|05TELAVIV2138||2005-04-07 05:28:00||SECRET||Embassy Tel Aviv|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
1. (S) In a March 23 meeting with Deputy APNSA Abrams, A/S
Welch, and the Ambassador, National Security Advisor Eiland
sketched out "preliminary" GOI thinking about the future of
Lebanon after a Syrian withdrawal. He described three
scenarios for post-Syria Lebanon: democratic stability; a
return to civil strife; or, Hizballah, possibly with Iran,
filling the vacuum left by Syria. Stressing that PM Sharon
has not yet approved the suggestions, Eiland reviewed a long
list of steps (para 9) that the international community could
take, both before and after the upcoming Lebanese elections,
to avoid the third scenario. END SUMMARY.
2. (C) National Security Advisor Giora Eiland presented what
he called preliminary, uncleared ideas about the future of
Lebanon in a March 23 meeting with Deputy National Security
Advisor Elliott Abrams, NEA Assistant Secretary David Welch
and the Ambassador. The Prime Minister's foreign affairs
advisor, Shalom Tourgeman, and Eiland's staffers, Gabi Blum
and Eran Etzion, also participated.
Lebanon: Post-Syria Scenarios
3. (S) Israel shares the international goal of creating an
independent, sovereign, secure and peaceful Lebanon, Eiland
said, but the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, while
necessary for this goal, may not prove sufficient. He
described three possible outcomes in Lebanon from the
expected Syrian withdrawal:
-- Lebanon becomes a stable, democratic state.
-- Lebanon regresses to the civil strife of the 1970s.
Several forces, he said, are trying to create this result,
including the SARG, which will retain some influence in
Lebanon even after the withdrawal of its troops. He
suggested that the SARG could use Hizballah or Palestinians
in Lebanon to foment strife as a means of demonstrating its
essential stabilizing role in Lebanon. A group of
Palestinians seeking to destabilize Lebanon recently moved
from Syria to Lebanon, he said.
-- Hizballah, or Iran operating through Hizballah, fills the
vacuum created by the Syrian departure. Factors that could
contribute to this outcome include the existing Iranian
presence in Lebanon, notably the Iranian Revolutionary Guard
Corps (IRGC), and Iranian money; the fact that the Shia,
representing about 35 percent of the Lebanese population, are
the largest community in the country; the existing strength
of Hizballah, which Eiland termed "the most effective
military group" in Lebanon; and, Hizballah leader Nasrallah's
status as what Eiland termed Lebanon's "most charismatic"
4. (S) Abrams questioned the likelihood of the second
scenario, pointing out that Lebanon's Christian community is
much weaker now than 30 years ago, and that Lebanon has
become a different country since then. Eiland responded by
noting that Russian NSC Secretary Igor Ivanov, during his
visit to Israel the week before, had reported hearing from
Egyptian sources that the price of a Kalashnikov in Lebanon
has recently soared from about $300 to $30,000. Eiland
commented that this apparent spike in demand indicated
significant fear of civil strife among the Lebanese. He
noted as well his own experience as an IDF battalion
commander in a Druze village near Beirut in the early 1980s.
His forces, he said, tried to mediate in inter-communal
disputes in the village, but the "hatred and cruelty" between
the different Lebanese communities was "unimaginable." No
one, he asserted, can therefore say with certainty that
inter-communal violence will not erupt again, despite the
shared desire of the various Lebanese groups for a
successful, independent Lebanon. The Ambassador asked
whether Eiland had any ideas for a strategy to head off the
civil strife scenario. Eiland replied that he had not yet
thought through the question.
5. (S) Eiland contended that a strengthened Hizballah
emerging from the Syrian departure from Lebanon could prove
destabilizing both for Lebanon and "in the Palestinian
context." Should Hizballah enhance its political power in
Lebanon without giving up its terrorist identity, it could
establish the precedent of "a terrorist group with global
reach" being accorded international legitimacy. This model
of a terrorist organization with a recognized political face
could also affect the future status of Palestinian terrorist
groups in the West Bank and Gaza. It would also counteract
the achievements of democratization in the Middle East.
