Al Akhbar Newspaper publishes US cables not found on WikiLeaks

Nearly 200 previously unreported U.S. diplomatic cables were posted on Thursday to the website of Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar. The cables, from eight U.S. embassies across the Middle East and North Africa, have not appeared on Wikileaks’ official website or in the Western media outlets working with Wikileaks. Al Akhbar, which defines itself as an “opposition” newspaper, is published in Arabic. It has posted all 183 cables in their original English but promises readers a forthcoming Arabic translation.

It’s unclear how Al Akhbar got the cables, which they say are “exclusive,” and whether they posted them with the permission of Wikileaks, which has tightly controlled who publishes which of its cables and when. Wikileaks offered a handful of media outlets, such as The Guardian and Spain’s El Pais, advance access to some cables on the condition that they coordinate release. But neither Wikileaks nor those media outlets have released the same cables posted by Al Akhbar. If Al Akhbar had coordinated their release with Wikileaks, it stands to reason that the Lebanese publication would have been granted sufficient advance time to translate the cables to Arabic.

The documents appear to be authentic as the cables from Tripoli match up with The Atlantic’s background reporting for an earlier story on a 2009 Libyan nuclear crisis, some details of which The Atlantic did not publish but nonetheless appear in Al Akhbar’s cables. The rest of the cables are from U.S. embassies in Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia. They portray U.S. diplomats as struggling to understand and influence the region’s oppressive and sometimes unpredictable regime.

One series of cables from Baghdad reports that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki replaced hundreds of his most experienced intelligence and security officials with under-qualified “political officers” in advance of the 2010 Iraq elections.

Another series from Beirut in 2008 shows Lebanese Defense Minister Elias al-Murr telling U.S. diplomats, in a message he implied they should pass on to Israeli officials, that the Lebanese military would not resist an Israeli invasion so long as the Israeli forces abided by certain conditions. Murr, apparently hoping that an Israeli invasion would destroy much of the Hezbollah insurgency and the communities in Lebanon’s south that support it, promised an Israeli invasion would go unchallenged as long as it did not pass certain physical boundaries and did not bomb Christian communities. A U.S. embassy official wrote, “Murr is trying to ascertain how long an offensive would be required to clean out Hizballah in the Beka’a.” Murr added that he had discussed the plan with then-Military Commandant Michel Sleiman, who has since become the President of Lebanon. The small but vibrant community of Middle East-based, English-language Arab bloggers have expressed outrage at Murr and Sleiman’s apparent invitation, predicting it will bring political disaster and possibly worse.

If Al Akhbar did not receive the cables from Wikileaks, it’s unclear whether the newspaper got them from a leak within Wikileaks or perhaps from a third-party source who wanted to beat Wikileaks’ planned release. But it appears that this is not the only such case of loose documents. Less than a week into Wikileaks’ gradual release of State Department cables, a process it is less than 0.25 percent through, the shadowy radical-transparency group seems to have lost control of its cables. Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin reported on Wednesday:

One Washington lobbyist who represents countries in the Middle East said that local press in several countries he works on is reporting on cables that haven’t yet been reported on by the media outlets who had advance access to the documents. The lobbyist speculated that foreign governments may also be selectively leaking cables they’ve come across in order to spin them in their own favor before WikiLeaks or local media has a chance to weigh in.

“New leaked cables are coming from weird sources, think tanks, the countries involved. There’s a lot of stuff being quoted in local press from cables that haven’t been released yet and I have no idea where they are coming from,” this lobbyist said.

It remains to be seen if Al Akhbar will translate the cables for its Arabic readership or even keep them posted online. Much like Wikileaks.org, which has gone down several times since posting the cables and had its hosting pulled at least twice, Al-Akhbar.com has been increasingly difficult to load since it posted the cables. While that could be the result of a spike in traffic, media attention on Al Akhbar’s exclusive cables has been relatively sparse. But, for the moment, you can still view all 183 cables here.

al akhbar

the atlantic

  • Cathy82

    wlek tfou 3a hek 3alam mitel el MURR!!!! I am ashamed that this guy is an orthodox!! tfeh miten marra!

