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Cablegate: Lebanon: Media Reaction - December 19, 2008

O 191254Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3807
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 001771


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 19, 2008

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

Media outlets continued to report extensively on the Russian MiG-29
donation to Lebanon. Many outlets reported on an interview that the
Defense Minister gave to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation
International TV station (LBCI) last night. El Murr said that "any
country that will deal with Lebanon (about) military assistance will
from now on have to deal with it from the level of the Russian
donation upward," i.e., the Russians have set a new standard.

The media seemed to be confused about the U.S. position on the
issue. Moderate anti-Syrian An-Nahar newspaper quoted an "American
official who is briefed about the Lebanese file," as saying that the
USG adopts "a neutral position" toward the Russian donation. Arab
nationalist As-Safir said "the U.S. administration is very
dissatisfied with, first, the Lebanese military and political course
toward Russia, and second, with Russia's sudden decision." Several
newspapers reported that Hizballah and the opposition were satisfied
with the donation.

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

"Washington Is Neutral toward the MiG Jetfighters to Lebanon and El
Murr Confirms That the Russian Donation Is Unconditional" Moderate
anti-Syrian An-Nahar

"The Mig-29 Gift Will Be Followed By Choppers to Fight Fires"
Centrist Al Anwar

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

"Political Roaring over the MiGs Precedes the Arrival of the
Jetfighters: A Russian Landing (airlift) in Lebanon which Relieves
the Opposition and Hizballah," an editorial by Imad Marmal in Arab
nationalism As-Safir:

"Reactions to the 'Russian surprise' continue to echo strongly in
Beirut, as though the roaring (sound) of the MiG-29s preceded the
arrival of the ten jetfighters... While March 14 welcomed the
donation...it was clear that there were those who intended to imply
that the Russian donation embarrassed the opposition in general and
Hizballah in particular because strengthening the LAF with developed
weapons could take away from the 'Resistance' the reasons for
continuing and the philosophy of its existence. Active leadership
circles in the opposition...note that Hizballah could be in the lead
of those who feel great relief over the Russian step, which is very
important because Hizballah believes that it fell- in its strategic
sense - into the category of strengthening the international
presence that competes with the United States in the Middle East.
As such, this step gains vital dimensions that bypass local details
to touch on new balances that are being established in the region...
Information (from) highly informed sources in Beirut confirms that
the Russian donation to the LAF is an expression of a strong
political stand that was taken at the highest political levels in
Moscow and which calls for strengthening the Russian role in the
Middle East in response to the American decision to build the
missile shield in Europe... Hizballah and the opposition both look
at the Russian donation as coinciding with a deep desire to
strengthen any international presence on the Lebanese stage other
the American... The circles...reveal that Hizballah tends to be
cautious about making a public welcoming ...so that the positive
reaction does not affect military cooperation between Lebanon and
Russia, especially since the Israelis are now watching such
cooperation closely and could exploit any official Hizballah
position to exercise pressure on Russia to close the door on arming
the LAF under the banner that Hizballah is the beneficiary..."

"Arming the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) a Settlement or a Deal? An
editorial by Ghada Halaweh in independent Al Balad:

"...As usual, politicians were divided between supporters and those
who expressed reservations... We want the LAF to be armed and
strong but we disagree over the source, even if the source this time
is in the middle even if it is an ally of the Syrians and the
Iranians. The Russian decision was a surprise without any doubt and
no one can deny that the issue might include the word 'probable'
international deal or bargain or some settlement...from which
America or Israel are not distant... But if all that was untrue
presumptions then we are facing a Russian challenge to America which
until recently was refusing the issue of equipping the LAF in order
for it not to become an extra scarecrow facing Israel. The nature
of matters supposes that there is a price for equipping the LAF...
and (it is evident in) the various messages that Russia has been
sending in more than one direction. The first message is that
Russia was not affected by the world financial crisis and that it
has other sources to make up for any possible losses. Also, it is
an opportunity for Russia at this transitional phase in America's
history, to establish a presence in Lebanon and from there to the
region in general..."

Sison

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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