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Cablegate: Tfle01: Siniora Sounds an Ominous Note On Draft

DE RUEHLB #2542/01 2181337
O 061337Z AUG 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIRUT 002542




E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/06/2015

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


1. (C) Prime Minister Siniora called UNSC member nations'
ambassadors to the Grand Serail on the morning of August 6
for a two hour "chat" during which he outlined the GOL's main
concerns with the draft UN resolution currently being
discussed in New York. During the meeting, which was also
attended by Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh and
representatives from the P5 and Japan, Greece, Argentina, and
Qatar, Siniora said that there are two issues which make the
current resolution "unworkable." First, it fails to call for
an immediate Israeli withdrawal, and second, it does not
provide a concrete plan for the disposition of the Sheba'a
Farms. Siniora pleaded with the attendees to "go the extra
mile" in order to get a resolution which will empower the
Lebanese government. He added that if the resolution is
passed in its current form, he expects the Lebanese
government will be "in trouble" and hinted at an increase in
Sunni-Shia tensions. In a cryptic remark, Siniora said that
if the resolution were to pass as is, "the Lebanese
government will be in a position where it cannot do anything
because there will be something more furious than it can
handle," and he suggested also that this resolution would put
Lebanon "back under the Syrian knife." (Comment: These frank
remarks from Siniora came after the early departure from the
meeting of FM Salloukh - a Shiite with the tacit backing of
Hizballah - to receive visiting Syrian FM Walid Moallem. End
Comment.) During a side conversation with Ambassador Feltman
and UK Ambassador Watt after the meeting, Siniora said that a
single resolution - rather than the two resolutions favored
by the French - was by far the better approach, since it
would include the Israeli withdrawal he sees as essential to
winning cabinet backing. End Summary.

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A Chat Among Friends

2. (C) Siniora began by thanking all the UNSC members,
especially the U.S. and France, for their efforts to get the
current draft resolution calling for a ceasefire. But he
then argued that the current resolution is unrealistic in
that it would freeze the situation on the ground, leaving
Israel in occupation of Lebanese territory taken in the
current conflict until the adoption of a second resolution.
The situation in the South would be untenable, with the
likelihood of hostilities re-erupting. "You're leaving the
gasoline and the fire next to each other." Siniora added
that the current draft resolution also does not go far enough
in proposing a fix for the Sheba'a Farms issue, specifically
in not calling for the handover of the area to the United
Nations for ultimate disposition.

3. (C) Noting that, "these points have been coordinated
with the Speaker of the Parliament, who is in contact with
Hizballah," Siniora laid out his plan calling for an
"immediate, comprehensive, and unconditional ceasefire along
with an immediate Israeli withdrawal." The LAF would
simultaneously deploy 15,000 soldiers to the South and would
assume all Hizballah "weapons, stores, and positions" south
of the Litani. Siniora suggested that UNIFIL donor nations
provide an additional 2,000 troops to assist in the LAF
redeployment, and that after a month these troops would
depart or be folded into a newly-mandated international
force. On the Sheba'a issue, Siniora reiterated his position
that the Israelis hand Sheba'a over to the UN, which would
then re-examine whether the territory is Syrian or Lebanese.
Towards the end of the meeting, Siniora's staff provided
attendees with a GOL-edited version of the draft resolution,
which Siniora suggested would be acceptable to all Lebanese
parties. (Note: This GOL draft has been forwarded separately
by email. End Note.)

4. (C) Siniora urged that his plan be given consideration
as a means to empower the Lebanese government and also to
bring "statehood" to the South. Reiterating that "there is
complete harmony between myself and Mr. Berri," Siniora said
that he needs a ceasefire deal that is marketable to
extremely skeptical Arab and Muslim public opinion. "Help us
to retrieve the country and put it in the hands of the
moderates, not the extremists."

BEIRUT 00002542 002 OF 003

5. (C) While Siniora did not state that the GOL would
definitely reject the current draft if passed, he hinted at
growing disagreement within the Cabinet over the terms of a
ceasefire deal, and that his government could collapse over
it. While he will not rule out taking a "creative look" at
the proposal in order to make it work, he stated clearly that
"Hizballah is not going to comply" with the resolution if
passed as is, and that this would increase Sunni-Shia
tensions while providing the pretext for continued Hizballah
militancy and Syrian meddling in Lebanon. However, if a text
is adopted by the UNSC in something close to its current
form, Siniora said he would take it to the Cabinet for a
"democratic" decision.

6. (C) Siniora invited comments from the assembled
ambassadors. In addition to Ambassador Feltman, only the
French, British, and Russian ambassadors spoke up, with all
showing support for the current draft resolution, saying it
is the best available option and already reflects many
Lebanese concerns. A rejection of this resolution would play
into the hands of hostile parties and lead Lebanon further
down the path to chaos. All four ambassadors emphasized the
need to bridge the gap and shorten the time span between the
first and second resolutions.

7. (C) In a side conversation after the other ambassadors
had departed, Siniora expressed to Ambassador Feltman and UK
Ambassador Watt his disapproval of the dual resolution
approach. "Why have two resolutions? Why not just one?"
Siniora sees the logic of a single resolution creating an
international force to deploy in southern Lebanon, thereby
satisfying an Israeli precondition allowing for a ceasefire
with a simultaneous Israeli withdrawal. In private at least,
Siniora does not seem concerned that this option would
require more time for negotiations and deployment, and would
therefore delay a ceasefire. Both ambassadors noted that
France was the main objector to a single resolution, which is
why the international community is now behind the two-phase


8. (C) Siniora's "chat" with the ambassadors -- in which he
hinted but never explicitly said that the cabinet could not
accept the current draft -- concluded just an hour before
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri's press conference. Citing
the unacceptability of blessing something that left Israeli
troops in place inside Lebanon, Berri rejected the current
draft. This is ominous. If this resolution has any chance
of success in being formally accepted by the Lebanese
cabinet, Siniora needs Shia support. Without Berri's
backing, Siniora faces difficult choices (assuming the
resolution passes in something approaching its current
wording). If he brings the resolution to the cabinet for
acceptance, the cabinet will either split, which will
increase sectarian tensions and perhaps trigger a cabinet
collapse. The cabinet might reject it altogether, to avoid
giving legitimacy to Israeli troops inside Lebanon. Yet if
Siniora chooses not to bring the resolution to the cabinet,
he gives tacit approval to the Israelis to continue to pound
Lebanon and perhaps expand their targetting to GOL
facilities. Put starkly, Siniora is being asked to choose
between the international community and his own Shia
population. It is not out of the question that Siniora might
be assassinated if he is seen as selling out the Shia south
to Israeli occupation.

9. (C) The French and British ambassadors, along with UN
rep Geir Pedersen, are working with us to try to help Siniora
find a way to accept this text. If we had more to show on
the second resolution, for example, and could compress the
time between the resolutions, that might help. (Indeed, we
are telling Siniora to push for the second resolution as
quickly as possible, to build momentum.) Maybe there are
certain assurances that could be provided to him that he
could share with the cabinet both on Israeli withdrawal and
Sheba'a, to provide some useful content. We will also see if
he can criticize the resolution in comments for public
consumption, while telling the cabinet that, for the sake of
Lebanese civilians, there is no choice but to accept it. It
will be hard enough to convince Siniora -- a Sunni worried
about problems with the Shia -- to put an official acceptance

BEIRUT 00002542 003 OF 003

stamp on Israeli troops in south Lebanon. Speaker Berri will
be an even greater problem.

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