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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05BEIRUT3155 2005-09-28 15:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beirut
Cable title:  

MGLE1 MURR POINTS FINGER AT SYRIA AND REVEALS

Tags:   KDEM KPAL LE PGOV PREL PTER SY 
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P 281544Z SEP 05
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9893
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L  BEIRUT 003155 


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E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/30/2015
TAGS: KDEM KPAL LE PGOV PREL PTER SY
SUBJECT: MGLE1 MURR POINTS FINGER AT SYRIA AND REVEALS
EXTENT OF SYRIAN THREATS IN LEBANON

Classified By: Jeffrey Feltman, Ambassador. Reasons Section 1.4 (a)
and (d)



1. (C) Summary: At least until the 7/12 assassination
attempt against him, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Defense Elias Murr was always seen locally as an insider's
insider during the Syrian occupation. His credentials seemed
perfect: son-in-law of President Lahoud, son of a prominent
pro-Syrian "political boss" Michel Murr, and supposed contact
of Syria's pro-Consul in Lebanon, Rustom Ghazaleh. But in an
unexpected 9/28 public revelation, Murr outed himself as a
victim of Syrian gangsterism. During a television interview
with Telecom Minister Marwan Hamadeh, Murr called into the
station from Zurich and openly said that Ghazaleh threatened
him for Murr's role in bringing accused terrorists to
justice. This revelation became the talk of Lebanon. One of
the presumed insiders admitted what Lebanese have always
said, that Syria used the threats readily as a tool to ensure
their orders were obeyed. President Lahoud followed his
son-in-law Murr's statement with a statement of his own
praising past and present ties with Syria. Now Murr's
experience may open up new areas of inquiry for the UNIIIC
investigation under Detlev Mehlis. Meanwhile, Beirut
socialites gossip that Murr's marriage to Lahoud's daughter
is collapsing. End summary.

MURR GOES PUBLIC


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





2. (C) During a LBC interview with Marwan Hamadeh --
himself victim of a terrorist bomb widely believed to have
been planned by Syria -- Elias Murr called in to the program
from Zurich to second Hamadeh's televised comment that Murr
knew the author of the 7/12 attack against him. Murr
explained that a problem had developed between Murr and
Syrian Military Intelligence representative in Lebanon Rustom
Ghazaleh in the wake of September 2004 arrests of suspects in
the attempt to place a bomb at the Italian Embassy in Beirut.
(Note: While Murr never actually said Ghazaleh's name on
TV, it was crystal clear from the context that Ghazaleh was
the subject of Murr's accusations.)



3. (C) According to Murr, Ghazaleh called Said Eid,
commander of the police and ordered him to call Murr and give
him a "tongue lashing." Murr reacted to the call by calling
Ghazaleh directly and protesting his use of Eid to criticize
him. Murr reports that Eid, who overheard the conversation
with Ghazaleh, told Murr, it is time for you to pack your
bags and go home. Subsequent to this conversation, Murr
said, he learned of threats to is life and left Lebanon for
security reasons. For Murr, the attempted murder of May
Chidiac was the final straw leading him to make his public
revelation. Murr ended his intervention on the program by
saying, "now we are all alike." When the Ambassador spoke
with Murr by phone the following day, Murr said that he felt
greatly relieved that a great burden had been lifted from his
chest. But he joked that, between angering the Syrians and
his own father-in-law, he might become a permanent resident
of Zurich.

MURR PREVIOUSLY CONSIDERED PRO-SYRIAN


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





4. (C) On July 12, 2005 Elias Murr narrowly escaped an
attempt on his life when a bomb blast destroyed his car and
killed one his bodyguards. The explosion caused more
surprise than usual because no one had expected Murr to be a
target. Unlike the previous victims of attacks -- Hamadeh,
Rafiq Hariri, Samir Kassir, George Hawi -- Murr had always
appeared to be a staunch supporter of Syria, always backing
father-in-law Emile Lahoud in his pro-Syrian stance. Local
pundits searched for a way to explain the attempt on Murr's
life. Some pointed at Israel for Murr's defense of the
resistance. Others, less given to ideological views thought
Murr might be the victim of a Palestinian/Sunni extremist
strike for is handling of extremists in the wake of the
attempted bombing of the Italian embassy. Few could believe
that Syria would strike against an old ally like Murr.

MURR VS. LAHOUD


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





5. (C) The Murr bombshell was followed yesterday by a
statement from his father-in-law, President Lahoud. Lahoud
used his first public speech since the attempt on May
Chidiac's life to praise the Syrian-Lebanese relationship.
Lahoud held out the past cooperation with Syria as a model to
be emulated by others. Lahoud's statement, given to local
journalists, is seen as a direct attack on Murr. Syrian
sources quickly claimed Murr's description of events was a
complete fabrication. Meanwhile, Beirut socialites spread
gossip that Elias Murr's marriage with Lahoud's daughter has
irrevocably broken down, although people dispute whether the
marital problems provoked or stemmed from Murr's surprise
revelations.

COMMENT -- WHY NOW?


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





5. (C) Murr's revelation about Syria is not unexpected.
Privately, Murr has always maintained that Syria threatened
and pressured him. His public statements on LBC mirror what
he has told us earlier. However, Murr chose his moment well.
Speaking on a popular program on the network identified with
May Chidiac, during a broadcast interview with Marwan Hamadeh
gave extra weight to his words. That Rafiq Hariri was
threatened by the Syrians before his death is taken as an
article of faith here. That belief is supported by Murr's
story of a Syrian supporter who ran afoul of Damascus. The
old-style Lahoud statement that followed illustrated
dramatically how isolated the President has become from his
people and from reality. Even with all the dissenting voices
around him, Emil Lahoud still manages to be his own worst
enemy.



6. (C) But there is probably also a self-serving aspect to
Murr's timing. During UNIIIC Commissioner Detlev Mehlis'
probe, Murr's name surfaced briefly as a potential target of
the lifting of bank secrecy laws. While Murr seems to have
no connection with Hariri's murder -- which took place when
Murr was living in Zurich in the aftermath of the September
2004 threats to his life -- he is rumored to have been linked
by financial corruption to the four Lebanese generals now in
custody. If the GOL decides to probe into the corruption
related to the notorious Bank al-Medina collapse, Murr will
most likely be implicated over some shady real estate deals.
He may be calculating that the sympathy he wins for being a
victim of Syrian aggression will help salvage his reputation
if the Bank al-Medina secrets are revealed. End comment.


FELTMAN