The WikiLebanon Files (Part IV): The Hezbollah-Amal Electoral Deal that Preceded the Israeli Withdrawal

The Khiam Detention Center, bombed in 2006, was one of the most infamous landmarks associated with the Israeli occupation

The Khiam Detention Center, bombed in 2006, was one of the most infamous landmarks associated with the Israeli occupation

This month marks the 15th anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal from the South Lebanon security zone and the subsequent collapse of the South Lebanon Army. People often focus on the military side of the end of the occupation, and forget the political implications that followed, notably Hezbollah’s accelerated rise to power after basking in the glory of ending the occupation in the South. In this post, I’m only going to quote one cable, about one of the direct political consequences of the Israeli withdrawal: How Amal gave up two MPs to the stronger Hezbollah (Via a Syrian-mediated deal) in order to avoid what would probably be a lost electoral battle, and most importantly, how both party feared the new liberated security zone might influence the rest of the electorate in the South. Amal was confident that the Christians of the liberated regions would fear Hezbollah retribution and would side with Berri, and Hezbollah feared that Kamel Al-Assaad would manage to make a political comeback, especially that the security zone is “his power base” and that the “symbol of the old guard” had managed to secure 40% of the votes in 1996.

Just to be clear here, the cable was written in April, the Israeli withdrawal happened in May, and the general elections in late August/early September

This is one of the most awesome/non circulated/informative cables I have read in a while, so I hope you enjoy it.

ELECTION 2000: AMAL-HIZBALLAH MAKE A DEAL, FOR NOW
2000 April 17, 16:04 (Monday)
00BEIRUT1411_a
CONFIDENTIAL
CONFIDENTIAL
— Not Assigned —
FOR NOW
CLASSIFIED BY AMB. DAVID SATTERFIELD. REASON: 1.5 (B, D)
1. (C) SUMMARY: AMAL MOVEMENT AND HIZBALLAH HAVE MADE A SYRIAN-INDUCED DEAL TO DISTRIBUTE SEATS AMONG THEMSELVES IN THE UPCOMING PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. IF THE DEAL HOLDS, HIZBALLAH WOULD HAVE A NET GAIN OF TWO SEATS, PLUS A STRONGER FIGURE IN A THIRD ONE. THESE EXPEDIENT PAIRINGS ARE TYPICAL OF LEBANESE LEGISLATIVE CAMPAIGNS AND SYRIAN MACHINATIONS. THIS YEAR, DAMASCUS SEEMS EAGER TO SEW UP WINNING COALITIONS NOW, BEFORE ISRAELI WITHDRAWAL, TO ENSURE THAT THE POLITICAL STATUS QUO IS PRESERVED AND TO MINIMIZE INTERNAL LEBANESE RIVALRIES. HOWEVER, MANY OF THESE DEALS ARE BEING CUT SO EARLY, AND SO UNNATURALLY, THAT THEY ARE UNLIKELY TO HOLD TOGETHER UNTIL THE LATE SUMMER ELECTION. BOTH HIZBALLAH AND AMAL MOVEMENT BELIEVE THEY CAN DO BETTER, AND GET MORE SEATS, POST-WITHDRAWAL: HIZBALLAH BECAUSE OF THEIR “VICTORY” OVER ISRAEL, BERRI BECAUSE HE THINKS NEWLY LIBERATED CHRISTIANS IN THE SECURITY ZONE WILL VOTE FOR HIM AS THE STRONGEST ALTERNATIVE TO THE PARTY OF GOD.
END SUMMARY.
2. (C) THE HORSETRADING AND DEALMAKING ASSOCIATED WITH LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATE LISTS HAS BEEN UNDERWAY FOR SOME TIME, AND WILL LIKELY CONTINUE UP UNTIL THE EVE OF THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS IN EARLY AUGUST. AMONG THE MORE INTERESTING ELECTION DEVELOPMENTS IS WITHIN THE SHI’A COMMUNITY. THE SYRIANS HAVE GOD- FATHERED AN ALLIANCE BETWEEN AMAL MOVEMENT, LED BY PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER NABIH BERRI, AND HIS ARCH- RIVAL, HIZBALLAH.
3. (C) ACCORDING TO ALI KHALIL, AMAL MP FROM TYRE AND THE PARTY’S CAMPAIGN COORDINATOR FOR THE ELECTIONS, AMAL AND HIZBALLAH STRUCK THEIR DEAL IN FEBRUARY. AMAL AND HIZBALLAH CANDIDATES WILL RUN ON A SINGLE LIST IN THE SOUTH, ACHIEVING MUTUAL AGREEMENT ON ALL NOMINEES FOR THE 23 SEATS THERE. NATIONWIDE, THE DEAL CALLS FOR A NET INCREASE OF TWO SEATS FOR HIZBALLAH, FROM NINE TO ELEVEN IN PARLIAMENT, BRINGING BACK INTO PARLIAMENT EX-MPS ALI AMMAR AND MUHAMMAD BERJAWI. THE CHANGES WOULD COME AT THE EXPENSE OF AN INDEPENDENT SHI’A IN BEIRUT CLOSE TO PM HOSS (EDUCATION MINISTER BEYDOUN) AND A SHI’A FROM BAABDA ALLIED WITH HARIRI (EX-INFORMATION MINISTER SABA), THEREBY SPREADING THE PAIN AMONG OTHER ALLIES OF SYRIA. IN ADDITION, NAZIH MANSUR, AN MP FROM BINT JUBAYL ALLIED TO HIZBALLAH, WOULD REPUTEDLY BE REPLACED BY A CARD-CARRYING PARTY MEMBER. KHALIL SAID AMAL AND HIZBALLAH HOLD REGULAR ELECTION MEETINGS NOW TO COORDINATE CAMPAIGNS, EVIDENCE OF AN AT LEAST SUPERFICIAL EFFORT TO FORGE A TRUE PRAGMATIC ALLIANCE.
4. (C) EVERY ELECTORAL YEAR, AMAL AND HIZBALLAH COME TO TERMS — VIA SYRIAN MEDIATION — ON A “FAIR” DISTRIBUTION OF SEATS. IT IS NOTABLE THAT THE ARRANGEMENT HAS BEEN MADE SO EARLY THIS YEAR, AND THAT AMAL APPEARS WILLING TO CONCEDE THAT IT IS HIZBALLAH’S TURN TO GROW. JUDGING FROM THE ELECTORAL LAW AND THE ACTIVITIES OF SYRIAN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE CHIEF FOR LEBANON GHAZI KANAAN, SYRIA’S GOAL FOR THE 2000 LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS IS IN GENERAL THE STATUS QUO. POLITICAL RIVALRIES LIKE THE ONE BETWEEN HIZBALLAH AND AMAL CAN ESCALATE INTO OPEN POWER STRUGGLES, POSSIBLY OPENING UP THE COMPETITION TO ANTI-SYRIAN ELEMENTS, SUCH AS FORMER SPEAKER KAMAL AL-ASAD, WHOSE POWER BASE IS IN THE SECURITY ZONE. BERRI’S APPARENT WILLINGNESS TO CONCEDE ANY EXPANDED PRESENCE IN PARLIAMENT TO HIZBALLAH IS ALSO NOTABLE (HIS 19-MEMBER PARLIAMENTARY BLOC HAS ONLY FOUR AMAL MEMBERS; THE OTHER 15 ARE LOOSE ALLIES.) WHILE AMAL MOVEMENT REMAINS THE ORGANIZING PRINCIPLE FOR POLITICS IN SOUTH LEBANON, YEARS OF CORRUPTION HAVE DISCREDITED THE PARTY. BERRI MAY HAVE JUDGED IT BEST TO LOCK IN A MODEST GAIN FOR HIZBALLAH NOW, RATHER THAN FACE HIZBALLAH DEMANDS FOR A GREATER SHARE OF THE SEATS AFTER THE EXPECTED SURGE IN POPULARITY FOR HIZBALLAH AT OCCUPATION’S END.
5. (C) SOUTHERN MPS YASSINE JABER AND SAMIR AZAR, ALLIES OF AMAL MOVEMENT, TOLD US SEPARATELY THAT THE AMAL-HIZBALLAH COALITION, WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF A UNILATERAL WITHDRAWAL, HAS QUESTIONABLE LONGEVITY. THEY MAINTAIN BERRI WAS NOT COMPLETELY CONVINCED THAT ISRAEL WOULD ACTUALLY WITHDRAW UNTIL RECENTLY. AS REALITY SINKS IN, HIS CALCULATIONS ARE CHANGING. THEY CLAIM BERRI ASSUMES THAT NEWLY-LIBERATED CHRISTIANS OF THE SOUTH WILL LOOK TO HIM FOR REPRESENTATION, NOT HIZBALLAH, WHICH IS FEARED AS THE PARTY OF POSSIBLE RETRIBUTION. HIZBALLAH’S WITHDRAWAL OF ITS SLA AMNESTY PROPOSAL IN PARLIAMENT IS SEEN AS AN ABANDONMENT OF ITS EFFORT TO APPEAL TO SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN VOTES.
COMMENT
6. (C) SYRIAN HANDLERS FOR LEBANON MADE EVERY SIGN OF WANTING TO SEW UP THE ELECTION RESULTS EARLY ON. THE MOST EFFECTIVE TOOL IN THIS PROCESS IS TO COMPEL ALLIANCES BETWEEN NATURAL RIVALS IN EACH DISTRICT WHICH EFFECTIVELY ELIMINATE COMPETITION AND GIVE “FIXED MENU” COALITION OFFERINGS TO THE VOTERS. IN SOME DISTRICTS FRACTIOUS LEBANESE, EVEN THOSE ON EXCELLENT TERMS WITH DAMASCUS, ARE DEFEATING THIS AIM, AS THE BARGAINING MELEE CONTINUES. THIS HAS BEEN ESPECIALLY ACUTE IN THE NORTH, WHERE TRADITIONAL POWER CENTERS OF UMAR KARAME, SULEIMAN FRANJIYAH, AND NAYLA MUAWID CONTINUE TO MANEUVER IN WAYS WHICH UNDERMINE COALITION LIST FORMATION.
7. (C) IN THE SOUTH, BERRI HAS HIS WORK CUT OUT FOR HIM. OF THE TWO PARTIES, HIZBALLAH CAN EASILY OUTSPEND AMAL. IT WILL NOT BE ENOUGH FOR BERRI TO MARKET AMAL TO THE LIBERATED SECURITY ZONE. AFTER DECADES OF OCCUPATION, DESTRUCTION, AND AN ABYSMAL ECONOMY, PEOPLE WANT ASSISTANCE, NOT RHETORIC. HIZBALLAH COULD GAIN SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL GROUND FROM AMAL IF, FOLLOWING AN IDF WITHDRAWAL, IT ACCENTUATES CONSTITUENT SERVICES. HOWEVER, IN ITS PERPETUAL GAME OF PLAYING FACTIONS AGAINST EACH OTHER, THE SYRIAN REGIME MAY SEE A NEED TO DEFLATE HIZBALLAH FOLLOWING AN ISRAELI WITHDRAWAL, TO KEEP IT OFF BALANCE AND DEPENDENT. BERRI IS THE ONLY RELIABLE TOOL AT THEIR DISPOSAL TO COUNTER HIZBALLAH, AN ARGUMENT HE NO DOUBT MAKES IN DAMASCUS.
8. (C) ONE WILD CARD IS THE SUPPORT RETAINED BY KAMAL AL-ASAD. ALTHOUGH A SEEMINGLY DISCREDITED SYMBOL OF THE OLD GUARD, VIEWED AS TOO ACCOMMODATING TO ISRAEL, ASAD POLLED A RESPECTABLE 30% OF THE VOTE IN 1992 AND 40% IN 1996, AGAINST THE AMAL/HIZBALLAH ALLIANCE LIST. HIS APPEAL IN THE SECURITY ZONE — THE FAMILY’S TRADITIONAL POWER BASE — IS UNTESTED BUT NO DOUBT STRONG. ENSURING HE REMAINS FIRMLY AT THE BOTTOM OF THE ELECTORAL SWEEPSTAKES IS A GOAL SHARED IN COMMON BY SYRIA, BERRI, AND HIZBALLAH.
SATTERFIELD

How Hezbollah Took Power In 2011

Soldiers advance towards stone-throwing Sunni Muslim supporters of outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri near Tariq al-Jadidah in Beirut January 25, 2011. (REUTERS/Hasan Shaaban)

Soldiers advance towards supporters of outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri near Tariq al-Jadidah
in Beirut January 25, 2011. (REUTERS/Hasan Shaaban)

Presidential politics are becoming very repetitive these last two months, which is why I’m going back till 2011 today, in order to try to decipher one of the most complicated and underrated large-scale maneuvers any Lebanese party did since the Syrian withdrawal. Today’s post is on how Hezbollah managed to go through with a one-sided government without starting a mini-sectarian civil war, something M14 failed to do when they tried to achieve the same goal of ruling all by themselves in 2007/2008.

How It All Began

So let’s make a small, very simplified summary of what happened in January 2011: M14 wanted (to fund) the STL, M8 didn’t want (to fund) the STL, things started to escalate quickly, and as Hariri (who was still Prime Minister back then) was preparing to meet Obama on the 12th of January 2011, M8’s ministers in the cabinet resigned, forcing the government to collapse (The irony here is that Mikati would eventually indirectly fund the STL without asking the M8-run cabinet for the funds via a very weird loophole that he managed to find by using the money of the Prime Minister’s budget). But the thing is, Hezbollah and its allies did not have what politicians in Lebanon love to call the “blocking third”. Unlike the previous cabinet of Fouad Siniora (2008) where Hezbollah had 11 ministers out of 30 and M14 – the majority back then – still held more than half of the seats, the new Hariri cabinet of November 2009 was supposed to be a “refreshing experience”: The majority (M14) did not hold the majority of seats (only the half, 15/30), and the minority (M8) were not awarded the blocking third – 11 seats – but only 10 seats out of 30, a number that is high, yet not high enough to bring the government down in case M8 decided one day to withdraw support. The five other seats were given to the President, who was considered to be the only centrist player in the game back then. That’s how the government of November 2009 saw the light after 5 months of negotiations. Today the number “five” is nothing to the eleven months that Salam took to form his government, but back then such a number was shocking. So when the 10 ministers of M8 resigned in 2010, the cabinet was not supposed to collapse, at least not directly. Like 2006, M8 was expected to maneuver and play the sectarian card, by saying that the cabinet had no credible Shia representation, and hence – according to a very vague article in the constitution’s preamble “( J) There shall be no constitutional legitimacy for any authority which contradicts the pact of mutual existence”  the president should consider the cabinet resigned and seek the formation of a more legitimate and representative one. That’s what everyone thought M8’s maneuver was, at least for the next couple hours. The speculation ended when President Michel Sleiman’s Shia representative in the cabinet (The last of the 6 resigning Shia ministers), who was always rumored to be more of a sympathizer of M8 than a centrist, submitted his letter of resignation.

It was no longer a 10 minister-resignation political maneuver in order to force some terms on the ruling alliance. It was an 11 minister-resignation and the beginning of a political coup.

Patience Is a Virtue (Part I)

From that moment on, things accelerated quickly: There were signs of Sunni discontent in Beirut and the M14 controlled regions and in the end, the President, who was probably under intense pressure from both sides,  postponed the parliamentary consultations for a couple more days. As things were calming down on the political front, the front-runner was still Hariri (even Nasrallah said the Hariri would probably be nominated again at the time), as Jumblatt was still more or less part of M14 and his share in the parliament and the cabinet was still considered to be part of M14’s one. Then the unexpected happened: Rumors spread that Hezbollah had dispatched armed members of the party in Beirut, referred to by M14 as “the Black-shirts” (M14 was probably trying to compare them to Mussolini’s Camicia Nere). M8, who still had no clear candidate in mind (there were talks that Karami or Hoss might be nominated by M8, but the rumors were quickly dismissed) dropped a political bomb: They announced that they had formed an alliance with Tripoli’s key politician, Najib Mikati. Mikati had also brought with him 2 other MPs from Tripoli to the M8 side. Jumblatt – who was known to switch allegiances quite often – switched allegiance and supported Mikati’s nomination to the premiership. His 11 MP-strong bloc collapsed, and four of his MPs, who turned out to be closer to the FM than to him, stood with Hariri. Strong with Jumblatt’s 7 extra votes and Mikati’s extra 3 votes, the March 8 alliance was now, and for the first time since 2005, the ruling coalition in parliament. On the 25th of January, it was Najib Mikati, and not Saad Hariri who was designated Prime Minister. Riots started in Beirut and Tripoli. (Remember the “Day of Anger”?) Hezbollah couldn’t go forward with M8’s plan to rule without calming down the Sunni streets before making any additional step. And thus began a 5 months period of vacancy and negotiations that was probably intended for that sole purpose.

Patience Is a Virtue (Part II)

The first step of calming down the M14 regions was by giving the impression that M8 did not want to rule all by itself. For several months after Mikati was designated, M8 and M14 carried on endless negotiations that were intended to make the new cabinet a consensual “unity government”, similar to the Hariri one, except that it wouldn’t be led by Hariri. Hezbollah knew that the FM was going to put conditions, and we all knew that Hezbollah would refuse them and that M14 couldn’t possibly accept to be a minor player in the executive power especially after the way M8 removed Hariri from it. So giving the impression/illusion that a consensual cabinet was on the way was a smart maneuver.

But that first step wasn’t enough: The Arab spring had just begun, so Hezbollah had to make sure that the cabinet would not collapse right after it was formed. Hezbollah knew that the FM couldn’t escalate things/riot against the Christian FPM in the way they would do so against Hezbollah (since any demonstration against the FPM could turn into one against the Christians and would eventually weaken M14 in the Christian regions). This is why Hezbollah’s second step was to make the cabinet confrontation a Christian-Sunni one and a Christian-Christian one instead of a Shia-Sunni one. It was only a matter of time before Aoun asked for half of the cabinet’s seats (we all saw that coming), and Hezbollah’s silence on the matter made Sleiman and Mikati, who both expected to have 1 or 2 Christian ministers, panic. It also made M14’s parties shift their criticism towards Aoun and his Christian base instead of Hezbollah and its Shia base. Thus began 2 or 3 months of internal struggle over those seats between Aoun, Mikati, and Sleiman. The statements in Lebanese politics were no longer about how Hezbollah threw the FM outside, but how Aoun and the others were fighting over the leftovers of the M14 seats. As a matter of fact, the main maneuvering tactics that the cabinet adopted during its rule were based on the idea that if Aoun argued with Mikati and Mikati argued with Aoun, both would look like “heroes” within their sects and it would eventually lead to a whooping M8 victory at the 2013 general elections.

In the last months preceding the formation of the government, the media focused on something they called “العقدة السنية” (The Sunni complication). That was Hezbollah’s last maneuver of the 2011 vacancy. After the Aoun-Mikati-Sleiman mini-battle ended, Hezbollah’s two key allies in Tripoli (The Karami family and Mikati’s men) wanted to be represented in the cabinet. But the cabinet doesn’t have an endless number of Sunni seats, and most if not all of the post-Taef cabinets have had a fixed amount of seats for every sect (Maronites, Sunnis and Shias have each an equal share of 6 seats in a 30 ministers cabinet). This gave the impression that it was no longer a Sunni-Shia struggle for power, but rather a Sunni-Sunni bickering. M8’s major parties, after letting this feud go on for a while, ended the vacancy with a gesture that everyone still remembers. Berri gave up one of his Shia ministers so that M8 seemed like it did a sacrifice in order to satisfy its Sunni allies, while Hezbollah was now ruling with a cabinet that had a Sunni relative majority (7 Sunnis, 6 Maronites, 5 Shias) for the first time since years. Tripoli, the epicenter of the “Day of Anger” riots, was awarded more ministers than any other region. That maneuver made every M14 statement that would include the sentence “Hezbollah is undermining the Sunnis / Tripoli” irrelevant. The only way of describing that maneuver is by quoting Berri: “Eventually I lost a minister but won Lebanon“. They had in fact won Lebanon for two more years with that tactic.

Moreover, M8, with its endless 5-months inner fights looked like a very weak coalition that wouldn’t last long. That illusion of not lasting long led the M14 public to be more forgiving about the presence of a one-sided cabinet. It was way better for the new opposition to bring down a failing cabinet right before the 2013 elections (weirdly enough, that’s what eventually happened, although we never had those elections…) than to violently oppose it before it even got to action. And that’s how the 2011 cabinet saw the light and managed to overcome the different crises that shook the country in 2012 and 2013.

La Morale

In a way, today’s political impasse is a lot similar to the one we had in 2011. Everything is not what it seems it is. In the future we’ll look at this presidential vacancy in a  different perspective than we do now, just like M8’s mini-tactics were in fact a huge political maneuver (whether it was intended or not) that could have been summed up with the word “patience”.

Reminder: We still don’t have a president.

350 days (30,240,000 seconds) since the 25th of May. 186 days (16,070,400 seconds) since the 5th of November. 

Eleven Months of Vacuum

Lebanese children hold placards and a giant Yemeni flag during a demonstration organized by Hezbollah, in front the United Nations headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, April 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Lebanese children hold placards and a giant Yemeni flag during a demonstration organized by Hezbollah, in front the United Nations headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, April 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Ten years ago, the Syrian army was withdrawing from Lebanon. In April 2005, “Syria was out”. But the truth is, Syria was never out. Syria was everywhere. Syria is everywhere.  For a brief moment, it seemed as if the politics of Syria and Lebanon would be at last separated from one another. But we were wrong. In the seven years that followed, the political coalitions in Lebanon were built on nothing but their stance regarding Syria, and for the 3 years after that, Lebanese politics became about the Syrian Civil War. The government will be formed when things in Syria settle down, they said. The president will be elected when things in Syria settle down, they said. Even the parliamentary elections would be held when things in Syria settle down, they said. And that last thing, it was said twice. Lebanese politics became a part of the Syrian Civil War. The Syrian Civil War became part of Lebanese politics.

