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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05BEIRUT2293 2005-07-13 07:57:00 SECRET Embassy Beirut
Cable title:  

MGLE01: DAS DIBBLE MEETING WITH WALID JUMBLATT --

Tags:   PGOV KDEM PTER LE SY 
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P 130757Z JUL 05
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8726
INFO ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY VATICAN 
NSC WASHDC
HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCJ5//
					  S E C R E T  BEIRUT 002293 


NSC FOR ABRAMS/DANIN/POUNDS
LONDON FOR GOLDRICH
PARIS FOR ZEYA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/12/2015
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PTER LE SY
SUBJECT: MGLE01: DAS DIBBLE MEETING WITH WALID JUMBLATT --
NO OBJECTION TO AOUN IN THE CABINET, NO ALTERNATIVE TO
MAKING NICE WITH HIZBALLAH

Classified By: Ambassador Jeffrey D. Feltman for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

-------
Summary
-------



1. (C) Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, defending (somewhat
sheepishly) his public support for Hizballah, claimed to NEA
DAS Dibble that doing so was the only obvious way to "cool
down" Hizballah and "bring them inside." While this may
involve paying lip service to Hizballah's loopy claim to the
"Seven Villages" in northern Israel, it does not, for
Jumblatt, require caving in to Hizballah's demand to name the
new Foreign Minister. This demand was probably part of a
game aimed at scuttling Prime Minister-designate Siniora's
Cabinet-formation efforts in the short run, and U.S. policy
in the Middle East in the long run. Jumblatt sees his Druze
confederate Marwan Hamadeh as a good "compromise candidate"
for Foreign Minister. He denied opposing participation in
the new Cabinet by Michel Aoun's bloc, saying Aoun should get
a "fair share" that could even include the Justice Ministry.
End summary.



--------------------------


"Cooling down" Hizballah...


--------------------------





2. (S) Visiting NEA DAS Elizabeth Dibble, accompanied by
Ambassador and poloff, called on Jumblatt at his ancestral
residence in the Chouf Mountains on July 7. In contrast with
our most recent visits with him -- when concerns about his
own physical safety appeared to be taking an emotional toll
on him -- Jumblatt was relaxed and in good spirits. He said
he had received no threat information recently, other than
that passed to him by the Embassy. He planned to visit Paris
shortly, where he might meet with former Syrian Vice
President Abd al-Halim Khaddam, assuming that Khaddam were to
be "allowed" out of Syria.



3. (C) Regarding a possible visit to Washington, Jumblatt
said, "If you invite me, I'll go." When DAS Dibble pointed
out that some of Jumblatt's recent public statements about
Hizballah made an official invitation problematic, Jumblatt
shrugged, waved his hands in a "what-can-I-do?" gesture, and
said, "If you have any way of disarming Hizballah without
cooling them down, please let me know." In any event, he
would "wait for the appropriate moment" for a trip to
Washington.



--------------------------


... so as to bring them "inside"


--------------------------





4. (C) Continuing on Hizballah, Jumblatt said that the only
way of dealing with them was to "bring them slowly inside."
This apparently even required going to extremes, such as
defending Hizballah's astounding claim that the so-called
"Seven Villages" in northern Israel are on Lebanese
territory. When put on the spot for publicly defending
Hizballah's claim, Jumblatt laughed sheepishly, as if caught
in the act. "Okay, okay," he said, waving his hands, "we've
got to say it."



5. (C) Disarming and integrating Hizballah would take time,
according to Jumblatt. For perspective, he advised, "look at
the much simpler example of (Northern) Ireland." He agreed
that there might be some useful lessons in the experience of
disarmament of other Lebanese militias in the early 1990s,
following the end of the Lebanese civil war. He pointed out,
however, that these militias -- his own included -- had no
choice in the matter. The Syrians were the dominant military
power in Lebanon, "they were everywhere," and they
effectively dictated the terms for each militia's
disarmament.



6. (C) Hizballah's justification for keeping its weapons,
according to Jumblatt, rested on the assumption that its arms
were necessary for the defense of Lebanon, not exclusively
for the defense of the Shi'a community in Lebanon (the latter
idea was "ridiculous"). Resolving the issue of the Shebaa
Farms could therefore be a useful way of triggering a
reaction in national opinion, leading the public to conclude
that Hizballah no longer had an excuse for remaining armed.
An internationally-accepted demarcation of Lebanon's borders
would help in this respect, Jumblatt said. Such a project
should apply not only to the Shebaa Farms, but to other parts
of the border as well, he added.