6. (S) Hizballah, after the Syrian departure from Lebanon,
could also move to inflame the situation along the
Lebanese-Israeli border, Eiland contended. The only reason
the border is now reasonably calm, he said, is that Israel
and the international community effectively deter Syria from
allowing Hizballah to act provocatively. Once Syria is out
of Lebanon, he asked, who will be accountable for Hizballah
actions? One "very possible" scenario immediately after the
Syrian withdrawal is that Hizballah would decide to test
Israel. UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen reported, Eiland said,
that Assad told him that "the Blue Line could turn red" (with
blood) after the Syrian withdrawal.
7. (S) Eiland noted that one other troubling possibility
resulting from the Syrian withdrawal could be that al-Qaeda
begins to operate seriously from within the Palestinian
refugee camps in Lebanon. Up to now, he said, al-Qaeda has
stayed out of the camps in deference to Syria.
8. (S) Abrams asked Eiland to describe the actual means of
pressure that Syria has been able to use to restrain
Hizballah up to now. While Iran has been the main party for
providing arms and guidance to Hizballah, Eiland replied,
Syria has acted as both the transshipment point for Iranian
arms heading to Hizballah, and a supplier of arms to
Hizballah in its own right. The SARG, he said, provided no
other assistance to Hizballah, other than "a certain
umbrella." He stressed that Hizballah does not depend on
Syria for maintaining its military capability.
Strategies for Molding the Outcome in Lebanon
9. (S) Stressing again that he was presenting "preliminary
thoughts" only, Eiland presented a list of recommended steps,
divided between the pre- and post-election periods in
Lebanon, for the international community to take in order to
effect a successful transition in Lebanon.
-- An international declaration linking recognition of the
"legitimacy" of a newly elected Lebanese government to its
commitment, made in advance of the elections, to the "missing
elements" of UNSCR 1559 (i.e., the disarmament of all
militias). This expected commitment would include an
explicit understanding that the existing status of Hizballah
is only temporary.
-- Continued pressure on Syria to complete its withdrawal
before the elections.
-- Pressure on Syria to restrain Hizballah and to sever its
ties with the organization.
-- Pressure on Syria not to send Palestinian militants to
Lebanon, and to cut off assistance to them.
(The pressure on Syria to restrain militant groups would
include a clear threat to President Assad that he would be
held accountable for the operations of armed groups.)
-- Similar pressure on Iran, including through the EU-3
negotiations. Pressed on the advisability of bringing other
issues into the dialogue about Iran's nuclear program, Eiland
contended that the EU-3 negotiations with Iran have already
gone beyond Iran's nuclear program. Etzion specified that
the EU-3 have raised Iran's support for terrorism in the
-- Monitoring of the elections in Lebanon.
-- A clear international demand for the new GOL to implement
UNSCR 1559 fully.
-- Extension to the new GOL of a "grace period" between the
elections and a final deadline (TBD) for the full
implementation of UNSCR 1559. The international community
would recognize the legitimacy of the new GOL until the
deadline. Also during this grace period, the international
community would reinforce the formal status of Hizballah as a
terrorist organization (e.g., by adding it to the EU
terrorism list), and refuse to deal with Hizballah.
-- Should the new GOL fail to meet the international deadline
for full implementation of UNSCR 1559, it would "lose its
legitimacy," the impact of which would include non-engagement
with the GOL and sanctions.
-- As the GOI understands that dismantling Hizballah cannot
occur "in one day," GOL implementation of UNSCR 1559 could be
phased, but must stick to a clear timetable. Chronological
benchmarks for the GOL could include:
A. Cessation of all hostile Hizballah activities in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip.
B. Cessation of all anti-Israeli activity along the Blue Line.
C. A complete cut-off of all support channels to Hizballah,
from both Syria and Iran; deployment of the LAF in all border
passages to ensure the cut-off.