    7ayawen ka-annou el ness bil jnoub mish 3alam wou mish libneniyeh!!! bass el christians and the sunnis are lebanese! shame on you murr!!

    • Hannibal

      Cathy ya Cathy you did not know that the Orthodox are mteewlit el massii7iyee :P LOL (just teasing you)

      • PROPHET.T

        Hannibal,
        You mean to say that this miteewli (Murr) hates other mitteewlis ?lol

        • Hannibal

          It takes a Prophet to put such a twist on it :P lol

        • Hannibal

          It takes a Prophet to put such a twist on it :P lol

        • PROPHET.T

          You knew I can’t resist, lol

        • PROPHET.T

          You knew I can’t resist, lol

  • Cathy82

    wlek tfou 3a hek 3alam mitel el MURR!!!! I am ashamed that this guy is an orthodox!! tfeh miten marra!

    7ayawen ka-annou el ness bil jnoub mish 3alam wou mish libneniyeh!!! bass el christians and the sunnis are lebanese! shame on you murr!!

    • Hannibal

      Cathy ya Cathy you did not know that the Orthodox are mteewlit el massii7iyee :P LOL (just teasing you)

  • Anonymous

    wlek tfou 3a hek 3alam mitel el MURR!!!! I am ashamed that this guy is an orthodox!! tfeh miten marra!

    7ayawen ka-annou el ness bil jnoub mish 3alam wou mish libneniyeh!!! bass el christians and the sunnis are lebanese! shame on you murr!!

    • http://www.cadmeia.com Hannibal

      Cathy ya Cathy you did not know that the Orthodox are mteewlit el massii7iyee :P LOL (just teasing you)

      • PROPHET.T

        Hannibal,
        You mean to say that this miteewli (Murr) hates other mitteewlis ?lol

        • http://www.cadmeia.com Hannibal

          It takes a Prophet to put such a twist on it :P lol

        • PROPHET.T

          You knew I can’t resist, lol

  • 7akibalash

    so let me get this straight, people are mad at elias el murr who wanted to oust an armed militia who has been holding the country hostage for too long now? yeah for sure those getting mad about it arent a bunch of brainwashed trolls. and elias el murr is evil for wanting a vibrant state without another hegemonic state within its borders.
    all this and no one knows if the wires are even legitimate? “they look legitimate” is the best they can do? how about verification with other sources? oh right al akhbar is the only one who has those wires loool noooooo it doesnt sound fishy at all. well lets see, time will tell whether these wires will be like the “indisputable evidence” that zabrallah had of Israel’s complicity in the killing of hariri (surveillance photos from 1995.. lmfao at the stupidity of some people who buy into their propoganda). this isnt a country, it’s a ZOO anymore.

  • 7akibalash

    so let me get this straight, people are mad at elias el murr who wanted to oust an armed militia who has been holding the country hostage for too long now? yeah for sure those getting mad about it arent a bunch of brainwashed trolls. and elias el murr is evil for wanting a vibrant state without another hegemonic state within its borders.
    all this and no one knows if the wires are even legitimate? “they look legitimate” is the best they can do? how about verification with other sources? oh right al akhbar is the only one who has those wires loool noooooo it doesnt sound fishy at all. well lets see, time will tell whether these wires will be like the “indisputable evidence” that zabrallah had of Israel’s complicity in the killing of hariri (surveillance photos from 1995.. lmfao at the stupidity of some people who buy into their propoganda). this isnt a country, it’s a ZOO anymore.

