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Cablegate: Jumblatt Concedes Victory to Nasrallah, Worries

DE RUEHLB #2643/01 2270837
O 150837Z AUG 06 ZDS CCY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 05 BEIRUT 002643






E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/15/2026

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Classified By: Jeffrey Feltman, Ambassador, per 1.4 (b) and (d).


1. (S/NF) On 8/14, the Ambassador spent an unrelentingly
bleak evening with Walid Jumblatt, Marwan Hamadeh, Ghattas
Khoury, and (joining late) Bernard Emie. Nasrallah's
televised "victory speech" cast a pall over the discussion,
with honking horns and cheering Shia making a ruckus on the
nearby Beirut corniche. Jumblatt predicted that, whatever
the physical losses and casualties to Lebanon, it would be
impossible to reverse the appalling image of a victorious
Hizballah, with grassroots organizational abilities greater
than expected. Jumblatt sharply criticized Israeli actions,
claiming that the Israelis had succeeded only in weakening
the state and "turning Siniora into Abu Mazen," while
increasing Hizballah's appeal in Lebanon and beyond.
Admitting to having no good ideas, the Lebanese fretted about
how to overcome Hizballah's now transparent defiance about
disarmament. Hamadeh in particular worried about news
stories that Hamadeh interpreted as death threats to March 14
politicians and Ambassador Feltman. The Lebanese predicted
that a scheduled speech by Syrian President Bashar al-Asad on
8/15 would escalate internal Lebanese tensions.

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2. (S/NF) The Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah line, Jumblatt
argued, is that the March 14 politicians had intentionally
egged on Israel to strengthen themselves at the expense of
their opponents, and now the March 14 politicians must be
punished. This line of reasoning makes it difficult for the
cabinet and parliamentary majority to confront Hizballah
directly, without appearing to be colluding with Israel. If
the Christians, Druse, and Sunnis would stand together
against Hizballah's weapons, maybe Nasrallah would have
second thoughts, Jumblatt argued. Unfortunately, Michel Aoun
still provides Hizballah Christian cover, and the Sunnis,
including Saad Hariri, are too frightened of Sunni-Shia
clashes to stand firm. Terrified March 14 Christians will
soon start rebuilding links with Syria. Jumblatt vowed to
continue to speak the truth about Hizballah, but he was
deeply pessimistic about whether he would have much of an
impact or even survive. End summary.


3. (S/NF) Minister of Telecommunications Marwan Hamadeh
(Druse, allied with Jumblatt) hosted what turned out to be a
three-hour dinner and downbeat discussion on 8/14 for Walid
Jumblatt, former MP Ghattas Khoury (now an advisor to Saad
Hariri), Ambassador Feltman, and -- joining late -- French
Ambassador Bernard Emie. The evening started with the guests
watching, live, Hizballah Secretary General Hassan
Nasrallah's televised "victory speech." Almost immediately
after the speech, the nearby Beirut corniche filled with
honking horns and cheering Hizballah supporters, celebrating
-- for hours -- the victory declared by their leader. The
ebullient mood on the streets outside Hamadeh's seaview
apartment contributed to the unrelentingly bleak mood of the
March 14 figures inside, as other March 14 politicians called
Hamadeh, Jumblatt, and Khoury intermittently throughout the
evening to express fear -- and, in a few cases, a desire to
quit Lebanon altogether. While the three Lebanese agree with
the two ambassadors that it was, on one level, absurb to
claim victory in a war that cost Lebanon thousands of
casualties and billions of dollars in physical loses, they
also insisted that it will be impossible to reverse the
impression of victory over Israel.


4. (S/NF) Hamadeh, Jumblatt, and Khoury all had the same
interpretation of Nasrallah's speech: "l'etat, c'est moi,"
Jumblatt quoted Napoleon. This "coup d'etat" was symbolized
by Nasrallah's financial commitments to give each displaced
persons thousands of dollars to rebuild homes, replace
furniture, rent temporary shelter for a year, and so forth.
While Jumblatt vowed to raise his voice asking where
Nasrallah is getting such lavish sums, he did not expect that
he would have much impact on those who will see Nasrallah as
their savior, not as the one who delivered calamity to them.

BEIRUT 00002643 002.2 O 005

In terms of reconstruction, Nasrallah only mentioned the
state in passing, putting himself and Hizballah as bigger,
greater, more generous, more rapid than the state, Hamadeh
lamented. The Lebanese will remember who built their home,
who paid for rent on temporary shelter, who replaced their
lost furniture -- and while the state struggles to find funds
to rebuild roads and vital infrastructure that will take
longer to replace and not be seen as gifts by the population
gratified by Hizballah's cash subsidies. "You might as well
forget working in the south," Khoury said to Emie and
Ambassador Feltman; "Hizballah will be finished by the time
you get moving."


