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Cablegate: Lebanon: Media Reaction - December 17, 2008

O 171128Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3803
NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY
USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY
CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCPA PRIORITY

UNCLAS BEIRUT 001768


STATE FOR NEA/ELA - IRWIN, NEA/ELA - LAWSON, NEA/PPD, R,
INR/R/MR, INR-PARENT,
NSC - ABRAMS/RAMCHAND/YERGER/MCDERMOTT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL KMDR OPRC KPAO KISL KPAL LE
SUBJECT: Lebanon: Media Reaction - December 17, 2008

Atmospherics:
-------------

The Russian MiG-29 airplane "gift" to Lebanon eclipsed all other
events, even the shoe-throwing incident. All newspapers headlined
the "surprising" and "unexpected" Russian gift, noting that the
Lebanese Minister of Defense did not expect it. Several newspapers
highlighted the qualities of the MiG-29 airplanes, observing that
they are a quality addition to the Lebanese Army's capabilities.
They also claimed that such a gift means that the international
community has labeled Lebanon as a sovereign, independent country.
Only Arab nationalist As-Safir questioned whether Russia has given
Lebanon this gift, noting that neither the Russian authorities nor
the Russian Ambassador to Lebanon confirmed the news.

Selected Headlines
-------------------

"The Majority Confirms that The Doha Agreement is a Settlement and
Ta'if is the Agreement; Minister El-Murr and the 'Huge Surprise:'
Ten Russian MiG-29 airplanes to the Army" Moderate, anti-Syrian
An-Nahar

"Ten MiG-29 Airplanes a Russian Gift to Lebanon" pro-Hariri
Al-Mustaqbal

"Who Will Pay for MiG-29, who will Protect it and Where will they be
Used?" Arab nationalist As-Safir

Block Quotes:
-------------

"The MiG-29 Is a Positive Shock for Lebanese Public Opinion, but
Raises Western Diplomatic Questions," an editorial by Khalil Flayhan
in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (12/17):

"Minister of Defense Elias El-Murr's announcement that Russia agreed
to provide the Army with ten MiG-29 fighter airplanes was a positive
shock for the Lebanese. American, European, and Arab circles,
however, wondered over the news. Diplomatic sources in Beirut noted
that Israel is most likely to criticize this deal sharply and will
claim that it is a direct threat against its security. ...As a
result, Israel will probably increase its aerial violations of
Lebanese airspace. ...Experts in military airplanes noted that this
is the first time Lebanon will be buying Russian arms. ...They
expressed the belief that this change means that Lebanon has started
to change its strategy. ...They also noted that Syria has about 500
of these airplanes...but the newer version is the MiG 32 or 35.
...The same sources were not 'excited' about this surprise because
'no one knows how to work on these airplanes in the near future.'
They noted that the Army needs light airplanes Lebanese pilots are
trained for..."

Sison

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