  • Anonymous

    so let me get this straight, people are mad at elias el murr who wanted to oust an armed militia who has been holding the country hostage for too long now? yeah for sure those getting mad about it arent a bunch of brainwashed trolls. and elias el murr is evil for wanting a vibrant state without another hegemonic state within its borders.

    all this and no one knows if the wires are even legitimate? “they look legitimate” is the best they can do? how about verification with other sources? oh right al akhbar is the only one who has those wires loool noooooo it doesnt sound fishy at all. well lets see, time will tell whether these wires will be like the “indisputable evidence” that zabrallah had of Israel’s complicity in the killing of hariri (surveillance photos from 1995.. lmfao at the stupidity of some people who buy into their propoganda). this isnt a country, it’s a ZOO anymore.

  • 7akibalash

    Full Document
    VZCZCXRO1782
    OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
    DE RUEHLB #0372/01 0711608
    ZNY SSSSS ZZH
    O 111608Z MAR 08
    FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
    TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1273
    INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
    RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY 1112
    RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
    RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
    RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2041
    RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2308
    RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
    RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
    Content
    S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BEIRUT 000372

    SIPDIS

    NOFORN
    SIPDIS

    DEPT PASS TO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
    NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/YERGER

    E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/10/2018
    TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PTER, PARM, PINR, SY, IS, LE
    SUBJECT: LEBANON: MINDEF WORRIED THAT HIZBALLAH WAR WITH
    ISRAEL IMMINENT

    REF: A. BEIRUT 355
    B. IIR 6 857 0185 08
    C. IIR 6 857 0189 08
    D. BEIRUT 324

    BEIRUT 00000372 001.2 OF 004

    Classified By: Charge D’Affaires a.i. Michele J. Sison
    for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

    SUMMARY
    ——-

    1. (S) In a March 10 meeting with Charge, MinDef Murr
    expressed his growing concern that a Hizballah war with
    Israel is imminent. His assessment is based upon recent
    Hizballah preparations, reported movement of families, and
    the precipitous increase in Israeli overflights of Lebanon.
    Murr does not think that Hizballah can win another war with
    Israel and will be defeated. Describing Hizballah as
    “scared,” Murr opined that they are scared because they know
    that Israel might be about to attack, or, more probably, they
    fear the retribution Israel will heap upon them when
    Hizballah takes revenge for the killing of terrorist Imad
    Mughniya. Murr offered some ideas aimed at avoiding turning
    the Christian population against Israel when the next war
    with Hizballah occurs. Murr also outlined his orders to the
    Lebanese Army when/if Israel invades to counter Hizballah.
    End summary.

    2. (S) Charge, Defense Attache and ODC Chief met with Deputy
    Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Elias Murr on March 10
    at his home in Rabieh. The atmosphere of the meeting was
    cordial and friendly.

    HIZBALLAH MEMBERS RENTING SUMMER HOMES;
    NOT ALL REPORTED ACTIVITY
    DIRECTLY RELATED TO WAR PLANNING
    —————————————

    3. (S) Contacts such as Amine Gemayel (ref A) and Walid
    Jumblatt have been telling us recently that the Shia, and in
    particular senior Hizballah members, have been acquiring land
    or renting homes in the Christian areas of Jezzine, Jebel
    Rihan, Junieh, Zahle as well as in Druze areas. This is
    causing alarm among the Christian populations in these
    locations and is being taken as a sign by some that Hizballah
    is planning for war.

    4. (S) MinDef Murr told us that he has looked into these
    rumors and, indeed, it was impossible to find a rental
    property in these areas. Regarding the activity in Jezzine,
    Murr assured us that this was nothing more than investing in
    Lebanon by Lebanese Shia expats based in West Africa. As for
    the buying of Christian properties, Murr reported that the
    Christians want to sell their property so they can leave
    Lebanon. In any case, Murr did not see a military linkage
    between the sale of homes in Jezzine and Hizballah planning.