5. (S/NF) The Lebanese also worried that Nasrallah's speech
contained an implicit threat against the March 14
politicians, when Nasrallah made vague references to
ministers who had questioned "the resistance" in cabinet
sessions. While pleading with his guests not to let his
long-term, live-in, and worried girlfriend know, Hamadeh
distributed a text he said was from a Syrian internet site
that was more explicit in the threat. According to this
text, which cited sources close to Israeli Justice Minister
Haim Ramon, Hamadeh had gone to Ambassador Feltman with the
whereabouts of Hassan Nasrallah, to be passed to the Israelis
in order to kill Nasrallah. The enormous explosions (that
even shook the embassy compound, miles away) on 8/12 in the
southern suburbs were, according to this article, a result of
Hamadeh's messages to Ambassador Feltman. (We will send an
informal Embassy translation of this article septel.)

6. (S/NF) Jumblatt and Khoury also raised the first issue
of al-Akhbar, a revived newspaper in Beirut that appeared
that morning and is presumed (accurately, we believe) to have
Iranian funding. In an article nestled next to a glowing
profile of, and interview with, Michel Aoun, former as-Safir
editor Ibrahim Amin wrote that Hamadeh, Minister of Social
Affairs Nayla Mouawad, and Minister of Industry Pierre
Gemayel are a "Golani brigade" within the GOL that
coordinates with Ambassador Feltman how to disarm the heroic
resistance. Hamadeh interpreted these articles as "death
threats" to himself, Mouawad, and Gemayel, as well as
Ambassador Feltman.


7. (S/NF) Noting that Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is
scheduled to deliver a speech on 8/15, Jumblatt predicted
that the rhetoric would escalate, in hopes of provoking
internal conflict inside Lebanon. The theme of the
Hizballah-Syrian-Iranian arguments, he said, was that the
March 14 politicians had helped the Israelis plan the war in
order to strengthen themselves at the expense of Hizballah
and the Shia. An Israeli-American-March 14 plot had wrecked
Lebanon. The kidnapping of the two soldiers was a pretext,
seized by March 14 politicians and the Israelis to implement
a script written out long before. Now that the Israelis have
failed to disarm Hizballah, the March 14 politicians are
trying to find ways to do it themselves. All of these
arguments, Jumblatt said, constitute a threat to the March 14
politicians physically. All the Syrians have to do is kill
eight MPs, Khoury added, and the March 14 majority in the
parliament disappears. How ironic, Hamadeh noted, that the
March 14 politicians are being blamed for the Israeli
actions, when the March 14 movement is "the biggest political
loser in this whole affair."


8. (S/NF) During much of the evening, the Lebanese talked
among themselves about what to do regarding Hizballah's now
clear refusal to disarm, despite Hizballah's acceptance both
of UNSCR 1701 and Siniora's seven points. Khoury noted that
Nasrallah's speech had one advantage: Hizballah's position
was no longer ambiguous. While Nasrallah talked about the
resistance's support for the LAF and how Hizballah would
cooperate with the LAF, Nasrallah also associated calls for
disarmament with sedition. Addressing Ambassador Feltman,

BEIRUT 00002643 003.2 OF 005

the three Lebanese noted that Nasrallah in his speech
continued to use Shebaa Farms as a pretext, since (in their
view) "you blocked a solution" to Shebaa. The Ambassador and
the Lebanese rehashed the familiar arguments over Shebaa
Farms, with the Lebanese insisting (as always) that we were
inexplicably incapable of seeing how our position
strengthened Hizballah, Syria, and Iran.

9. (S/NF) Jumblatt thought that the Israelis were in "too
much of a hurry to leave," for, once the Israelis are out of
Lebanon, in his view, a major pressure point on Hizballah is
removed. In Jumblatt's view, Hizballah is not in the mood
right now to attack the IDF, even inside Lebanon, but having
the Israelis inside is an embarrassment to Hizballah. "We
can ask, 'why is Israel occupying part of Lebanon?'" Jumblatt
explained. The Israelis no longer seemed insistent on
waiting until the arrival of an expanded UNIFIL, Hamadeh
said, describing a briefing he had received from the Lebanese
general who had participated in an IDF-UNIFIL-LAF meeting in
Naqoura earlier that day. Hamadeh said that many Israelis
had already departed Lebanon and wanted to begin a more
formal handover to UNIFIL as early as 8/16, well before any
new UNIFIL troops would be ready to go. "How is it that
Israel can insist on a new multinational force, but then they
end up just leaving the same old UNIFIL to take over?" Khoury
asked. (Note: Emie did not comment, but we have heard from
UNIFIL sources that some new French troops might, in fact, be
ready as early as this week. End note.)