But then came April 2015. The rival coalitions were not arguing about Syria anymore. At least not as much as they had argued during the past half century.

Congratulations, Lebanon. You have finally been promoted. Instead of arguing about Syria, Lebanese parties are now arguing about Yemen. You know, because we have a proper budget, no public debt, a president, a functioning cabinet, an elected parliament, no threats on our southern and northern borders, and most importantly, a successful democratic sovereign free republic. A republic so successful that its parties and elected representatives have spare time to discuss the politics of a country whose capital lies 2200 Km south of Beirut.

Anyway, enough nagging, and let’s look at the political events of the eleventh month of presidential vacancy.

Yemen, Yemen, Yemen. Did I forget to mention Yemen?

First, Hariri supports the “Saudi intervention” in Yemen. Then, Hezbollah condemns the “Saudi aggression” in Yemen. Then, the Future Movement supports the “Saudi intervention” in Yemen. Then, Nasrallah criticizes Saudi Arabia. Then, the Future Movement criticizes Hezbollah. Then, Hezbollah criticizes the Future Movement. Then, the Future Movement criticizes Hezbollah. Then, Nasrallah criticizes Saudi Arabia. Then, Hariri criticizes Nasrallah. Then, Hezbollah criticizes the Future Movement. Then, the Future Movement criticizes Hezbollah. Then, Hezbollah criticizes the Future Movement. Then, the Future Movement criticizes Hezbollah.

That, dear reader, was a short summary of the three productive weeks we had between the 27th of March and the 17th of April.

Also, it seems that the FM-Hezbollah dialogue is “still safe and sound” despite the war of words. No offense here, but isn’t a war of words the exact opposite of a dialogue? Or do we have to be in a state of war to declare the dialogue a dead-end?

Oh, and by the way, in case I wasn’t too clear, Sanaa is 2200 Km far from Beirut. Deux-mille-deux-cents Kilomètres.

Gebran Bassil

This is by far the event of the month (Hint: It’s also about Yemen). A couple of days after the Saudis launched their campaign, Gebran Bassil, the FPM’s no.2 dropped April’s political bomb: From the Sharm Sheikh summit, he told the world that he expressed support for “legitimacy in any Arab country, especially in Yemen”. Four days later, Bassil struck again: “We don’t wish to see Hezbollah fighting with the Houthis or see anyone from the Future Movement fighting alongside the Saudis”. For the second time in the same week, Bassil was indirectly criticizing the FPM’s key ally, Hezbollah. True, the last statement also included Future Movement criticism, but the very fact that Gebran Bassil dared to start a “mini rebellion” against Hezbollah means a lot, even if it’s just a simple maneuver to make the FPM look as if they care about Lebanon and Lebanon only. Gebran Bassil’s stances were actually so strong that Aoun had to intervene in the very beginning of April with reports saying that he described the Saudi war in Yemen as illegal. But that did not stop Bassil from continuing what he started: On the second day of April, he said that “National unity remains an overriding priority for Lebanon’s foreign policy“.

Aoun’s relative silence here says a lot too. I’m going to put in context: “He [Samir Geagea] said after holding talks with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi at Bkirki: “In principle, there is nothing stopping Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun from becoming president, but we have to take into consideration his political platform.”” (April 3)

Walid Jumblatt

Gebran Bassil wasn’t the only one criticizing Hezbollah this month. On March 30, Jumblatt launched an anti-Iran tirade. This stance was followed by a direct critique of Nasrallah’s speech on the first of April, describing it as lacking objectivity. By the 19th of April, Jumblatt asked “What’s wrong with Nasrallah?“. Jumblatt criticizes Hezbollah every now and then, but this time it came together with a Bassil criticism. It was not a very pleasant month for the party of God.

Tammam Salam

Not a very pleasant month indeed. As if the waves of criticism coming from the FPM, the FM, the PSP, the Saudi ambassador and the Grand Mufti weren’t enough, the Prime Minister said that Beirut supported any move that preserves Sanaa’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

If you have been following Lebanese politics for the past few months, you’d notice that Hezbollah usually doesn’t get into a war of words with Tammam Salam (Because weakening him would mean strengthening his ally/rival Hariri). Well, guess what? The pressure was too high on Hezbollah this time that the party’s minister in the cabinet Hussein Hajj Hassan said in a statement that “Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s remarks on the Saudi military intervention in Yemen at the Arab League summit two days ago do not represent the views of the Lebanese government”

But to be fair here, Salam’s pro-Saudi stance (even if discreet) is understandable. It was Saudi pressure that eventually brought Salam to the premiership in April 2013. This is why Hezbollah probably didn’t make a big deal out of it and chose to calm things down in the cabinet meeting.

Nabih Berri

Even Berri tried to distance himself and Amal as much as possible from the FM-Hezbollah clash over Yemen. Within 7 days, the speaker said he supported three things: (1) Oman’s efforts to solve the crisis (April 1), (2) himself hosting the Yemeni dialogue :P  (April 5) and (3) moving forward with the FM-Hezbollah talks he’s mediating (April 8).

With Tammam Salam and Jumblatt pushed slightly/temporarily towards M14, Berri found himself in April as the new Kingmaker in the Lebanese centre. He wants to host the Yemeni dialogue, because solving the presidential crisis in Lebanon is so 2008.

The Three Blows

Hezbollah suffered three more blows this month. The first blow was when M8 politician Michel Samaha confessed on the 20th of April that he transported explosives (with support of Syrian regime officials) into Lebanon with the aim of targeting Lebanese politicians and religious figures. (Although deep down, and as I said three years ago, this could be a good thing for Hezbollah since it would give the impression that they had nothing to do with the assassinations of the M14 politicians, and that it was Syria via its operatives all the time)

The second blow was the mysterious death of Rustum Ghazali, Syria’s man in Lebanon from 2002 till the 2005 withdrawal. While his death doesn’t have direct or even indirect consequences on the Lebanese scene, Lebanese and Syrian politics are still interconnected and it was seen as victory for M14. And a victory for M14 is never a victory for M8.

And because it wasn’t yet the worst month for M8 since the beginning of time, the third blow came from The Maronite Patriarch who accused Aoun and his March 8 allies of being responsible for the presidential vacuum. That’s the most violent criticism coming from the Maronite church since August 2014.

Yemen and the Baabda Declaration

Also, in other news, Michel Sleiman indirectly declared his candidacy as a “consensual candidate” if all parties accept the Baabda declaration and distance themselves from outside conflicts (inspired from the Lebanese dilemma over Yemen). His reelection would be unconstitutional: Presidents can’t have two consecutive terms in Lebanon. But then again, he was elected unconstitutionally since grade one civil servants need a constitutional amendment to be elected ( something the parliament did not do when they elected him in 2008), so who cares.

If a former protector of the constitution gets elected unconstitutionally and wants to get reelected unconstitutionally, I really don’t know what to say.

Actually, I know what to say. I’ll just repeat what I said at the beginning of the post: Lebanon is a successful democratic sovereign free republic.

341 days since the 25th of May. 177 days since the 5th of November. 773 days till the next parliamentary elections. Just kidding. We’re never going to have elections again :D

Also, 3 days since Salma Hayek came to Lebanon.

(This last sentence was an attempt to make this political blog more “social”)

The WikiLebanon Files (Part III): Gemayel’s Comments On Sleiman (2009)

Gemayel and Sleiman

Gemayel and Sleiman

ANOTHER WIKILEAKS POST? AGAIN? (In case you missed it, I published around 40 WikiLeaks cables dating from the 70s and 80s in order to to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War.)

But hey, on the bright side, today’s cable is a short one, and I’m mainly publishing it because it mentions several negative comments that Gemayel said about Sleiman right after the parliamentary elections in 2009 (Look for the sentences in bold at the end).

The relevance of this cable right now comes from the fact that the two former presidents, Gemayel and Sleiman, have recently joined hands together and formed an alliance/rapprochement/agreement/gathering  (I have no idea what to call it) that apparently seeks to create a unified bloc for the small parties represented in the government (although deep down we all know that this rapprochement is in fact a reaction to the Aoun-Geagea dialogue and an epic-fail tentative of a “centrist presidential campaign”).

Hope you enjoy the cable.

LEBANON: GEMAYEL SAYS MARCH 14 MUST STAND FIRM AGAINST A BLOCKING THIRD
2009 June 11, 14:50 (Thursday)
09BEIRUT654_a
CONFIDENTIAL
CONFIDENTIAL
— Not Assigned —

(b) and (d).

SUMMARY

——-

1. (C) In a June 10 meeting with the Ambassador, Kataeb Party leader Amine Gemayel stressed that March 14 must be strong in opposing a blocking third for the opposition in the new cabinet, even if government formation takes longer as a result. He worried that some of his March 14 allies would be more “docile” in their dialogue with Hizballah. Gemayel said he would seek clarification from Hizballah on where its allegiance lies, and what its definition of sovereignty is. He believed National Dialogue participants should be chosen based on the number of seats each bloc received in parliament, with special allowances for under-represented confessions. He predicted that Amal leader Nabih Berri would once again be Speaker of Parliament, but thought it would be good to circulate other names for the position, to put Berri on notice following his negative role in the previous parliament. He also expounded on how the election results heralded the return of the Kataeb Party to its historical place of importance. End summary.

NO BLOCKING THIRD; MUST BE CLEAR WITH HIZBALLAH

—————————-

2. (C) The Ambassador, accompanied by EconOff, called on Amine Gemayel at Kataeb Party headquarters in Beirut June 10. Losing Kataeb candidate (Keserwan) Sejean Qazzi and a Kataeb notetaker also attended the meeting. Gemayel expressed his pleasure that March 14 had won such a solid majority in the June 7 elections, but he emphasized that Hizballah was still present on the ground, with forces stronger than those of the Lebanese army. This situation would make government formation difficult and possibly long. Nonetheless, Gemayel believed it crucial that March 14 stand together against any opposition calls for a blocking third in the new cabinet. He pointed to the impasse that reigned in the previous cabinet, and said March 14 needed to create a government that can function effectively.

3. (C) Gemayel worried that some of his March 14 allies would tend toward being too “docile” in a dialogue with Hizballah, and he stressed it was important for March 14 not to compromise its principles. He felt March 14 decision-making would be more productive if it were run by a directorate of its party leaders, rather than through the intermediary of a March 14 secretariat. With the secretariat out of the way, said Gemayel, the leadership could determine a joint path to take in any dialogue with Hizballah. He was not certain March 14’s strong showing in the elections would tame March 14 Druze leader Walid Jumblatt’s desire to engage more with Hizballah, but stressed that Kataeb would not compromise on the issue of the blocking third.

4, (C) Gemayel complained that in past discussions with Hizballah, March 14 leaders had danced around issues, using vague language that Hizballah could interpret in a variety of ways. It is imperative to be clear on what we stand for, he explained, and to ask for clarification from Hizballah on its definition of certain concepts, such as allegiance (“is Hizballah’s allegiance with Lebanon or with Iran?”) and sovereignty, ideas at the heart of national identity. Gemayel was emphatic that these issues should be ironed out before forming a government, even if the process takes longer. He suggested that if things dragged out longer than expected, perhaps the President could put in place an interim technocratic government, as Gemayel himself had done when he was president during the civil war.

NATIONAL DIALOGUE: WHO SHOULD PARTICIPATE?

BEIRUT 00000654 002 OF 002

———————–

5. (C) Gemayel believed participants in the National Dialogue following the elections should be chosen according to the criteria established by Speaker Nabih Berri in 2006. All blocs with four or more seats in parliament should send a representative, with the president appointing representatives of confessional groups not otherwise represented at the dialogue table. (Note: Gemayel participated in the current version of the dialogue with only two seats in parliament, because he is a former president. His suggestion that representatives should have at least 4 seats to participate would exclude opposition Christian Suleiman Frangieh, whose Marada party won 3 seats. End note.) He argued that March 14 Armenians, who won four seats in these elections, should send their own representative to the dialogue, replacing Tashnaq MP Hagop Pakradounian, whose party won only two seats. He believed Michel Pharaon, the re-elected Greek Catholic MP from Beirut I, should replace Elie Skaff, who lost his race in Zahle.

BERRI TO REMAIN

—————

6. (C) Gemayel said Berri enjoyed wide support for his candidacy to remain parliament speaker, and noted that both Hizballah and Jumblatt had expressed their intention to vote for him. He believed Saad Hariri would also have his bloc — the largest in parliament — vote for Berri. That said, Gemayel thought it a good idea to start floating names of other Shia as possible candidates, from March 14 Beirut III MP Ghazi Youssef or new Zahle MP Okab Sakr, to put Berri on notice that there were other options available. He assessed such as March 14 should call Berri to task for his behavior during the last parliament, when he shut down parliament operations for over a year, and set conditions for his re-election.

SLEIMAN STILL STRONG

——————–

7. (C) Gemayel disagreed with observers who believe former presidential advisor Nazem Khoury’s defeat in the parliamentary race in Jbeil weakened President Sleiman. He saw Khoury’s loss as a result of his lack of charisma, as well as his place “stuck between the two camps.” The President should not be blamed, believed Gemayel, because he remained neutral and did not intervene on Khoury’s behalf. (Comment: Some contacts have told us Sleiman made attempts to drum up for support for Khoury in the final days of campaigning through is army contacts in Jbeil, which may have backfired. Khoury’s victorious opponent from the opposition complained strongly to us about the President’s interference. End comment.) Gemayel added that Sleiman was never a true political figure in Jbeil, so the political loss should not hurt his stature. “He’s a military man, not a regional leader. He is just from there,” said Gemayel.

“KATAEB HAS TAKEN BACK ITS RIGHTFUL PLACE”

———————-

8. (C) Gemayel spoke at length on how his party’s winning five seats in the new parliament — after having two MPs in the previous parliament, both of whom were assassinated — placed Kataeb back at the center of Lebanese politics. He said his candidates had worked hard to win, and he believed that his young MPs (his son Sami Gemayel and his nephew Nadeem Gemayel) would bring youth to his party, which had a long history in Lebanese politics. “We have always been moderators in Lebanon, and protectors of Lebanese sovereignty,” he said.

SISON

The War Files (Part XIII) – Lebanon In The Valley Of Despair

A U.S. Marine uses a mirror on a stick to check underneath a car in front of the building used as the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Oct. 25, 1983. (Associated Press)

A U.S. Marine uses a mirror on a stick to check underneath a car in front of the building used as the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Oct. 25, 1983.

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War that started on the 13th of April 1975. This is why I’ve decided to publish WikiLeaks cables from the war era, every day till the 13th of April. I think it would be interesting to look at things from a different point of view, and since it’s not the Lebanese who are telling the stories, I believe it offers a unique insight on the civil war. Although there are a lot more cables on WikiLeaks, I won’t republish them all  in order to focus on the most relevant ones. I hope you enjoy reading them.

For the past two weeks, I have been publishing WikiLeaks cables about events during the Lebanese Civil War. But there is something I did not mention well enough: The Lebanese Civil War was more about destruction than politics. This is why in this post, the WikiLeaks cables are about the killing, the bombs, the explosions, the shelling and the fighting. You’ll find 13 cables in this last entry of the series. The title of this last post is actually a title of one of those WikiLeaks cables (Yep, we were in despair).

The summary of a cable from November 1976 says it all: “LIKE A BOXER PUNCH-DRUNK FROM FOUR GRUELING ROUNDS OF PUNISHMENT, BEIRUT CONTINUES TO RISE FROM THE CANVAS; THE LEGS ARE WOBBLY, THE VISION BLURRED. THERE ARE RISING HOPES BUT AS YET LITTLE CONFIDENCE, THAT THE CITY WILL NOT HAVE TO ANSWER THE BELL FOR ROUND 5 (They’re talking about another round of infighting in beirut)

Is it me, or do we still repeat that same sentence at least once every two to three years?

Wars should not be political maneuvers.

I repeat, 15 year civil wars should not be political maneuvers.

Tenzakar W Ma Ten3ad.