--------------------------



--------------------------


Not supporting Hizballah's Foreign Minister gambit


--------------------------



--------------------------





7. (C) Jumblatt distanced himself from Hizballah's demand to
name the Foreign Minister as a condition for backing any
Cabinet formed by Prime Minister-designate Fouad Siniora. He
personally had no problem with his confederate Marwan Hamadeh
taking the job. Hamadeh could be a "compromise candidate,"
since Siniora's top choice, Fouad Boutros, was arguably too
elderly for the job. Jumblatt had at first considered
Lebanese Ambassador to London Jihad Mourtada, one of the
names that Hizballah has put forward, to be "excellent."
Jumblatt said he had second thoughts, however, upon hearing
that that Mourtada enjoyed personal ties to Syrian
intelligence chief Assef Shawkat.



8. (C) Jumblatt confessed that the fact that he opposed
UNSCR 1559 made it a bit awkward for him to support Hamadeh,
who presumably would be more forward-leaning on the issue.
Hizballah did not trust Hamadeh, according to Jumblatt: they
see him (he laughed) as "too pro-American." Jumblatt was
pleased that ("thanks to you," he told the Ambassador and DAS
Dibble) the international community, the Syrians had
withdrawn from Lebanon. However, he was reluctant to pursue
implementation of UNSCR 1559 as it related to the disarmament
of Hizballah. "I don't think it helps" for the time being to
emphasize this aspect of UNSCR 1559, he said.



9. (C) Jumblatt agreed that having Hamadeh, a fellow Druze,
as Foreign Minister, would be a useful way of breaking a
precedent imposed by the SARG during the post-Ta'ef period.
According to this precedent, the four "sovereign ministries"
-- Foreign Affairs, Defense, Interior, and Finance -- must be
divided among Lebanon's four so-called "great communities,"
that is, the Maronites, Sunnis, Shi'as, and Greek Orthodox.
This had never been the case until Ta'ef, he said. (Note:
For example, Jumblatt's father, Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt,
served as Interior Minister.)



10. (C) Hizballah's demand for control of the Foreign
Ministry aside, Jumblatt argued that it was useful for
Hizballah to have participants in the next Cabinet. That
way, a figure like Fouad Boutros, as Foreign Minister, would
be seen as representing a national consensus on issues such
as UNSCR 1559, rather than simply his personal point of view.
Such was the discouraging reality of Lebanon's
consensus-driven, confessional system, where "you win a
majority (in Parliament) and then you have to share with the
others," he said. It was "a joke."



--------------------------


Aoun in the Cabinet? "Ahlan wa sahlan."


--------------------------





11. (C) Jumblatt rebuffed the widespread perception that he
was blocking the participation of Aoun's bloc in a new
Cabinet. Aoun should get a "fair share" in the Cabinet.
"Let him take the Ministry of Justice," Jumblatt said,
referring to Aoun's condition for participation. Jumblatt
claimed to have made this clear to Siniora, and to have
instructed his own representatives, Ghazi al-Aridi and Wa'el
Abou Faour, to tone down their criticism of Aoun.



12. (C) No fan of Aoun, Jumblatt held out hope that giving
Aoun some responsibilities of government would make him a
more constructive player. "I have my doubts," however, that
Aoun was serious about working constructively with a new
Cabinet. He could "better serve Lahoud and Syria" by
remaining outside, as an opposition leader, appealing to what
Jumblatt alleged was a traditional yearning of Lebanese
Christians, particularly the Maronites, for a strongman.



--------------------------



--------------------------


Security and other challenges for the next Cabinet


--------------------------



--------------------------





13. (C) That said, Jumblatt personally would not want to be
responsible for the Interior Ministry these days. There was
too much the next Interior Minister would have to do to
"clean up after the Murrs" (father-and-son former Interior
Ministers Michel Murr and Elias Murr). Currently, internal
security functions were very decentralized and inefficient.
The army's G-2 was reporting exclusively to the army's
commander. The Surete-Generale was "headless." It was not
clear what, if anything, the State Security agency was doing
these days. A hard task of restructuring the security
services and determining a division of labor among them lay
ahead, according to Jumblatt.



--------------------------


Is Jumblatt's side being set up to fail?


