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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05BEIRUT3670 2005-11-14 08:51:00 SECRET Embassy Beirut
Cable title:  

MGLE01: DEFENSE MINISTER MURR SAYS ARMY UNABLE TO

Tags:   KPAL MARR MASS MCAP MOPS PGOV PTER SY LE 
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P 140851Z NOV 05
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0645
INFO ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
					  S E C R E T  BEIRUT 003670 


NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/WERNER/SINGH

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/08/2015
TAGS: KPAL MARR MASS MCAP MOPS PGOV PTER SY LE
SUBJECT: MGLE01: DEFENSE MINISTER MURR SAYS ARMY UNABLE TO
CONFRONT MILITIAS

Classified By: Christopher W. Murray, Charge d'Affaires.
Reason: Section 1.4 (d).



1. (S) In a November 8 meeting with NEA DAS Elizabeth
Dibble, the Ambassador, the defense attache, and econoff,
Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Elias Murr said
that he is trying to transform the Lebanese military after 15
years of Syrian direction. He wanted to change the "Syrian
mentality" present in training and procedure. Syria
continues to support terrorist groups in Lebanon, said Murr,
including the "well-trained, well-equipped army" of
Hizballah. Lebanon cannot enjoy security until the Syrian
regime changes its mentality, said Murr. When Dibble
mentioned the continued existence of militias, Murr asserted
that the Lebanese military is not ready to take on the
militias. Murr estimated that it will take another six to
eight months of reform and rebuilding until the military
could be "counted on." Murr agreed with the idea of
low-profile U.S. military teams to assess the needs of the
Lebanese military. His hand still bandaged from a car bomb
attack, Murr mentioned that he still needs three more
operations to repair the damage of the assassination attempt
on him in July. Murr also said that he has passed on to
Hizballah his awareness of a potential threat against him, in
hopes of warding off Hizballah following Syrian orders to
kill him. Murr also claimed to have seen an intercepted
telephone conversation that suggests Hizballah will adopt a
dangerously aggressive stance in the period immediately
following the next report of UNIIIC Chief Detlev Mehlis. End
summary.

THE SYRIAN EFFECT LINGERS


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





2. (C) On 11/8, NEA DAS Elizabeth Dibble, the Ambassador,
the defense attache, and econoff met with Deputy Prime
Minister and Defense Minister Elias Murr. Murr began by
listing the lingering effects of the Syrian occupation.
Fifteen years of Syrian domination of the military and
security services has left poor training and an old
mentality. New security techniques and a new mentality must
be learned by the armed forces. Murr said that the process
of transitioning from a "Syrian mentality" is about 70
percent complete. The military is open to change; no one is
resisting. Military personnel want to be trained in the
United States and in Europe. Murr estimated that about half
of Lebanese military equipment was American-made and about
half Soviet-made, and all is very old.



3. (C) More importantly, Murr continued, Syria continues to
manage several terrorist groups. Murr cited Palestinian
armed groups both in and out of the camps, as well as
Hizballah with its "well-trained and well-equipped army."
Lebanon will never enjoy good security and real change
without change in Syria, Murr said. "I am not talking about
regime change," Murr immediately clarified, "I talking about
a change in mentality." Once the Syrian regime changes the
way it thinks, Syrian allies in Lebanon will be cut off from
support, asserted Murr.

NOT READY TO TAKE ON MILITIAS


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





4. (C) Dibble pointed out that any progress in Lebanon will
be difficult as long as private armies, such as Hizballah,
operate freely. Murr replied that, while he agreed, the
Lebanese military is not ready deal with the militias. It
doesn't have the necessary equipment, training, or mentality.
Murr estimated that the military would need six to eight
months before "we can count on the Lebanese Armed Forces."
Currently, the military can be expected to show its presence,
but not to take any action. (Comment: Murr appeared to be
referring to the increased army presence near Palestinian
militant bases in October. The army did not enter the bases,
however, even after a civilian army surveyor was shot and
killed. End comment.)



5. (C) The Ambassador asked Murr about a proposed liaison
between the military and foreign countries who are willing to
provide assistance. Murr, claiming that this was his first
day back to work since the attempt on his life in July, asked
about the status of this plan. (Note: Murr's secretary told
econoff after the meeting that this was not really Murr's
first day back. End note.) The Ambassador replied that
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, in Murr's absence, had agreed
to a U.S. assessment of the Lebanese military's needs as long
as it kept a low profile. The first teams will arrive in
November. Murr agreed with this approach and promised to
raise the issue with the Lebanese commander-in-chief, with
whom he will meet later that afternoon.

MORE ON MURR


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





6. (C) Murr said that he was still facing three more
operations to repair the damage of the assassination attempt.
He will have another operation on his (still-bandaged) hand,
and an operation on each of his ears in the December/January
timeframe. Murr preferred to greet us with a gesture over
his heart with his damaged right hand rather than shake
hands. He said that he had been training for 15 days to sign
his name. Murr's head of security also had visible scars on
the side of his head.

Private Aside


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





7. (S) Privately, Murr took aside DAS Dibble and the
Ambassador to discuss what he believes is recent threat
information against him. He said that he had Georges Khoury,
head of the LAF's G-2 (military intelligence) branch visit
Hizballah security chief Wafiq Safa' to share with Safa's
Murr's information, which in Murr's view implicates Hizballah
in a Syrian-inspired plot to murder him. Murr said that he
was awaiting an "official response" to Hizballah. Murr also
expressed considerable concern that Hizballah will adopt a
more aggressive stance once Detlev Mehlis issues his 12/15
report. At that point, Murr said, Hizballah, under Syrian
orders, will attempt to provoke Sunni-Shia fighting in
Lebanon. Murr claimed to have learned of Hizballah's plans
through an intercept of a telephone conversation between
Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and As-Safir
journalist Ibrahim Amin. In dangerous and aggressive ways,
Hizballah will show its "true face" after 12/15, Murr
claimed. In his view, while this "true face" will be
dangerous for Lebanon, at least the other Lebanese will
understand at last what they are facing.

COMMENT


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





8. (C) Murr seems to be another example of a formerly
"pro-Syria" figure making a post-occupation conversion. We
note that little more than a year ago, Murr, as Interior
Minister, told the Ambassador that Sunni extremists and the
Palestinian camps could not be controlled without the help of
the Syrian military and intelligence. Now he is talking
about ridding the Lebanese military of the vestiges of the
Syrian occupation. Of course, Murr's "conversion" was
sparked by the 7/12 car bomb attack intended to kill him --
and which Murr believes to be a Syrian-backed operation. End
comment.



9. (U) This message has been cleared by DAS Dibble.

MURRAY