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July War Cables— Seniora: Shebaa Farms, An Iranian-Syrian Invention and Syira Would Maintain its Leverage

July War Cables— Seniora: Shebaa Farms, An Iranian-Syrian Invention and Syira Would Maintain its Leverage
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PM SINIORA WANTS A SINGLE PHASE AGREEMENT


id: 73814
date: 8/5/2006 8:00
refid: 06BEIRUT2535
origin: Embassy Beirut
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination:
header:
VZCZCXRO1483
OO RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK
DE RUEHLB #2535/01 2170800
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 050800Z AUG 06 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4902
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY


----------------- header ends ----------------

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIRUT 002535
SIPDIS
SIPDIS
NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/SINGH/HARDING
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/04/2016
TAGS: IS, LE, MOPS, PREL, PTER, SY
SUBJECT: TFLE01: PM SINIORA WANTS A SINGLE PHASE AGREEMENT
AND INSISTS SHEBAA IS THE KEY

Classified By: Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman. Reason: Section 1.4 (b).

SUMMARY
-------
1. (C/NF) PM Siniora pushed back hard against the US/FR
plan to implement a cessation of hostilities and Israeli
withdrawal in two phases. Worried about Israeli troops
remaining inside Lebanon, Siniora prefers a single phase that
combines a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanese
territory with an immediate deployment of LAF into the south
-- assisted by UNIFIL, which itself would be strengthened by
a nearly immediate insertion of several hundred "credible"
international troops (Siniora specifically mentioned Turkish
forces). Siniora is deeply concerned that an approach that
relies on the passage of two Security Council resolutions, no
matter how short the intervening time interval, will risk a
loss of momentum and offer the unacceptable sight of Israeli
forces on Lebanese territory. The Prime Minister emphasized
the centrality of Shebaa Farms in any cease-fire. He
proposed a "transfer" of the problematic territory to UN
custody to await final resolution. Siniora stated that he
has heard "indirectly" that Syria would accept this, as long
as the borders were not permanently delineated. Finally,
Siniora specifically suggested the U.S. military, by
providing steel trestle bridges, could take the lead in
expeditiously repairing the approximately 75 damaged bridges
that are crippling the country's economy. End summary.

2. (U) A/S Welch met with PM Fouad Siniora for nearly two
hours at the Grand Serail in Beirut on the evening of August
4. Senior GOL Advisor Mohammad Chatta and Assistant Rola
Nouraddine attended the meeting, as did Ambassador Feltman
and poloff (notetaker).

3. (C/NF) PM Siniora appreciated the Assistant Secretary's
statement that the US wanted to "end this thing now." But
once he mulled over the proposed US plan to cease hostilities
and effect a withdrawal of Israeli forces, he pushed back
hard. Siniora argued that "freezing forces in place" until
an international stabilization force could be introduced
would be far too risky, because IDF and Hizballah forces
would be in close proximity and any cease-fire could not be
expected to hold in such conditions.

WANTS IDF OUT AT TIME OF CEASE-FIRE
-----------------------------------
4. (C/NF) Although Siniora used the argument of the
inherent instability of an interim period between two UNSC
resolutions, it was clear from his other comments and those
of his advisor, Mohammad Chatta, that what the Prime Minister
really wanted to avoid was the presence of Israeli troops on
"captured Lebanese territory" after the cessation of
hostilities was called upon the first resolution. His
remarks and observations throughout the lengthy meeting
indicated that, probably even more important than the usual
Lebanese obsession with Shebaa Farms, Siniora feared an
undetermined timeframe with Israeli presence in parts of
south Lebanon as well as the difficulties in preventing
Hizballah from attacking the occupying troops.

5. (C/NF) Siniora repeatedly mentioned that a two-phase
approach would risk loss of momentum and might result in a
completely unsatisfactory "temporary" situation. He argued
that he had spent an enormous amount of scarce political
capital in fashioning a consensus across the wide spectrum of
Lebanese politics for his 7-point plan. He maintained that
if only a few of the points were achieved in the first UNSC
resolution, there was no guarantee that the other points,
especially concerning Shebaa, would be addressed by a second
resolution.

6. (C/NF) Siniora recognized the irony that his present
position closely resembles the initial US position of a
single, comprehensive agreement that covered all the issues,
and he evidenced some skepticism that the US thought it could
now lead the Security Council into passing two complex
resolutions in a week or two.

7. (C/NF) When asked to provide an outline of his own
approach, he suggested that both parties withdraw from the
zone of conflict, and particularly that the IDF withdraw
behind the Blue Line. He then proposed the LAF immediately
move into south Lebanon -- specifically that they move into
former Hizballah positions. He maintained that UNIFIL
BEIRUT 00002535 002 OF 003
forces, if authorized by an overarching UNSC resolution,
could assist the LAF in this formidable task, since it was
already operating in the general area and was an established
entity. He further proposed that UNIFIL itself could be made
"more robust" by the near immediate insertion of
mission-ready troops from countries such as Turkey -- with
whom Siniora has evidently already broached the idea.

