LEBANON: MURR SAYS LAF CAN DEPLOY TO SOUTH IN EIGHT HOURS



id: 74305
date: 8/10/2006 5:46
refid: 06BEIRUT2583
origin: Embassy Beirut
classification: CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
destination: 06BEIRUT2553|06BEIRUT2583
header:
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4976
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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----------------- header ends ----------------

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIRUT 002583

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/SINGH/HARDING

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/09/2016
TAGS: MOPS, PREL, PTER, LE, IS, SY
SUBJECT: LEBANON: MURR SAYS LAF CAN DEPLOY TO SOUTH IN
EIGHT HOURS

REF: BEIRUT 2553

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

SUMMARY
--------

1. (C) In an August 9 meeting with A/S Welch, Ambassador
Feltman, Deputy Legal Adviser Jonathan Schwartz, and poloff,
Lebanese Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Elias
Murr said 15,000 LAF troops could deploy to southern Lebanon
within eight hours and assume security there along with a
beefed-up "UNIFIL plus" force of 10-12,000 troops in
conjunction with an Israeli withdrawal behind the Blue Line.
Murr said that there is complete unity within the LAF's ranks
and officer corps for this plan provided that, once deployed
to the South, they receive needed military equipment from the
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. Understanding that the
move to establish a "UNIFIL plus" force would require a
written request from the GOL, Murr hopes that PM Siniora can
bring it to a Cabinet decision by the afternoon of August 10.
He said that Siniora could not ask for this force to be
under Chapter VII, and suggested that UN SYG Annan himself
make this recommendation, with the Israelis and U.S. keeping
mum publicly on the subject. Although saying that he needed
to consult with others before giving a definitive answer,
Murr said that he is prepared to begin coordinating with
UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura on the logistics of the
deployments and the Israeli withdrawal. He also supports a
UNIFIL presence in support of the LAF along the
Lebanese-Syrian border as well as delineation of the border
as a means of resolving the Shebaa issue. End Summary.

CARGO SHIPS TO TYRE
-------------------

2. (C) Murr assured A/S Welch that the 15,000-strong LAF
contingent could deploy to the South within eight hours of
the order. Since the land link to the South has been severed
and it would take too long to fix the bridges, Murr says he
has arranged cargo ships to transport all the troops to the
southern Lebanese city of Tyre, from where they would fan out
throughout the South. Murr said that when the shipping
company owner learned that his cargo vessels were to be used
to carry the LAF into the south, he refused to accept any
payment for the privilege. During the few days following the
troop deployment, the LAF would put up bridges in order to
bring heavy equipment into the region. Murr, not getting
into specific areas of deployment, as he had in a previous
meeting with Ambassador Feltman two days ago (reftel), said
that the role of the LAF would be to "secure the Blue Line,
secure any rockets, and stop any Hizballah or Palestinian
militant infiltration in the region."

3. (C) Murr stressed that he has complete LAF buy-in for
this plan. According to Murr, not a single Shi'ite LAF
soldier has defected to the Hizballah militant ranks during
the current conflict. He claimed that Shi'a make up 36 per
cent of the LAF, down from 58 per cent just a few years ago.
Contrary to rumor, the LAF has not once assisted Hizballah
with firing rockets into northern Israel, and has in fact
interdicted three shipments of rockets at army checkpoints.
Furthermore, Murr said, he had spoken to LAF officers of all
confessions and has received their universal support.
Admitting that he went to the Lebanese cabinet with his plan
before checking with the army command, he nevertheless has
their full support on two conditions: first, that Hizballah
militants clear out of the deployment zone entirely; and
second, that once deployed, the LAF receive the technical and
material support it needs to secure the area effectively.

