TFLE01: MP BOUTROS HARB: NASRALLAH CANNOT BECOME REGION'S RAMBO



id: 73381
date: 8/1/2006 16:10
refid: 06BEIRUT2513
origin: Embassy Beirut
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination:
header:
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PP RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK
DE RUEHLB #2513/01 2131610
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 011610Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4857
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

----------------- header ends ----------------

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 002513

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/SINGH/HARDING

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/31/2016
TAGS: ASEC, IS, LE, MOPS, PREL, PTER, SY
SUBJECT: TFLE01: MP BOUTROS HARB: NASRALLAH CANNOT BECOME
REGION'S RAMBO

Classified By: Jeffrey Feltman, Ambassador. Reason: Section 1.4 (b) a
nd (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: On August 1, Ambassador and Emboff met with
MP Boutros Harb at his home in Beirut. Harb insisted that
Hizballah must be prevented from emerging from the conflict
in a position of power, as this would spell tragedy for
Lebanon and the region. Yet he warned that as Hizballah
continues to challenge Israel and gain international
sympathy, the group will appear as heroes in the region. He
rejected a strike on Syria but recommended that a strong
Israeli offensive to completely control the Hizballah
strongholds of Maroun El Ras and Bint Jbeil may provide a
chance for the U.S. to impose a cease-fire while showing
Hizballah as overpowered. He supports PM Sinora,s call for
the return of Shebaa Farms and called Parliament Speaker
Nabih Berri a political victim of Hizballah. He acknowledged
that Iran holds the key to resolving the Hizballah issue but
noted that that Syria will not be part of the solution. END
SUMMARY

HIZBALLAH CANNOT EMERGE AS HERO
--------------------------------

2. (C) MP Boutros Harb, a Maronite Christian member of the
March 14 coalition and self-declared presidential candidate,
described Israel,s offensive on Lebanon as casualty-ridden
but with no achievements. His expectation was that Israel
would rapidly succeed in the conflict with Hizballah and a
cease-fire would emerge. That has not happened and there is
concern that Hassan Nasrallah and Hizballah would emerge as
heroes from the conflict because they are breaking the
"legend of the Israeli army" and winning international
sympathy.

3. (C) Harb said he has not seen serious steps of a real
invasion from Israel. He noted that Arabs are not accustomed
to conflicts with Israel lasting more than six days. As the
conflict enters its twentieth day, Hizballah is apparently
succeeding in the face of Israel. This may give an
impression to the Arab world that Israel is vulnerable and
can be destroyed with an Arab offensive.

4. (C) He described the Arab world as a dichotomy comprising
people who accept the existence of an Israeli state and those
who will never accept its existence. The pendulum is
shifting towards the latter and may result in a "new region"
in which Israel's existence is not secure. Ambassador
described this as dangerous thinking that will not be helpful
for Lebanon. Harb quickly directed his comments to the
broader region by stating that if Israel cannot weaken
Hizballah, then how will Israel face Hamas and future
anti-Israeli regimes that will inevitably emerge.

5. (C) Harb warned that sympathy for Hizballah is gaining,
particularly in the wake of the attack on Qana, and this is
contributing to Hizballah's "hero" image. This sentiment is
fueled by the reality that Lebanese who believe that
Hizballah does not care about protecting human life cannot
express themselves, as they will be seen as opposing the
resistance to the Israeli enemy. While regretting that
Hizballah does not appear to be seriously weakend, Harb
cautioned that a cease-fire is needed to avoid Nasrallah
becoming the "Rambo of the region."

STRONGER HIZBALLAH A DISASTER
-----------------------------

6. (C) Harb, in spite of his criticism of Israel, predicted
disaster for Lebanon and the region if Hizballah emerges
stronger from this conflict. He stressed that among his
Maronite community there is no favor for Hizballah gaining
strength in Lebanon. Although Harb is "with them" in
opposing the Israeli invasion, he is equally "against them"
in their gaining strength Lebanon. He stated that a
strengthened Hizballah would impose its Islamic Sharia
ideology on Lebanon, and the Arab world, and spark an already
brewing confrontation between Shi,a and Sunni Muslims.