    5. (S) As for the areas further north in Lebanon such as
    Keserwan and the Metn, Murr confirmed that Shia are renting
    in high numbers there because they feel that Israel is going
    to attack soon. Such action could take place as early as
    April 2008, he warned. (Comment: Shia took refuge
    throughout Christian areas in south Lebanon during the July
    2006 war, with as many as 300-400 people crowded into a
    single church for weeks on end. End Comment.) Murr also told
    us that Hassan Nasrallah’s cousin has moved his family out of
    the southern suburbs, the Dahiyya, and rented a chalet in the
    resort town of Farayya for a year. According to Murr, this
    means that Nasrallah is on high alert.

    6. (S) In addition to renting homes in these areas, Hizballah
    is making many concessions to the Christians who live in
    these areas. In a meeting three weeks ago between top
    Hizballah officials such as Wafiq Safa and March 14 members
    at MoD Headquarters in Yarze, Hizballah agreed to all of the
    Christians demands. The two most notable concessions were
    that Hizballah will not place any signage with Nabih Berri or
    Hassan Nasrallah’s image in these locations and that
    Hizballah will not have a visible presence in these areas.

    BEIRUT 00000372 002.2 OF 004

    (Comment: This is significant. During the July 2006 war,
    Hizballah members moved into Christian areas and started
    converting them to Hizballah strongholds. On one occasion,
    Hizballah attempted to place a Nasrallah banner on the facade
    of a local church. When the inhabitants protested, the were
    intimidated into acquiescing. The banner was later hung
    inside the church. End Comment.) Murr thinks that Hizballah
    agreed to these concessions because it wants to avoid
    internal problems at all costs while it prepares for its
    external fight with Israel. During this same meeting, March
    14 members learned that Hizballah has rockets that can fly
    over 200 kilometers.

    HIZBALLAH NOT CONVINCED THEY CAN WIN
    THEY WILL LOSE IF THEY TRY WAR WITH ISRAEL
    ——————————————

    7. (S) Murr told us that Hizballah is not “internally
    convinced” that it can win this time. It was internally
    convinced that it could win in 2006. Murr predicted that
    Hizballah’s war with Israel will not be like 2006 and that
    the fight in the Beka’a Valley will be very different.
    Saying that Israel paid the price by fighting in the villages
    in 2006, Murr harbors no illusion that they will not get
    bogged down in the village a second time. Instead, Murr
    thinks they will bypass strongholds in villages and pursue
    the main forces, the rockets.

    8. (S) “I am sure Hizballah is scared and they are preparing
    for a severe lesson this time,” Murr said. Hizballah must
    respond to the Mughniya assassination, but they know it will
    bring retribution. Murr thinks that an attack in West Africa
    or South America would be easier for Hizballah but he thinks
    Nasrallah would prefer to attack inside of Israel if
    possible. Hizballah will attempt to bring in Syria to absorb
    some of the Israeli response to their attack, he added.

    SYRIA’S ASSAD SEES NO SIGNALS OF WAR
    THINKS HIS SUMMIT WILL SUCCEED
    ————————————

    9. (S) Murr related that Saudi journalist Ghassan Charbel of
    the Al-Hayat newspaper recently returned to Beirut from
    Damascus where he met with Bashar Al-Assad. Charbel told
    Murr that Bashar Assad told him “I have no Israeli signal of
    a strike or a war even if Hizballah thinks this way.”

    10. (S) Assad feels that his Arab Summit will happen and that
    he can continue to pursue his agenda in Lebanon, Charbel
    informed Murr. Specifically, he intends to push for the
    10-10-10 Cabinet formula while waiting for the term of the
    Bush Administration to expire. He does not see anything at
    all happening this year in Lebanon, Charbel had said. Murr
    seemed to think otherwise, reporting that Syria has recalled
    250,000 migrant agricultural workers from Lebanon who also
    serve in the Syrian military reserves.

    UNSCR 1701 AREAS OF LEBANON ARE PROTECTED
    HIZBALLAH WILL NOT FIGHT ON THIS TERRAIN
    —————————————–

    11. (S) Murr said that Hizballah does not want to move inside
    the UNSCR 1701 areas or to provoke any problems with the
    United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). However,
    if Israel violates the 1701 battlespace, Hizballah will use
    this opportunity to flood back into this area. If Israel does
    not go into the 1701 area, Hizballah will not enter these
    areas either.