RENEWAL OF TENSION IN SIDON AND ELSEWHERE IN LEBANON
1975 March 6, 15:47 (Thursday)
1975BEIRUT03028_b
CONFIDENTIAL
UNCLASSIFIED
Margaret P. Grafeld Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 05 JUL 2006
1. TENSIONS GENERATED THROUGHOUT LEBANON OVER PAST WEEK BY CLASHES BETWEEN LEBANESE ARMY AND “ARMED ELEMENTS” INSIDON (REFTELS) HAD BEGUN TO LESSEN PERCEPTIBLY LATE MAR 5, FOLLOWING COUNTRY-WIDE MANIFES- ATIONS BY CITIZENS (MOSTLYCHRISTIANS BUT SOME SHI’A) DEMONSTRATING IN SUPPORT OF ARMY AND GOL. DEMONSTRATIONS WENT OFF MORE OR LESS PEACEFULLY, WITH ONLY ONE PERSON REPORTED KILLED (ACCIDENTALLY BY STRAY BULLET). COUNCIL
CONFIDENTIAL CONFIDENTIAL PAGE 02 BEIRUT 03028 061643Z
OF MINISTERS MEETING EVENING MAR 5 RESULTED IN DECISION BY SOLH CABINET (BACKED BY PRES FRANGIE) TO CONTINUE IN OFFICE, ALTHOUGH MIN OF WATER AND ELECTRICITY MALIK SALAM CARRIED OUT HIS THREAT TO RESIGN AND WALKED OUT OF MEETING. STAGE THUS SEEMED SET FOR FURTHER DIMINUTION OF TENSIONS AND PROGRESSIVE RETURN TO NORMALITY MAR 6, THANKS TO TYPICALLY LEBBANESE SOLUTION IN WHICH NO PROBLEMS WERE REALLY SOLVED BUT WERE MERELY TO BE BRUSHED UNDER RUG FOR TIME BEING.
2. UNFORTUNATELY, WIDESPREAD APPREHENSION RE POSSIBLE ISRAELI RETALIATION AGAINST LEBA ON FOR LAST NIGHT’S TERRORIST OPERATIN IN TEL AVIV, FOLLOWED BY NEWS AT MID-DAY MAR 6 OF DEATH IN AUB HOSPITAL OF EX-DEPUTY MAAROUF SAAD (WHO HAD BEEN WOUNDED IN FEB 26 CLASHES IN SIDON (SEE BEIRUT 2611) HAVE CHANGED ALL THIS. PLO OFFICES IN BEIRUT APPARENTLY HAVE BEEN EVACUATED, AND FEDAYEEN ARE REPORTEDLY ON FULL ALERT IN AND AROUND COUNTRY’S 15 REFUGEE CAMPS, INCLUDING THOSE NORTH OF TRIPOLI WHERE TRIGGER-HAPPY ELEMENTS THIS MORNING ACTUALLY OPENED FIRE ON OVERFLYING LEBANESE AIR FORCE PLANES, PROBABLY ON ASSUMPTION THEY WERE ISRAELI. AS NEWS OF SAAD’S DEATH SPREAD DURING AFTERNOON, OTHER DISRUPTIVE INCIDENTS BEGAN OCCURRING AT VARIOUS POINTS IN BEIRUT, WHERE GROUPS OF HIS LEFTIST AND SUNNI MOSLEM SYMPATHIZERS (ACCOMPANIED IN SOME PLACES BY FEDAYEEN) HAVE TAKEN TO BLOCKING ROADS, BURNING TIRES, SHOOTING IN AIR, ETC. SIDON REPORTEDLY IS AGAIN GRIPPED BY TENSION, WITH LARGE NUMBERS OF “ARMED ELEMENTS” (I.E., FEDAYEEN AND THEIR LEFTIST ALLIES) HAVING REOCCUPIED STREET BARRI- CADES AND POSITIONS ON ROOFTTPS. LEBANESE ARMY AND INTERNAL SECURITY FORCES HAVE CANCELLED ALL LEAVES AND UNITS ARE CURRENTLY ENGAGED IN TRYING CLEAR CROWDS AND BARRICADES FROM SEVERAL ARTIERIES IN BEIRUT, INCLUDING ROAD TO AIRPORT. MOST SHOPS AND BUSINESSES CLOSED EARLIER THAN USUAL, AND LATE AFTERNOON RUSH-HOUR TRAFFIC AP- PEARS LESS THAN NORMAL.
3. CONDITIONS DESCRIBED ABOVE HAVE CREATED PALPABLE ATMOSPHERE OF PUBLIC NERVOUSNESS AND FOREBODING. GENERAL FEELING SEEMS TO BE THAT FURTHER TROUBLE
— CONFIDENTIAL CONFIDENTIAL PAGE 03 BEIRUT 03028 061643Z
GENERATED INTERNALLY OR BY ISRAELIS, OR BOTH–IS STILL TO COME. I HAVE TAKEN PRECAUTIONOF ADVISING EMBASSY’S AMERICAN STAFF TO AVOID UNNECESSARY MOVEMENT AT LEAST DURING NIGHT MAR 6-7.
HOUGHTON
CONFIDENTIAL
NNN
BEIRUT SECURITY SITUATION DETERIORATES–ONCE AGAIN
1975 June 26, 15:05 (Thursday)
1975BEIRUT08149_b
CONFIDENTIAL
UNCLASSIFIED
1. FIRM RESPONSE OF INTERNAL SECURITY FORCES TO INCIDENTS BEGINNING JUNE 23( REFTEL) FAILED TO RESTORE RELATIVE CALM. WHILE PERSISTENT CLASHES CONTINUE TO BE RELATIVELY RES- TRICTED GEOGRAPHICALLY, NIGHT OF JUNE 25/26 SAW FIERCE EX- CHANGES IN AIN RUMANNEH, SHIAH, FURN AS SHUBAK. RESIDENTS OF SURROUNDING AREAS HAVE DESCRIBED FIRING OF BOTH AUTOMATIC AND HEAVY WEAPONS (MORTARS,RPGS, ETC.) AS HEAVIEST SINCE APRIL TROUBLES AND ARE BRACING FOR RES- URGENCE OF HEAVY FIRING ONCE DARKNESS DESCENDS ON CITY TONIGHT
2. CLASHES, WHICH BEGAN TUESDAY AND SPUTTERED ALONG WEDNESDAY. PICKED UP CONSIDERABLE STEAM AFTERNOON JUNE 25 AND CONTINUED THROUGH HOURS OF DARKNESS.SECURITY FORCES PERSISTING IN EFFORTS TO CONTAIN SITUTATION AND APPARENTLY HAVE ORDERS TO OPEN FIRE ON FRANC TIREURS, USING AS MUCH FIRE POWER AS NECESSARY TO SILENCE SNIPERS. LEBANESE ARMY SOURCE REPORTS CASUALTY FIGURES OF 11 KILLED, 46 WOUNDED AND WE UNDERSTAND SUBSTANTIAL MATERIAL DAMAGE HAS OCCURRED IN AFFECTED AREAS. SAME ARMY SOURCE TOLD DATT THAT UP TO 60 ROUNDS OF 120MM MORTAR FIRE WERE RECEIVED IN AIN RUMMANNEH DURING NIGHT OF 25/26 JUNE. SOME STRAY ROUNDS FELL OUTSIDE AIN RUMMANNEH AND RELIABLE LEBANESE OBSERVER RE PORTS SHELL OR ROCKET, WHICH FAILED TO EXPLODE, STRUCK WALL OF MAIN MILITARYS HOSPITAL. SAME SOURCE COUNTED TWENTY HEAVY EXPLOSIONS DURING HALF HOUR.
3. EVIDENCE WHICH HAS ACCUMULATED SINCE NOON JUNE 25 POINTS FINGER OF RESPONSIBLLITY FOR OUTBREAK AT PALESTINIAN “REJECTION” FROM AND THEIR LEBANESE LEFTIST ALLIES. OFFICIAL GOL SOURCE STATES THREE SERIOUSLY WOUNDED BY SECURITY FORCES (PARA 1, REFTEL ) HAVE NOW BEEN IDENTIFIED AS PALES TINAINS AFFILIATED WITH IRAQI-SPONSORED ARAB LIBEATION
CONFIDENTIAL CONFIDENTIAL PAGE 03 BEIRUT 08149 261721Z FRONT (ALF)
. OTHER INFORMANTS CLAIM BULK OF FIGHTING HAS BEEN BETWEEN LEBANESE GENDARMES AND ARMED ADHERENTS OF PFLP, ALF, AND PFLP-GC (ALLIES IN THE “REJECTION” FRONT) AND RAG-TAG COLLECTION OF LEBABESE LEFTISTS REPRE- SENTING LEBANESE COMMUNIST PARTY, PRO-IRAQI BAATH PARTY INDEPENDENT NASSERISTS, ETC,. SUCH ALIGNMENT SUGGEST LIBYAN AND IRAQI HAND BEHIND OUTBREAK (GEORGE HABBASH AND OTHER “REJECTIONIST” NOTABLES ARE CURRENTLY ENJOYING IRAQI HOSPITALITY— FBIS JN250640Y AND JN251945Y)
4. PHALANGE APPARENTLY HAS NOT RPT NOT BEEN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT IN RECENT FIGHTING. LATEST REPORTS INDICATE THAT, ALTHOUGH MOBILIZED AND IN POSITION IN NEIGHBORHOODS WHICH THEY CONTROL, PHALANGE MILITIAMEN ARE PRIMARILY OBSERVERS IN CURRENT CLASHES. IT IS IN OUR VIEW, EXTREMELY UNLIKELY THAT PHALANGIST LEADERS WOULD SEEK CLASHES AT THIS TIME. SO FAR AS WE DETERMINE, PHALANGIST FORCES ARE CRITICALLY SHORT OF CERTAIN KINDS OF AMMUNITION, ESPECIALLY MORTARS ROUNDS AND BELTED MACHINEGUN AMMO, POSSIBILTIY WHICH IS SOURCE OF CONCERNTO SECURITY OFFICIALS, EXISTS THAT PHALANGISTS AND OTHERS COULD BE DRAWN IN, IF CLASHES CONTINUE.
5. OVER LAST SEVERAL DAYS, WE UNDERSTAND THAT JOINT GOL/PLO PATROLS AND LIAISON GROUPS HAVE CONTINUED TO OPERTATE. IN VIEW OF ‘ARAFAT’S JUNE 23 MEETING WITH PRES FRANGIE AND FORMER’S JUNE 25 STATEMENT REGARDING PLO RESPECT FOR LEBANESE SOVEREIGNTY (SEPTEL), ACTIVITIES OF “REJECTIONISTS” AND THEIR LEBANESE COHORTS APPEAR AS MUCH A CHALLENGE TO ‘ARAFAT’S AUTHORITY AS THAT OF GOL. WE HAVE NO RPT NO REASON TO BELIEVE AT THIS TIME THAT ITS NOT RPT NOT COOPERATING WITH GOL TO CONTAIN AND SUPRESS FIGHTING. PLO APPARENTLY PARTICIPATED IN JOINT EFFORTS TO ARRANGE CEASFIRE JUNE 25 (FBIS JN251737) WHICH PROBABLE BROKE DOWN BECAUSE IN STIGATORS OF CURRENT OUTBREAKS DID NOT CONSIDER THEMSELVES BOUND BY AGREEMENT. SINCE EVENING JUNE 25, GOL SECURITY OFFICIALS HAVE INFORMED US SEVERAL TIMES THAT FATAH RPT FATAH UNITS ARE FIGHTING ALONG SIDE GENARMES AGAINST “RE- JECTIONIST” PALESTINIANS. WE HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO CONFIRM THIS STORY WITH PALESTINIAN CONTACTS. IF TRUE, HOWEVER, “REJESTIONISTS” INCREASING OPEN CHALLENGE TO PLO LEADER-
CONFIDENTIAL CONFIDENTIAL PAGE 04 BEIRUT 08149 261721Z
SHIP IN PAST TEN DAYS MAY HAVE FORCED ‘ARAFAT TO TAKE MEASURES WHICH HE HAS HERETOFORE BEEN RELUCTANT TO ADOPT.
6. SO FAR AS WE ARE AWARE, ALL AMCITS ARE SAFE. BOTH LEB- ANESE AND FOREIGN RESIDENTS, HOWEVER ARE STILL BEING WARNED TO AVOID AIN RUMMANNEH/SHIAH AREAS AND OLD DAMASCUS ROAD THROUGH FURN AS SHUBAK IS CLOSED TO TRAFFIC.
GODLEY
CONFIDENTIAL
NNN
BEIRUT TRIES HARD TO RETURN TO NORMAL, BUT FIGHTING WON’T GO AWAY
1975 September 27, 10:37 (Saturday)
1975BEIRUT12041_b
CONFIDENTIAL
UNCLASSIFIED
1. FIGHTING TOOK PLACE IN MANY OF THE USUALLY HOT QUARTERS OF EAST BEIRUT NIGHT OF SEPT 26-27 AT ABOUT SAME INTENSITY AS PREVIOUS NIGHT. SLOW DROP IN LEVEL OF STRIFE THUS HOPEFULLY REMAINS PATTERN, BUT PERSISTENCE OF FIGHTING CAUSING SOME OBSERVERS TO FEAR ROUND 4 WILL DRAG ON FOR SOME TIME.
2. AS OF 1200 HOURS (LOCAL) SEPT 27, USUAL DAY- LIGHT LULL IN HEAVIEST FIGHTING PREVAILS. SNIPERS ARE CITY’S MAIN DAYTIME PROBLEM. TRAFFIC IS UP EVEN FROM IMPROVED LEVEL OF DAY BEFORE. AIR- PORT ROAD IS OPEN. AIRPORT ACTIVITIES ARE MORE OR LESS NORMAL, DESPITE CONTINUING FUEL SHORTAGE. CITY IS MAKING DETERMINED EFFORT TO NORMALIZE.
3. ACCORDING TO INTERNAL SECURITY HQ, TREND TOWARD DISARMING OF BARRICADES IS OCCURRING AS POLICE AS- SUME CHARGE OF MANY OF THESE STRONGPOINTS FROM PRIVATE MILITIAMEN. BUT THIS IS CLEARLY A CON- TINUING PROBLEM FOR HARASSED INTERNAL SECURITY FORCES. APPARENTLY, IT IS NOT RPT NOT TRUE THAT ARMY HELPING INTERNAL SECURITY IN CITY, CONTRARY TO SEPT 25 ANNOUNCEMENT (REFTEL), ALTHOUGH LOANS OF ARMY’S ARMORED VEHICLES TO POLICE–A LONG- STANDING PRACTICE–HAVE BEEN STEPPED UP.
4. ANOTHER HOPEFUL SIGN IS THAT THE DORMANT CEASE- FIRE COMMITTEE COMPOSED OF SECURITY FORCES REPRE- SENTATIVE, PLO REP TEWFIQ SAFADI, AND DANY CHAMOUN (WHO REPLACED HIS BROTHER) WILL BE BEEFED UP WITH A PHALANGE REP AND A MEMBER OF RAYMOND EDDE’S NA- TIONAL BLOC PARTY.
CONFIDENTIAL CONFIDENTIAL PAGE 03 BEIRUT 12041 01 OF 02 271152Z
5. CEASEFIRE VIOLATIONS ALMOST CERTAINLY BEING COMMITTED BY BOTH SIDES. PREDICTABLY, MOSLEMS AND LEFTISTS BLAME PHALANGE STUBBORNESS WHILE CHRISTIANS SEE MALEVOLENT HAND OF LIBYANS AND OTHERS BEHIND EXTREME LEFT. THE PREVIOUSLY RE- PORTED FIGHT BETWEEN PHALANGE AND LEFTIST PPS IN METN AREA IS TAKEN BY CHRISTIANS AS SIGN OF LEFTIST PLOT TO KEEP TROUBLE BOILING. THIS BATTLE STILL CONTINUING AT SOMEWHAT LOWERED INTENSITY WITH IN- TERNAL SECURITY NOW TRYING TO DISARM MILITANTS OF PPS.
6. A SHARP VERBAL ATTACK BY LEFTIST LEADER KEMAL JUMBLATT AGAINST THE PHALANGE SEPT 26, PUBLISHED IN
CONFIDENTIAL NNN CONFIDENTIAL PAGE 01 BEIRUT 12041 02 OF 02 271208Z 53 ACTION NEA-10 INFO OCT-01 EUR-12 ISO-00 OPR-02 AID-05 OMB-01 SAB-01 SCCT-01 A-01 SY-05 SCS-03 SCA-01 OC-05 CCO-00 EB-07 COME-00 AGR-05 FEA-01 OES-03 TRSE-00 IO-10 ACDA-05 SSO-00 NSCE-00 USIE-00 INRE-00 PM-04 H-02 INR-07 L-03 NSAE-00 NSC-05 PA-01 PRS-01 SP-02 SS-15 USIA-06 /125 W ——————— 021933 O P 271037Z SEP 75 FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6414 INFO AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY USINT BAGHDAD AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY AMEMBASSY JIDDA PRIORITY AMEMBASSY KUWAIT PRIORITY AMEMBASSY LONDON AMEMBASSY MOSCOW AMEMBASSY PARIS AMCONSUL STUTTGART AMEMBASSY TEHRAN AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 2973 USCINCEUR VAIHINGEN GER CINCUSNAVEUR LONDON UK COMSIXTHFLT CTF SIX ZERO CTF SIX ONE CTF SIX TWO FOSIF ROTA SPAIN FICEURLANT NORFOLK VA DIA WASHDC CIA WASHDC CONFIDENTIAL CONFIDENTIAL PAGE 02 BEIRUT 12041 02 OF 02 271208Z C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 2 OF 2 BEIRUT 12041
BEIRUT PRESS TODAY, HAS REKINDLED POLITICAL TEMPERA- TURE. HE SAID THERE WOULD BE NO RECONCILIATION WITH THE PHALANGE, WITH HE CLAIMED WAS POLITICALLY ISOLATED, BEFORE BASIC LEFTIST DEMANDS ARE MET. HE ALSO ATTACKED LONG-TIME MOSLEM LEADER SAEB SALAAM FOR “WISHING TO EXTEND HIS DOMINION OVER THE MOS- LEMS OF BEIRUT.” JUMBLATT SAID THESE MOSLEMS WERE MORE PROPERLY REPRESENTED BY JUMBLATT HIMSELF. THESE REMARKS MAKING OBSERVERS WONDER WHAT THE ATMOSPHERE WILL BE WHEN “NATIONAL DIALOGUE COMMITTEE” RENEWS TALKS SEPT 29.
7. A PARTICIPANT IN LAST THURSDAY’S OPENING SESSION OF THE “DIALOGUE” TELLS US THAT THE 20-MAN GROUP MAY BE ENLARGED, THOUGH NOT NECESSARILY BEFORE THE SEPT 29 SESSION. PRIMIN KARAME HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH EXPLORING THE POSSIBILITY OF EXPANSION THROUGH PRIVATE CONTACTS. SAME SOURCE TELLS US THAT REASON SECOND SESSION NOT SCHEDULED UNTIL SEPT 29 WAS TO AVOID SPECTACLE OF DEADLOCK–A STRONG POSSIBILITY IN EARLY SESSIONS–WHILE FIGHTING HAD STILL NOT DIED DOWN.
8. NEWSPAPERS REPORT FOOD SUPPLY IN BEIRUT IS GOOD IN ALL AREAS AND THAT FOOD PRICES ARE ONLY SLIGHTLY ABOVE NORMAL. TO ALLEVIATE FLOUR SHORT- AGE IN SOUTH, GOVERNMENT IS TRUCKING GRAIN TO SIDON. ARMY IS BOTH CLEARING TRACKS AND PROVIDING ESCORT FOR TWO-THREE TRAINLOADS OF FUEL OIL DAILY FOR BEIRUT’S POWER GENERATING PLANTS. GASOLINE TANKER SHIP IS BEING UNLOADED TODAY AT MOBIL PORT AT DORA NEAR BEIRUT, AND DISTRIBUTION WILL BEGIN IM- MEDIATELY. MOBIL, WHICH IS COORDINATING GASOLINE AND FUEL OIL DISTRIBUTION, BELIEVES “GIFTS” FROM EAGER FILLING STATION OPERATORS WILL OVERCOME RELUCTANCE OF TANKER TRUCK DRIVERS TO CROSS CON- FESSIONAL LINES. ALTHOUGH SOME AREAS OF BEIRUT ARE UNLIKELY TO HAVE GASOLINE AS LONG AS ANY FIGHTING CONTINUES, THE SOUTHERN PART OF THE
CONFIDENTIAL CONFIDENTIAL PAGE 03 BEIRUT 12041 02 OF 02 271208Z
COUNTRY, THE MOUNTAIN AREAS, AND THE BAKAA VALLEY ARE NOW WELL-SUPPLIED FROM MEDRECO RE- FINERY NEAR SIDON. IPC REFINERY IN TRIPOLI IS MAKING SOME DELIVERIES IN THAT AREA. BUTANE AND AVIATION FUEL TANKER SHIPS REMAIN OFF SHORE.
9. IN OTHER AREAS OF THE ECONOMY, PORT AUTHORITIES HAVE ASKED WORKERS TO REPORT TO DUTY ON MON, SEPT 29. BECAUSE BANKS HAVE NOW BEEN CLOSED FOR TEN DAYS, MONEY IS IN SHORT SUPPLY. MERCHANTS ASSOCIATION HAS ASKED GOVT INDEMNIFICATION FOR LOSSES. TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND LEBANESE REFUGEES NOW REPORTEDLY IN SYRIA. 10. TH BEST OF EMBASSY KNOWLEDGE, ALL AMCITS ARE SAFE EXCEPT AS PREVIOUSLY REPORTED. IBM HAS CON- TINGENCY PLANS TO EVACUATE SOME EMPLOYEES ON MON. IF BEIRUT OFFICE IS STILL UNABLE TO FUNCTION. SMALL SALES STAFF WILL WORK OUT OF PARIS AND FINANCIAL OPERATIONS WILL MOVE TO KUWAIT.
GODLEY
CONFIDENTIAL
NNN
BEIRUT FIGHTING ESCALATES AGAIN
1975 October 8, 14:20 (Wednesday)
1975BEIRUT12544_b
CONFIDENTIAL
UNCLASSIFIED
SUMMARY: SECTIONS OF BEIRUT WITNESSED HEAVY CLASHES NIGHT OF OCT 7-8 AND INTO OCT 8. PROGRESS ON THE POLITICAL FRONT AWAITS TOMORROW’S SCHEDULED MEETING OF THE “DIALOGUE”. HOW- EVER, AS BEFORE, PARTICIPATNS IN THAT MEETING MAY HAVE TO FOCUS ON SECURITY PROBLEM IF MAJOR CLASHES OCCUR AGAIN TONIGHT. END SUMMARY.
1. A RESUMPTION OF HEAVY SHOOTING AND EXPLOSIONS OCCURRED NIGHT OF OCT 7-8 IN SEVERAL PARTS OF BEIRUT, CONTINUING INTO OCT 8. CHIYAH AND AIN EL-RUMANNEH WERE THE SCENE OF CLASHES WHICH AT TIMES RIVALED IN INTENSITY THE HOTTEST PERIOD A FEW WEEKS AGO. A MORTAR ROUND KILLED AND WOUNDED MANY PEOPLE ON STREET IN FRONT OF BAKERY IN MOSLEM AREA DURING EARLY MORNING HOURS, RAISING EMOTIONS AMONG CITY’S MOSLEMS. AT MID-MORNING TODAY THE FIGHTING SUBSIDED, BUT IT PICKED UP AGAIN LATER IN CITY CENTER WHERE CLASHES CONTINUE AS OF 1400 HOURS (LOCAL). A CURFEW WAS REES- TABLISHED COVERING ALL OF BEIRUT STARTING TONIGHT. THE ELABOR- ATELY CONSTRUCTED CEASEFIRE ARRANGEMENTS ARE IN JEOPARDY AS MANY PRIVATE MILITAMEN ARE REPORTED PREPARING TO RETURN TO BARRICADES.
2. REPORTS FROM NORTH LEBANON INDICATE CONTINUED FIGHTING IN THE ZGHORTA AREA. INTERNAL SECURITY HQ IN BEIRUT TOLD US AT 0900 HOURS (LOCAL) TODAY THAT THE NORTH WAS QUIET AS OF THAT TIME, BUT PICTURE IS MURKY.KIDNAPPINGS AND EXCHANGES OF FIRE BETWEEN MOSLEM AND CHRISTIAN AREAS ARE KEEPING TENSIONS HIDH THERE. THE FLUCTUATING CLASHES ARE PROVING HARD TO STOP DESPITE THE PRESENCE OF THE ARMY.
3. RENEWED VIOLENCE AGAIN BROUGHT INCIDENT ECONOMIC REAWA- KENING TO HALT, AND FEW SHOPS AND NO BANKS OPENED. TODAY’S
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MEETING OF BUSINESS AND LABOR LEADERS TO DISCUSS OPERATING PRO- BLEMS UNDER CURRENT SECURITY CONDITIONS WAS CANCELLED. CATHOLIC EDUCATION LEADERS MET YESTERDAY TO CONSIDER OPENING OF CATHOLIC SCHOOLS. ANNOUNCEMENT SAID A SPECIAL COMMITTEE WOULD DECIDE ABOUT OPENING OF SCHOOLS ON A REGION BY REGION BASIS AS SECURITY CONDITIONS PERMIT. ALTHOUGH NEWSPAPERS ANNOUNCED ABOUT A WEEK AGO THAT LOCAL ARABIC SCHOOLS WOULD OPEN ON SCHEDULE ON OCT 15 IF SECURITY CONDITIONS PERMIT, WE UNDERSTAND MINISTRY OF EDUCATION IS NOW CONSIDERING POSTPONE- MENT. TO PERMIT CONTINUATION OF ESSENTIAL SERVICES, THE NEW CURFEW EXEMPTS HOSPITAL EMPLOYEES, BAKERY WORKERS, AND SIMILAR PERSONNEL. SO FAR, ROUND FOUR HAS NOW SERIOUSLY DIS- RUPTED MOST ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES FOR THREE WEEKS.
