LEBANON: SAAD HARIRI WANTS LAHOUD OUT



id: 74627
date: 8/12/2006 13:38
refid: 06BEIRUT2602
origin: Embassy Beirut
classification: CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
destination:
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 002602

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/SINGH/HARDING

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/12/2026
TAGS: MOPS, PREL, PTER, LE, SY, IS
SUBJECT: LEBANON: SAAD HARIRI WANTS LAHOUD OUT

Classified By: Jeffrey D. Feltman, Ambassador. Reason: 1.4(d).

SUMMARY
--------

1. (C/NF) In a meeting with Ambassador Feltman and poloff
(notetaker) on August 12 at his Qoreitem mansion, Future
Movement leader Saad Hariri spoke about his key objectives in
the aftermath of a ceasefire between Israel and Hizballah.
Convinced at the time of the meeting that the Lebanese
Cabinet will unanimously accept UNSCR 1701 during its session
at 1700 local time on August 12, Hariri warned that the
international community must continue to keep Syria and Iran
off balance. In conjunction with this, he intends to push
anew for the ouster of President Emile Lahoud and senior
Lebanese army officials, including LAF chief Michel Sleiman.
He predicts that Hizballah will be militarily and politically
weakened by this conflict, and that Nabih Berri will
capitalize on this in reasserting his Amal party as the
preeminent Shi'ite grouping in Lebanon. The reconstruction
effort will be a key factor in deciding whether the central
government, with international backing, will be able to
strengthen its influence in the South or whether the vacuum
will be filled once again by Iranian money channelled through
Hizballah, not the government. Asked about putting a
mechanism in place to control arms smuggling, Saad appeared
uninformed and unconcerned by the specifics and suggested
that everything comes down to keeping the Syrians and
Iranians otherwise occupied. End Summary.

EXPECTS RESOLUTION WILL BE APPROVED
-----------------------------------

2. (C) When asked whether the Cabinet will approve UNSCR
1701 during this afternoon's session, Saad said confidently
that, "it will go through." During a side conversation with
Minister of Information Ghazi Aridi before the Hariri
meeting, Aridi told the Ambassador that there will be "no
problem" in gaining unanimous Cabinet approval of the
resolution, adding that Nabih Berri has played a particularly
important role in gaining Hizballah acquiescence. (Note.
This was before Iranian FM Mottaki's speech in Yemen calling
the resolution unacceptable. Also, the ongoing Israeli
military actions -- that intensified today rather than
lessened, as most Lebanese expected -- have provoked some
Lebanese into calling the resolution clearly one-sided. End
Note.)

POST CEASEFIRE
--------------

3. (C) Looking ahead to the period following the hoped-for
LAF/UNIFIL-plus deployment and Israeli/Hizballah withdrawal,
Hariri hopes to weaken Syrian and Iranian influence in
Lebanon while strenghtening the central government as much as
possible. He believes that Hizballah, though it will claim
victory, has in fact "been hurt big time" and will emerge
from this conflict significantly weaker both militarily and
politically. According to Hariri, "Nabih Berri is furious
with Hizballah." While Berri will maintain a united Shi'a
front for some months following the conflict, Berri will put
pressure on Hizballah to keep in line and, ultimately,
"Berri's dream is to finish off Hizballah" and reclaim Amal's
primacy among the Shi'a. Hariri said that Berri had
compelled Hizballah to accept the LAF deployment plan, and
that this spells "the beginning of the end" for HIzballah.
"If we play our cards right," Hariri added.

