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Cablegate: National Security Advisor Gen. Jones´ Visit to Lebanon

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PP RUEHBC RUEHDH RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #0066/01 0211557
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 211557Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6388
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 3759
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0612
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 0142
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 4290

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIRUT 000066
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/20/2020
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER MASS UNSC LE IS SY IR
SUBJECT: NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR GEN. JONES´ VISIT TO LEBANON

Classified By: Ambassador Michele J. Sison for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY. National Security Advisor General Jim Jones
explained to President Michel Sleiman, Parliament Speaker
Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and Lebanese Armed
Forces (LAF) Commander General Jean Kahwagi January 15 the
U.S. administration,s intention to pursue additional
sanctions against Iran at the United Nations after its
failure to respond to International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) outreach. He stressed President Obama,s commitment
to peace in the Middle East, while assuring that no
engagement would come at Lebanon´s expense. In addition, he
highlighted U.S. support for Lebanese state institutions,
particularly the LAF.

2. (C) Gen. Jones´ Lebanese interlocutors expressed support
for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, while PM Hariri
stated that Lebanon,s domestic political situation limited
its room to maneuver on Iran, particularly as Lebanon takes
its non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The
Lebanese leaders backed U.S. efforts to restart
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, noting Lebanon´s concern
about the estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees in the
country, whom they believe should be allowed to return to
Palestine. Hariri and Berri were optimistic about prospects
for the new Lebanese government. Hariri and General Kahwagi
highlighted the equipment and training needs of the LAF. All
four leaders protested the inclusion of Lebanon on the
Transportation Security Administration,s (TSA) list of
countries of concern, as well as House Resolution 2278,s
potential sanctioning of media outlets, including those
carrying Hizballah,s al-Manar. Speaker Berri also drew
attention to the continued need for assistance for demining
activities in south Lebanon. End Summary.

IRAN
----

3. (C) Gen. Jones articulated the U.S. administration,s
disappointment that Iran had rejected an offer from the IAEA
to negotiate regarding its nuclear program and underlined the
dangers of Iran, a state sponsor of terror, gaining
possession of nuclear weapons. He said the U.S. would pursue
sanctions at the United Nations and would look to Lebanon as
a new non-permanent member of the Security Council to provide
robust leadership on the issue. President Sleiman stressed
that Lebanon supported a nuclear-free Middle East and
encouraged the U.S. to find a diplomatic solution to the
issue, while General Kahwagi hoped the sanctions would be
successful, because the Lebanese "are tired of wars." PM
Hariri said he understood the dangers of a nuclear-armed
Iran, but Lebanon would need to tread carefully on the
subject, toeing the Arab League line and weighing the
domestic political balance when making decisions on Iran.
Hariri asked for U.S. appreciation of Lebanon,s
"difficulties and divisions" on the issue of
Iran in the Security Council, noting his primary concern was
internal stability.

PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
------------------------

4. (C) Jones conveyed President Obama´s determination to make
progress on Middle East peace, and he reported his meetings
in Israel and Palestine made him think a return to talks was
on the horizon. The U.S., he said, hoped for "significant
progress" before the Arab League summit in March. Speaker
Berri spoke at length on the centrality of the conflict to
regional stability and how the continuing conflict fuels
extremism across the region. Both he and PM Hariri
emphasized the need for the United States to "put all its
weight" on Israel to move toward peace and to strengthen
moderates in the Arab world. Hariri also focused on the fate
of Lebanon´s estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees whose
presence, he explained, already jeopardized the delicate
confessional balance in Lebanon and whose right of return the
Lebanese would hold steadfastly. President Sleiman was
supportive of U.S. efforts, reaffirming Lebanese support for
the Arab Peace Initiative. He said he was in contact with
Palestinian Pres
ident Mahmoud Abbas, who felt it necessary to see the
Israelis give at least a bit on the settlement issue before
restarting talks.

