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Cablegate: Tfle01: Hizballah Experts Say Early End To

VZCZCXRO6584
PP RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK
DE RUEHLB #2428 2011647
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 201647Z JUL 06 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4716
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L BEIRUT 002428

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/SINGH/HARDING

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/20/2016
TAGS: IR IS LE MOPS PGOV PTER SY
SUBJECT: TFLE01: HIZBALLAH EXPERTS SAY EARLY END TO
FIGHTING WOULD BE A VICTORY FOR HIZBLLAH

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

SUMMARY
--------

1. (C) On July 20, econoff polled three Hizballah experts
on the party's strategy and next steps in the current
fighting with Israel. All three agreed that if the fighting
ended now, Hizballah would appear victorious. As of July 20,
much of Hizballah's military capabilities and support in the
Shia community remain intact. If the Shia community suffers
more, then Hizballah will feel more compelled to accept a
face-saving cease-fire. The experts said that if a
cease-fire cannot be reached, Hizballah would welcome a
ground war with Israel. End summary.

HIZBALLAH LOOKING
FOR A WAY OUT
-------------

2. (C) On July 20, econoff interviewed three prominent
experts on Hizballah: Dr. Timur Goksel, who was UNIFIL
spokesman for 24 years; Mohammad Salam, a journalist based in
Sidon who has covered southern Lebanon since the 1970s; and
Dr. Ahmad Moussalli, expert on Islamic extremist movements at
AUB. All three experts assessed Hizballah's strategy as
looking for a face-saving way to end the fighting.

3. (C) Goksel, who has discussed the situation with some of
the more intellectual members of Hizballah reported that
there is some dissension in the party about the abduction
operation that began the fighting. They think Hizballah's
military wing went too far and are worried about the
devastation to southern Lebanon and south Beirut (which
Goksel described as looking worse than 9/11). These moderate
Hizballah members are anxious about how to explain to their
constituents why all this suffering is necessary. According
to Goksel, Hizballah took measures to evacuate the
neighborhood where their party headquarters was located
shortly before the Israeli airstrikes came. As a result,
there were surprisingly few casualties in that usually
densely inhabited area.

4. (C) As a result of this sentiment, Goksel assesses that
Hizballah would accept a face-saving way to stop. A
face-saving initiative would probably have to come from Iran
or Syria. In contrast to the misery of their Shia
constituents, Hizballah members are elated that their
military wing is still largely intact, according to Goksel.
If the fighting ends now, Hizballah would retain much of its
military strength.

5. (C) Salam believed that Hizballah would seek a
cease-fire when its Shia constituency tells it they have had
enough punishment. According to Salam, Sunnis, Druze, and
Christians are turning on Hizballah, but that is irrelevant
because Hizballah only cares about its popularity within the
Shia commnity. Hizballah does not yet sense enough Shia
backlash yet, but when it does it will quickly seek a
face-saving way to achieve a cease-fire, according to Salam.

6. (C) Moussalli said that Israeli military campaign
against Hizballah has not proven decisive. If the fighting
ends now, Hizballah comes out the winner for having withstood
the Israeli aerial onslaught. Hizballah is losing support in
the Sunni, Druze, and Christian communities, but its support
among Shia is still very high.

IF NO END, GROUND
BATTLE WELCOMED
---------------

7. (C) If their is no face-saving way to end the fighting,
Hizballah would welcome an Israeli ground invasion, our
experts agree. This would be the decisive battle, according
to Moussalli, and one that Hizballah is confident about.
Goksel reported that Hizballah fighters are itching to fight
Israel on the ground, as that front would be a more level
playing field.

FELTMAN

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