10. (S/NF) So the March 14 politicians face a difficult
choice, Jumblatt and Hamadeh agreed. They can proceed with
supporting LAF deployment, per the cabinet decision, but a
deployment that seems to be going more quickly than they had
thought it would. Given that Hizballah fighters have surely
melted back into the returning population and have not turned
over their heavy weaponry, that sets up the LAF as the
address for the next Israeli military strike against Lebanon
-- meaning that the LAF will be either destroyed or turned
into an antagonist on the side of Hizballah. Or the March 14
politicians could try to get the cabinet to delay LAF
deployment, which would result in losing the historic
opportunity to deploy the LAF to the Blue Line and would
allow restoration of the status quo ante, with Hizballah in
charge. The political cost of reversing a cabinet decision
that showed promise of getting Israelis out of Lebanon would
be unacceptably high, Hamadeh said, opening the March 14
crowd up to more charges of collusion with Israel.

11. (S/NF) Emie and Ambassador Feltman talked about the
deployment of the beefed-up UNIFIL being linked to some kind
of Hizballah disarmament, but Jumblatt, giving his signature
shrug, asked why that would be pressure on Hizballah, if the
Israelis have already departed anyway. "So what if the new
UNIFIL never comes? The Israelis are out. The army is in
the south." Emie and Ambassador Feltman also reminded the
Lebanese of the UN Secretary General's requirement to report
within a week on the cessation of hostilities and within a
month on the broader issues, including disarmament issue.
The 30-day report will certainly focus on the disarmament
question. Clearly not expecting an answer, Jumblatt asked
whether the Secretary General's new report will have any more
force than the previous reports on UNSCR 1559. Emie and
Ambassador Feltman prodded the Lebanese on a "moment of
truth" regarding Hizballah's arms, but Hamadeh, Jumblatt, and
Khoury thought that provoking that moment of truth now would
hand Hizballah a clear victory. "We need to wait at least
until 'the celebrations' are over," Jumblatt said.


12. (S/NF) The Lebanese also spoke in frightened awe of the
organizational abilities of Hizballah. Despite having so
much of the Hizballah physical infrastructure destroyed --
office buildings, clinics, schools, charitable institutions
all in ruins -- Hizballah was nevertheless able to mobilize
bulldozers to clear roads in the south. Pointing to the
Lebanese television coverage of the situation in the south
flickering in the background of the post-dinner discussion,
they noted that Hizballah flags were displayed everywhere, on

BEIRUT 00002643 004.2 OF 005

bulldozers, cars, pallets of humanitarian supplies, etc. The
moral victory of Hizballah is so overwhelming that "nothing
else matters," Khoury lamented. They suspected that the
movement of IDPs home was not as spontaneous as had been
initially reported. Surely, Hamadeh said, Hizballah had
encouraged people to move home, to give a sense of victory
and to provide cover to Hizballah fighters remaining.


13. (S/NF) Jumblatt then launched into sharp criticism of
Israel's actions during the month-long conflict. By shutting
down the airport and making Lebanese ministers "beggars" for
transportation to international conferences such as Rome, the
Israelis made the GOL appear impotent. Government ministers
had to focus entirely on the delivery of essentials, such as
fuel, giving them no time to shore up their political house
for the inevitable showdown with Hizballah. The Israelis
engaged in "wishful thinking" in believing that imposing
hardship on the entire Lebanese population would turn them
against Hizballah. Instead, the hatred for Israel is now
intense, and there is begrudging respect for Hizballah
"everywhere." (Note: We see this phenomenon even with
long-term Embassy FSNs. End note.)

14. (S/NF) Israel "doesn't learn," Jumblatt lamented,
saying that GOI actions had so weakened state institutions
and state authority -- never much to begin with, the two
ambassadors pointed out -- that they have "turned Siniora
into Abu Mazen." "Didn't they learn anything from
Palestine?" Nasrallah now appears to be a hero in Lebanon
and beyond. Asked by Emie and Ambassador Feltman what in his
view the Israelis should have done, Jumblatt said that the
ground offensive of the last couple of days of the conflict
had a higher chance of success than the airstrikes that
terrified all Lebanese. Jumblatt pointed to the continued
closure of the airport as another sign that Israel "still
doesn't get it." Hizballah is permitted to declare victory,
send its people down south, wave flags all over Beirut and
the south, usher the Israelis out of Lebanon on little more
than a promise to cooperate with the LAF, yet the GOL isn't
allowed to open the airport. Jumblatt acknowledged that he
wasn't entirely comfortable with security management of the
airport, but the political necessity of opening it outweighed
"minor" security concerns compared to hte security issues
associated with the Syrian-Lebanese border.