4. (C/NF) Regarding the first of these conditions on
Hizballah militants being out of the region, Murr said that
since Hizballah agreed to the plan during the August 7
Cabinet meeting, it seems that the group at this point
accepts that there is to be no other armed entity in the
deployment zone in addition to the LAF and UNIFIL. On the
second condition on resource support, Murr admitted that the
LAF is "naked" and would need significant provisions within a
couple of weeks of deployment in order to have "full,

BEIRUT 00002583 002 OF 003

technical power on the ground." Asked if this meant
additional training, Murr said that the LAF already has the
manpower and highly-qualified special units, but he hopes
that the "Saudis and Gulfis" can provide equipment. He asked
specifically if the USG could work on convincing these
countries to help. "You have to help us with the Gulf
countries. They have a great deal of equipment they don't
use." Murr (as he has before) promised to provide Ambassador
Feltman with a list of LAF needs. Responding to A/S Welch's
question, Murr clarified that deployment to the south does
not depend on getting the new equipment -- it can be done now
-- but that the new equipment is needed to keep the LAF
effective in the south.

5. (C) Murr does not believe that Shi'a acceptance of the
LAF deployment plan is an indication that the military could
be led into a trap whereby it is dragged into a conflict with
Israel in the South. Claiming that "Nabih Berri is praying
in his heart to be free of Hizballah politically," Murr said
that Berri would never agree to a scheme to trap the army in
the South. (Note: Most of the Shi'a in the LAF are
followers of Berri's Amal party. End Note.) Murr is more
worried that Hizballah and Syria will recede into the
background only to ally with the "new al-Qaeda" - Sunni
jihadi groups in northern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley - to
support attacks on the LAF in those areas. Again, with the
right equipment, Murr believes he can face down that
challenge while ensuring security in the South.

SUPPORTS A MODIFIED UNIFIL
--------------------------

6. (C) Murr said he supports augmenting the UNIFIL force
numbers in conjunction with the LAF deployment and added that
UNIFIL should also deploy along the Lebanon-Syria border in
order to assist the LAF in interdicting the movement of arms
to militant groups. He is particularly concerned that there
be a UN presence to monitor any potential exchange of fire
across the border with Syria. He is ready to begin
coordination with the UNIFIL command in Naqoura. Saying that
he only needs to speak to the Prime Minister - as a courtesy,
he stressed, not for a "green light," - in order to begin
this coordination, Murr tried to call Siniora during the
meeting, with no answer from the PM.

7. (C/NF) Murr admitted that he does not know Berri's or
Siniora's stance on these issues, but said he wants to
propose to the Lebanese Cabinet that UNIFIL troop numbers in
the South be increased from 2,000 to 12,000, with the aim of
gaining a Cabinet compromise for 8,000. The Cabinet would
then have to agree on the text of a letter to SYG Annan
requesting the UNIFIL augmentation. For domestic
consumption, Siniora will have to phrase the letter in such a
way that the force is needed to "protect Lebanon from Israeli
aggression" and to "help people return to their villages."
Murr said the letter would not request a Chapter VII force,
since Hizballah would never agree to such language in a GOL
request, but suggested that upon receiving the letter UN SYG
Annan would ask that the force come under Chapter VII since
he could portray it as necessary for the security of the UN
troops. "Let Kofi ask for it. He could phrase it like, 'I
can not send my men there without any protection.'" Murr
stressed, however, that both Israel and the USG should remain
publicly mute on the Chapter VII issue so as not to provoke a
Hizballah rejection.

COMMENT
-------

8. (C) Murr is known for telling people what they want to
hear. He nevertheless appears genuinely committed - whether
out of a sense of history or of duty is not clear - to making
the LAF deployment plan work. His confidence in gaining
Cabinet approval for a letter requesting a beefed-up UNIFIL
force may be too optimistic, particularly in having UNIFIL
observers stationed along the border with Syria. Whatever
the cause, Murr clearly feels this is his time for action,
and we recommend the USG do all it can to support the LAF
deployment plan. In particular, once we receive Murr's wish
list of military equipment, we suggest contacting our Saudi
and Gulf partners to provide the needed material to the LAF

BEIRUT 00002583 003 OF 003

as soon as possible. End Comment.

9. (U) A/S Welch did not have the opportunity to clear this
cable.
FELTMAN

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