Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
08BEIRUT1803
2008-12-30 14:00:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Beirut
Cable title:  

LEBANON: KHAWAJI BRISTLES AT CRITICISM OF RUSSIAN

Tags:  PREL MASS MCAP RU LE 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO7084
PP RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHLB #1803/01 3651400
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 301400Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3875
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0270
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 3525
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 3318
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 001803 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ELA
ALSO FOR IO A/S HOOK, PDAS WARLICK
P FOR DRUSSELL AND RRANGASWAMY
USUN FOR KHALILZAD/WOLFF/GERMAIN/SCHEDLBAUER
NSC FOR ABRAMS/ABRAMS/YERGER/MCDERMOTT

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/24/2018
TAGS: PREL MASS MCAP RU LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: KHAWAJI BRISTLES AT CRITICISM OF RUSSIAN
MIG DEAL

Classified By: Ambassador Michele J. Sison, for reasons 1.4
(b) and (d).

SUMMARY
-------

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 001803

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ELA
ALSO FOR IO A/S HOOK, PDAS WARLICK
P FOR DRUSSELL AND RRANGASWAMY
USUN FOR KHALILZAD/WOLFF/GERMAIN/SCHEDLBAUER
NSC FOR ABRAMS/ABRAMS/YERGER/MCDERMOTT

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/24/2018
TAGS: PREL MASS MCAP RU LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: KHAWAJI BRISTLES AT CRITICISM OF RUSSIAN
MIG DEAL

Classified By: Ambassador Michele J. Sison, for reasons 1.4
(b) and (d).

SUMMARY
--------------


1. (C) Accepting a last-minute December 18 meeting to discuss
Russia's offer of 10 MiG-29 fighter jets, Lebanese Armed
Forces (LAF) Commander Jean Kahwaji received visiting NEA
Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) David Hale, Ambassador,
visiting NEA Lebanon Desk Officer Matthew Irwin, and LTC
James Johnson of Embassy Beirut's Office of Defense
Cooperation in his office at the LAF's Yarze headquarters.
Kahwaji rejected U.S. concerns about the MiG deal, stating
he'd always been clear about the LAF's need for fixed-wing
aircraft for close air support. End Summary.

OFFENSE IS THE BEST DEFENSE
--------------


2. (C) After exchanging pleasantries, Kahwaji became quickly
defensive, saying "I always said I needed fixed-wing
aircraft. Murr (Defense Minister Elias Murr, who announced
the MiG deal during his visit to Moscow) knows that I need
fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. But I never asked for
MiGs! I asked for old planes like our Hawker Hunters."
Kahwaji implored DAS Hale not to worry that the MiGs would be
used against Palestinian camps, but reiterated the LAF,s
need for close air support. Maintaining that he'd had no
advance notice of the MiG offer, Kahwaji said he asked Murr
to request helicopters and T-72 tanks in Moscow, but that the
Russians had been more generous than expected. "MiG-29s are
a very big thing, a very good thing! And they offered T-90s
instead of T-72s! If the Russians ask for money, the Saudis
will pay."


3. (C) Working to temper Kahwaji's enthusiasm, Hale explained
that the United States understood the morale boost afforded
by the MiG announcement and that nothing would be said
publicly to disparage the deal, but outlined U.S. skepticism
of the LAF's need for MiGs and ability to afford spare parts
and maintenance. Hale also expressed disappointment at
Murr's public but indirect swipe at the United States on
Russian television wherein Murr asserted that the LAF had
sought help from Russia because "other countries" had
provided too little assistance too late. Dismissing Murr's
remarks, Kahwaji said the MiGs changed nothing about the
LAF's relationship with the United States. "Wait to talk to
Minister Murr when he returns. I'm sure he'll be able to
explain."


4. (C) Growing increasingly agitated, Kahwaji asked his
assistant to fetch a cellular phone from his desk, saying
"I'll call Minister Murr for you right now." Explaining to
Murr by phone that "Ambassador Hale and Ambassador Sison have
come to talk about the MiGs," the two conversed for several
minutes. Hanging up the phone, Kahwaji relayed Murr's story.
Having rejected a long list of items offered by Russia
"because he didn't want to upset the United States," Murr had
mentioned MiGs as a seemingly ludicrous request when asked by
the Russians what he really wanted. "I am proud to have
gotten something from the Russians," said Kahwaji. "Now it's
up to the United States to see what it can give us quickly."

COMMENT
--------------


5. (C) We had no intention of chastising Kahwaji over the MiG
deal, of which we understood he had no prior knowledge, but
he was clearly expecting a tongue-lashing. Kahwaji was
particularly prickly when challenged about the LAF's need for
a system as expensive and seemingly ill-suited to the LAF's
needs as the MiG-29. After months of expressing frustration
with what he views as the relatively slow pace of U.S.
equipment deliveries and accusations by Hizballah that Israel
holds a veto over U.S. assistance to the LAF, Kahwaji was
suffused with pride, as we imagine were most of his troops,
by the MiG offer. Despite his enthusiasm less than 48 hours

BEIRUT 00001803 002 OF 002


after the offer was announced by Murr in Moscow, Kahwaji, a
man who knows intimately the LAF's needs and constraints, may
well adopt a more reasonable position on the MiGs. We also
took note of his final comment, an indication that he and the
LAF may be looking to be "bought out" of the MiG deal via a
competing U.S. offer. We will do nothing to imply that such
and offer may be forthcoming.


6. (U) This message has been cleared by DAS Hale.

SISON