15. (S/NF) Emie and Ambassador Feltman tried to get
Jumblatt, Hamadeh, and Khoury to focus on how to convey a
reassuring message about the need to build a state and the
need for the state to have primacy, per the Taif accord,
Siniora's 7 points, the recent clerics' statement, and so on.
Most Lebanese, now frightened of civil war, would find a
message of unity and state-building reassuring, the
ambassadors predicted. Surely, through unity, Lebanese
politicians can subtly refute the messages being sent by
Nasrallah. Jumblatt agreed that, if the Sunnis, Druse, and
Christians would stand together, Nasrallah might think twice
about a confrontation. But he then lashed out at Michel Aoun
"still in bed with Nasrallah") as well as the March 14
Christians and the Sunnis led by Saad Hariri. Opportunistic
and interested in survival, the March 14 Maronites, he said,
will soon start drifting back toward Syria, convinced that
Syria is on the ascendency. And the Sunnis are just timid,
afraid of that Sunni-Shia tensions will turn violent.

16. (S/NF) The Lebanese mused about what Parliament Speaker
Berri's opinion of the Nasrallah speech might be. Berri was
probably appalled, they agreed, given Berri's hope to rebuild
his own political stature at the expense of Hizballah. But
Berri would be too frightened by Nasrallah's speech to
contemplate any kind of break with Hizballah in order to
cooperate with the March 14 alliance. Nevertheless, they all
agreed to try to guage whether Berri might be a quiet ally in
chipping away at the monolithic victory Nasrallah declared.

17. (S/NF) Before sneaking out of Hamadeh's apartment via a
service stairway, Jumblatt vowed that he would "continue to
tell the truth," even if no one joined him. But he doubted
anyone would listen. And, he added, "I don't know how much

BEIRUT 00002643 005.2 OF 005

longer I will be around," suggesting additional worries about
death threats. His last question before disappearing down
the darkened stairwell was to Ambassador Feltman: "whatever
happened to my visa waiver?" he asked.


18. (S/NF) One should not underestimate the impact of
Nasrallah's words last night on the mood of the country here:
the Shia and the pro-Syrians are now ecstatic with their
so-calld victory, and the pro-independence March 14 crowd is
despondent. The despair expressed by Jumblatt, Hamadeh, and
Khoury is shared by others we've contacted by phone. Many of
our contacts seem almost paralyzed with fear of what Syria --
and Hizballah -- will do to respond to UNSCR 1701. (Our
dinner host Marwan Hamadeh, after all, was the first victim
of Syria's response to UNSCR 1559, although he survived --
barely -- the 10/1/04 car bomb attack against him.)

19. (S/NF) Certainly, the atmosphere here suggests that
Hizballah and its allies are in the ascendency, while the GOL
and March 14 descend into that box called irrelevance
(according to some, joining Abu Mazen and others). We hope
that this is a temporary phenomenon: as the Lebanese
discover the real extent of the destruction to their country,
surely the glow of Hizballah's "victory" will fade,
especially if -- as we hope -- the March 14 crowd pulls
itself together in favor of a unified message asking about
whether the "victory" was worth the cost. We hope that the
moderate Arab states, which must have been as appalled as we
were by Nasrallah's performance, are sending messages to
Syria to knock off any nefarious plans and to Saad Hariri and
Fouad Siniora to maintain steady nerves and courage in the
weeks ahead.

20. (S/NF) But we have an immediate problem in need of a
creative solution: as Nasrallah made clear in his speech,
Hizballah does not intend to disarm, not even in the south.
IDF withdrawal, LAF deployment, and UNIFIL expansion are
proceeding despite Nasrallah's suggestion that disarmament
equals sedition. We expect that Hizballah will bide its time
for now, avoiding any incidents that might provoke strong
Israeli retaliation. So, on the surface, all might look
fine, in terms of security in the south. While the status
quo ante is not being restored in any case -- LAF deployment
to the south, for the first time in decades, is something
we've long demanded -- the dangers Hizballah's arms pose to
Israel and to the Lebanese state seem likely to remain. From
the Lebanese perspective, Shebaa Farms is an essential
element to solving this problem. But of course an Israeli
withdrawal from Shebaa (if possible at all) would only take
place after the very disarmament the Lebanese say they need
Shebaa "liberation" in order to accomplish. We will see PM
Siniora, Speaker Berri, and other political contacts in the
days to come to get a better sense of the options facing
Lebanon and facing UNSCR 1701 implementation.

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