    12. (S) Returning to the theme of a wary Hizballah, Murr told
    us that “they (Hizballah) are scared, terrorized. They know
    the Israelis will not lose again.” Murr thinks that Ehud
    Barak is a very different Minister of Defense than the one
    who tried to win a war using airpower. Additionally,
    Hizballah knows that President Bush is coming to Israel in
    May, so they think that this new war must be completed by
    that time.

    MICHEL AOUN “GOING INSANE”
    ————————–

    BEIRUT 00000372 003.2 OF 004

    13. (S) When asked what role Free Patriotic Movement leader
    Michel Aoun is playing right now, Murr deadpanned that he is
    “going insane.” Retired BG Fouad Ashkar, an Aoun advisor
    dating to Aoun’s time as Lebanese Army Commander, came to see
    Murr on March 9 to discuss weapons permits for Aoun’s
    bodyguards. Murr told Ashkar that he was authorized only ten
    permits. Aoun had recently contacted Murr’s father to try and
    pressure the MinDef into agreeing to fifty weapons permits.
    A defiant Murr told Ashkar to “go get some of your Hizballah
    suicide bombers to serve as bodyguards,” the sub-context
    being that perhaps Michel Aoun would get blown up along the
    way.

    14. (S) Murr is also limiting the number of visitors that can
    drive up to Aoun’s house in the protected enclave of Rabieh.
    Murr only allows official visitors such as MPs to approach
    the house; all the others must park outside and ride
    shuttles. Murr says that the residents of Rabieh are
    exhausted with Aoun being a bad neighbor and going against
    Christian traditions by backing Hizballah.

    15. (S) Indeed, Murr assesses that Aoun is “going insane.” He
    is increasingly responding to the demands of Ghassan Gebril
    and his daughters, no matter how outlandish the ideas. He is
    allergic to any mention of Army Commander General Michel
    Sleiman and cannot accept a Sleiman Presidency; all this,
    while taking up to five insulin shots a day to try and
    control his increasingly severe diabetes.

    ENTER “THE PRESIDIUM”;
    CONVINCING THE PATRIARCH
    ————————

    16. (S) The idea of a more permanent arrangement where the
    Cabinet exercises more of its executive (Presidential)
    authorities is being discussed. Some have even dubbed this
    arrangement a “Presidium” since the Cabinet would move to
    exercise full Presidential prerogatives. Murr thinks that
    the Maronite Patriarch will be reluctant to accept this idea
    as it will effectively terminate the existence of the
    Presidency to some indeterminate time in the future. Even so,
    some leaders intend to address this subject with the
    Patriarch in order to revive some government functions that
    are lying dormant.

    17. (S) Murr expressed skepticism about this concept, saying
    leaders such as Amine Gemayel and Saad Hariri will use this
    to elevate “stupid” people so that their own political light
    is not obscured or risk being dimmed by another rising
    politician. They are looking at this from their selfish
    parochial views, an approach not uncommon in Lebanese
    politics, Murr complained.

    BUT ISRAEL IS STILL MY MAIN CONCERN;
    OVERFLIGHTS THE MOST SINCE 1982
    ————————————

    18. (S) Making clear that he was not responsible for passing
    messages to Israel, Murr told us that Israel would do well to
    avoid two things when it comes for Hizballah One, it must not
    touch the Blue Line or the UNSCR 1701 areas as this will keep
    Hizballah out of these areas. Two, Israel cannot bomb bridges
    and infrastructure in the Christian areas. The Christians
    were supporting Israel in 2006 until they started bombing
    their bridges. If Israel has to bomb all of these places in
    the Shia areas as a matter of operational concern, that is
    Hizballah’s problem. According to Murr, this war is not with
    Lebanon, it is will Hizballah. Murr also told us that the
    number of overflights recently (reftel B and C) are the
    highest number since 1982. The last time there were this many
    overflights was just prior to Israel invading south Lebanon
    in April 1982, he stated flatly.

