by a
commitment to disarm Hizballah of its heavy weapons and
rockets, extend LAF authority to the Blue Line, exchange both
Israeli and Lebanese prisoners, and return "the Lebanese
territory of Shebaa." Unexpectedly, el-Khazen said the
cease-fire should not be declared until Hizballah is weakened
to the point where "it can turn to its Iranian masters and
declare it had done all it could do." El-Khazen urged the US
to restrain Israel from attacking Lebanon's LAF, Sunni,
Christian and even Shia communities -- and to focus on
Hizballah's military wing. While Bassil said that FPM leader
Michel Aoun is most concerned with Israeli "aggression", both
Kanaan and el-Khazen said the Aoun is looking for a way to be
part of the solution, hopefully as part of a national unity
government. End summary.

GEBRAN BASSIL -- STILL DEFENDING
FPM'S RELATIONSHIP WITH HIZBALLAH
---------------------------------

2. (C) Gebran Bassil, senior advisor (and son-in-law) to
Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader Michel Aoun, met with
poloff on July 17 to discuss a statement being released that
afternoon by FPM leadership. Despite some points which would
have been difficult to extract from FPM only a week ago --
most notably "support of the Government of Lebanon...and the
right of the Government to extend its authority over all its
territory" -- other provisions displayed a myopic view of the
hostilities.

3. (C) When asked whether FPM would sever its past working
relationship with Hizballah, Bassil bristled and commenced a
strong defense of the joint communique of February 6, which
in Aoun's view at the time, limited the ability of Hizballah
to initiate independent action in Lebanon. Even with the
obvious irony that the current crisis was started by
Hizballah crossing the Blue Line on July 12, Bassil argued
that if only the Siniora Government had followed the lead of
Aoun last February, the current situation might never have
developed. Bassil indicated that his thinking reflected
General Aoun's.

MP IBRAHIM KANAAN -- VOICE OF REASON
------------------------------------

4. (C) In a meeting on July 18, MP Ibrahim Kanaan, who said
he had drafted the FPM statement of the previous day, sought
to put the best possible spin on it. He said the
inflammatory language ("Israel is destroying a
country...burned land...destruction of vital areas") was a
political necessity, but urged Washington to concentrate on
the "breakthrough" language calling for the "government's
sovereignty over all Lebanese territory."

5. (C) Kanaan also emphasized the statement's call for the
parties to implement "all" UNSC resolutions. When questioned
why the statement didn't specifically mention UNSCR 1559,
Kanaan said such a citation would have severely undercut
popular support for the initiative at a time of extreme
tension.

A PLACE AT THE TABLE
--------------------

6. (C) Kanaan, who professed to have sufficient influence
with Michel Aoun to persuade him to steer a new course, said
the political strategy with the best chance of success would
be for Aoun, the dominant leader in Lebanon's Christian
community, and the Siniora Government to work together --
both in reaching a cease-fire acceptable to all parties, and
in the post-conflict political phase.

7. (C) Kanaan alluded to the influence of Gebran Bassil
when he said that Michel Aoun listens to certain advisors

BEIRUT 00002417 002 OF 002

more than others, but contended the General keeps an open
mind to the views of all the factions in FPM and understands
a radical change of direction is needed. Kanaan said he
stands by ready to assist in facilitating this change.

MP FARID EL-KHAZEN
------------------

8. (C) Late on the afternoon of July 18, MP Farid el-Khazen
lost no time in excoriating the "irresponsible and
duplicitous" nature of Hizballah's current course of action.
He said he had recommended a complete severance of FPM's
relationship with Hizballah. Like Kanaan, he recommended the
formation of a national unity government -- as soon as
possible -- to deal with the critical post-conflict phase.
He argued that unless the pro-reform forces (of which he
considers FPM to be a member) speak with one voice and demand
immediate and radical changes, the country's leadership, with
its propensity for delay and indecisiveness, will lose yet
another opportunity.

9. (C) El-Khazen argued that any cease-fire between Israel
and Hizballah had to be accompanied by a "roadmap" or it
would be worthless -- and inevitably lead to instability and
the eventual resumption of hostilities. He described four
elements as essential:
-- immediate exchange of Israeli and Lebanese prisoners
-- immediate deployment of the LAF to the Blue Line
-- immediate disarmament of Hizballah's heavy weaponry
(particularly rockets)
-- the "return" of Shebaa Farms to Lebanon

10. (C) He maintained that unless Shebaa Farms is returned
and the "two or three" Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails
are handed over, Hizballah would always be able to play the
resistance card. El-Khazen said that without this card,
Hizballah's leadership would be compelled to become a normal
political organization -- or openly declare its identity as a
Syrian/Iranian proxy.

11. (C) The most unexpected comment from this respected
parliamentarian was his view that Hizballah's military
capability must be "reduced" to a level where it could
declare to its Iranian paymasters that it had done all it
could do and must now accept the roadmap's provisions.

12. (C) MP El-Khazen, like his colleague Ibrahim Kanaan,
believed that Michel Aoun was ready to work with his
political adversary of the past year, MP Fouad Siniora.
El-Khazen noted that Aoun and Siniora never had the "personal
animosity" that characterized so many political relationships
in Lebanon. "They now speak every day," he remarked,
"nothing of real substance, of course, but the foundation is
there."

COMMENT
-------

13. (C) While some who were once infatuated with Hassan
Nasrallah now exhibit behavior similar to that of jilted
lovers, Gebran Bassil is in denial. Bassil's logic -- that
Siniora is to blame for the current conflict because he
didn't embrace the February 6 Aoun-Nasrallah understandings
-- is perverse. Even if Aoun's closest advisor (and
son-in-law) doesn't see that Hizballah alone provoked this
calamity, some of Aoun's other, more temperate advisors do,
as reflected in Kanaan and El-Khazen's comments. We suspect
that many of Aoun's supporters also realize that the General
was hoodwinked. Thus, we estimate that one of the losers in
this current conflict is certainly Aoun. It will be
interesting to see if his stupendous February 6
miscalculation causes him to evaporate as a political force
in Lebanon, or whether he tries to recharger his political
steam by building an alliance with Saad Hariri, Fouad
Siniora, and the rest of the March 14 crowd he has disdained
for so long. (The March 14 Christians, of course, are not so
eager to open the door.) For our part, we are maintaining
contact with his closest advisors, but letting the General
alone. Virtually no one is visiting him these days, and that
should give him plenty of time to think about the decisions
he has made and needs to make. End comment.
FELTMAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

OECD: COVID-19 Crisis Puts Migration And Progress On Integration At Risk, Says

Watch the live webcast of the press conference Migration flows have increased over the past decade and some progress has been made to improve the integration of immigrants in the host countries. But some of these gains may be erased by the COVID-19 pandemic ... More>>


Pacific Media Watch: How Pacific Environmental Defenders Are Coping With The Covid Pandemic

SPECIAL REPORT: By Sri Krishnamurthi of Pacific Media Watch Pacific Climate Warriors - creative action to trigger better responses to climate crisis. Image: ... More>>

Reporters Without Borders: Julian Assange’s Extradition Hearing Marred By Barriers To Open Justice

After monitoring four weeks of evidence in the US extradition proceedings against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates concern regarding the targeting of Assange for his contributions to journalism, and calls ... More>>

OHCHR: Stranded Migrants Need Safe And Dignified Return – UN Migrant Workers Committee

The UN Committee on Migrant Workers has today called on governments to take immediate action to address the inhumane conditions of migrant workers who are stranded in detention camps and ensure they can have an orderly, safe and dignified return to ... More>>