NATIONAL UNITY GOVERNMENT
"A POINT OF STRENGTH"
-------------------------

5. (C) PM Hariri thanked Jones for U.S. support for Lebanon´s
sovereignty and independence. He opined that despite many
commentators´ statements that the Cedar Revolution was "not
as it used to be," the revolution had accomplished a great
deal, such as getting the Syrians out of Lebanon, setting up
the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to try those accused of
political assassinations, and culminating in the March 14
victory in the June 2009 parliamentary elections. The new
national unity government was not a sign of weakness, he
asserted, but a point of strength, and he stressed the need
to ensure that political differences did not get in the way
of reform. "We think this government can accomplish things,"
Hariri emphasized. Speaker Berri was equally optimistic,
saying he supported the new prime minister and hoped to get
legislation moving in the parliament, as well, "to make up
for lost time."

BUILDING THE LAF TO PROTECT LEBANON
-----------------------------------

6. (C) In response to Gen. Jones´ remarks on Iran, PM Hariri
stressed that the LAF should be the premier force in Lebanon
in order to counter external influences. He noted the LAF´s
needs for training, equipment and more advanced weaponry,
which he said Lebanon would get from other sources if it
could not get them from the U.S. "We can´t enforce (UNSCR)
1701 without a strong LAF and ISF (Internal Security
Forces)," he asserted. President Sleiman expressed his
gratitude for U.S. assistance to the LAF and noted that
Defense Minister Elias Murr would travel to Washington in
February for meetings of the Joint Military Commission (JMC).
General Kahwagi, who was also preparing for the JMC,
outlined the LAF´s three main missions: border protection,
both against attacks on the Israeli border and smuggling from
Syria; counterterrorism; and internal security, in
conjunction with the ISF. He focused on the LAF´s need for
close air support in addition to training and ammunition.
Kahwagi said he hoped to be able to collaborate with the ISF
when moving into difficult areas, as the LAF had in
confronting criminal elements in the Bekaa Valley, but he
emphasized that he wanted the ISF to be able to carry out its
mission fully, so the LAF could concentrate on its own
military responsibilities.

TSA LIST AND H.R. 2278
----------------------

7. (C) All four Lebanese leaders brought up the inclusion of
Lebanon on the list of countries of interest requiring
enhanced TSA screening for travel to the U.S. The Lebanese
complained that Lebanon had tracked and arrested numerous
al-Qaeda terrorists and had cooperated in sharing information
on terrorist activity. President Sleiman and PM Hariri both
worried that the inclusion could cause a backlash among
Lebanese, who wonder how counterterrorism cooperation with
the U.S. benefits them. General Kahwagi said that Lebanon
had prevented numerous attacks through its counterterrorism
efforts, and wondered, "Why Lebanon?" when he saw the list of
nations included on the list. General Jones noted that the
new measures were a quick reaction to the Christmas Day bomb
attempt. He said he had spoken to Secretary of Homeland
Security Janet Napolitano before his trip to confirm that the
list was not definitive, and he underscored that the U.S.
would work with countries on the list to allow them to be
removed.

8. (C) The Lebanese also objected to the U.S. House of
Representatives resolution sanctioning stations and satellite
companies distributing content that incites violence against
Americans, including Hizballah´s al-Manar TV station and
al-Nour radio station. President Sleiman and PM Hariri
stressed that they adhere strongly to Lebanon´s free press,
despite disagreements they may have regarding content.
Sleiman said that Hizballah "is not for terrorism," despite
its disagreement with U.S. policy. Hariri clung to his
argument that freedom of the press is sacrosanct in Lebanon,
one of the few Arab countries with such freedoms. Jones
noted that the U.S. administration does not have a position
on the bill, which is a Congressional initiative, but he
added that Hizballah is a designated terrorist organization
in the United States.

LAND MINES STILL A LETHAL THREAT IN THE SOUTH
---------------------------------------------

9. (C) Speaker Berri showed General Jones a presentation from
the Mines Advisory Group showing the work remaining to be
done on demining in south Lebanon following the 2006
Hizballah-Israel war. He stressed that mines remained in
agricultural areas in the south and that many people were
still being injured or killed, with children mistaking the
mines for dolls. Speaker Berri expressed appreciation for
U.S. assistance to remove the mines, and he asked for more
support to prevent further injuries.

10. (U) General Jones has cleared this cable.
SISON

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