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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07BEIRUT1095 2007-07-24 16:04:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beirut
Cable title:  

LEBANON: HARIRI WARNS OF LONG-TERM IRANIAN

Tags:   PGOV PREL PTER PARM SY IS LE 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIRUT 001095 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/MARCHESE/HARDING

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/23/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PARM SY IS LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: HARIRI WARNS OF LONG-TERM IRANIAN
INTENTIONS FOR LEBANON

REF: BEIRUT

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

SUMMARY
-------



1. (C) March 14 and Sunni leader Saad Hariri, back from an
extended stay abroad, expressed his concerns about the new
French government's Lebanon policy, Iran's long-term
intentions in Lebanon (with General Michel Aoun's active
participation), and the need for a tougher US policy on
Syria. Hariri was upbeat about March 14's prospects in the
August 5 parliamentary by-elections following a deal with
Michel Murr, who promised to deliver the deal-breaking
Armenian vote to March 14's candidate in the critical Metn
district. End summary.



2. (C) Back from Saudi Arabia, a relaxed and cigar-smoking
Hariri received the Ambassador, accompanied by Pol/Econ
Chief, at his residence in Qoreitem on July 23. Hariri press
officer Nadine Chehab also attended as notetaker.

WARY ABOUT FRENCH


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





3. (C) Hariri said French Special Envoy Jean-Claude
Cousseran's recent trip to Syria was "not good," though he
acknowledged that Sarkozy kept his promise to send a tough
message, threatening Damascus with sanctions if it continued
to interfere in Lebanon. Although he agreed with the
Ambassador that the "foundations" are there (i.e., French
support for the Special Tribunal), Hariri said he was not
entirely confident about Sarkozy's Lebanon policy and urged
the US to "work on France." (Comment. The feeling is
mutual; the Ambassador heard from French Ambassador Bernard
Emie that Sarkozy found Hariri lacking in imagination during
their recent meeting in Paris. End comment.)



4. (C) In Saudi Arabia, Cousseran reportedly also received a
clear message on Syria. Like the Saudis before them, Hariri
agreed, the French are trying to corner Syria through Iran.
The only significant outcome of the July 14-15 St. Cloud
meetings was that "Hizballah went to Paris."

IRAN'S LONG-TERM STRATEGY


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





5. (C) Hariri dismissed the idea that Iran, which wants to
avoid disorder, and Syria, whose primarily goal is to
destabilize Lebanon in order to take back control, are at
odds with each other. Syria cannot do any "big" things
without Hizballah's knowledge and without protecting
Hizballah's interests, he explained. "Like killing MPs?" the
Ambassador interjected. "Like Nahr al-Barid," Hariri replied
without missing a beat. Asked by the Ambassador whether
Hizballah views a Sunni-Shia clash as a redline, Hariri said
the potential for such a clash is being downplayed.



6. (C) Hizballah and Iran have a "ten-year plan," Hariri
explained. First, they will argue that the inability of the
Lebanese to form a national unity government and elect a new
president creates a void that can only be filled by changing
the Ta'if accord to give the Sunnis, Shia, and Christians
each one-third of the parliamentary seats. Iran, which was
not a party to Ta'if, wants to have a voice, Hariri said, and
its goal is for a Shia to eventually become prime minister (a
position currently reserved for a Sunni under the Ta'if
agreement) by siding with the Christians against the Sunnis.
Hariri warned that changing Ta'if is "the only thing that
would start a new civil war in Lebanon." The one-third for
each group would work if Lebanon were a neutral country like
Switzerland, with no arms, he added wistfully.



7. (C) After the premiership, the Iranians' next target is
the presidency, Hariri continued, completing Lebanon's
transformation into a Shia-dominated country and fulfilling
Iran's goals of creating a Shia crescent from Tehran to the
Mediterranean. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia would be next, he
predicted.

AOUN'S AGENDA

BEIRUT 00001095 002 OF 003




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





8. (C) Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun is an
active participant in Iran's strategy, Hariri continued; even
though the Christians would see their parliamentary seats
reduced from 50 percent to one-third, Aoun would achieve his
goal of becoming president. Hariri confirmed March 14 was
talking with its Christian allies to counter Aoun's
ambitions, and that he had postponed his own (ill-conceived,
in our opinion) meeting with Aoun until after the August 5
parliamentary by-elections.



9. (C) Mohamad Chatah, Senior Advisor to PM Siniora, is
working with Hariri's cousin and advisor Nader to prepare an
agenda for the meeting, which Hariri said included four main
issues: 1) Hariri would not "close the door" on an Aoun
presidency; 2) Lebanon/Syria relations and the need to resume
the national dialogue; 3) disarming Palestinian militias; and
4) the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) as the sole legitimate
source of security for Lebanon. If Aoun agrees with these
points, Hariri said, it will be a "hard punch to Hizballah."



10. (C) Hariri said Michel Murr had suggested to him that a
two-year presidency would help fill the void created by the
failure to form a national unity government. However, a
two-year president would still need a two-thirds majority to
get elected, Hariri pointed out.

STICKS AND STONES NEEDED FOR SYRIA


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





11. (C) Responding to the Ambassador's question regarding
Syria's intentions in Lebanon, Hariri replied without
hesitation, "Stop the Tribunal." Of course, he added, Syria
is part of the larger Iranian power struggle in the region
and expects to get its share of the spoils, noting that
immediately after Cousseran's trip to Damascus, Iranian
President Ahmajinejad met with Syrian President Asad.



12. (C) The Saudis currently are working on a policy paper
for a strategy (septel) for the next few months, he reported,
and will take tough steps on cornering Syria. Saudi
Ambassador to Lebanon Khoja, also is doing a great job, he
added.



13. (C) The US also needs a stronger policy on Syria, Hariri
argued; isolation is not enough. "You didn't talk to Arafat
and look where that got you," he said, whereas the tough US
policy on Iran has brought everyone else on board. We both
know that sooner or later Syria had something to do with
UNIFIL, he added, referencing the June 24 attack that killed
six Spanish peacekeepers. The Syrians aren't afraid of
anyone anymore, now that the Europeans are flocking to
Damascus in droves and the US is willing to talk to them
about Iraq. Meanwhile, all the US is doing is sending tough
messages, when more forceful action is needed. "Sanction the
hell out of them, or something," he urged. If we want
presidential elections in Lebanon, we need to scare the
Syrians. And the only real threat is the Special Tribunal,
he stressed again, adding that we need to make progress on
the Tribunal and nomination of the Prosecutor General.

UPBEAT ON BY-ELECTIONS


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





14. (C) Hariri was confident of March 14 victories in the two
August 5 parliamentary by-elections in Beirut in Metn. For
the Beirut seat, it was important for March 14 to win by a
large percentage. In Metn, Hariri said, "the Murrs (Defense
Minister Elias and father Michel) will give (Amine) Gemayel
to me," referring to a short-lived deal (septel) under which
Michel would deliver the Tashnaq votes to ensure that Free
Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun's candidate, Dr.
Camille Khoury, would lose by at least 20,000 votes, thereby
crushing any hopes Aoun had for the presidency. (Note. The
deal was dead only a few hours later after March 14 member
Gabriel Murr, Elias' not so beloved brother, trashed Elias on
Hariri's Future TV, thereby destroying any incentives Elias
had to help March 14 in Metn. But, knowing the Murrs, we
would expect they will try to use this incident to extract
some kind of price out of March 14 that, if accepted by March
14, might induce the Murrs to switch sides once again. End
note.)

BEIRUT 00001095 003 OF 003


FELTMAN