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Cablegate: Scenesetter for Codel Mccain's January 8-9 Visit

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLB #0004/01 0050727
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 050727Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6281

UNCLAS BEIRUT 000004

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OREP PREL PGOV KDEM EAID UNSC PTER MARR LE
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR CODEL MCCAIN'S JANUARY 8-9 VISIT
TO LEBANON

1. (SBU) Summary: U.S. Embassy Beirut welcomes your January
8-9 visit as one of the first high-level delegations to
Lebanon of 2010. As Lebanon emerges from a six-month
struggle to form a new national unity government, your
meetings with President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Saad
Hariri, and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri will reinforce
the message that the U.S. is committed to supporting
Lebanon's state institutions and the new government. Our
support to the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Internal
Security Forces (with a committed total over $1 billion), as
well as our other robust assistance programs, aim to
strengthen state institutions, promote economic growth,
support education, and build civil society. Your visit to
Lebanon will show continued U.S. support for Lebanon's
sovereignty and stability, in addition to highlighting the
state's obligation to exert control over all of its
territory. Your visit will also highlight the U.S. desire to
gain a better understanding of the Lebanese perspective and
role in securing a comprehensive and lasting peace in the
region. President Sleiman and PM Hariri, in particular, will
seek assurances that the U.S. remains committed to supporting
Lebanon and that Middle East peace negotiations will take
into account their concerns about Palestinian refugees
resident in Lebanon. End Summary.

NEW UNITY GOVERNMENT BASED ON CONSENSUS
---------------------------------------

2. (SBU) The new prime minister, Saad Hariri, was able to
form a cabinet in December after nearly six months of
negotiations only after he granted the opposition key
concessions. Although the contentious cabinet negotiations
weakened March 14 and strengthened those allied with Syria
and Iran, most Lebanese leaders appear to be seeking a period
of calm after years of tumult following former Prime Minister
Rafik Hariri's assassination and the withdrawal of Syrian
forces from Lebanon. Your interlocutors will be keenly
interested in U.S. engagements in the Arab world, with an
emphasis on the U.S. relationship with Syria and our role in
restarting Middle East peace negotiations. They will likely
emphasize Lebanese opposition to settling Palestinian
refugees in Lebanon under any such deal.

KEY U.S. OBJECTIVES:
INSTITUTION-BUILDING, REGIONAL STABILITY
----------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Strengthening Lebanese state institutions has been
and continues to be the primary U.S. objective in Lebanon.
The U.S. has committed over $1 billion in security assistance
to the military and police since 2005 in order to help them
extend their control over all Lebanese territory, including
those areas dominated by Hizballah. President Obama
underscored this vision by emphasizing the importance of
controlling arms smuggling into Lebanon during President
Sleiman's recent visit to Washington. On the civilian side,
USAID manages robust programs targeting the judicial,
educational, and agricultural sectors. The embassy also
promotes civil society development and supports various
initiatives targeting institutional reform through the Middle
East Partnership Initiative and other USG programs. Your
visit is an opportunity to reaffirm U.S. support for
political and economic reform in Lebanon and our ongoing
support for the various Lebanon-related UN Security Council
Resolutions (UNSCR), such as UNSCRs 1559 and 1701, that call
for extending the state's control over all its territory.

SLEIMAN SEEKS THE MIDDLE
------------------------

4. (SBU) President Sleiman, the former army commander elected
as a consensus candidate in 2008, has committed himself to
representing all Lebanese and to striving for unity among
Lebanon's sectarian groups. Although the Christian
president's powers are limited by the constitution, Sleiman
has emphasized that his absolute priority is maintaining
stability in Lebanon by balancing internal and external
political forces. Sleiman has also sought to return Lebanon
to its place among the international community, and he was a
prime force in pushing Lebanon's candidacy for a
non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, which it will
assume this year. During his December 14-15 visit to
Washington, Sleiman publicly emphasized the need for
continued U.S. assistance to Lebanon, complained of Israeli
violations of Lebanese sovereignty, and called on the U.S. to
ensure that any peace agreement between Israel and the
Palestinians address Lebanese concerns on Palestinian
refugees.

HARIRI DONS THE PM'S MANTLE
---------------------------

5. (SBU) Prime Minister Saad Hariri, leader of Lebanon's
Sunnis and heir to his assassinated father's political and
business legacy, assumed his new role after a grueling
negotiation with his political opponents. As the head of the
primarily Sunni Future Movement, Hariri was a key leader of
the March 14 coalition and an opponent of Syrian influence in
Lebanon. After forming a unity government in December, he
visited Damascus to establish a relationship with Syria's
President Bashar al-Asad as part of a regional detente
between Syria and Hariri's primary backer, Saudi Arabia.
Hariri will seek assurances of continued U.S. support for his
country, and you will have the opportunity to urge him to
strengthen and reform Lebanese state institutions which have
been weakened by years of neglect, occupation, and internal
strife. Despite our extensive security assistance --
including the provision of high-tech items such as the Raven
UAV -- Hariri will likely outline his desire for a "Marshall
Plan" for the LAF.

BERRI AS LEGISLATIVE LEADER
---------------------------

6. (SBU) Nabih Berri, first elected speaker of parliament
under the Syrian occupation, has held the position for 18
years and exerts a strong measure of control over the
institution. He also heads the Amal Party and partners with
Hizballah to represent the Shia community in Lebanon. Since
the formation of the new government, Berri has publicly
advanced a series of reforms, including the abolition of
sectarianism in the Lebanese political system. Your meeting
with him will present an opportunity to seek his thoughts on
those reforms.

JUMBLATT BLAZES A NEW PATH
--------------------------

7. (SBU) Walid Jumblatt, leader of Lebanon's Druze community,
was a key player in the 2005 Cedar Revolution that led to the
Syrian military withdrawal from Lebanon. Although his
Progressive Socialist Party was part of the March 14 alliance
from 2005 to 2009, Jumblatt began seeking an independent path
following May 2008 clashes between March 14 Sunnis and Druze
and the Hizballah-led Shia. In August, he formally defected
from March 14 and has continued building relationships with
his former enemies in March 8, all while adopting an
increasingly anti-American tone. Jumblatt has been clear
that his primary goal is maintaining the security of his
Druze followers and repairing his relationship with Syria, so
your meeting with him will be a chance to sound out his views
on regional political dynamics.

SISON

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