8. (C/NF) Siniora responded to skepticism over the term
"immediate" by assuring the Assistant Secretary he could call
on "friends" who could provide several hundred mission
capable troops in "three or four days." He maintained that
the combination of LAF and an augmented UNIFIL could hold the
line until a more capable multi-national stabilization force
could be formulated and deployed to south Lebanon.

9. (C/NF) It was clear that Siniora wanted two valuable
"optics" at the time of cease-fire: he wanted IDF troops to
withdraw behind the Blue Line, and he wanted the Government
of Lebanon to take control of the south in the form of an
immediate LAF deployment.

THE CENTRALITY OF SHEBAA
------------------------
10. (C/NF) As he has in previous meetings, PM Siniora
argued that a just resolution of the Shebaa Farms issue
significantly helped both the Government of Israel and the
Government of Lebanon -- and created an enormous problem for
Hizballah and its Syrian/Iranian sponsors. Siniora said he
understood the ambiguity of the area and the fact that Israel
did not want to "reward" Hizballah's inexcusable actions.
But he countered that the reward, if that was the right word,
would accrue to a democratic Lebanon, not to Hizballah.
Siniora said it was the one issue that had to be addressed by
any comprehensive cease-fire, otherwise instability would
continue, Syria would maintain its leverage, and Israel would
always have a dangerous border.

11. (C/NF) Consistent with his 7-point plan, Siniora
proposed that Shebaa, "40 square kilometers of marginal land
with no villages nor any people," be transferred to UN
custodianship pending the delineation of its borders and
sovereignty of the land. He confided that the UN may be
there "one year or 100 years" -- it did not matter as long as
the Lebanese people witnessed the departure of Israeli troops
from the last parcel of occupied Lebanese land. Siniora said
the IDF withdrawal didn't even have to be immediate, but it
was his conviction the issue had to be settled.

12. (C/NF) Toward the end of the meeting, Siniora made an
impassioned argument that Israel, even with its treaties with
Egypt and Jordan, had never enjoyed secure and stable
borders. But with the end of its "occupation" of Lebanon
(i.e. Shebaa), it could assure itself of peace along its
northern border.

BUT WILL HIZBALLAH GO ALONG
---------------------------
13. (C/NF) In answer to the inquiry of whether Hizballah
would adhere to a cease-fire, Siniora argued that if the
agreement was indeed comprehensive and equitable Hizballah
really only had two choices: adhere to its long-stated goals
and end its "resistance" once the last piece of Lebanese
territory had been returned, or continue hostilities and
expose itself to the Lebanese people and the region as a mere
proxy of the Iranian and Syrian regimes. Siniora believed
that Hizballah would follow the first option.
14. (C/NF) Here, he remarked, was where Parliament Speaker
Nabih Berri came into play. Berri, with his excellent
connections and deep ties in the Shia community, was the only
person in Lebanon who could not only carry a message to
Nasrallah, but could also influence him. Siniora failed to
fully explain why Nasrallah would agree to a cease-fire, but
insisted his 7-points had such wide support in Lebanon that
even Nasrallah would have to accept them, if they were
adopted as the basis of the agreement.

AN UNEXPECTED REQUEST
---------------------
15. (C/NF) While discussing the extent of the damage
inflicted by IDF air strikes and ground incursions, PM
Siniora straight-forwardly asked if the "US Army," presumably
BEIRUT 00002535 003 OF 003
the Army Corps of Engineers, could rebuild the more than 75
bridges that had been damaged or destroyed over the past
three weeks. He said the methodical destruction of the road
system in Lebanon by the IDF threatened the recovery of his
country more than any other single factor. He implied that
only a proven engineering entity, with access to items such
as steel trestles, could do the job quickly. (Note:
Although there are numerous complications, a highly visible
program such as this may help counter the high level of
anti-American sentiment that has built up over the course of
the war. End note.)

NEXT STEPS
----------
16. (C/NF) PM Siniora was aware of the Assistant
Secretary's upcoming meeting with Nabih Berri. He advised
SIPDIS
that Berri would be difficult, but he assured the Assistant
Secretary that Berri was still in full support of the 7-point
SIPDIS
plan. Siniora confided that Berri has been under tremendous
pressure to back away from this support, particularly by the
Iranian Foreign Minister who had visited Beirut this past
Wednesday, but he had stood firm. Siniora indicated he would
have more definite positions once the Berri meeting was
concluded.
17. (U) This cable was cleared by A/S Welch.
FELTMAN
=======================CABLE ENDS============================

 


Source : Al Akhbar Newspaper

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