4. THERE IS LITTLE VISIBLE PROGRESS ON POLITICAL FRONT PENDING TOMORROW’S RESUMPTION OF “NATIONAL DIALOGUE COM- MITTEE”. IF FIGHTING FLARES TONIGHT, LEADERS BOTH INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE “DIALOGUE” ARE APT TO BE PREOCCUPIED WITH IMMEDIATE SECURITY ISSUE. THE “DIALOGUE” HAS NOT YET BEEN ABLE TO ADDRESS THE LONG-TERM ISSUES FOR WHICH IT WAS CREATED. 5. THE MARONITE PATRIARCH CONFERRED YESTERDAY WITH CAMILLE CHAMOUN, RAYMOND EDDE, AND PIERRE GEMAYEL IN A WIDELY PUBLICIZED MEETING AT BKERKE. THESE THREE TOP MARONITE POLITICIANS ARE PERENNIAL RIVALS, AND THE PATRIARCH APPARENTLY MADE AN EFFORT TO RECONCILE THEM. THE MAIN RESULT OF THE MEETING WAS AN ANNOUNCEMENT THAT ALL PARTICIPANTS WERE OPPOSED TO THE IDEA OF PARTITIONING LEBANON. ASKED AFTERWARD IF THE QUESTION OF PRES FRANGIE’S RESIGNATION HAD BEEN DISCUSSED, THE PATRIARCH SAID IT HAD NOT ARISEN “BECAUSE WE DID NOT ENVISAGE THIS EVENTUALITY”. MEANWHILE, FRANGIE HAD LUNCH YESTERDAY AT THE HOME OF PRIMIN KARAME IN A SHOW OF CORDIAL RELATIONS BET- WEEN THE TWO. OTHER GOVT LEADERS INCLUDING CHAMOUN AND GEN HANNA SAID WERE ALSO GUESTS. GODLEY
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FIGHTING ERUPTS AGAIN IN BEIRUT
1975 October 25, 11:22 (Saturday)
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1. SUMMARY: FIGHTING ESCALATED SHARPLY IN BEIRUT LATE OCT. 24 AND NIGHT OCT. 24-25. IT CONTINUES AS OF 1100 HOURS (LOCAL) OCT. 25, AT SLIGHTLY REDUCED INTENSITY. CAPITAL’S ECONOMY REMAINS VIRTUALLY PARALYZED. ALL THREE SUB-COMMITTEES OF “NATIONAL DIALOGUE” MET YESTER- DAY. PARLIAMENT IS SCHEDULED TO CONVENE TODAY, AND IF IT DOES MEET INTEREST CENTERS ON WHETHER KARAME WILL SPEAK AGAIN ON RECORD OF HIS GOVERNMENT. END SUMMARY.
2. AN UPSURGE OF VIOLENCE TOOK PLACE IN BEIRUT LATE OCT. 24 AND NIGHT OF OCT. 24-25. FIGHTING ERUPTED BETWEEN CHIYAH (SHIITE) AND AIN EL RUMANEH (CHRISTIAN), TWO QUARTERS THAT HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN CLASHES ONLY SPORADICALLY DURING LAST TWO WEEKS OR SO. FIGHTING ALSO CONTINUED AROUND RAS EL-NABA, SOUTH OF CITY’S CENTER, AND BETWEEN LAILEKE (MIXED MOSLEM- CHRISTIAN) AND HADATH (CHRISTIAN) IN SOUTHERN OUTSKIRTS OF CAPITAL. IN ADDITION, THREE FACTORIES WERE BURNED IN DIFFERENT AREAS – THE SECOND NIGHT THIS PRACTICE HAS OCCURRED, GIVING RISE TO SPECULATION THAT CERTAIN UNKNOWN GROUPS ARE DELIBERATELY AIMING AT ECONOMIC SABOTAGE.
3. BY MORNING OCT. 25, THE FIGHTING HAD SUBSIDED SLIGHTLY INTO WHAT AN OBSERVER AT INTERNAL SECURITY HQ IN BEIRUT CALLED A “RELATIVE CALM, BUT NOT A REAL CALM.” SNIPERS REMAINED ACTIVE IN VARIOUS PLACES AND THERE CONTINUED TO BE EXCHANGES OF FIRE, WHICH AT LAST REPORT AS OF 1100 HOURS (LOCAL) HAD BECOME SERIOUS IN KANTARI AREA OF WEST CENTRAL BEIRUT.
4. ARMY TODAY IS MANNING CHECK POINTS AT VARIOUS ENTRANCES TO THE CAPITAL, PATROLLING SEBMENTS OF
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OUTLYING ROADS ANDPROTECTING FUEL DEPOTS AND GRAIN MILLS IN THE VICINITY OF DORA.
5. THE BEKAA VALLEY REMAINS TENSE, BUT APPARENTLY THE ARMY IS STILL ABLE TO KEEP THE SITUATION UNDER CONTROL.
6. ECONOMY OF BEIRUT REMAINS VIRTUALLY PARALYZED FOR SEVENTH DAY. IN MEETING YESTERDAY, CHAMBER OF COMME CE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE EXPRESSED CONCERN AT FACT THAT FACTORIES AND OTHER BUSINESS ESTABLISHMENTS ARE INCREASINGLY TARGET OF SABOTEURS.
7. YESTERDAY’S MEETING OF THE POLITICAL SUB-COMMITTEE OF THE “NATIONAL DIALOGUE” ASSIGNED EDMOND RABBATH, ONE OF ITS MEMBERS WHO SPECIALIZES IN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, TO DRAW UP A SUTDY ON CONFESSIONALISM, ITEM NO. 1 ON THE SUB-COMMITTEE’S AGENDA. THE CONOMIC AND SOCIAL SUB-COMMITTEES ALSO HELD A JOINT SESSION YESTERDAY WHICH REESULTED IN A DECISION TO INVITE WRITTEN OPINIONS FROM VARIOUS ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL ORGANS, SUCH AS THE BEIRUT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY AND THE LABOR FEDERATION. THE MEMBERS ALSO AFFIRMED THEIR BELIEF THAT THE WORK OF THESE TWO SUB-COMMITTEES DEPENDS ON PROGRESS IN THE POLITICAL SUB-COMMITTEE.
8. POLITICAL INTEREST CENTERS ON TODAY’S SCHEDULED PARLIAMENTARY SESSION. THERE IS CONSIDERABLE QUESTION WHETHER THE SESSION WILL OCCUR, NOT ONLY BECAUSE IN- SECURE CONDITIONS MAY FORCE DEPUTIES TO STAY AWAY BUT ALSO BECAUSE SOME POLITICAL LEADERS ARE TRYING TO KEEP THE EMERGING FEUD BETWEEN PREMIER KARAME, ON ONE HAND, AND PRESIDENT FRANGIE AND INTERIOR MINISTER HCAMOUN, ON OTHER, FROM BREAKING IRRETRIEVABLY INTO THE OPEN. IT ALMOST ERUPTED LAST THURSDAY WHEN KARAME DEFENDED HIS RECORD AS HEAD OF GOVERNMENT AND CRITICIZED CHAMOUN AND FRANGIE IN INDIRECT FASHION.
GODLEY
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STILL NO LETUP IN BEIRUT FIGHTING
1975 October 28, 13:55 (Tuesday)
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1. COMBAT CONTINUED THROUGH NIGHT OF OCT. 27-28 AND UP TO LATE MORNING TODAY, OCT. 28, IN MANY QUARTERS OF BEIRUT. LEVEL OF FIGHTING VARIES CONSIDERABLY. SEVERAL OF THE TRADITIONALLY ACTIVE AREAS IN EAST BEIRUT HAVE BEEN INVOLVED, AS WELL AS THE INTERNATIONAL HOTEL SECTION IN THE WEST CENTRAL PART OF CITY. FIGHT IN HOTEL AREA IS IN ITS THIRD DAY AND PITS KATAEB AGAINST NASSERITES OF IBRAHIM QULAYLAT AND PALESTINAIANS. LATTER ARE ADVANCING FROM KANTARI REGION (UP HILL FROM HOTELS) AND ALSO FROM AIN MREISSEH QUARTER FURTHER WEST (NEAR U.S. EMBASSY). OUR CURRENT IMPRESSION IS THAT KATAEB AT DISADVANTAGE AND LOSING GROUND.
2. EFFORTS STILL UNDERWAY TO PUT SUBSTANCE INTO LATESTCEASEFIRE APPEAL. KARAME HAS MET WITH SUCCESSION OF POLITICAL LEADERS AND ANNOUNCED ABOUT NOON TODAY THAT A HIGH-LEVEL “SECURITY COMMITTEE” IS TO BE FORMED WHICH WILL SIT IN THE PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE UNTIL THE CEASEFIRE IS OBSERVED. THE COMMITTEE CONSISTS OF HIMSELF, SAEB SALAM, ABDALLAH YAFI, RAYMOND EDDE, PIERRE GEMAYEL, ADEL OSSEIRAN, PHILIPPE TAQLA, GHASSAN TUEINI, KAMAL JUMBLATT, AND CAMILLE CHAMOUN. IN ADDITION, MARONITE PATRIARCH KREISH YESTERDAY ISSUED APPEAL TO ABIDE BY CEASEFIRE, AND TODAY WAFA PLO NEWS AGENCY) SUPPORTED PATRIARCH’S CALL IN STATEMENT OF ITS OWN.
3. TENSION CONTINUES HIGH IN ZAHLE AFTER A SERIES OF CLASHES. THE ARMY’S EFFORTS TO KEEP LID ON THESE HAVE NOT STOPPED FIGHTING BUT HAVE MANAGED TO DAMPEN LEVEL. COMPARED TO FIERCE COMBAT IN PARTS OF BEIRUT, SIMMERING BEKAA STRIFE UNDERSTANDABLY DRAWING RELATIVELY LITTLE ATTENTION IN PRESS. 4. PARLIAMENT FAILED TO MEET YESTERDAY FOR LACK OF QUORUM. IT IS TRYING AGAIN TODAY. SOME OF THE HEAT SEEMS TO BE OUT OF THE KARAME FEUD WITH CHAMOUN AND FRANNGIE. TODAY’S PROJECTED SESSION HIGHLIGHTS A SPEECH EXPECTED
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FROM THE PREMIER PROPOSING “HIS SOLUTION TO THE CRISIS”, A FORMAT DESIGNED TO AVOID A CONFRONTATION. HOWEVER, A QUORUM HAD NOT BEEN REACHED AS OF MIDDAY AND KARAME’S ABOVE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE “SECURITY COMMITTEE” MAY BE IN LIEU OF HIS PLANNED SPEECH. GODLEY
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LEBANON IN THE VALLEY OF DESPAIR
1975 November 1, 14:50 (Saturday)
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SUMMARY: GENERALIZED AND HEAVY CLASHES OVERNIGHT AND CONTINUING INTO NOVEMBER 1, HAVE PERSISTED DESPITE PRIMIN’S FRANTIC EFFORTS TO ARRANGE AN EFFECTIVE CEASE-FIRE (SEVERAL TIMES NIGHT OCT 31/NOV 1). SAVAGERY AND MUTUAL SELF-DESTRUCTION AMONG ARMED BANDS HAS ACHIEVED MOMENTUM AND LIFE OF THEIR OWN WHICH RENDERS POLITICAL EFFORTS THUS FAR INEFFECTIVE OR EVEN IRRELEVANT. GROWING VOLUME REPORTS PLACE ARMED BANDS FROM SYRIAN TERRITORY IN BEKAA VALLEY WHERE ZAHLE IS ONCE AGAIN HOT SPOT. PRIMIN KARAME IS MEETING WITH FAITHFUL FEW OF SECURITY COMMITTEE, BUT THIS IS NOT EXPECTED TO AFFECT DEEPENING DESPAIR AND MANY FEAR THAT KARAME, HIS LINES TO CHAMOUN AND GEMAYEL THREATENED, MAY NOT RPT NOT HAVE IT IN HIM FOR ANOTHER COLLEGE TRY. END SUMMARY.
1. AT TIME OF DRAFTING THIS CABLE, CLASHES IN MAIN HOTEL DISTRICT ADJACENT TO EMBASSY CONTINUE. SMALL ARMS FIRE IS HEARD, PUNCTUATED OCCASIONALLY BY EXPLOSIONS. ELSEWHERE IN CITY, SECURITY SITUATION DETERIORATED AFTERNOON OCTOBER 31 AND HEAVY FIGHTING WAS REPORTED OVERNIGHT. IN ADDITION TO HOTEL DISTRICT, SHIA/AIN RUMANNEH/FURN ASH SHURBAH COMPLEX BROKE DOWN BEGINNING APPROX 1300 HOURS YESTERDAY. CLASHES THERE OVERNIGHT WERE REPORTEDLY AS BAD AS ANY PREVIOUSLY EXPERIENCED AND CASUALTIES IN THAT SECTOR ALONE WERE ALLEGED TO BE BETWEEN 40 AND 100 DEAD. AS OF MID-MORNING TODAY, ONLY MACHINE GUN EXCHANGES WERE REPORTED BETWEEN SHIAH AND AIN RUMMANEH, BUT WE HAVE NO MORE RECENT INFORMATION. EXCHANGES OF UNDETERMINED FEROCITY WERE EXPERIENCED OVERNIGHT ALONG CENTRAL AXIS PARALLELING BESHARA AL-KHOURY STREET (I.E., SODOCE, RAS AN NABEH, NASRA, WESTERN ASHRAFIYAH, ETC.); BETWEEN QARANTIANA AND NORTHERN ASHRAFIYAH; AND BETWEEN SUBURBS OF HADATH
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AND LAYLAKI. IN SUMMARY, DESPITE PERSISTING EFFORTS TO IMPOSE A CEASE-FIRE, WE NOW BACK TO SQUARE MINUS ONE ON SECURITY SCENE.
2. DURING EXCHANGES OF MORTAR AND OTHER HEAVY WEAPON FIRE LAST EVENING, SEVERAL ROUNDS FELL IN VICINITY OF SABRA/SHATILA PALESTINIAN REFUGEE CAMP (IN NEARBY MARTYR’S CEMETARY, WE ARE TOLD). UNTSO SOURCE STATIONED NEAR KUWAIT EMBASSY TRAFFIC CIRCLE INFORMED UN SECURITY OFFICIALS IN EARLY MORNING THAT NOISE AT THAT LOCATION WAS GREATER THAN PREVIOUSLY EXPERIENCED IN THAT AREA. UN OFFICIALS PRESENTLY ATTEMPTING TO DETERMINE WHETHER EXCHANGES HEAVIER THAN HERETOFORE OR CLOSER. UNRWA OFFICIAL INFORMED EMBOFF MORNING NO. 1 THAT CAMPS NEAR BEIRUT ARE GENERALLY QUIET, ALTHOUGH UNRWA ACCESS TO AREAS LIMITED. HE SAID PALESTINIANS HAVE MOVED MOST FEDAYEEN COUT OF SABRA/SHATILA AND THAT ONLY RESIDENTS AND ARMED MILITIA REMAIN. HE NOT RPT NOT CERTAIN WHERE MAINLINE UNITS HAVE GONE BUT BELIEVES THAT MOVE WAS EFFORT TO AVOID DRAWING DIRE UPON CIVILIAN CAMP POPULATION. IT IS EQUALLY CONCEIVABLE, HOWEVER, THAT FEDAYEEN WERE WITHDRAWN SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT BE PINNED DOWN IN CAMP, SHOULD DECISION TO COMMIT PALESTINIAN FORCES TO BATTLE HAVE TO BE TAKEN.
3. WE ARE RECEIVING INCREASING NUMBER OF REPORTS OF MOVEMENT OF ARMED MEN FROM SYRIA INTO BEKAA VALLEY. IDENTITY OF ALLEGED INFILTRATORS VARIES, WITH THEM IDENTIFIED VARIOUSLY AS SA’IQA, PALESTINE LIBERATION ARMY, OR SYRIAN TROOPS. UNDER PRESENT CONDITIONS, IT IS DOUBTFUL WE WILL EVER BE IN A POSITION TO CONFIRM ALLEGED MOVEMENTS FROM SYRIA IN PERSON. HOWEVER, SOURCES WHICH DATT CONSIDERS RELIABLE HAVE REPORTED SUCH MOVEMENT. ON OCTOBER 29 CHIEF OF STAFF OF INTERNAL SECURITY FORCES, BGEN DAHROUGH, TOLD ARMA THAT A “MASSIVE” INFILTRATION OF SA’IQA FORCES FROM SYRIA INTO LEBANON WAS UNDERWAY. IN LONG TELECON WITH SENIOR LEBANESE ARMY OFFICER IN BEKAA VALLEY ON NOVEMBER 1, DATT WAS TOLD THAT THERE ABOUT 2000 “SYRIAN” TROOPS (THE LEBANESE OFFICER SAID “SYRIAN; NOT LEFTIST, NOT PLO, NOT PLA”) IN THE VICINITY OF
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ZAHLE AND THAT THESE FORCES WERE INVOLVED IN THE FIGHTING AGAINST THE CHRISTIAN INHABITANTS AND THE LEBANESE ARMY UNITS THERE. TO DATT, THESE REPORTS CONSTITUTE CONFIRMATION OF INFILTRATION FROM SYRIA.
4. CONTINUATION OF CIVIL STRIFE HAS LED MANYLOCAL OBSERVERS TO EXPRESS CONCERN THAT PRIMIN KARAME WILL REACH THE END OF HIS ROPE MOMENTARILY. WE WERE ABLE TO REACH PRIMIN’S OFFICE AT APPROX. 1020 HOURS THIS MORNING AND OFFICE DIRECTOR MUSSEIKI INFORMED US THAT KARAME, WHO SPENT SLEEPLESS NIGHT AT SERAIL, WAS AT TIME OF CALL MEETING WITH “SEVERAL MEMBERS” OF SECURITY COMM. MUSSEIKI WAS RELUCTANT TO IDENTIFY THOSE PRESENT (WHICH WE TAKE TO INDICATE THAT CHAMOUN, GEMAYEL AND JUMBLAT HAVE NOT RPT NOT JOINED FORLORN CONVOCATION), BUT HE INDICATED THAT KARAME HAD BEEN “IN CONTACT” WITH ALL SIDES, “INCLUDING THE PHALANGISTS.” MUSSEIKI SAID THAT KARAME HAD ARRANGED SEVERAL CEASE-FIRES OVERNIGHT, BUT ADMITTED THAT NONE OF THEM HAD BEEN “FULLY EFFECTIVE” (A GROSS UNDERSTATEMENT). MAJOR EFFORT WAS ALLEGEDLY AGREEMENT BY ALL PARTIES TO CEASE FIRING AS OF 2130, OCTOBER 31. WHEN THAT HOUR ARRIVED, HOWEVER, EXCHANGES INTENSIFIED RATHER THAN CEASING.
5. KARAME’S RELATIONSHIPS WITH KEY CHRISTIAN LEADERS APPEAR TO HAVE WORSENED SUBSTANTIALLY. LAST NIGHT, KARAME GAVE A TELEVISION INTERVIEW IN WHICH HE SUGGESTED PHALANGE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE CONTINUED VIOLENCE, BY INDICATING SNIPING FROM THE HOLIDAY INN AND ASHRAFIYAH WERE PROXIMATE CAUSES. PHALANGISTS HAVE NATURALLY REACTED ANGRILY WITH THEIR DAILY, “AL AMAL” DETAILING ALLEGED CEASE-FIRE VIOLATIONS AND PROVOCATIONS FROM OTHER SIDE AND CALLING UPON KARAME TO REMAIN AN “ARBITER” AND NOT BECOME A PARTY. THIS LATEST ALTERCATION HAS PROBABLY GIVEN A FURTHER SHOVE TO WIDENING GAP BETWEEN KARAME AND CHAMOUN, WHO WERE ALREADY RUMORED TO ON VERY BAD TERMS. IF THIS DANGEROUS TREND CONTINUES, KARAME COULD END UP WITH ONLY THE MOST TENUOUS CONTACTS WITH CHAMOUN AND GEMAYEL, AS WELL AS FRANGIE.
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6. AT 1330 TODAY I TELEPHONED KARAME TO TELL HIM WE HAD DECLARED LEBANON DISASTER AREA TO GET SOME MEDICINES. TOLD HIM WE THOUGHT DOING FINE, PATRIOTIC JOB UNDER TERRIBLE CIRCUMSTANCES, ETC. FIVE MINUTE EXCHANGE DID NOT GIVE ME IMPRESSION HE PLANNING RESIGN AND HIS MOOD APPEARED TO BE ONE OF TOUGH SCRAPPER.
7. IN GENERAL, WE FEEL CONFIDENT IN STATING THAT TODAY, THERE ARE NO RPT NO OPTIMISTS IN LEBANON, UN- LESS THEY ARE AMONG THE GROWING NUMBER OF LOOTERS OPERATING IN ABANDONED (AND SOME STILL OCCUPIED) NEIGHBORHOODS OF THE CITY.
8. ALL AMCITS ARE SAFE AS FAR AS WE AWARE, WITH EXCEPTION THOSE REPORTED SEPTELS AND REV. JIRAIR SOGOMIAN, CHAPLAIN HAIGAZIAN COLLEGE WHO WAS SHOT IN HAND OCT. 31 ON STREET NEAR COLLEGE. HE WAS ADMITTED AUB HOSPITAL AND IS IN GOOD CONDITION. FAMILY NOTIFIED.
GODLEY
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1. SUMMARY: LIKE A BOXER PUNCH-DRUNK FROM FOUR GRUELING ROUNDS OF PUNISHMENT, BKEIRUT CONTINUES NOV 6 TO RISE FROM THE CANVAS; THE LEGS ARE WOBBLY, THE VISION BLURRED. THERE ARE RISING HOPES BUT AS YET LITTLE CONFIDENCE, THAT THE CITY WILL NOT HAVE TO ANSWER THE BELL FOR ROUND 5. END SUMMARY.
2. BEIRUT AND MOST OF LEBANON ENJOYING ANOTHER DAY OF CALM NOV6, WITH ONLY RARE BURSTS OF MACHINEGUN FIRE TO MAR THE FAMILIAR CIVILIAN NOISE POLLUTION OF HAMRA AND OTHER REAWAKEN- ING COMMERCIAL DISTRICTS. TWO ROCKETS WERE FIRED INTO ASHRAFIYEH OVERNIGHT, BUT GENERAL ABSENCE OF BACKGROUND EXPLOSIONS ALMOST EERIE. DESPITE CALM, LEBANESE VENTURING OUT IN FALL FINERY WEAR A WARY EXPRESSION AND COMPETENT OBSERVERS ARE NOT RPT NOT PREPARED TO DECLARE PEACE IN OUR TIME. SOME, IN FACT, ARE PREDICITING A RETURN TO ARMS AS EARLY AS NEXT MONDAY. TRIPOLI REPORTEDLY IS TENSE FOLLOWING DISCO- VERY OF UNIDENTIFIED BODY, BUT WAVE OF KIDNAPPING IN BEIRUT IS APPARENTLY FINISHED AS OF THIS REPORT.
3. TODAY’S NEWSPAPERS CARRY REPORTS OF PRES FRANGIE’S PRAISE FOR “KARAMISM” AND PRIMIN’S PERSISTENCE DURING NOV 5 CABINET MEETING. IT IS NNOT YET CLEAR WHAT PROMPTED THIS UNCHAR- ACTERISTIC OUTBURST, BUT THE CYNICAL OBSERVERS ON THE SCENE ARE DIAGNOSING IT AS A CASE OF “IF-YOU-CAN’T-BEAT-THEM-JOIN-THEM (PARTICULARLY WHEN THEY SEEM SUCCESSFUL)”. ON THIS NOTE, HOW- EVER, CABINET SESSION WAS OFF TO SMOOTH START AND ATMOSPHERE IS DESCRIBED AS “GOOD”. CABINET, WHICH WILL PROBABLY MEET AGAIN NOV 8, INTER ALIA (A) APPROPRIATED LL 18 MILLION FOR ARMORED VEHICLES, ETC., FOR INTERNAL SECURITY FORCES: (B) DISCUSSED INTERNATIONAL (READ FRENCH) INITIATIVES; AND (C) CON- SIDERED MEASURE TO ENSURE RESUMPTION OF NORMAL ECONOMIC ACTIVITY. HIGHER COORDINATION COMM (RECENTLY EXPANDED TO ENCOMPASS ALL IDENTIFIABLE LEBANESE FACTIONS AND “MODERATE”
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ALESTINIANS) CONTINUED ITS WORK AND FOCUSSED NOV 5 ON ENDING KID- NAPPING AND SURRENDERING PERPETRATORS TO CRIMIAL COURTS. LEBANESE ARMY, WHICH HAS ASSUMED RESPONSIBILITY FOR INTER- NATIONAL ROADS, ANNOUNCED ORDERS TO FIE UPON ARMED ELEMENTS ON THESE THOROUGHFARES AND ACTUALL ARRESTED 20 PERSONS IN HAZMIYEH YESTERDAY WHEN THEY ATTEMPTED TO SET UP A ROADBLOCK.
