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Cablegate: Tfle01: Un Rep Sees Critical Window Of

VZCZCXRO1565
OO RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK
DE RUEHLB #2539/01 2171523
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 051523Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4911
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 SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 002539

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/SINGH/HARDING

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/05/2016
TAGS: KPKO MOPS PREL PTER IS SY LE
SUBJECT: TFLE01: UN REP SEES CRITICAL WINDOW OF
OPPORTUNITY FOR LASTING CEASEFIRE

REF: A. BEIRUT 2491

B. BEIRUT 2509

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

SUMMARY
--------

1. (C) On August 5, A/S Welch and Ambassador Feltman met
with the UNSYG's Personal Representative for Lebanon Geir
Pedersen and UN Senior Political Affairs Officer Salman
Sheikh. Reiterating concerns expressed previously (refs a
and b), Pedersen stressed that Israeli military action would
not achieve the intended political objectives and that the
longer it took to reach a cease-fire, the greater the
prospect of a "total collapse" in Lebanon. Pedersen provided
a laundry list of "doomsday" scenarios including a Hizballah
attack on Tel Aviv, an influx of al-Qaeda-styled militants
into Lebanon, and Samir Ja'ja "going mad and declaring his
own kingdom." Furthermore, Pedersen feared the
"Palestinianization of the conflict" into a West Bank and
Gaza-type situation, with Israel unwilling to withdraw unless
Hizballah ceased its rocket attacks but with Hizballah
unwilling to cease the attacks as long as Israel remained in
the South. Turning to the time lag between a possible
cease-fire and deployment of an international force to
southern Lebanon, Pedersen saw a critical "window of
opportunity" for making the deal work during which several
pieces would need to come into place: LAF deployment to the
South, withdrawal of Hizballah forces north of the Litani,
the layering of a more robust international force on top of
UNIFIL, and an Israeli withdrawal. During this timeframe,
there would have to be guarantees from Israel to cease air
raids and from Hizballah to stop firing into Israel.

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FOR HIZBALLAH: "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED"
-------------------------------------

2. (C) Pedersen met with both PM Siniora and Hizballah the
previous day (August 4) and touched briefly on both meetings.
He described Siniora as "rather emotional," questioning why
it was that nobody was pointing fingers at Israel.
Hizballah, meanwhile, is "happy" with the current conflict.
To their minds, even if hostilities were to stop now, they
come out "looking great" in the eyes of their followers.
Pedersen believes, though, that Hizballah has an interest in
stopping the conflict soon. Hizballah told him that they
still support PM Siniora and Speaker Berri and the Lebanese
government line in demanding a complete cease-fire and IDF
withdrawal. They would support deployment of the LAF to the
South, but regarding Hizballah's own withdrawal north of the
Litani river, Hizballah believes that this would be a matter
for Lebanese Cabinet discussion.

STARK CHOICE FOR ISRAEL: CEASEFIRE OR
"TWENTY MORE YEARS IN LEBANON"
-------------------------------------

3. (C) Pedersen stressed his belief that Israel will not
succeed in destroying Hizballah on the ground nor in stopping
the rocket attacks. Thus, in his view, Israel needs to come
to a quick accommodation to allow "political factors" to deal
with the threat from Hizballah, otherwise Israel risks
another protracted conflict in Lebanon. One such political
factor would be Lebanese public opinion; Pedersen surmised
that once hostilities stop, the non-Shia Lebanese would look
back none too fondly on Hizballah's egregious July 12 killing
and kidnapping of IDF soldiers which sparked the current
hostilities. The significant sectarian counterweight of
Sunni, Christian, and Druze displeasure would serve to
pressure Hizballah into ceasing such unilateral actions and
integrating more fully into the Lebanese body politic.
Essentially, Pedersen speculated, the Lebanese would ask the
question of Hizballah: "Are you dictated to by Lebanon, or by
Iran?" Salman Sheikh added that, "the diversity of Lebanon
is a plus here. There are groups here that would not want to
go back to the status quo ante." Pedersen commented that the
deployment of the LAF and an international force to the South
would serve as an additional political deterrent to
Hizballah. Hizballah would not want the public relations
disaster of injuring or killing Lebanese soldiers in the
South.

GUARANTEES NEEDED FROM BOTH SIDES
---------------------------------

BEIRUT 00002539 002 OF 002

4. (C) As Pedersen envisioned it, there would need to be
certain guarantees in the critical timeframe between the
declaration of a ceasefire and the deployment of the LAF and
an international force to the South. Hizballah would need to
cease all attacks on Israel, and also have the firm
understanding that Israel would withdraw entirely from the
South once the LAF and elements of an international force are
in place. Pedersen asked that A/S Welch and Ambassador
Feltman stress these points later today in their meeting with
Speaker Berri (a Shiite from Tyre and leader of the Amal
party, which together with Hizballah forms the Shiite bloc in
Parliament). Though Pedersen is not certain that Berri would
want to convince Hizballah not to attack "an occupying
force," getting Berri to agree to do so would increase
pressure on Hizballah to hold its rocket fire while the
conditions are put in place for an Israeli withdrawal, and
for getting Hizballah to withdraw north of the Litani.
Pedersen suggested proposing to Berri that the Israelis will
also withdraw from the Sheba'a Farms area: "You will help
Berri with Hizballah if you have something on Sheba'a."
Pedersen acknowledged that there would be inevitable hostile
exchanges between Hizballah militants and the IDF in the
South in the interim, but that these could be contained.

5. (C) On the Israeli side of the equation, Pedersen asked
for U.S. help in getting the Israelis to guarantee the
cessation of aerial attacks against suspected Hizballah
positions and leaders. "Be clear with the Israelis: if
there are no Hizballah rocket attacks, Israel should not
conduct aerial attacks." In this context, Pedersen suggested
altering the language in operative paragraph 1 of the UN
draft resolution from "cessation of offensive military
operations" to read only "cessation of hostilities." While
allowing that Israel has the right to self-defense, Pedersen
felt that the current language left too much room for
interpretation and would allow Israel a backdoor to
continuing its aerial bombardments of Lebanon.

6. (C) Pedersen accepted that the LAF and a beefed-up
international force in the South would not be a significant
military deterrent to Hizballah if they opted in the future
to lob rockets at Israel or return south of the Litani, but
neither would sustained Israeli military action ever end the
Hizballah threat. Israel would need to be reassured that the
political and diplomatic pressure from inside and outside
Lebanon will serve to more effectively hamstring Hizballah in
the short term and ultimately allow for the disarmament of
Hizballah according to UN resolution 1559.

7. (C) A/S Welch suggested that, as an added confidence
builder for Israel, UNIFIL should ensure against the
resupplying of Hizballah by stationing observers at the nine
entry points along the Lebanese/Syrian border. Pedersen
thought this was a good idea in principle, but that it might
lead the Syrians -- whom Pedersen said are being "unhelpful"
-- to scupper the ceasefire/force deployment deal.

8. (U) A/S Welch has cleared this message.
FELTMAN

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