7. (C) Harb counseled that violence between Shi,a and Sunni
Muslims is fermenting. Internally displaced Shi,a, who may
be armed, have "occupied" Beirut in search of refuge. They
are coming with arrogance and carrying the Hizballah flags.
They are refusing the humanitarian aid of the Sunni-based
Hariri Foundation. Harb thinks that if the conflict is not
resolved quickly the Shi,a will spread throughout the
country and incidents similar to the July 31 attack on United

BEIRUT 00002513 002 OF 002

Nations House in Beirut will increase. He stressed that the
attack on the UN building was a message from Hizballah,s
supporters that, "we are at the gates of Solidere" (Beirut,s
downtown area that was rehabilitated by assassinated PM Rafik
Hariri). Non-Hizballah areas are under threat from people
who are injured and anxious to react. A stronger Hizballah
will provoke and support this violent reaction.

SUGGESTED STRATEGY
------------------

8. (C) Harb offered some suggestions. He stressed that what
is needed is an exit from the conflict that does not allow
Hizballah to emerge as victors (something even Harb admitted
was easier said than done). He acknowledged that Hizballah
cannot be defeated because it has no headquarters or
concentrated group that can be targeted. Harb hopes that
Hizballah can be wekaend militarily, although he agreed that
any military loss for Hizballah would be offset by its social
popularity. He recommended that a strong Israeli advance
that completely controls the Hizballah strongholds of Maroun
El Ras and Bint Jbeil would provide a chance for the U.S.
impose a ceasefire while showing that Hizballah has been
overpowered.

9. (C) Harb supports Prime Minister Sinora,s call for the
Shebaa farms to be returned to Lebanon. He believes that if
Shebaa farms were given over to Lebanon, the raison d,etre
of Hizballah,s arms would be greatly diminished insofar as
occupied "Lebanese" territory would be liberated.

10. (C) Harb does not see any wisdom in an Israeli invasion
of Syria. He believes that an attack on Syria would improve
Syia's blemished image in the Arab world. In addition,
Israel has revealed that it is not capable of maintaining a
large-scale offensive. It may however, be useful for Israel
to threaten an invasion of Syria without actually carrying it
out.

ENFORCING AN AGREEMENT
-----------------------

11. (C) Harb did not speak confidently when probed about the
GOL,s ability to enforce the conditions of a cease-fire
agreement. He agreed that Hizballah can no longer be allowed
to drag Lebanon into war and that Hassan Nasrallah must be
marginalized. However, he stressed that this cannot be done
before a cease-fire is reached and possibly beyond. Amidst
the death and destruction that is currently taking place in
Lebanon at the hands of Israel, the GOL is in no position to
challenge Hizballah. This is particularly true after the
attack on Qana and while Shi,a refugees, who could instigate
violence in non-Hizballah areas, are present in all parts of
the country where anti-Hizballah politicians might raise
their voices. He added that the key to an agreement with
Hizballah rests in Iranian hands. But, Harb continued, Iran
will not be part of the solution. He also stressed that
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a reluctant Hizballah ally,
will become the political victim of Hizballah.

12. (C) Nonetheless, Harb is hopeful that firm commitments
from the international community and Israel on Shebaa farms
and guarantees of no future invasions of Lebanon will help
strengthen the GOL,s position when confronting Hizballah.

COMMENT
-------

13. (C) Harb occupies the same awkward, contradictory
position as many of our Christian, Sunni, and Druse contacts:
they deplore what they see as the excesses of the Israeli
offensive, while hoping Israel succeeds in weakening
Hizballah. They long for Israel to have "smart" targetting,
yet they have no suggestions on what might really damage
Hizballah. Now fearing that Israel will fail (or that the
cost of winning will be too high for Lebanon), they are
starting to position themselves for a Lebanon they never
desired -- one in which Hizballah emerges, merely by virtue
of survival, as an even more powerful player in an exhausted
country.
FELTMAN

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