4. NOW THE BAD NEWS. (A) PHALANGIST ELEMENTS REMAIN THIS MORNING IN HOLIDAY INN AND CANADIAN MILITARY ATTACHE REPORTS THAT ENTRY IS FORBIDDEN TO ANYONE NOT HOLDING A PASS FROM THE PHALANGE HEADQUARTERS. BOTH SIDES ARE ACCUSING THE OTHER OF BAD FAITH IN OBSERVING TERMS OF THE CEASEFIRE AND CITY REMAINS MINUTES (ONE HOUR AT MOST) FROM RESUMPTION OF CLASHES AT ANY GIVEN TIME; (B) BOTH SIDES CONTINUING TO REARM AND REPROVISION WITH PUBLIC ATTENTION BEING GIVEN TO VESSEL AT JOUNIEH (PHALAN- GIST) AND A USUALLY-RELIABLE SOURCE REPORTING THAT ANOTHER SHIP OFF-LOADED AT SIDON (PALESTINIAN LEFTIST) WITHIN THE LAST FOUR TO FIVE DAYS; (C) KARAME/CHAMOUN RELATIONSHIP IS PATCHED UP SOMEWHAT, BUT DIFFERENCES, WHICH COULD EASILY SURFACE UNDER STREE, PERSIST, CHAMOUN STILL WANTS ARMY TO ENTER IN FULL FORCE WITH FLAGS FLYINNG WHEREAS KARAME, WHO HAS RECENTLY INCREASED THE ARMY’S ROLE, PERFERS TO INSINUATE IT AS NEEDED AT MORE MEASURED PACE (BEIRUT 12296). OFF-LOADING OF SHIP AT JOUNIEH IS APPARENTLY BONE OF CONTENTION BETWEEN KARAME ON ONE HAND AND FRANGIE/ CHAMOUN ON OTHER. PRIMIN COMPLAINED NOV 6 TO AMBASSADOR THAT ARMY HAS NOT RPT NOT IMPLEMENTED HIS ORDER TO HALT DIS- EMBARKATION OF SHIP’S CARGO. ALL INGREDIENTS OF A FURTHER FLARE- UP CONTINUE TO BE PRESENT AS GOL TURNS ITS HAND TO EFFORTS TO CLEAR AWAY THE FALLOUT FROM RECENT STRIFE.
5. LARGE NUMBER OF SHOPS AND SOME BANKS ARE OPEN. MOST BANKS SET EXCHANGE RATE AT LL2.25 PER DOLLARY (BUYING) AND LL 2.60 PER DOLLAR (SELLING). WIDE DIFFERENCE (NORMALLY ONLY TWO OR THREE PIASTRES) IS MEANT TO DISCOURAGE TRANSACTIONS UNTIL MONDAY IN ORDER TO ALLOW TIME FOR BANKS TO PROCESS BACK- LOG OF PAPERWORK AND FOR MARKET TO STABILIZE. ZGHORTAWI OIL TANK DRIVERS ATTEMPTED TO TAKE DELIVERIES FROM IPC REFINERY IN TRIPOLI, BUT WERE BLOCKED BY TRIPOLITANIANS; IN RETALIATION, ZGHORTAWIS BLOCKED ROAD TO REFINERY. NEVERTHELESS, OIL MINISTRY REMAINS OPTIMISTIC THAT, IF CURRENT LULL CONTINUES,
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THIS DISPUTE WILL BE SOLVED IN TIME FOR DELIVERIES TO BEIRUU ON NOV 10 RPT 10.
6. ALL AMCITS REMAIN SAFE TO OUR KNOWLEDGE. AMERICAN COMMUNITY SCHOOL IS TOYING WITH IDEA OF OPENING MINI-SCHOOL NOV 10, IF CONDITIONS PERMIT.
GODLEY
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BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT PROGNOSIS
1976 July 12, 14:47 (Monday)
1976BEIRUT06147_b
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Margaret P. Grafeld Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 04 MAY 2006
1. MEA/BEIRUT SAYS IT HAS NO IDEA WHEN IT WILL BE POSSIBLE REOPEN BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT CLOSED JUNE 27 WHEN MEA BOEING 707 HIT ON GROUND DURING RIGHTIST BOMBARDMENT. AIRCRAFT TOTALLY DESTROYED, KILLING PILOT AND SEVERELY BURNING TWO CREW MEMBERS. MEA POSITION REAFFIRMS PESSIMISM OF MINISTER OF PUBLIC WORKS ADEL OSSEIRAN WHO SAID JULY 6 HE DOUBTED AIRPORT WOULD REOPEN SOON. SEE REFTEL.
2. ALTHOUGH MEA SAYS IT WILL RECOMMENCE SERVICE IMMEDIATELY UPON RECEIPT OF “GUARANTEES,” ACTIVITY OF MEA/BEIRUT INDICATES AIRLINE COMPANY HAS LITTLE HOPE OF GETTING SUCH GUARANTEES SOON. GUARANTEES INCLUDE CHRISTIAN DEMANDS THAT LEBANESE FROM EASTERN SECTOR BE PROVWDED SAFE PASSAGE TO AND FROM AIRPORT, THAT AIRPORT NOT BE USED FOR ARMS ENTRY AND THAT JOINT RIGHT/LEFT COMMITTEE SUPERVISE AIRPORT OPERATION. OSSEIRAN, WHO IN REFTEL DESCRIBED THE JUNE 27 SHELLING OF AIRPORT AS BASELESS, NOW SAYS DEMANDS OF RIGHTIST GROUPS ARE “ILLOGICAL.”
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3. AIRPORT HAD REOPENED TO LIMITED SERVICE JUNE 23 AFTER BEING CLOSED SINCE JUNE 7 WHEN AREA BECAME ACTIVE BATTLE GROUND OF SYRIAN BACKED SAIQA FORCES VERSUS FATAH AND LEFTISTS. BUT MEA MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES, MANY OF WHOM LIVED FOR MONTHS AT AIRPORT, UNABLE TO REACH THEIR HOMES AND FREQUENTLY UNDER FIRE, APPEAR WITH DEATH AND WOUNDING OF COLLEAGUES TO HAVE REACHED LIMIT OF ENDURANCE. MEA HAS TEMPORARILY TRANSFERRED HEAD OFFICE TO PARIS.
4. TRANS-MEDITERRANEAN AIRWAYS, ONLY CARGO SERVICE OPERATING OUT OF BEIRUT IN RECENT MONTHS, ALSO REPORTED MOVING HEADQUARTERS FROM BEIRUT TO LONDON AT LEAST TEMPORARILY.
5. MEA EVACUATING PERSONNEL VIA ROAD TO DAMASCUS AND MOST HAVE REPORTEDLY ALREADY LEFT COUNTRY. TWO BURNED CREW MEMBERS, ONE AMCIT AND ONE LEBANESE, EVACUATED BY ROAD TO DAMASCUS ON JULY 4 AND FLOWN TO BURN CENTER IN BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND. CONVOY OF TWO BURN VICTIMS ALSO EVACUATED FIVE OTHER MEA EMPLOYEES.
6. RELIABLE MEA SOURCE REPORTED JULY 6 THAT AIRPORT RUNWAYS STILL USABLE, CONTAINING ONLY EIGHT SMALL RUPTURES DUE BOMBARDMENTS. CONDITION OF RADAR AND CONTROL TOWER EQUIPMENT SUBJECT OF CONFLICTING REPORTS, BUT SAME SOURCE REPORTED JUNE 24 THAT EQUIPMENT STILL INTACT. HOWEVER, IT HAS BEEN DEMONSTRATED SEVERAL TIMES THAT AIRCRAFT CAN LAND AT AIRPORT IN DAYLIGHT HOURS WITHOUT REFERENCE TO CONTROL TOWER. LATEST DEMONSTRATION WAS JULY 8 LANDING OF ICRC DC-6 CARRYING SIX TONS MEDICAL SUUPPLIES.
7. AIRPORT PRESENTLY UNDER CONTROL ARAB LEAGUE FORCE COMPOSED OF SOME 700 SYRIANS, 300 LIBYANS, 500 SAUDI ARABIANS, AND 500 SUDANESE. PERIODIC BOMBARDMENTS CONTINUE. PURPOSE OF ARAB LEAGUE FORCE IS TO SUPERVISE CEASE-FIRE WHICH SO FAR HAS BEEN IMPOSSIBLE TO IMPOSE. AIRPORT WAS PRIMARY RALLY POINT OF SYRIANS ANDLIBYAN ARAB LEAGUE FORCES WHO ACCEPTED CONTROL OF AREA FROM REGULAR SYRIAN ARMY ON JUNE 21. HOWEVER, CONTINUED QUARRELS HAVE KEPT AL FORCES FROM ADVANCING FROM AIRPORT AREA AND JUNE 23 SHELLING SEEN LARGELY LIMITED OFFICIAL USE LIMITED OFFICIAL USE PAGE 03 BEIRUT 06147 130545Z IN RESPONSE TO HEIGHTENED CHRISTIAN FEARS THAT AIRPORT BE USED AS ENTRY POINT FOR ARMS FOR PALESTINIANS AND LEFTISTS. CHRISTIANS ALSO MISTRUST LIBYAN INTENTIONS, HAVING REJECTED LIBYYANS AS LEGITIMATE PARTICIPANTS IN ARAB LEAGUE FORCE.
8. CHRISTIAN ARTILLERY CONTINUES DOMINATE AIRPORT FROM SEVERAL POINTS AND, UNLESS GUARANTEES CAN BE WORKED OUT, IT IS UNLIKELY CHRISTIANS WILL ALLOW AIRPORT REOPEN, ALTHOUGH SOME ICRC AND OTHER MERCY FLIGHTS MAY BE ALLOWED IN. FOR NOW CHRISTIANS QUITE CONTENT WITH JOUNIEH PORT AS SUPPLY ENTRY AND PERSONNEL EXIT PORT. SOME 12 BOATS NOW PROVIDING DAILY SERVICE BETWEEN LEBANON AND CYPRUS.
SEELYE
LIMITED OFFICIAL USE
NNN
SHELLING OF AUB CAMPUS
1976 October 18, 15:45 (Monday)
1976BEIRUT08047_b
CONFIDENTIAL
UNCLASSIFIED
Margaret P. Grafeld Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 04 MAY 2006
1. EMBASSY HAS JUST BEEN INFORMED THAT DURING GENERAL SHELLING OF WEST BEIRUT OCT 18, FOUR SHELLS EXPLODED ON AUB CAMPUS ITSELF, PLUS TWO ON ABDUL AZIZ STREET ADJACENT TO AUB HOSPITAL, AND TWO ON BLISS STREET NEAR SAUDI EMBASSY. NO ONE WAS KILLED OR SERIOUSLY INJURED IN AUB OR ABDUL AZIZ EXPLOSION, BUT FOUR PEOPLE WERE REPORTEDLY KILLED ON BLISS STREET.
2. AUB ACTING PRESIDENT COWAN AND DEAN ELIE SALEM BELIEVE SHELLING OF AUB CAMPUS AND NEAR HOSPITAL ON ABDUL AZIZ STREET MAY BE RESULT OPENING OF AUB MEDICAL SCHOOL OCT 18, AND AN INDICATION OF WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF AUB OPENS FULL CAMPUS ON NOV 1 AS SCHEDULED. THEY ARE CONSIDERING DIRECT APPROACH TO CHRISTIAN LEADERS, ASKING THEM TO USE THEIR INFLUENCE TO SPARE AUB/AUH FROM FURTHER BOMBARDMENT.
CONFIDENTIAL CONFIDENTIAL PAGE 02 BEIRUT 08047 181628Z
3. COMMENT: OUR INFORMATION INDICATES THAT SHELLING TODAY (OCT 18) HAS BEEN UNUSUALLY HEAVY AND WIDESPREAD ON BOTH SIDES OF CONFRONTATION LINE IN BEIRUT, AND WE HAVE NO INFORMATION THAT AUB/AUH IS BEING SINGLED OUT AS A TARGET. HOWEVER, COINCIDENCE OF OPENING OF AUB MEDICAL SCHOOL (NO FIRST-YEAR CHRISTIAN STUDENTS HAVE YET ARRIVED) AND HEAVIEST SHELLING AUB/AUH HAS SUFFERED THIS YEAR CANNOT BE IGNORED. REGARDLESS OF REASON, ANY FURTHER SHELLING OF AUB/AUH, PARTICULARLY IF SOMEONE IS KILLED, MAY MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR UNIVERSITY TO OPEN. CHARGE THEREFORE REQUESTS AUTHORIZATION TO ATTEMPT TO TELEPHONE PRESIDENT SARKIS (WHEN HE RETURNS), FORMER PRESIDENT CHAMOUN, PIERRE GEMAYEL, CHARBEL KASSIS (GUARDIAN OF THE CEDARS) AND LEADER OF THE TANZIM ASAP TO: (A) DESCRIBE RECENT SHELLINGS AT AUB/AUH, (B) EMPHASIZE DANGER TO INNOCENT LEBANESE AND FOREIGN STUDENTS AND FACULTY; AND, (C) SAY HE HAS BEEN INSTRUCTED BY THE DEPARTMENT TO ASK THEM TO USE THEIR INFLUENCE TO PREVENT SHELLING OF AUB/ AUH IN THE FUTURE.
4. IF CHARGE NOT ABLE TO GET IN TOUCH WITH THESE MEN BY PHONE, WOULD PLAN SEND LETTERS ALONG LINES OUTLINED ABOVE. BELIEVE IT WOULD ALSO BE USEFUL IF DEPT COULD ASK AMB GHORRA IN NEW YORK TO PASS SAME MESSAGE TO CHAMOUN.
5. WOULD APPRECIATE REPLY ASAP.
LANE
CONFIDENTIAL
NNN
1. (U) THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL ATTACKS AGAINST CHRISTIAN INSTITUTIONS IN TRIPOLI DURING THE PERIOD JANUARY 8-9. TWO CHURCHES, MARONITE AND GREEK ORTHODOX, WERE BOMBED ON TUESDAY, CAUSING SERIOUS DAMAGE, WHILE ANOTHER GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH AND AN EVANGELICAL INSTITUTION WERE DAMAGED IN ATTACKS WEDNESDAY. A CHRISTIAN CEMETARY WAS ALSO BOMBED WEDNESDAY NIGHT.
2. (U) ISLAMIC UNIFICATION MOVEMENT (TAWHIID) HAS ISSUED TWO CONSECUTIVE CONDEMNATIONS OF THE ATTACKS, NOTING THAT TRIPOLI HAS TRADITIONALLY BEEN AN EXAMPLE OF RELIGIOUS UNITY, AND DEPLORING EFFORTS “TO FRIGHTEN THE CHRISTIANS OUT OF THE CITY.” WEEKLY MEETING OF ISLAMIC DAR AL-FATWA WEDNESDAY ALSO CONDEMNED THE BOMBINGS, AS DID BRIG. OTHMAN OTHMAN, DIRECTOR GENERAL OF INTERNAL SECURITY FORCES DURING A VISIT TO TRIPOLI WEDNESDAY.
3. (C) CHRISTIAN NOTABLE AND LEBANESE FORCES CHARTER MEMBER, CHARLES MALIK, TOLD POLOFF THAT FOUR CHRISTIANS HAVE, AS WELL, BEEN MURDERED ON ROADS NEAR TRIPOLI, AND THAT CHRISTIAN RESIDENTS OF AREA FEAR FOR THEIR LIVES. HE SAID THAT “LEBANESE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY” IS THINKING OF PREPARING A DEMARCHE TO STATE DEPARTMENT ON TRIPOLI VIOLENCE.
4. COMMENT (C): AS ALWAYS IN BEIRUT, LIST OF POSSIBLE PERPETRATORS OF THESE ATTACKS IS A LONG ONE, BEGINNING WITH TAWHIID ITSELF. MANY OBSERVERS ATTRIBUTE BOMBINGS, WHICH COME SOON AFTER RECENT DEPLOYMENT OF LAF INTO TRIPOLI AS PART OF NORTHERN SECURITY PLAN, AS EFFORT TO EMBARASS GOL (WHILE AT SAME TIME INTIMIDATING CHRISTIANS). ELABORATING ON THIS HYPOTHESIS, CHRISTIAN LEBANESE EMBASSY EMPLOYEE FROM KOURA REGION HAS TOLD US THAT MUCH BLAME IS BEING LAID AT FEET OF STILL-ACTIVE COMMUNISTS IN TRIPOLI, WITH RATIONALE BEING THAT LATTER ARE TRYING TO DISRUPT SECURITY PLAN THERE AND PLACE THE BLAME ON TAWHIID “PRINCE” SHA’BAN, WHO RECENTLY BOASTED IN A PUBLIC SPEECH THAT THE COMMUNISTS HAD BEEN CRUSHED IN TRIPOLI. A SIMILAR ARGUMENT, HOWEVER, COULD BE MADE THAT TAWIID’S MAIN RIVAL IN TRIPOLI, THE ARAB DEMOCRATIC PARTY, IS BEHIND BOMBINGS.
BARTHOLOMEW
BOMBS IN WEST BEIRUT
1985 January 14, 14:05 (Monday)
85BEIRUT240_a
CONFIDENTIAL
CONFIDENTIAL
— Not Assigned —
1. (C) SINCE THE SMUGGLER’S INN BLAST OF JANUARY 9, THERE HAVE BEEN FOUR MORE BOMBINGS IN WEST BEIRUT, KILLING SEVEN MORE PEOPLE AND INJURING AS MANY AS 80 MORE. IN ADDITION, A LARGE EXPLOSIVE CHARGE PLACED IN FRONT OF THE BUILDING HOUSING THE EMBASSY’S CHIEF POLITICAL SECTION LOCAL EMPLOYEE FAILED TO DETONATE WHEN ITS FUSE EXPLODED SUNDAY NIGHT. DETAILS FOLLOW.
2. (U) THREE PEOPLE WERE KILLED AND 27 INJURED FRIDAY WHEN A BOMB EXPLODED OUTSIDE THE BANK OF BEIRUT AND ARAB COUNTRIES ON CORNICHE MAZRA’ IN WEST BEIRUT. EXPLOSION DEVASTATED THE INSIDE OF BANK, DUG A LARGE CRATER IN SIDEWALK, AND CAUSED EXTENSIVE DAMAGE TO VEHICLES AND OTHER BUILDINGS.
3. (U) THREE BOMBS EXPLODED SATURDAY, KILLING THREE PEOPLE AND INJURING AS MANY AS 60. TWO OF THE BOMBS, BOTH PACKED WITH NAILS, WENT OFF WITHIN FIVE MINUTES OF EACH OTHER IN THE PSP-CONTROLLED MUSSEITBEH AREA WHILE THE THIRD INJURED SIX PERSONS AND DAMAGED PROPERTY ON HAMRA STREET NEAR A PSP CHECKPOINT.
4. (C) EMBASSY POLITICAL SECTION EMPLOYEE GABY AKKAR, A CHRISTIAN, SAID THAT UNLIKE BOMB WHICH DESTROYED HIS CAR LAST MONTH, HE IS CERTAIN THAT LAST NIGHTS ABORTED EXPLOSION WAS IMED AT HIM. HE SAID THAT CHARGE WAS PLACED DIRECTLY UNDER THE BALCONY OF HIS APARTMENT. AKKAR SAID THAT HE IS NOW MAKING PLANS TO MOVE HIS FAMILY INTO THE EAST WHERE IT IS SAFE.
5. (C) COMMENT: LEBANESE PUBLIC FIGURES HAVE INEVITABLY ACCUSED ISRAEL OF BEING BEHIND BLASTS, WHILE THE SYRIAN BA’ATH PARTY HAS SINGLED OUT PRO-ARAFAT PALESTINIANS. JOURNALISTS RESIDENT IN THE WEST VARIOUSLY ATTRIBUTE THE BLASTS TO THE MUR- ABITUN, WHICH THEY SAY IS RETURNING TO THE AREA IN FORCE AND REINVIGORATING THE OLD MURABITUN-PSP FEUD, OR HIZBALLAH,SIGNS OF WHOSE PRESENCE THEY SAY ARE INCREASINGLY DAILY. IN THIS REGARD, U.S. JOURNALISTS DESCRIBED THE QUALITY OF LIFE IN WEST BEIRUT AS HAVING SUNK TO TRULY HOBBESIAN LEVELS OF NASTINESS IN LAST MONTH, WITH THE COMBINATION OF CAR BOMBS AND ARMED ROBBERIES KEEPING MQST PEOPLE LOCKED INDOORS AT NIGHT. THERE ARE PRESENTLY REPRESENTA- TIVES OF ONLY THREE AMERICAN NEWS MEDIA RESIDENT IN BEIRUT (ASSOCIATED PRESS, LOS ANGELES TIMES, AND NEW YORK TIMES); SOME OF THESE ARE THINKING ABOUT LEAVING.
BARTHOLOMEW
INTENSE FIGHTING ALONG BEIRUT’S GREEN LINE
1985 May 7, 10:26 (Tuesday)
85BEIRUT2659_a
CONFIDENTIAL
CONFIDENTIAL
— Not Assigned —
1. C-ENTIRE TEXT.
2. THE NIGHT OF MAY 6-7 WITNESSED SOME OF THE HEAVIEST GREEN LINE FIGHTING SINCE THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE JULY 4, 1984, BEIRUT SECURITY PLAN. AS ALWAYS, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO RECONSTRUCT THE EXACT SEQUENCE OF EVENTS. HOWEVER IT APPEARS THAT THE FIGHTING BEGAN AS AN EXCHANGE OF SHELLING (TANKS, ROCKETS, AND ARTILLERY BY BOTH SIDES), THEN ESCALATED INTO BLIND SHELLING OF RESIDENTIAL AREAS IN BOTH EAST AND WEST BEIRUT. THE HEAVIEST FIGHTING WAS APPARENTLY CONCENTRATED IN THE PORT AND RAS AL-NABAH AREAS, WITH SHELLS HITTING THE EASTERN RESIDENTIAL DISTRICTS OF ASHRAFIYAH AND SIN AL-FIL, AS WELL AS VARIOUS WEST BEIRUT NEIGHBORHOODS. SCATTERED ROUNDS ALSO FELL IN THE GENERAL AREA OF AWKAR, RABIYAH, AND NACCACHE, ALTHOUGH THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT THESE AREAS WERE SPECIFICALLY TARGETED.
3. ALTHOUGH EXACT FIGURES ARE UNAVAILABLE, IT IS CLEAR THAT CASUALTIES WERE HEAVIER THAN IS USUAL IN GREEN LINE FIGHTING. EMBASSY SOURCES REPORT SEEING UP TO TWENTY-FIVE BODIES IN THE PORT AREA, AND THE LAF REPORTS LOSING ONE KILLED AND TWELVE INJURED. THERE ARE UNCONFIRMED REPORTS THAT THE PSP AND AMAL REQUESTED A CEASE-FIRE FOR 1600 HOURS LOCAL TIME IN ORDER TO RETRIEVE THE DEAD AND WOUNDED FROM THE NO-MAN’S LAND SEPARATING THE WARRING FACTIONS. THE RIZK TOWER IN EAST BEIRUT WAS HIT BY A TANK ROUND, DESTROYING GOL REPEATER EQUIPMENT AND DAMAGING THE ANTENNA OF A GOVERNMENT TELEVISION STATION.
4. AUB SOURCES INDICATED THAT THE UNIVERSITY SUFFERED ONLY LIGHT DAMAGE, ALTHOUGH ONE STUDENT SUFFERED INJURIES REQUIRING HOSPITALIZATION. SCHOOL IS OPEN TODAY, MAY 7, BUT ATTENDANCE IS SPARSE. THIS SOURCE REPORTED THAT THE PREVAILING ATTITUDE AMONG AMERICAN CITIZENS IN WEST BEIRUT IS ONE OF “DEPRESSION.” THEY SEE NO DIRECT AND IMMEDIATE THREAT, SUCH AS OF THE LF OR LAF CROSSING THE GREEN LINE TO ATTACK WEST BEIRUT, BUT RECENT EVENTS HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO A FEELING OF HOPELESSNESS ABOUT THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE OF LEBANON. THIS SOURCE SAID THAT ALTHOUGH AUB AMCIT FACULTY MEMBERS ARE NOT PLANNING TO LEAVE BEIRUT NOW IN RESPONSE TO A PERCEIVED THREAT, MANY ARE PLANNING ON LEAVING LEBANON AFTER THE END OF THE TERM IN LATE JUNE, EITHER BY NOT RENEWING THEIR CONTRACTS OR BY TAKING A YEAR’S SABBATICAL.
5. THE SITUATION ON THE GROUND REMAINS TENSE MAY 7, WITH MOST STORES REPORTEDLY CLOSED IN MUCH OF WEST BEIRUT AND THE ASHRAFIYAH SECTION OF EAST BEIRUT. THOSE SHOPS THAT ARE OPEN ARE MOSTLY OF THE MOM AND POP FOOD STORE VARIETY. THE SITUATION APPROACHES NORMAL IN EASTERN AREAS FURTHER FROM THE GREEN LINE. ALL GREEN LINE CROSSINGS ARE OFFICIALLY CLOSED.
6. COMMENT. IT IS STILL TOO SOON TO TELL IF RECENT OUTBREAKS REPRESENT SPONTANEOUS OUTBURSTS OR ARE POLITICALLY MOTIVATED. WE EXPECT THE SHARP FIGHTING ALONG THE GREEN LINE TO CONTINUE. HOWEVER, DESPITE UNSUBSTANTIATED RUMORS OF TROOP MOVEMENTS AND FEARS OF IMPENDING CLASHES, SUQ AL-GHARB HAS REMAINED CURIOUSLY QUIET. END COMMENT.
BARTHOLOMEW
NOTE BY OC/T: HEADING AS RECEIVED.
CORRECTION TO FOLLOW.
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The War Files (Part XII) – Amal, Hezbollah, Syria: Yes, They Were At War