--------------------------





14. (C) Besides internal security, the next Cabinet would
have many other difficult tasks ahead of it, particularly in
the economy. Jumblatt feared that, "our adversaries are
waiting for us to stumble." Was Hizballah's Foreign Ministry
demand just part of a game, the goal of which was to make
Siniora's Cabinet-formation efforts fail and bring Najib
Mikati back as Prime Minister? "I'm afraid so," Jumblatt
said. This, he argued, led back to the question of President
Emile Lahoud. As long as Lahoud remained in office, as the
"official representative of the Syrian presence in Lebanon,"
this would be a problem.



15. (C) If this was all a "game," what stake did Hizballah
have in it? "They're just waiting for U.S. policy in the
Middle East to fail," Jumblatt answered. Hizballah, together
with the SARG and the Iranian regime, had pinned its hopes on
the prospect of U.S. failure in, and disengagement from,
Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine. He suggested that the USG
nonetheless try to start a dialogue with Hizballah. At the
very least, talking to Shi'a fundamentalists held more
promise than attempting to dialogue with the "horrible
monsters" who represented militant Islam in the Sunni
community: Wahhabists, the Taliban, and the like.



--------------------------


Syrians not out, not yet...


--------------------------





16. (C) Jumblatt insisted that it was "not true that the
Syrians are out." The SARG continued to influence events in
Lebanon through proxies, now that its military presence and
overt intelligence presence had been withdrawn. Hizballah
was the most prominent proxy. Others included the Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command; the
Ahbash ("Ethiopians"), a traditionalist Islamic group; and
traditionally Damascus-aligned politicians like Talal Arslan
and Suleiman Franjieh. As for the goal of "normal"
Syrian-Lebanese relations, Jumblatt simply laughed and said,
"We never had it before!"



17. (C) Jumblatt was asked why Hizballah supported his
candidate list in the Baabda-Aley district. (Note:
Hizballah controlled enough votes to tip the balance between
the Jumblatt-led list, which included the Lebanese Forces as
well as a Hizballah candidate, and an Aoun-backed list that
included Jumblatt's arch-rival in the Druze community, Talal
Arslan. End note.) Given the distaste that the SARG, and
Syrian President Bashar al-Asad in particular, apparently
have for Jumblatt, this seemed to belie the assertion that
Hizballah is still a Syrian proxy. Jumblatt said the answer
was simply that, "They (Hizballah) trust me." Hizballah did
not trust Arslan and Aoun, he claimed.



18. (C) Jumblatt expressed puzzlement at the recent stream
of press reports claiming that Syrian authorities have
clashed with Islamic militants (supposedly on their way to
Lebanon) as well as former Iraqi regime elements inside
Syria. He wondered if the reports were "a kind of message,"
from the SARG, one along the lines of, "We left Lebanon, now
the fundamentalists are on the loose," "We were protecting
the Christians," and so on. If the reports were true, it
appeared that Syria was in a period of instability unseen
since the Muslim Brotherhood's uprising in the early 1980s.
It was all "very strange," he said.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





19. (C) Jumblatt appeared ready to play a much more
constructive role in Cabinet-formation efforts than his
recent, provocative attacks on Aoun suggested. While that
barrier may have been removed, Hizballah's own demands,
backed by Speaker of Parliament and Amal Movement leader
Berri, and made in the name of the entire Shi'a community,
may yet pose an insurmountable obstacle to Prime
Minister-designate Siniora's efforts.



20. (S) Comment, continued: Jumblatt's personal opinion
about UNSCR 1559 aside, his approach to Hizballah indicates a
basic problem in Lebanese politics, one that will continue as
long as UNSCR 1559 remains less than fully implemented. One
reason why Jumblatt, among so many other political figures,
is reluctant to challenge Hizballah is because Hizballah is
armed and he is not. Hizballah's apologists never tire of
claiming that Hizballah has never used its arms against
fellow Lebanese, something that sets it apart from civil
war-era militias. (This is factually incorrect, but that is
another story.) Many Lebanese leaders are nonetheless
frankly afraid of Hizballah. Jumblatt has previously
expressed suspicions about Hizballah's possible role in Rafiq
Hariri's assassination, and has also feared being
assassinated himself, with the SARG using Hizballah, or an
element of Hizballah, as the instrument. With this power of
coercion and intimidation at its disposal, Hizballah can
continue to make unreasonable demands -- whether about the
"Seven Villages" or the shape of the Cabinet -- and too few
Lebanese will object. End comment.



21. (U) NEA DAS Elizabeth Dibble cleared this message.


FELTMAN