CHRISTIAN POLITICAL LEADERS SAY SHEBA'A IS KEY



id: 73864
date: 8/7/2006 6:58
refid: 06BEIRUT2544
origin: Embassy Beirut
classification: CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
destination: 06BEIRUT2544
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RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 002544

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/SINGH/HARDING

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/05/2016
TAGS: MOPS, PREL, PTER, SY, IS, LE
SUBJECT: TFLE01: CHRISTIAN POLITICAL LEADERS SAY SHEBA'A
IS KEY

Classified By: Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman. Reason: Section 1.4 (b).

SUMMARY
--------

1. (C/NF) On August 5, A/S Welch and Ambassador Feltman met
with Christian leaders from the anti-Syria March 14 movement,
including former President Amin Gemayel, his son and Minister
of Industry Pierre Gemayel, Dory Chamoun, Carlos Edde, Fares
Souaid, George Adwan, and presidential hopefuls Nayla Moawad
(Minister of Social Affairs), Nassib Lahoud, and MP Boutros
Harb. While claiming to be fully supportive of Prime
Minister Siniora's call for a ceasefire, they are troubled
that the current conflict might leave Hizballah in a stronger
position within Lebanon than at the beginning. The Lebanese
government will need to be in a position of strength to deal
with Hizballah once the conflict is over, the leaders argued.
To this end, they would support a continuation of the
Israeli bombing campaign for a week or two if this were to
diminish seriously Hizballah's strength on the ground. They
also believe that a diplomatic agreement whereby Israel would
hand over the Sheba'a Farms to the United Nations for final
disposition would greatly enhance the GOL's stature while
removing a major raison d'etre for an armed Hizballah. The
attendees were not sanguine about the LAF's ability to deploy
to the South without heavy international support and
supervision (they expressed the usual Lebanese phobia that
international support will desert them at the critical
moment). Finally, the group stressed humanitarian issues,
including gasoline provisions, returning IDPs to their
villages in the South, and ultimately support for the
rebuilding of the South. End Summary.

"We need to be empowered"
-------------------------

2. (C/NF) The meeting attendees stressed their support for
PM Siniora and his Seven Point plan (issued during the Rome
Conference) for stabilizing the situation in southern
Lebanon. Though they approve of a ceasefire at some point,
they do not insist that it be immediate (unlike the Siniora
plan) and are more concerned about controlling the "finality
of the process." They fear a ceasefire coming too early,
with an admittedly weak central Lebanese government then
forced prematurely to deal with a resurgent Hizballah.
Claiming to reflect PM Siniora's private thoughts, several of
the assembled leaders urged that Hizballah be given a "real
pounding" by the Israelis to the point that the group would
be "soft enough to listen to reason." According to Boutros
Harb, "if we are convinced that Israel can finish the job,
then we can allow a few more weeks," though the consensus
seemed to rest between seven to ten days. If on the other
hand Hizballah were to emerge emboldened with a perceived
sense of victory, "that would be a disaster."

3. (C) Even with a militarily weakened Hizballah, the
assembled group is not convinced that the Siniora government
and the LAF would be strong enough to deal with Hizballah
without significant outside support. "We need to be
empowered," pleaded Nassib Lahoud. "How much empowerment can
you give us?" They do not agree that Israel should first
withdraw only to be replaced by the LAF, which they claim is
still honeycombed with pro-Syrian officers, but that this
should be done in conjunction with an international force.
The group also supported extending the UN area of operations
(whether under UNIFIL or a new international force) to the
Lebanese-Syrian border in order to monitor the border points
and block the resupply of Hizballah.

4. (C) On the Sheba'a Farms issue, the group urged that
Israel be prevailed upon to hand over the territory to the
United Nations to delineate the border (as it did once before
in 2000). This would not be seen as a feather in Hizballah's
cap. On the contrary, it is exactly what the
Hizballah-Syria-Iran axis does not want as it takes away
their major pretext for continuing a low intensity conflict
along the Blue Line in the future. "It would undress
Hizballah." On the other hand, leaving out the issue of
whether the UN may or may not ultimately determine that the
Sheba'a Farms are Lebanese, such a handover by the Israelis
would reflect positively on the GOL, with Siniora taking the
credit for a diplomatic coup.

BEIRUT 00002544 002 OF 002

5. (C) Following stabilization of the situation in the
South, the group urged that the international community step
in to support the rebuilding of detroyed villages and
infrastructure, and that "the major purveyor of the funds
should not be Iran." They also hope that the mostly-Shia
IDP's be returned to their villages in southern Lebanon as
soon as possible. This is more than a humanitarian impulse;
they are fearful that a diaspora of southern Lebanese Shi'a
throughout Lebanon would upset the country's sectarian
fabric. They are worried that there is a concentration of
Shi'a IDPs in more northerly cities and in the Shouf. "It's
harder to control them in the cities than in their towns,"
said Nayla Moawad, adding that, "soon I'll have to wear a
chador just to go down into Beirut."

Lebanon's Nightmare
-------------------

6. (C) Displaying a common Lebanese paranoid streak, the
group voiced its concern that the U.S. and Israel were now
conspiring to keep Bashar Asad firmly ensconced in power in
Syria. They described the fight with Hizballah as one upon
which the future of the world turns, as a fight between two
visions of the Middle East, that of democratic Lebanon versus
autocratic Syria. They described Bashar as a "psychopath"
who, if squeezed, may once again order the assassinations of
distinguished anti-Syrian figures in Lebanon (most of the
people present in the room would be targets). Despite
reassurances to the contrary, one of the attendees even asked
rhetorically, "What if, down the line, people decide that the
best option is for the Syrians to come back?"

7. (U) This cable has been cleared by A/S Welch.
FELTMAN

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