4. (C/NF) Hariri stressed that Berri should be strengthened
by ensuring a successful LAF deployment to the South and by
channelling international assistance for reconstruction
through mechanisms in which Berri has a role. Mentioning
specifically Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab
Emirates, Hariri asked that the USG help "entice people" to
donate funds and military equipment to the government. He
said he had spoken to Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohamed Bin
Zayed, who is "willing to come in big time." He also
suggested setting up a Lebanon donors' conference along the
lines of last year's "Beirut One" conference. Hariri added
that if Iran wishes to contribute, it can do so through the
central government and not simply through Hizballah as it has

BEIRUT 00002602 002 OF 002

done in the past. (Note. Ghazi Aridi, with whom the
Ambassador spoke briefly while at Hariri's house, also
mentioned establishing an "Arab and International Fund for
Lebanon," managed by the GOL and specifically Berri, to which
countries could donate. "Iran couldn't refuse to put money
in this fund." End note.) The Ambassador raised with Hariri
the concern that the Berri family, and Berri's wife Randa in
particular, should not be able to benefit financially, as
they have with previous development funding for the south.

5. (C) On support for the LAF deployment, Hariri said that
the French are preparing to take the lead and will send a
contingent for UNIFIL-plus and have reached out to the Turks,
Malaysians, and Spanish. Cryptically, Hariri added that "we
need the Russians too." When queried as to why a Russian
contingent to UNIFIL-plus is so critical, Hariri waved the
matter off.

6. (C/NF) Asking that his comments be kept close-hold,
Hariri whispered that, "We need to remove Lahoud, (LAF
commander Michel) Sleiman, and (Head of the G2 army
intelligence) George Khoury. They are in bed with Syria.
They are in bed with Hizballah." While Hariri hopes to
eventually recruit Nabih Berri's critical support to achieve
this, he asked that international pressure on Iran and Syria
continue unabated. "We need to keep Iran and Syria busy with
themselves." On Iran, he urged that we secure a tough new
Security Council resolution on the nuclear program in early
September. On Syria, he pressed for the quick establishment
of an international tribunal to try those suspected in his
father's assassination. He said that if the Security Council
were to pass the resolution on the tribunal now, the Cabinet
would be able to accept it and forward it for parliamentary
approval. Hariri wants to "have a sword on Iran's neck and
on Syria's neck" in order to weaken their Lebanese proxies.

COMMENT
-------

7. (C/NF) While focusing on the long term, Hariri brushed
off some key concerns. Asked about controlling arms
smuggling, he professed surprise that Beirut International
Airport might still be used for such a nefarious purpose and
thought that Hizballah no longer controlled the airport.
Regarding his plan for a Berri-led development effort, Hariri
minimized concerns about the Speaker's history of siphoning
off funds from his post-civil war Council for the South,
saying that it had only been "10 to 15 per cent" and that,
despite this, Berri "succeeded" in building up the South.

8. (C/NF) Hariri desperately wants to be rid of Lahoud and
Sleiman in particular, and is relying on international
pressure on their patrons Syria and Iran. However, Hariri
said he has no idea of who should replace Lahoud and Sleiman.
Acknowledging that the Sunna and Shi'a can not simply choose
the replacements without consulting the Maronites, from whose
ranks the President and LAF chief should come, Hariri
suggested that "our Maronite friends" do not yet have their
house sufficiently in order to agree on successors to the
posts.

9. (C/NF) On a positive note, Hariri praised with seeming
sincerity the performance of PM Fouad Siniora during this
crisis. "If I had picked Bahije (Tabbarah, former Minister
of Justice) a year ago," he said, his voice trailing off as
he shook his head. We think that this was a tacit
acknowledgement, Saad-style, that the strong advice we and
the French gave him to pick Siniora over his initial choice
of Tabbarah was the right one. But what was encouraging in
Saad's praise for Siniora was the suggestion that the two of
them will now be able to cooperate without the internal
rivalries and jealousies that had plagued their relationship
earlier this year. In general, we think Siniora has done a
better job when he hasn't had to worry about the less
experienced but politicaly more powerful Saad second-guessing
him. But we also believe that it's good Saad is home: the
image of Saad Hariri staying at the Plaza Athenee in Paris
and globe-trotting with an sizable entourage, while hundreds
of thousands of Lebanese felt forced to leave their homes,
was not good for the future of the March 14 movement.
FELTMAN

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