Cablegate: Demarche: Continued Concern Over Syrian Support
DE RUEHC #7894 0571855
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O P 260036Z FEB 10
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN IMMEDIATE 0000
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA IMMEDIATE 0000
RUEHDO/AMEMBASSY DOHA IMMEDIATE 0000
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON IMMEDIATE 0000
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS IMMEDIATE 0000
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH IMMEDIATE 0000
INFO RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 0000
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 0000
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 0000
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 0000
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUETIAA/DIRNSA FT GEORGE G MEADE MD PRIORITY
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
S E C R E T STATE 017894
EO 12958 DECL: 02/25/2020
TAGS PREL, PGOV, PTER, MASS, IS, LE, SY
SUBJECT: DEMARCHE: CONTINUED CONCERN OVER SYRIAN SUPPORT
REF: A) 2009 STATE 129636
Classified By: NEA A/S Jeffrey D. Feltman for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (U) This is an action request. Please see paragraph four.
2. (S) We previously demarched Britain, France, and Turkey on our increasing concerns over Syria’s continued provision of advanced weapons to Hizballah (Ref A). In London, Paris and Ankara the demarches were taken seriously and all governments pledged to raise their concern with Syrian officials. French diplomats noted that they routinely deliver the same message to the Syrians, but that Damascus denies involvement. This issue now needs to be reinforced with these governments and brought to the attention of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar. Under Secretary Burns visited Damascus on February 17 and stressed U.S. concerns about weapons transfers to Hizballah directly with Syrian President Bashar Asad, who bluntly stated that he knew of no new weapons systems going to Hizballah. In light of disturbing and weighty evidence to the contrary -- that Syria currently provides Hizballah with advanced ballistic missiles and other weaponry -- we want France, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar to make a renewed push to echo our concerns with Syria, given that Syria continues to ignore warnings that its transfers of advanced surface-to-surface and surface-to-air weapons to Hizballah could jeopardize prospects for an agreement with Israel or spark a conflict significantly more destructive than the 2006 Israel-Hizballah war. Syria’s actions clearly jeopardize regional stability and could risk drawing Damascus into any future war between Israel and Hizballah.
3. (S) The Syrian leadership views military support to Hizballah as integral to Syria’s security and as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with Israel over the return of the Golan Heights, as well as a possible stick to bring the Israelis back to the table. While our commitment to principled engagement with Syria -- as demonstrated by Under Secretary Burns’ recent visit -- remains strong, we must enlist additional French, British, Turkish, Saudi, Jordanian, and Qatari support to help dissuade Syria from expanding its ties to Hizballah any further, especially via the transfer of additional sophisticated weaponry.
4. (S/REL FRANCE, BRITAIN, TURKEY, SAUDI ARABIA, JORDAN, AND QATAR) Drawing on paragraphs 2 and 3 for context, we request that Embassies in Paris, London, Ankara, Riyadh, Amman, and Doha pursue the following objectives with senior French, British, Turkish, Saudi, Jordanian, and Qatari officials at the highest appropriate levels.
-- Highlight that Under Secretary Burns visited Damascus on February 17 as part of our ongoing engagement with Syria. Reiterate our commitment to sustained, principled engagement with Syria. We plan to continue our dialogue with Syria and look forward to the arrival of our new ambassador in Damascus once the confirmation process is complete.
-- Stress that in addition to discussing bilateral issues of mutual interest, Under Secretary Burns conveyed to President Asad a number of our priority concerns with Syria, specifically cross-border weapons smuggling into Lebanon destined for Hizballah.
-- Note that in response, Asad claimed that Syria could not be Israel’s policeman and that he knew of no new weapons systems being smuggled from Syria to Hizballah.
-- Underscore that, contrary to President Asad’s statements, we are aware of current Syrian efforts to supply ballistic missiles to Hizballah.
-- We also note President Asad’s recent comments -- during a February 25 joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart -- that support for Hizballah was a “moral and legal duty.”
-- Express deep concern that Syria’s expanding military ties to Hizballah, including the supply of ballistic missiles to Hizballah, jeopardize regional prospects for peace and stability. Specifically, Syrian transfers of increasingly sophisticated weaponry risk renewed conflict between Israel and Hizballah that may expand, unlike in 2006, into Syria.
-- Convey that arms shipments to Hizballah -- especially ballistic missiles -- increasingly undermine Israel’s confidence in Syria’s willingness and ability to deliver peace and diminish the value of an eventual Syrian-Israeli accord, as Hizballah will not return the weapons it has already received.
-- Underscore that the next report on Security Council resolution 1701 will be discussed on March 12. Full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701, including the arms embargo and weapons-free zone, remains a priority for the United States. In light of the upcoming report, it is especially important to stress that Syria’s actions constitute serious violations of Security Council resolution 1701 -- which will be taken seriously by the international community -- and belie its claims to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty.
-- Express our appreciation for your host government’s support on the critical issue of Syrian weapons transfers to Hizballah and note that we hope to continue our cooperation to prevent serious miscalculations by the Syrian government.
-- Share the following S/REL FRANCE, BRITAIN, TURKEY, SAUDI ARABIA, JORDAN, QATAR text verbatim:
(Begin releasable text.)
We would like to convey to you that we have information indicating that Syria is providing increasingly sophisticated weapons to Hizballah, including from its own military stocks.
For example, we assess that Syria has provided or will provided guided short range ballistic missiles to Hizballah that could target two-thirds of Israel, including Tel Aviv, from launch sites north of the Litani.
Our information also indicates that Syria has made advanced surface to air missile systems available to Hizballah and has probably provided training on these systems to Hizballah personnel.
(End releasable text.)
-- Urge France, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar to raise these concerns once again in their dialogue with senior Syrian officials. We do not want to undermine our collective outreach to Syria. However, we are increasingly concerned that the Syrian government is making a strategic miscalculation by incorrectly assuming that increasing Hizballah’s military capability concomitantly bolsters Syria’s security and strength at the negotiating table with Israel, when the opposite is more likely to be true.
-- Syria’s desire for a deterrent against Israeli military action -- presumably a motivation for the transfer of ballistic missiles to Hizballah -- is not producing a stable deterrent because there are no mechanisms to prevent unanticipated escalation. Not having control over Hizballah’s missiles increases the risk of this danger.
-- Emphasize that Syria’s actions risk derailing our common efforts to bring peace to the region.
-- Note that we are raising our concerns with Syrian officials in Damascus and with the Syrian Ambassador here in Washington.
-- Also note our continuing strong commitment and support to the full implementation of resolutions 1747 and 1701, encouraging France, Britain, and Turkey to stress their continuing support for the full implementation of resolution 1701 -- in its entirety (including the arms embargo and weapons free zone) -- with senior Syrian officials.
-- These are U.S. concerns. We are not carrying somebody else’s “water” on this issue.
-- (For Turkey) Express that we greatly appreciate Turkey’s continued efforts to combat weapons smuggling. As conveyed by Under Secretary Burns when he was in Ankara on February 18, we urge Turkey to use its close ties with Damascus to underscore the repercussions that Syria’s continued provision of weapons to Hizballah has for regional stability and the broader goal of Middle East peace. We hope that Turkey will leverage its influence with Syria on this crucial issue.
5. (SBU) Embassies are requested to report the results of this demarche to Syria desk officer Andrew Abell and Lebanon desk officer John Duchak by March 3, 2010. CLINTON