Image taken after the 1988 clashes between Hezbollah and Amal (source)

Image taken after the 1988 clashes between Hezbollah and Amal (source)

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War that started on the 13th of April 1975. This is why I’ve decided to publish WikiLeaks cables from the war era, every day till the 13th of April. I think it would be interesting to look at things from a different point of view, and since it’s not the Lebanese who are telling the stories, I believe it offers a unique insight on the civil war. Although there are a lot more cables on WikiLeaks, I won’t republish them all  in order to focus on the most relevant ones. I hope you enjoy reading them.

When people mention 1990 in Lebanon, the first thing coming to mind is Aoun’s downfall on the 13th of October. But in August 1990, a forgotten war between Syria, Amal, Hezbollah, and (indirectly) Iran was still ongoing. This post includes two cables covering the Shia infighting and the Amal-Hezbollah-Syria peace agreement of 1990. The two cables are organized chronologically

B) DAMASCUS 03433 C) FBIS NC3007112690 D) DAMASCUS E) FBIS NC 2607110790 F) DAMASCUS 4694 G) NICOSIA 4983 H) FBIS NC2907184290 I) NICOSIA 04992
1. (C) DAMASCUS HAS ADOPTED A LOW PUBLIC PROFILE ON THE AMAL-HIZBALLAH FIGHTING IN THE IQLIM AL TUFFAH, DESPITE ITS INTENSITY AND POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES. SYRIAN MEDIA HAS GIVEN LITTLE ATTENTION TO THE BATTLES AND THE SARG APPEARS TO BE TAKING FEW, IF ANY, STEPS TO TRY TO END IT. THE FLURRY OF PUBLIC DIPLOMATIC ACTIVITY BETWEEN DAMASCUS AND TEHRAN, WHICH FOLLOWED PREVIOUS CLASHES BETWEEN THE TWO SHIA’ MILITIAS HAS NOT OCCURRED. UNLIKE ITS IRANIAN COUNTERPARTS, THE SARG HAS NOT CALLED FOR A CEASE-FIRE AMONG THE COMBATANTS. DAMASCUS IS SUPPORTING THE INTERVENTION OF THE LEBANESE ARMY INTO THE AREA, BUT PROBABLY ALSO REALIZES THE LAF CAN DO LITTLE TO STOP THE FIGHTING WITHOUT THE ACQUIESCENCE OF BOTH AMAL AND HIZBALLAH. INTERESTINGLY, AN ARTICLE IN AN NAHAR, AN INDEPENDENT WEST BEIRUT NEWSPAPER, PORTRAYED THE FIGHTING AS AN “UNDECLARED WAR” BETWEEN SYRIA AND IRAN.
——————— DAMASCUS UNCONCERNED? ———————
2. (C) DAMASCUS HAS PAID LITTLE PUBLIC ATTENTION IN THE MEDIA TO THE FIGHTING THUS FAR, FOCUSING INSTEAD ON THE HRAWI GOVERNMENT’S JULY 11 PLAN TO IMPLEMENT TA’IF. THE SARG HAS TAKEN NO STEPS AIMED AT HALTING THE FIGHTING. EVEN THOUGH, THE FIGHTING IS IN AN AREA OF LEBANON WHERE THERE IS NO CONCENTRATION OF SYRIAN TROOPS, DAMASCUS AND TEHRAN HAVE BROKERED CEASE-FIRES BETWEEN AMAL AND HIZBALLAH PREVIOUSLY. DAMASCUS PROBABLY DOES PERCEIVE AN INTEREST IN STEMMING HIZBALLAH’S ROLE AND ANY GROWTH IN INFLUENCE AS A RESULT OF THE FIGHTING. IRANIAN FORMIN VELAYATI CLAIMED IN HIS LETTER TO LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER HUSS (REF A) THAT IRAN HAS BEEN IN CONTINUOUS CONTACT AND CONSULTATION WITH THE SARG, BUT EMBASSY DAMASCUS HAS NOTED A LACK OF PUBLIC DIPLOMATIC ACTIVITY. WE HAVE DETECTED NO SHUTTLING OF IRANIAN OR SYRIAN DIPLOMATS BETWEEN THE CAPITALS OR INTO LEBANON TO TALK WITH AMAL AND HIZBALLAH OFFICIALS.
3. (S) EMBASSY HAS ALSO DETECTED NO ATTEMPT BY THE SARG TO STOP THE FLOW OF ARMS TO THE COMBATANTS. PRESS ACCOUNTS INDICATE THAT SOME OF DAMASCUS’ OTHER LEBANESE SURROGATES, SUCH AS ELIE HUBAYQA, ARE ASSISTING AMAL, WHICH PROBABLY INCLUDES SUPPLYING ARMS. IF THE SYRIANS CAN PREVENT THEIR PROXIES FROM SUPPLYING GENERAL AWN AT A MOMENT’S NOTICE (REF D), THEY ALMOST CERTAINLY COULD EXERT THE SAME INFLUENCE ON THEIR PROXIES WHO ARE SUPPLYING AMAL.
4. (S) DAMASCUS IS ALSO VOID OF ANY RUMORS HINTING THAT THE SYRIANS MAY HAVE CLOSED THE BORDER TO LEBANON TO SHUT DOWN THE THE IRANIAN PIPELINE TO HIZBALLAH OR STOPPED THE FLOW OF ARMS FROM THE BIQA’ TO THE SOUTH. CONTROL OF THESE PIPELINES ARE THE SARG’S PRINCIPAL LEVERAGE OVER THE IRANIAN REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS AND HIZBALLAH AND ONE THEY HAVE USED DURING PREVIOUS CLASHES BETWEEN AMAL AND HIZBALLAH. EARLIER THIS YEAR, DAMASCUS SHUT THE LEBANESE BORDER TO THE IRANIANS IN PART TO PROTEST IRAN’S SUPPLYING OF ARMS TO HIZBALLAH. WHEN THE SARG REOPENED IT, IRANIAN REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS AND THEIR SUPPLIES ENTERED LEBANON UNDER TIGHTER CONTROLS (REF B). UNDER THESE CONDITIONS, THE SYRIANS SHOULD BE AWARE OF WHAT IS CROSSING THE BORDER INTO LEBANON. (COMMENT: BECAUSE OF ITS CONTROL OVER THE PIPELINE, THE SARG MAY NOT HAVE BEEN CAUGHT TOTALLY OFF GUARD BY THE OUTBREAK OF FIGHTING SEVERAL WEEKS LATER, REALIZING THAT HIZBALLAH HAD BEEN RESUPPLIED.)
5. (C) THE SARG HAS ALSO ALLOWED ITS ALLY, AMAL LEADER NABIH BERRI TO PUBLICLY CALL FOR THE REMOVAL OF IRANIAN FORCES FROM LEBANON. BERRI HAS MADE SEVERAL STATEMENTS OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS REITERATING THIS POINT WITH LITTLE DETECTABLE REACTION FROM THE SARG. AMAL OFFICIALS HAVE ACCUSED IRANIAN REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS OF PARTICIPATING IN THE FIGHTING AND HAVE EVEN BLAMED THEM FOR ESCALATING IT (REF C).
———————- WHAT DAMASCUS HAS DONE ———————-
6. (C) THE SARG HAS ANNOUNCED ITS SUPPORT FOR THE INTERVENTION OF THE LEBANESE ARMY (LAF) INTO THE IQLIM AL TUFFAH IN ORDER TO HALT THE FIGHTING (REF F). LEBANESE ARMY COMMANDER GENERAL LAHUD WAS IN DAMASCUS OVER THE WEEKEND MEETING WITH GENERAL SHIHABI, ACCORDING TO LEBANESE PRESS REPORTS (REF G). THE PLAN TO INTERVENE IN THE IQLIM FIGHTING PROBABLY WAS A TOPIC OF CONVERSATION, ESPECIALLY SINCE THE LAF HAS FEW TROOPS AND WOULD BE HARD PRESSED TO GET INVOLVED BOTH IN THE IQLIM AND AID IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE JULY 11 PLAN IN BEIRUT.
——————- AN “UNDECLARED WAR” ——————-
7. (U) AN NAHAR, AN INDEPENDENT WEST BEIRUT NEWSPAPER, PUBLISHED AN ARTICLE ON JULY 25 ENTITLED “THE IQLIM AL TUFFAH WAR IS BETWEEN SYRIA AND IRAN” (REF E). THE ARTICLE QUOTED SOURCES CLOSE TO DAMASCUS AS SAYING “THE FIGHTING…BETWEEN ‘HIZBALLAH’ AND ‘THE AMAL MOVEMENT’ IN IQLIM AL TUFFAH…IS ACTUALLY AN UNDECLARED WAR BETWEEN THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN AND SYRIA.” THE SYRIAN SOURCES BASED THIS CLAIM ON THREE FACTORS: — THE FAILURE OF AN INDIRECT AGREEMENT BETWEEN IRAN AND THE U.S., WHICH HAD BEEN BROKERED BY SYRIAN FORMIN SHARA’, EARLIER THIS YEAR; — IRAN’S FEARS OF THE INCREASING PROSPECTS FOR ARAB RECONCILIATION; AND — HIZBALLAH AND IRAN’S FEARS THAT THEY WILL BE LEFT OUT OF THE PLANNING FOR LEBANON’S FUTURE.
8. (C) THE ARTICLE ALSO PRESENTS THE IRANIAN VIEWS ON WHAT LED TO THE ABOVE PROBLEMS. THE IRANIAN SOURCES BELIEVE THE SYRIAN SPONSORED US-IRANIAN AGREEMENT FAILED BECAUSE OF “DAMASCUS’ CONNIVANCE WITH WASHINGTON” AND DAMASCUS ‘S FALLING INTO THE U.S. TRAP AND ITS (DAMASCUS) IGNORANCE OF THE FACT THAT “U.S. POLICY TOWARD THE IRANIAN ISLAMIC REVOLUTION…HAS NOT CHANGED.” SYRIA’S RAPPROCHEMENT WITH EGYPT AND THE NEVERENDING ATTEMPTS TO RECONCILE SYRIA AND IRAQ TRIGGERED THE SECOND IRANIAN FEAR. THE JULY 11 PLAN’S EXCLUSION OF THE SOUTHERN SUBURBS UNTIL “ALL OBSTACLES, THE MOST IMPORTANT OF WHICH ARE THE FUNDAMENTALIST MOVEMENTS, ARE OVERCOME” HEIGHTENED THE LAST IRANIAN CONCERN.
9. (C) ACCORDING TO THE ARTICLE, IT WAS THE IRANIAN FUNDAMENTALIST ANALYSIS OF THE SYRIAN STAND CONCERNING LEBANON THAT “PROMPTED THEM (IRAN AND HIZBALLAH) TO ESCALATE THE WAR IN THE IQLIM AL -TUFFAH WHERE SYRIA HAS NO DIRECT PRESENCE AND WHERE ITS ALLIES CAN NOT STAND ALONE AND … WIN.” THE ARTICLE STATES THE AIM OF THE FIGHTING IS TO SEIZE CONTROL OF TERRITORY AND MAKE IRAN AND ITS ALLIES HEARD IN LEBANON AND THE REGION. (COMMENT: LEBANESE PRESS HAS REPORTED THAT DAMASCUS HAS ASKED THE TRIPARTITE COMMITTEE TO INCLUDE HIZBALLAH IN THE EXPANDED LEBANESE CABINET. THE SARG DID SPECIFY, HOWEVER, THAT HIZBALLAH MUST FIRST ACCEPT TA’IF. IN OTHER WORDS, SARG IS DEMANDING THAT HIZBALLAH AND GENERAL AWN LIVE UP TO THE SAME CONDITIONS — AN UNLIKELY EVENT.) (REF I)
10. (C) DAMASCUS PROBABLY WILL MAINTAIN ITS PUBLIC AMBIVALENCE TOWARDS THE FIGHTING AS LONG AS AMAL HOLDS ITS OWN AGAINST HIZBALLAH, WHICH RECENT IRANIAN AND . HIZBALLAH CALLS FOR A CEASE-FIRE SEEM TO INDICATE. THE SARG CAN HIDE ITS INACTION BEHIND THE JUSTIFICATION THAT IT HAS NO TROOPS IN THE AREA TO INTERVENE.
– 11. (C) THE CURRENT WILDCARD IS THE POTENTIAL ISRAELI REACTION TO THE CONTINUED FIGHTING IN THE IQLIM. SO FAR, NEITHER THE SARG OR THE SYRIAN MEDIA HAS MADE AN ISSUE OF RECENT ISRAELI STATEMENTS THREATENING POSSIBLE INTERVENTION SHOULD THE FIGHTING THREATEN ISRAEL’S SECURITY (REF H). THE ISRAELIS MAY BE LOOKING CLOSELY AT THE PLO’S PRESENCE AND ACTIVITIES IN SOUTHERN LEBANON IN THIS REGARD.
12. (C) THE AN NAHAR ARTICLE NO DOUBT GOES TO FAR IN CASTING THE FIGHTING IN THE IQLIM AS ENTIRELY A “WAR” BETWEEN SYRIA AND IRAN BUT TENSIONS BETWEEN THE TWO SPONSORS PROBABLY ARE A FACTOR. THE ARTICLE DOES CORRECTLY HIGHLIGHT MANY OF THE RECENT EVENTS WHICH HAVE CAUSED STRAINS BETWEEN DAMASCUS AND TEHRAN. THE TWO COUNTRIES ULTIMATELY ARE AT ODDS IN THEIR VISION FOR LEBANON’S FUTURE.
DJEREJIAN
1. (U) AN IRANIAN DELEGATION LED BY IRANIAN VICE PRESIDENT DR. HASAN HABIBI MET SYRIAN COUNTERPARTS IN DAMASCUS NOVEMBER 3-5 WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF THE SUPREME SYRIAN-IRANIAN COUNCIL TO DISCUSS A FULL RANGE OF BILATERAL AND REGIONAL SUBJECTS. ACCOMPANYING HABIBI WERE IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VELAYATI, HIS ASSISTANT GHOLAM REZA SAN’ATI, DIRECTOR OF THE MIDDLE EAST SECTION OF THE IRANIAN MFA MAHMUD HASHEMI-RAFSANJANI, ASSISTANT DEFENSE MINISTER MUHAMMAD VAHIDI, ADVISER TO THE FOREIGN MINISTER AHMAD FAS MALIJIAN, AND CHIEF OF PROTOCOL FOR THE VICE PRESIDENT MUHAMMAD HOSEYN DANYAL.
——————————- AMAL-HIZBALLAH AGREEMENT SIGNED ——————————-
2. (U) THE SYRIAN MEDIA ON 5 NOVEMBER ANNOUNCED AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE LEBANESE SHIA AMAL AND HIZBALLAH MOVEMENTS FOLLOWING TALKS AT THE SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY WHICH REPORTEDLY BEGAN THE EVENING OF 4 NOVEMBER. THE ACCORD WAS SIGNED BY AMAL LEADER NABIH BERRI AND HIZBALLAH SECRETARY GENERAL SUBHI AL-TUFAYLI “UNDER THE AUSPICES” OF THE IRANIAN AND SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS AND IN THE PRESENCE OF SYRIAN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE CHIEF IN LEBANON, BRIGADIER GENERAL GHAZI KANAAN. ACCORDING TO THE TERMS OF THE AGREEMENT: — THE TWO SIDES WILL HELP FACILITATE THE DEPLOYMENT OF THE LEBANESE ARMY IN SOUTHERN LEBANON “IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE DEVELOPMENT OF ITS ABILITY TO ENFORCE LAW AND ORDER.” — ANY DISAGREEMENT ON IMPLEMENTATION OF THIS AGREEMENT MUST BE RESOLVED THROUGH REFERENCE TO THE SYRIAN AND IRANIAN PARTIES AND SUBJECT TO THEIR INTERPRETATION. — ALL PERSONS EVACUATED AS A RESULT OF AMAL- HIZBALLAH FIGHTING SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO RETURN TO THEIR “AREAS, VILLAGES, AND HOMES.” — A COMMITTEE WILL BE FORMED, “COMPRISING BRIGADIER. GENERAL. GHAZI KANAAN AND (IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA) AKHTARI,” TO SUPERVISE AND FOLLOW UP IMPLEMENTATION OF THE AGREEMENT. — FURTHER TO THE APPENDIX TO THE DAMASCUS AGREE- MENT (JANUARY 30, 1989), AND IN CASE EITHER PARTY VIOLAQTHE AGREEMENT, THE “INJURED PARTY” MUST INFORM THE COMMITTEE, WHICH WILL THEN CONVENE IMMEDIATELY TO “TAKE THE NECESSARY ACTION TO DETER THE VIOLATOR WITHIN A MAXIMUM PERIOD OF 24 HOURS. IN CASE OF A CRIMINAL OFFENSE, THE ACCUSED WILL BE HANDED OVER TO THE CONCERNED AUTHORITIES.” — THE AGREEMENT WILL TAKE EFFECT AS OF 10 NOVEMBER 1990.
—————————————– NO OTHER CONCRETE ACHIEVEMENTS NOTED, YET —————————————–
3. (U) BEYOND MENTIONING HABIBI’S DESCRIPTION OF HIS TALKS AS “SUCCESSFUL AND FRUITFUL” ON HIS RETURN TO TEHRAN NOVEMBER 6, THE SYRIAN MEDIA HAS NOT PROVIDED DETAILS OF ANY SUBSTANTIVE ACCOMPLISHMENTS TOWARD THE STATED GOAL OF “CHARTING A PLAN OF ACTION” TO DEVELOP BILATERAL RELATIONS “IN ALL FIELDS.” BOTH SIDES AGREED TO FORM SUBCOMMITTEES TO FOLLOW UP THE SYRIAN-IRANIAN JOINT COMMITTEE’S THREE SESSIONS ON BILATERAL COOPERATION. HABIBI MET WITH SYRIAN PRESIDENT ASAD (IN LATAKIA) ON NOVEMBER 4, AS WELL AS WITH VICE PRESIDENT KHADDAM. OTHER MEETINGS BETWEEN IRANIAN AND SYRIAN OFFICIALS DEALT WITH LEBANON AND OTHER “REGIONAL AND BILATERAL ISSUES,” ACCORDING TO THE LIMITED MEDIA REPORTING.
—————————————- EXCHANGE OF POSITIONS ON THE GULF CRISIS —————————————-
4. (C) WHILE SYRIA CONSIDERS ITS SUCCESS ENSURING IRANIAN COMPLIANCE WITH UN SANCTIONS ON IRAQ TO HAVE BEEN THE SUPREME ACCOMPLISHMENT OF ASAD’S SEPTEMBER VISIT TO IRAN, THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO SIDES ABOUT THE PRESENCE OF FOREIGN FORCES APPARENTLY CONTINUE TO BE AN ISSUE. ALTHOUGH SYRIAN MEDIA HAVE BEEN LARGELY SILENT ON GULF-BELATED ISSUES (SEE SEPTEL ON INFORMATION MINISTER SALMAN’S RECENT REAFFIRMATION THAT SYRIA DEMANDS IRAQ’S FULL AND UNCONDITIONAL WITHDRAWAL FROM KUWAIT), WE NOTE THAT IRANIAN MEDIA CITED HABIBI’S NOVEMBER 4 STATEMENT THAT “ALLIED FORCES MUST WITHDRAW FROM THE REGION” AND THAT KHADDAM SAID IN RESPONSE THAT “THE PERMANENT PRESENCE OF FOREIGN FORCES HAS NOT TOLERABLE.” THE TWO SIDES ALSO RECONFIRMED THEIR REJECTION OF ANY GEOGRAPHICAL CHANGES IN THE REGION AND THEIR SUPPORT FOR COLLECTIVE REGIONAL SECURITY COOPERATION. SYRIAN PRESS ON NOVEMBER 7 QUOTED HABIBI’S ARRIVAL STATEMENT AFFIRMING SYRIA’S AND IRAN’S CONDEMNATION OF IRAQ’S INVASION OF KUWAIT AND THE TWO GOVERNMENTS’ CALL FOR IRAQ’S UNCONDITIONAL WITHDRAWAL.
——- COMMENT ——-
5. (C) THIS LATEST AGREEMENT TO END THE OFTEN BLOODY INTRA-SHIA FEUDING IN LEBANON WILL LIKELY BE THE PRINCIPAL ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THIS VISIT. UPON HIS RETURN TO TEHRAN, HABIBI LAUDED THE AGREEMENT AS AN ACHIEVEMENT WHICH WILL ENABLE “THE MOBILIZATION OF ALL CAPABILITIES TO CONFRONT THE ZIONIST ENEMY.” HIZBALLAH LEADER AL-TUFAYLI ECHOED THIS SENTIMENT WHILE AMAL LEADER BERRI, BY CONTRAST, MERELY VOICED THE HOPE THAT AMAL AND HIZBALLAH MEMBERS WILL BE ABLE TO “RETURN TO THEIR HOMES AND VILLAGES.” 6. (C) THE ABSENCE OF ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT OTHER ASPECTS OF THE VISIT MAY REFLECT DISAGREEMENTS OVER THORNY BILATERAL MATTERS LIKE ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE. OUR COLLEAGUES TELL US THAT ASAD DID NOT OVERCOME THE RESISTANCE TO CONTINUED OR INCREASED ECONOMIC AID TO SYRIA BY CERTAIN HARDLINE IRANIAN CLERICS, BECAUSE OF SYRIA’S 5.5 BILLION USD DEBT, DURING ASAD’S VISIT TO TEHRAN. AS A RESULT, NO CONCRETE TRADE AGREEMENTS WERE SIGNED, ALTHOUGH SYRIA IS STILL TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CONTINUED IRANIAN WILLINGNESS TO SELL IT OIL AT BELOW-MARKET RATES. WHETHER THESE REPORTS ARE TRUE, IT DOES NOT APPEAR FROM THE COMPOSITION OF THE IRANIAN DELEGATION OR THE MODEST SYRIAN MEDIA COVERAGE THAT THIS FIRST GATHERING OF THE SYRIAN-IRANIAN SUPREME COUNCIL WILL RESULT IN HIGHER IRANIAN AID LEVELS FOR SYRIA.
DJEREJIAN
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The War Files (Part XI) – The Muslim Infighting Of 1985 And 1986