D. Withdrawal of Hizballah militants from the Blue Line area
and deployment of the LAF. (Concurrent deployment of
Hizballah and the LAF would be unacceptable.) End of UNIFIL
E. Turnover of strategic munitions held by Hizballah to the
F. Dismantlement of all Hizballah military and terrorist
capabilities. Some/some individual members could be allowed
to enlist in the LAF.
-- Implementation of UNSCR 1559 must also include withdrawal
of the IRGC and the dismantlement of all Palestinian
militias. Eiland commented that the SARG now exercises the
only restraint on the Palestinian groups.
-- A demand from the international community that Lebanon
employ Western standards of combating terrorist finance and
-- International support for the Lebanese transition should
A. "Reasonable strengthening" of the LAF, e.g. in training
and capacity building.
B. Economic assistance, but only if linked to GOL performance
C. A possible international stabilization force. While the
GOI would not have a role in this, such a deployment could
affect Israel as a precedent for international action in Gaza.
10. (S) Turning to the Israeli role in the strategy he
sketched, Eiland commented that the GOI understands that the
time is not ripe for an Israeli-Lebanese peace agreement, and
that any Israeli comments about a possible agreement would be
counterproductive. The GOI is nevertheless ready to
contribute to a successful transition in Lebanon through
bilateral discussions on issues such as water and security;
participation in regional economic projects, e.g., water,
energy, or transportation; and, a cessation of overflights of
Lebanese airspace once terrorist activity from Lebanon ends.
11. (S) Eiland stressed that the GOI would not/not be willing
to agree to any territorial concessions, such as at Sheba'a
Farms, as part of any deals with Hizballah. He said he made
this point because UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen has raised the
12. (S) Observing that Hizballah could see the strategy
Eiland set forth as an existential threat, the Ambassador
asked Eiland to assess how Hizballah might react. Eiland
replied that Hizballah cares most about its internal
legitimacy within Lebanon. Should it fully understand
international expectations, Hizballah might willingly
transform itself from a group that is more an Iranian tool
than a Lebanese entity, to the opposite.
13. (S) Welch asked Eiland whether precedents exist for
integrating a militia such as Hizballah into a national army.
The GOI views integration of Hizballah into the LAF as too
dangerous, Eiland replied, although the GOI could accept some
individual Hizballah members joining the LAF. The top
priority in dismantling Hizballah, he stressed, is the
removal of Hizballah's strategic military capability. The
group currently has enough rockets, many of which are based
in populated areas, to cause significant damage to Israel in
a short time.
14. (S) The Ambassador commented that the strategy Eiland
presented could prove too ambitious to be feasible. Eiland
responded that a strong GOL could be responsive to
incentives. Welch asked whether the GOI intended to present
the strategy to anyone else. Eiland said the GOI might
present it to the French and Larsen once PM Sharon approves
the overall approach.
Syrian Support for Terrorism, Border with Iraq
15. (S) Turning away from the Syrian role in Lebanon, Abrams
noted that the U.S. has two other issues with Syria: its
support for terrorism, and its failure to prevent insurgents
from entering Iraq from Syria. He asked Eiland about
possible destinations for terrorist organizations now based
in Syria should the SARG expel them. Eiland pointed to what
he said was the troubling precedent, from the 1970s, of Syria
sending the headquarters of terrorist groups to the
Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. This outcome could
repeat itself, he said, should a new GOL turn out to be weak.
Tourgeman noted that, according to Israeli intelligence, the
terrorists who carried out the February 25 bombing in Tel
Aviv received instructions to call Lebanon, not Syria, from
their cell phones.
16. (S) Abrams commented that Assad knows that he would have
to deliver on Iraq, not just on UNSCR 1559, to satisfy the
U.S. This realization could lead Assad to conclude that he
need not bother with 1559. Eiland pointed out that prospects
for the future of the Assad regime could be questionable
following a "humiliating" Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.
Noting that undermining the Assad regime is not U.S. policy,
Abrams commented that the U.S. does not necessarily need to
try not to undermine Assad. He offered his personal
assessment that destabilizing the regime would begin a
process that would ultimately result in its fall. Eiland
17. (U) Abrams and Welch cleared this message.
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