A Shiite Muslim AMAL militiaman fires his AK-47 assault rifle during skirmishes with Druse irregulars on Corniche Mazraa road, West Beirut, Lebanon, Feb. 20, 1987. (photo credit: AP)

A Shiite Muslim AMAL militiaman fires his AK-47 assault rifle during skirmishes with Druse irregulars on Corniche Mazraa road, West Beirut, Lebanon, Feb. 20, 1987. (photo credit: AP)

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War that started on the 13th of April 1975. This is why I’ve decided to publish WikiLeaks cables from the war era, every day till the 13th of April. I think it would be interesting to look at things from a different point of view, and since it’s not the Lebanese who are telling the stories, I believe it offers a unique insight on the civil war. Although there are a lot more cables on WikiLeaks, I won’t republish them all  in order to focus on the most relevant ones. I hope you enjoy reading them.

Today’s post is about cables covering the Muslim/Palestinian/Sunni/Shia chaos and infighting (between Amal, Hezbollah, Palestinian militias, the PSP, the Mourabitoun – among others) that happened in the last years of the war. The cables are organized chronologically.

POLITICAL RAMIFICATIONS OF WEST BEIRUT FIGHTING
1985 April 18, 17:56 (Thursday)
85BEIRUT2325_a
CONFIDENTIAL
CONFIDENTIAL
— Not Assigned —
1. CONFIDENTIAL – ENTIRE TEXT.
2. SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION. FOLLOWING MAJOR FIGHTING ON THE NIGHT OF APRIL 16-17, A TENSE CALM NOW PREVAILS IN WEST BEIRUT. SHIITE AMAL MOVEMENT LEADER NABIH BARRI EMERGED AS THE PRIME VICTOR IN THE INTRAMUSLIM FIGHTING. STATEMENTS MADE BY THE VARIOUS LEADERS TRACK WITH OUR ANALYSIS (REFTEL A) THAT THE FIGHTING REFLECTED TWO MAJOR CONFLICTS: LEBANESE SHIA VS. LEBANESE SUNNI AND LEBANESE SHIA VS. PALESTINIANS. THE AMAL MOVEMENT, WITH THE SUPPORT OF THE DRUZE PSP AND OTHER MEMBERS OF THE “NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC FRONT,” HAS DEALT A SEVERE BLOW TO THE SUNNI MURABITUN MILITIA AND HAS COME OUT OF THE AFFAIR WITH ITS POSITION AS THE STRONGEST POLITICAL AND MILITARY FORCE IN WEST BEIRUT CONFIRMED AND ENHANCED.
3. THE SYRIAN ROLE REMAINS UNCLEAR, BUT MANY HERE SPECULATE THAT DAMASCUS MUST HAVE CONDONED THE AMAL/PSP MOVE AGAINST THE MURABITUN AND ITS PRO-ARAFAT PALESTINIAN ALLIES AND MAY HAVE, IN FACT, ACTIVELY SUPPORTED THE CLASH.
4. IN HIS RESIGNATION STATEMENT, PRIME MINISTER RASHID KARAMI EXPRESSED DESPAIR OVER THE APRIL 16-17 FIGHTING, POINTED AN ACCUSING FIGURE AT DAMASCUS, AND ASKED FOR SYRIA TO HELP RESOLVE THE ENSUING CRISIS. IT IS TOO SOON TO MAKE ANY FIRM PREDICTIONS AS TO WHO THE NEXT PRIME MINISTER MAY BE OR WHAT FORM THE NEW CABINET MAY TAKE, BUT WE SET FORTH BELOW SOME OF THE RELEVANT FACTORS.
END SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION.
——————————- AMAL, BACKED BY PSP, VICTORIOUS ——————————-
5. THE DUST IS NOW SETTLING IN WEST BEIRUT AFTER VERY HEAVY FIGHTING OCCURRED ON THE NIGHT OF APRIL 16-17, RESULTING IN APPROXIMATELY THIRTY PERSONS KILLED AND ONE HUNDRED WOUNDED. BEIRUT AIRPORT REMAINS OPERATIONAL, AND THE GREEN LINE IS PARTIALLY OPEN, BUT SPORADIC SNIPING CONTINUES IN VARIOUS AREAS OF WEST BEIRUT.
6. IN THE FIRST INSTANCE, STATEMENTS BY KEY LEADERS CONFIRMED OUR EARLIER ANALYSIS THAT THE EVENTS OF APRIL 16-17 REFLECTED A SHIA-SUNNI CONFLICT. THE SHIITE AMAL MILITIA, BACKED BY THE DRUZE PSP, HIT HARD AT THE SUNNI MURABITUN MILITIA, REPORTEDLY TAKING CONTROL OF ALL SIGNIFICANT MURABITUN POSITIONS, INCLUDING THE “VOICE OF ARAB LEBANON” RADIO STATION LOCATED IN THE ABDUL NASR MOSQUE.
7. THE REACTION OF SUNNI LEADERS HAS BEEN STRONG. PRIME MINISTER KARAMI RESIGNED (SEE BELOW), AND THE GRAND MUFTI OF THE REPUBLIC, SHEIKH HASSAN KHALID, STRONGLY CONDEMNED THE SHIA FOR STRIKING AGAINST TRADITIONALLY SUNNI WEST BEIRUT. “IT IS INADMISSIBLE FOR BEIRUT TO BE STRUCK AND HUMILIATED AND ITS AUTHORITY SEIZED BY THOSE VERY PEOPLE THAT IT PROTECTED AND WILL CONTINUE TO PROTECT…BY THOSE THAT IT WELCOMED AND HONORED AND WILL CONTINUE TO WELCOME AND HONOR.” THE MUFTI ADDED THAT THE SUNNIS WOULD NOT PERMIT THE INHABITANTS OF WEST BEIRUT TO BE “STRUCK AS IF THEY HAD BECOME ISRAELI AGENTS.” EXPRESSING SOLIDARITY WITH PRIME MINISTER KARAMI, FORMER PM TAKIADDIN SOLH STRONGLY REGRETTED THE FIGHTING WHICH “OPPOSED PARTIES STRUGGLING FOR A COMMON CAUSE…WHO SHOULD DIRECT THEIR WEAPONS EXCLUSIVELY AGAINST THE ISRAELI ENEMY.”
8. AMAL LEADER NABIH BARRI RESPONDED VEHEMENTLY TO THE MUFTI’S NOTION THAT THE SHIA WERE GUESTS IN TRADITIONALLY SUNNI WEST BEIRUT. “BEIRUT IS MY CITY AND MY CAPTIAL,” HE SAID, “WE WILL NOT ACCEPT CANTONS THAT DEFINE US AS FOREIGNERS WHEN WE ARE PEOPLE OF THE HOUSE.” SUPPORTING BARRI’S STATEMENT, THE DRUZE PSP SAID IT “COULD NOT UNDERSTAND…HOW HE (THE MUFTI) COULD QUALIFY CERTAIN RESIDENTS OF WEST BEIRUT (I.E., THE SHIA) AS INTRUDERS. …THOSE WHO DEFEND WITH THEIR BLOOD THE CAPITAL AGAINST FASCIST-PHALANGE AGRESSION, THOSE WHO STRUGGLE SO THAT BEIRUT WILL REMAIN ARAB AND FREE CANNOT BE CALLED INTRUDERS.”
9. IN THE SECOND INSTANCE, THE APRIL 16-17 FIGHTING WAS A SHIA-PALESTINIAN SET-TO. THE SHIA, BACKED BY THE DRUZE, STRUCK HARD NOT ONLY AT THE SUNNI MURABITUN BUT ALSO AT THE PRO-ARAFAT PALESTINIANS CLOSELY ASSOCIATED WITH THE MURABITUN. THEIR SUCCESS IN DOING SO, HOWEVER, WAS LESS OVERWHELMING, IN PART BECAUSE THE PALESTINIANS APPARENTLY DID NOT “RISE TO THE BAIT” AND PARTICIPATE IN THE FIGHTING WITH ALL THEIR FORCE. SINCE THE FIGHTING, AMAL AND PSP HAVE REPORTEDLY ESTABLISHED CHECKPOINTS AROUND THE PALESTINIAN REFUGEE CAMPS, TIGHTENING CONTROL OVER THE INFLUX OF ARMS.
10. IN A MAJOR PUBLIC STATEMENT, AMAL HIT HARD AT THE PALESTINIANS. BARRI CALLED THE FIGHTING A “NIGHTMARE” IN WHICH HIS AMAL MILITIA CONFRONTED “AN UPRISING CAREFULLY PLANNED BY ARAB HANDS EXPLOITING SECTARIAN IDEAS, FOREIGNERS, INTRUDERS, AND GUESTS IN BEIRUT.” BARRI ASKED RHETORICALLY “WHY SOME OUTSIDERS (I.E., THE PALESTINIANS) ARE CONSIDERED AS GUESTS, EVEN IF THEY COME FROM ANOTHER REGION AND ANOTHER CONFESSION, WHILE THE REAL GUESTS IN BEIRUT (I.E., THE SHIA), WHO HAD THE HONOR OF LIBERATING THE CITY FROM THE CHAINS OF MAY 17 AND THE AGENTS OF ISRAEL, ARE NOT WELL LOOKED UPON…”
11. ON THE GROUND, THE VICTORS HAVE MOVED TO CONSOLIDATE THEIR GAINS. LEADERS OF AMAL, PSP, AND THE SMALLER MEMBERS OF THE LEFTIST “NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC FRONT” (SYRIAN SOCIALIST NATIONAL PARTY, LEBANESE COMMUNIST PARTY, SYRIAN ARAB BAATH PARTY) MET AT BARRI’S WEST BEIRUT RESIDENCE ON APRIL 17 AND ANNOUNCED THE FORMATION OF A UNIFIED MILITARY COMMAND TO ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN ORDER IN WEST BEIRUT (A THROW-BACK TO AN IDEA FIRST FIELDED AFTER THE FEBRUARY 6, 1984, FIGHTING AND DROPPED AFTER STIFF SUNNI RESISTANCE). THIS GROUP PLANS TO SET UP AN OPERATIONS ROOM AND A BUREAU OF CITIZENS AFFAIRS. IT SAYS IT WILL ALSO COMMAND A JOINT “STRIKE FORCE” INITIALLY COMPRISING 300 MEN, TO BE DOUBLED TO 600, DRAWN IN EQUAL NUMBERS FROM AMAL, THE PSP, AND THE JUNIOR MEMBERS OF THE NDF. ACCORDING TO THE BEIRUT DAILY, “LE REVEIL,” WEST BEIRUT NEIGHBORHOODS HAVE BEEN PARCELED OUT AMONG THESE GROUPS. AMAL IS REPORTEDLY RESPONSIBLE FOR SECURITY IN TARIQ AL-JADIDAH, FAKAHANI, MAZRAH, AND KARAKAS; THE PSP IN RAS BEIRUT, HAMRA, AYN AL-MURAYSA, MINAT AL-HISN, MUSAYTIBAH, AND RAWSHAH; AND THE VARIOUS SMALLER GROUPS UNDER THE EGIS OF THE PSP IN SMALL, TOKEN SECTIONS OF TERRITORY.
12. NOTABLY ABSENT FROM REPRESENTATION ON THE UNIFIED MILITARY COMMAND OR IN THE DIVISION OF SPOILS IS ANY SUNNI MUSLIM GROUP. LACK OF GOL OR LAF PARTICIPATION GOES WITHOUT SAYING. MORE THAN EVER BEFORE, NABIH BARRI HAS ESTABLISHED HIMSELF AS THE STRONGMAN OF WEST BEIRUT. THROUGH THE FORMATION OF THE UNIFIED MILITARY COMMAND AND THE ANNOUNCED FORMATION OF A “POLITICAL HIGH COMMAND,” THE SHIITE AMAL MOVEMENT WITH ITS ALLIES IS CONSOLIDATING AND FORMALIZING ITS CONTROL OF WEST BEIRUT. THIS WILL BE A BITTER PILL FOR THE SUNNI COMMUNITY TO SWALLOW.
———– SYRIAN ROLE ———–
13. THERE AS BEEN MUCH SPECULATION AND LITTLE CONCRETE EVIDENCE CONCERNING THE ROLE THAT SYRIA MAY HAVE PLAYED IN THE APRIL 16-17 FIGHTING. AS WE ANTICIPATED (REFTEL A), THE FACT THAT NABIH BARRI HAD JUST RETURNED FROM DAMACUS BEFORE THE FIGHTING HAS FUELED SPECULATION THAT SYRIA CONDONED AND PERHAPS ACTIVELY SUPPORTED THE MOVE AGAINST THE MURABITUN AND, ESPECIALLY, AGAINST THE PRO-ARAFAT PALESTINIANS. ACCORDING TO THIS LINE OF REASONING, SYRIA MAY NEXT UNLEASH AMAL AND THE PSP AGAINST THE PRO-ARAFAT PALESTINIANS IN THE BEIRUT SOUTHERN SUBURBS AND IN SIDON. IN ANY EVENT, SYRIA IS CERTAINLY WATCHING DEVELOPMENTS HERE CLOSELY AND IS APPARENTLY NOT UNHAPPY WITH THE COURSE THEY HAVE TAKEN SO FAR.
14. IN HIS RESIGNATION STATEMENT (REFTEL B.), PRIME MINISTER KARAMI EXPRESSED DEEP DESPAIR OVER THE VIOLENCE IN WEST BEIRUT. HE OBLIQUELY BUT CLEARLY BLAMED SYRIA FOR THE “GRAVE AND SERIOUS” EVENTS AND CALLED ON IT TO HELP SORT OUT THE CRISIS. ON APRIL 18, KARAMI DEPARTED FOR DAMASCUS TO MEET WITH SARG LEADERS.
—————————- REPLACING THE PRIME MINISTER —————————-
15. THE IMMEDIATE CONSEQUENCE OF THIS LATEST BATTLE IN WEST BEIRUT WAS TO FORCE THE RESIGNATION OF PRIME MINISTER KARAMI WHO, CONFRONTED WITH BARRI’S SUCCESSFUL ATTACK ON SUNNI INTERESTS, HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO RESIGN. THE SELECTION OF A NEW SUNNI PRIME MINISTER IS SUBJECT TO A NUMBER OF RESTRAINTS. FOREMOST IS THE UNLIKELIHOOD OF ANY SUNNI NOTABLE AGREEING TO REPLACE THE DESPAIRING KARAMI UNDER THE PRESENT CONDITIONS. KARAMI CLEARLY FELT HUMILIATED BY THE EVENTS OF APRIL 16-17; NO SELF-RESPECTING SUNNI WOULD OVERTLY ATTEMPT TO PROFIT BY THE “EFFENDI’S” DISCOMFITURE. SECONDLY, IT WILL BE DIFFICULT TO PERSUADE A SUNNI LEADER TO PRESIDE OVER A CABINET WITH AN UNREPENTANT BARRI AND JUMBLATT PRESENT. FINALLY, SYRIA’S APPROVAL OF THE NEW PRIME MINISTER WILL BE REQUIRED. NOT KNOWING SYRIA’S EXACT ROLE AND INTENTIONS IN THE EVENTS IN THE WEST, THE PROSPECTIVE SUNNI CANDIDATES WILL BE WARY.
16. UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES, WE CAN FORESEE ONE FORM WHICH A POSSIBLE SOLUTION MIGHT TAKE. FOR EXAMPLE, A MEETING OF SUNNI RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL NOTABLES AT THE DAR AL-FATWA, THE SEAT OF THE GRAND MUFTI, MIGHT ISSUE A SET OF CONDITIONS THAT WOULD HAVE TO BE MET BEFORE A SUNNI COULD ACCEPT THE PREMIERSHIP. THIS WOULD ALLOW THE NEW PRIME MINISTER TO CLAIM THE BACKING OF THE SUNNI COMMUNITY FOR NEW TERMS FOR HIS PARTICIPATION, THUS MORE OR LESS TURNING THE PAGE ON KARAMI’S RESIGNATION. WE CANNOT PRECLUDE THAT, UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES, KARAMI HIMSELF MIGHT NOT BE REINCARNATED.
17. POSSIBLE PRECONDITIONS (APART FROM CONCILIATORY STATEMENTS AND GESTURES FROM AMAL AND THE PSP) INCLUDE AN AGREEMENT THAT BARRI AND JUMBLATT WOULD PARTICIPATE IN CABINET MEETINGS, AND THE IMPLEMENTATION OF AN EFFECTIVE SECURITY PLAN FOR THE SUNNI HEARTLANDS OF WEST BEIRUT, SIDON, AND POSSIBLY TRIPOLI. ANY OF THE ABOVE CONCESSIONS WOULD BE HARD TO EXTRACT FROM THE SHIA, WHO ARE RIDING HIGH AT PRESENT. THUS THE CABINET CRISIS MIGHT BECOME A DRAWN-OUT AFFAIR.
———————— FORMING A NEW GOVERNMENT ————————
18. AS FOR THE FORMATION OF A NEW GOVERNMENT, WE SEE TWO PRIMARY OPTIONS. THE FIRST, A SMALL CABINET MUCH LIKE THE OUTGOING “NATIONAL UNITY GOVERNMENT,” APPEARS DIFFICULT TO ACHIEVE UNDER PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES. BASICALLY THE SAME PERSONALITIES WOULD BE INVOLVED, AND THE SAME ANIMOSITIES WOULD REAPPEAR. IN SUM, THE DIFFICULTIES FACED BY THE KARAMI GOVERNMENT ARE PROBABLY TOO DEEP TO BE SIMPLY PAPERED OVER, ESPECIALLY GIVEN THE RISE OF SHIA POWER VIS-A-VIS THEIR SUNNI CORELIGIONISTS. THE SECOND, AN ENLARGED GOVERNMENT, RUMORS OF WHICH HAVE BEEN CIRCULATING FOR SEVERAL MONTHS, MIGHT PROVE A MORE FEASIBLE OPTION. IN THIS CASE, WE WOULD POINT OUT THE REPUTATION OF FORMER PRIME MINISTER TAKIADDIN SOLH AS A CONCILIATOR PRESIDING OVER LARGE GOVERNMENTS (THOUGH AGAIN, WE RECALL KARAMI’S PHOENIX-LIKE QUALITIES).
BARTHOLOMEW
CONTINUED WAR FOR THE PALESTINIAN CAMPS — ANOTHER SYRIAN FAILURE?
1986 December 1, 15:26 (Monday)
86DAMASCUS7104_a
SECRET
SECRET
— Not Assigned —
1. SECRET – ENTIRE TEXT.
2. SUMMARY: AS REFTELS POINT OUT, SYRIA APPEARS TO BE FACING A SUBSTANTIAL DEFEAT IF IT IS NOT ABLE TO QUICKLY AND RESOLUTELY RESOLVE THE LATEST ROUND IN THE “WAR OF THE CAMPS” IN LEBANON. WE BELIEVE, HOWEVER, THAT THIS LATEST ROUND OF FIGHTING ALREADY REPRESENTS A SUBSTANTIAL FAILURE OF SYRIAN POLICY WHICH THREATENS TO ERODE DAMASCUS’ STRATEGY TOWARDS THE PALESTINIANS AND ITS EFFORTS TO SABOTAGE THE PALESTINIAN RECONCILIATION PROCESS NOW GOING ON. FURTHER IT DAMAGES SYRIA’S IMAGE WITHIN THE ARAB AND INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY AND INCREASINGLY CONTRIBUTES TO DISSENT WITHIN THE POLICY- MAKING PROCESS IN DAMASCUS ITSELF. END SUMMARY.
3. WE CONCUR WITH EMBASSY BEIRUT (REFTEL) THAT THE CONTINUED FIGHTING BETWEEN AMAL AND THE PALESTINIANS, IN WHICH AMAL PERFORMANCE HAS BEEN SADLY DEFICIENT, REPRESENTS A MAJOR DILEMMA FOR SYRIAN POLICY-MAKERS. INDEED, WE WOULD GO FURTHER AND SAY THAT THE FAILURE TO RESOLVE THE FIGHTING AT THIS POINT ON TERMS ACCEPTABLE TO AMAL AND THE SYRIANS ALREADY REPRESENTS A SEVERE SYRIAN DEFEAT AND THREATENS TO FURTHER UNRAVEL DAMASCUS’ ALREADY DISINTEGRATING PALESTINIAN POLICY. 
4. A JORDANIAN JOURNALIST WITH EXCELLENT PALESTINIAN CONTACTS HAS TOLD US THAT IN THE CURRENT NEGOTIATIONS FOR A CEASEFIRE, THE PFLP — THE ONLY MEMBER OF THE SYRIAN-BACKED PNSF WITH SUBSTANTIAL POPULAR SUPPORT AMONG THE PALESTINIANS — HAS TAKEN A DECIDEDLY ANTI-SYRIAN LINE AND HAS SPLIT WITH THE MORE TRACTABLE PRO-SYRIAN ORGANIZATIONS, INCLUDING THE ABU MUSA FATAH GROUP, THE PFLP-GC, AND SAIQA. ACCORDING TO THIS SOURCE, THE PFLP IS NEGOTIATING ON BEHALF OF ITSELF, THE DFLP, FATAH AND THE ABU NIDAL ORGANIZATION WITHIN THE CAMPS. SPECIFICALLY, THE PFLP NEGOTIATORS REFUSE TO TURN OVER TERRITORIES GAINED IN THE SIDON AREA TO ANYONE BUT MUSTAFA SA’ID’S POPULAR NASSARISTS MOVEMENT. THE SCENARIO WE HAVE RECEIVED OF NEGOTIATIONS POSITS GREAT BITTERNESS BETWEEN THE PALESTINIANS AS A WHOLE ON THE ONE HAND AND NABIH BERRI AND THE SYRIAN GOVERNMENT ON THE OTHER, AS WELL AS A GREAT DEAL OF BACK-BITING WITHIN BOTH THE PALESTINIAN AND LEBANESE GROUPINGS.
5. THE MILITARY FAILURE ON THE GROUND IN LEBANON IS NOT DAMASCUS’ ONLY DILEMMA. AS IN PREVIOUS SYRIAN EFFORTS TO SUBJUGATE THE PALESTINIANS IN THE LEBANESE REFUGEE CAMPS THROUGH THE USE OF DAMASCUS’ AMAL SURROGATE, THE LATEST FIGHTING HAS CREATED GREAT BITTERNESS AMONG OTHER ARAB GOVERNMENTS. DAMASCUS IS PRESENTLY OR HAS RECENTLY BEEN HOST TO A VARIETY OF SENIOR ARAB AND ISLAMIC ENVOYS — ALGERIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IBRAHIMI, LIBYA’S MAJOR JALLUD, SAUDI INTERIOR MINISTER PRINCE NAIF, AND A NUMBER OF SENIOR IRANIAN OFFICIALS. WHILE JALLUD AND THE IRANIANS HAVE BECOME PERSONALLY INVOLVED IN THE PALESTINIAN/LEBAN- ESE NEGOTIATIONS, WE UNDERSTAND THAT BOTH THE ALGERIAN AND THE SAUDI DELIVERED TOUGH MESSAGES TO ASAD REGARDING THIS LATEST ASSAULT ON THE PALESTINIANS. THE SYRIANS MAY HAVE BEEN ABLE TO TAKE SOME SMALL COMFORT IN THE ANNOUNCE- MENT BY THE “PAN-ARAB COMMAND” CALLING FOR SOLIDARITY WITH SYRIA AGAINST THE AMERICAN, BRITISH AND ISRAELI CONSPIRACY AGAINST IT, SUPPORT FOR AMAL, AND A REDEFINI- TION OF THE PALESTINIAN ROLE IN LEBANON. THIS ORGANIZATION IS, HOWEVER, ONE OF LITTLE STANDING AMONG THE ARAB STATES AS A WHOLE, TO SAY THE LEAST, AND IS LARGELY A SYRIAN-LIBYAN CREATURE. INDEED, EVEN THIS MINOR “VICTORY” AND JALLUD’S VERY CAREFUL STATEMENT OF MEASURED SUPPORT HAVE BEEN CONTRADICTED BY LIBYAN LEADER MO’AMMAR QADHAFI’S LATEST BLAST CONDEMNING AMAL. —
6. AS WE UNDERSTAND IT, NOT ALL THE LEBANESE GATHERED HERE ARE IN FULL SUPPORT OF SYRIA EITHER. WHILE NONE WANT TO SEE THE RECREATION OF THE PALESTINIAN “STATE- WITHIN-A-STATE” IN LEBANON, FEW ARE IN AGREEMENT WITH SYRIA THAT THIS TYPE OF MILITARY ACTION AGAINST THE CAMPS IS IN THE INTERESTS OF THE LEBANESE. AS THEY SEE IT, LEBANESE MILITIAS ARE BEING ASKED TO DO SYRIA’S WORK FOR IT AND TO SHOULDER THE BLAME WITHIN THE ARAB COMMUNITY. DRUSE LEADER WALID JUMBLATT, ACCORDING TO REPORTS, FEELS PARTICULARLY SQUEEZED. AMAL’S SH’IA RIVALS, HIZBALLAH, ARE NOT PARTICIPATING IN NEGOTIATIONS, AND, AS IN THE PAST, HAVE REFRAINED FROM GETTING INVOLVED IN THE FIGHTING. AT THE SAME TIME, HIZBALLAH’S IRANIAN MENTORS ARE PARTICULARLY ACTIVE HERE. OF INTEREST, PALESTINIANS TOLD OUR JORDANIAN SOURCE THAT SHAYKHOLESLAM EXPRESSED DEEP SYMPATHY FOR THE PALESTINIAN POSITION WHEN MEETING WITH PNSF LEADERS ON NOVEMBER 24. ON THE EVENING OF NOVEMBER 27, HOWEVER, SHAYKHOLESLAM RETURNED TO THE PALESTINIAN LEADERSHIP COLDLY BEARING BERRI’S PROPOSALS. WE DO NOT, NEVERTHELESS, BELIEVE THAT IRAN’S BASIC DISAGREEMENT WITH THE SYRIAN STRATEGY TOWARDS LEBANON HAS CHANGED IN ANY WAY. THEY WANT TO TAKE ASAD’S “LEBANESE CARD” AWAY FROM HIM.
7. WHAT IS CLEAR IS THAT THE PNSF LEADERS BLINDLY LOYAL TO DAMASCUS DO NOT HAVE ANY REAL ABILITY TO DELIVER THE PALESTINIAN FIGHTERS IN THE TYRE, SIDON, OR BEIRUT CAMPS. WHAT IS NOW AT STAKE FOR DAMASCUS IS NOT MERELY AN EMBARRASSMENT THROUGH A MILITARY DEFEAT FOR ITS LEBANESE SURROGATES. RATHER, SYRIA IS FACED WITH BITTER DIVISIONS WITHIN ITS OWN UMBRELLA PALESTINIAN ORGANIZA- TION THAT COULD FINALLY TEAR IT APART, LEAVING A RUMP OF “YES-MEN” WITH NO BROAD PALESTINIAN POPULAR SUPPORT. SYRIA COULD LOSE ITS “PALESTINIAN CARD.” —
8. THIS PARALLELS THE CURRENT STAGES OF THE PALESTINIAN RECONCILIATION EFFORT, WITH PFLP LEADER GEORGE HABASH NOW IN THE THIRD ROUND OF NEGOTIATIONS WITH FATAH NUMBER TWO MAN KHALIL AL-WAZIR IN ALGIERS. ALTHOUGH HABASH CONTINUES TO HOLD OUT FOR HIS DEMANDS THAT INCLUDE PRIOR ABROGATION OF THE AMMAN ACCORDS, IMPLEMENTATION OF THE ADEN-ALGIERS AGREEMENTS, AND PLO BREAKING OFF ITS CONTACTS WITH EGYPT, THE FACT THAT THE NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE IS DEEPLY DISTURBING TO DAMASCUS. KHALID FAHOUM HAS TOLD WESTERN DIPLOMATS THAT THE SYRIANS HAVE INFORMED THE DAMASCUS-BASED PALESTINIANS THAT ANY OF THEM ATTENDING AN ALGERIAN PNC WILL NOT BE PERMITTED TO RETURN TO SYRIA.
9. COMMENT: THE CAMPS WAR REPRESENTS A MULTIFACETED, COMPLEX DILEMMA FOR DAMASCUS. ITS IMPACT IS NOT MERELY ONE OF SYRIAN PRESTIGE AND SUPPORT OF ITS AMAL ALLY. IT HAS SIGNIFICANT IMPLICATIONS FOR ASAD’S PALESTINIAN POLICY, HIS IMAGE WITHIN THE ARAB WORLD, AND HIS PERSONAL RELATIONS WITH ARAB AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL – INCLUDING SOVIET – LEADERS. CLOSER TO HOME, WE BELIEVE THAT THERE IS INTENSE INTERNAL DEBATE AMONG ASAD’S LIEUTENANTS AS TO HOW TO DEAL WITH BOTH THE CAMPS WAR AND LEBANON AS A WHOLE. THUS FAR, ASAD DOES NOT SEEM TO HAVE A GRIP ON THE SITUATION. THE LONGER THIS REMAINS THE CASE, THE MORE ROOM HIS LIEUTENANTS WILL HAVE TO MANEUVER AND TO INTRIGUE AGAINST ONE ANOTHER. SEVERAL KEY SYRIAN OFFICIALS, AMONG THEM VICE PRESIDENT KHADDAM AND MILITARY INTELLIGENCE CHIEF ALI DUBA, HAVE GREAT PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT IN THE EVOLUTION OF SYRIA’S LEBANESE AND PALESTINIAN POLICIES. FAILURE IS NOT USUALLY PERMITTED BY DAMASCUS UNDER ASAD. HOWEVER, AS WE LOOK AROUND HERE, FAILURE SEEMS TO BE BECOMING AN INCREASING PHENOMENA WITHIN SYRIAN INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC POLICY.
10. MINIMIZE CONSIDERED.
RANSOM
1. (SECRET/NOFORN – ENTIRE TEXT)
2. SUMMARY: THE WAR OF THE CAMPS IN LEBANON CONTINUES UNABATED WITH FIERCE FIGHTING. NOT SURPRISINGLY, LEBANESE POLITICIANS HAVE DIFFERING VIEWS ON THE WAR, DEPENDING ON THEIR POLITICAL OPTIC. THERE FOLLOWS OBSER- VATIONS BY SEVERAL LEBANESE POLITICIANS IN CONVERSATIONS WITH AMBASSADOR DECEMBER 3 AND 4. END SUMMARY.
3. THE CAMPS WAR BETWEEN THE PALESTINIANS AND THE SHIA AMAL FORCES CONTINUES TO RAGE. NOW IN ITS SIXTH WEEK, A MAJOR STRATEGIC CONFRONTATION CONTINUES AROUND SIDON. THE RASHADIYAH CAMP NEAR TYRE REMAINS ENCIRCLED. SHATILA AND BURJ AL-BURAJINAH IN BEIRUT’S SOUTHERN SUBURBS CONTINUE UNDER RELENTLESS BOMBARDMENT. AS REPORTED BY DAO/BEIRUT, ELEMENTS OF THE MUSLIM 6TH AND 1ST BRIGADES OF THE LEBANESE ARMY HAVE JOINED WITH AMAL IN THE SIEGES OF SHATILA AND BURJ AL-BURAJINAH. THE SYRIANS ARE PROVIDING AMMO AND LOGISTIC SUPPORT TO AMAL. THERE ARE UNCONFIRMED REPORTS OF UP TO 300 SYRIAN TROOPS IN AMAL UNIFORMS JOINING THE FIGHTING.
4. NATIONAL LIBERALS PARTY PRESIDENT DANY CHAMOUN (MARONITE CHRISTIAN) TOLD AMBASSADOR THAT HE IS DELIGHTED WITH THE WAR OF THE CAMPS. CHAMOUN SAID THAT AS LONG AS THE SHIA AND THE PALESTINIANS ARE KILLING ONE ANOTHER AND LEAVING THE CHRISTIANS ALONE, THE SITUATION IS JUST FINE.
5. FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER FUAD BUTROS (ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN) SEES THE CAMPS WAR AS ENHANCING THE POSSIBILITY OF A RAPPROCHEMENT BETWEEN LEBANESE PRESIDENT GEMAYEL AND SYRIAN PRESIDENT ASSD. BUTROS SAID THAT SYRIAN FAILURE TO HAVE THEIR SURROGATE AMAL FIGHTERS ACHIEVE VICTORY OVER THE PALESTINIANS HAS FURTHER UNDERMINED ASSAD’S POSITION, WHICH HAD ALREADY BEEN WEAKENED BY WESTERN PRESSURE FOLLOWING THE REVELATIONS OF SYRIAN- SPONSORED TERRORIST ACTS. BUTROS BELIEVES THAT BECAUSE ASSAD IS WEAKENED, HE WILL BE MORE LIKELY TO BE ACCOMMODATING TO GEMAYEL. –
6. SHIA MODERATE DEPUTY RAFIQ SHAHIN (WHOSE CONSTITUENCY OF NABATIYAH INCLUDES THE MAGHDUSHAH AREA WHICH COMMANDS THE HEIGHTS OVERLOOKING SIDON) VIEWS THE WAR AS A SERIOUS CHALLENGE TO THE SHIA POSITION. SHAHIN TOLD THE AMBASSADOR THAT THE SHIA CANNOT AFFORD TO ALLOW THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A PALESTINIAN ENCLAVE CENTERED AROUND SIDON AND INCLUDING THE HEIGHTS OF MAGHDUSHAH. IF THE PALESTINIANS SUCCEED IN ESTABLISHING AND HOLDING SUCH AN ENCLAVE, SOUTHERN LEBANON AND THE SHIA WILL BE CUT IN HALF. THE PALESTINIANS WILL CONTROL ACCESS BETWEEN BEIRUT AND THE SOUTH AND WILL BE IN A POSITION TO CHOKE IT OFF AT ANY TIME. FURTHERMORE, PALESTINIAN RETENTION OF MAGHDUSHAH WILL PUT THE PALESTINIANS WITHIN A KILOMETER OR TWO OF LAHAD’S ISRAELI-SPONSORED “ARMY OF SOUTH LEBANON.” SHAHIN SAID LAHAD’S MILITIA OCCUPIES THE TERRAIN BETWEEN JEZZINE AND SIDON, OVERLOOKING MAGHDUSHAH. SHAHIN ASSERTED THAT A PALISTIANH CLAVE AROUND SIDO, WOULD MEAN UNREMITTING PALESTINIAN OPERATIONS AGAINST LAHAD AND ISRAEL.
7. SHAHIN DESCRIBED AMAL LEADE NABIH BERRI’S POSITION AS UNDER GREAT PRESSURE FROM ALL SIDES. IF BERRI AND AMAL CANNOT REMOVE THE PALESTINIANS AROUND SIDON AND FORCE THEM BACK INTO THE CAMPS, BERRI AND AMAL AS A COHESIVE MOVEMENT WILL BE FINISHED. THE DIVIDED SHIA COMMUNITY WOULD THEN BE PREY TO EVEN MORE EXPLOITATION BY THE IRANIAN-SPONSORED HIZBALLAH EXTREMISTS. –
8. SHAHIN SAID THAT BECAUSE OF OQE CURRENT SITUATION, HIZBALLAH FIGHTERS ARE FIGHTING AND DYING WITH AMAL. SHAHIN’S SON IN NABITIYAH DESCRIBED TO SHAHIN DECEMBER 3 THE FUNERAL OF 15 SHIA FROM ONE VILLAGE: 12 AMAL FIGHTERS AND 3 HIZBALLAH. SHAHIN SAID HIZBALLAH IS ALSO COOPERATING WITH AMAL AROUND TYRE AND IN BEIRUT. THE HIZBALLAH LEADERSHIP DOES NOT LIKE SUPPORTING BERRI BUT BECAUSE OF THE EXTENSIVE BLOODSHED, THE SHIA ARE UNITED AGAINST THE PALESTINIANS.
9. SHAHIN ALSO DESCRIBED BLOODY ATROCITIES COMMITTED BY BOTH SIDES AGAINST NON-COMBATTANTS, WOUNDED, AND PRISONERS. 10. SHAHIN ALSO THOUGHT THAT THE FAILURE THUS FAR OF THE SYRIAN-SUPPORTED AMAL EFFORT ENHANCES GEMAYEL’S LEVERAGE WITH ASSAD. 11. COMMENT: IT IS CLEAR THAT THIS THIRD VERSION OF THE CAMPS WAR DIFFERS FROM THE PREVIOUS TWO. IF THE PALESTINIANS SUCCEED IN SECURING AN ENCLAVE IN AND AROUND SIDON, THEY WILL HAVE SUCCEEDED IN CHANGING THE MILITARY AND POLITICAL MAP OF LEBANON FROM BEIRUT TO THE ISRAELI BORDER.
KELLY