    IT’S NOT OUR WAR
    WE HAVE TO PRESERVE THE ARMY
    —————————-

    19. (S) Murr said that he had summoned LAF Commander General
    Sleiman to discuss preparations for a Hizballah conflict with

    BEIRUT 00000372 004.2 OF 004

    Israel on March 7. Murr was especially concerned for members
    of the 1st and 8th Brigades in the Beka’a valley. Murr thinks
    that these units will be cut off from LAF HQ support while
    Israel is conducting operations against Hizballah in the
    Beka’a. As such, they will have to turn to the local
    populace for food, water etc. Since the populace is mainly
    Hizballah supporters, Murr is afraid that these two units
    could be dragged into the fight, the ultimate disaster that
    Murr hopes to avoid. As such, Murr is trying to ascertain
    how long an offensive would be required to clean out
    Hizballah in the Beka’a. The LAF will move to pre-position
    food, money, and water with these units so they can stay on
    their bases when Israel comes for Hizballah–discreetly, Murr
    added.

    20. (S) Murr also gave guidance to Sleiman that the LAF
    should not get involved “when Israel comes.” This guidance
    came four days after Sleiman had instructed his officers to
    be prepared (ref D). Murr told us that he promised Sleiman
    the political cover for LAF inaction. Murr’s opinion is that
    an Israeli action against Hizballah would not be a war
    against Lebanon and that Syria and Iran did not ask Lebanon’s
    permission to equip Hizballah with its rockets. As such, the
    LAF has been ordered to not get involved with any fighting
    and to fulfill a civil defense role, such as humanitarian
    support, when/if hostilities break out. Murr told us that he
    would personally speak to the Shia officers in the Army to
    make sure they understood why the Army was not going to
    participate. For Murr, the LAF’s strategic objective was to
    survive a three week war “completely intact” and able to take
    over once Hizballah’s militia has been destroyed. “I do not
    want thousands of our soldiers to die for no reason,” Murr
    declared.

    COMMENT
    ——-

    21. (S) Murr’s concern over another Hizballah war with Israel
    appeared to be genuine. The length of time spent on this
    topic given the other political machinations in Lebanon
    during the two and a half hour conversation was indicative of
    his level of concern. Murr seems intent on ensuring the Army
    stays out of the way so that Hizballah bears the full weight
    of an Israeli offensive. While we have noted the increase in
    Israeli overflights, to include one over downtown Beirut
    Friday, March 7, we have not seen indications that validate
    Murr’s concern that an Israeli offensive might be imminent.

    SISON

  • Anonymous

    Full Document

    VZCZCXRO1782

    OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV

    DE RUEHLB #0372/01 0711608

    ZNY SSSSS ZZH

    O 111608Z MAR 08

    FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT

    TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1273

    INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

    RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY 1112

    RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

    RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY

    RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2041

    RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2308

    RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

    RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

    Content

    S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BEIRUT 000372

    SIPDIS

    NOFORN

    SIPDIS

    DEPT PASS TO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE

    NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/YERGER

    E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/10/2018

    TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PTER, PARM, PINR, SY, IS, LE

    SUBJECT: LEBANON: MINDEF WORRIED THAT HIZBALLAH WAR WITH

    ISRAEL IMMINENT

    REF: A. BEIRUT 355

    B. IIR 6 857 0185 08

    C. IIR 6 857 0189 08

    D. BEIRUT 324

    BEIRUT 00000372 001.2 OF 004

    Classified By: Charge D’Affaires a.i. Michele J. Sison

    for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

    SUMMARY

    ——-

    1. (S) In a March 10 meeting with Charge, MinDef Murr

    expressed his growing concern that a Hizballah war with

    Israel is imminent. His assessment is based upon recent

    Hizballah preparations, reported movement of families, and

    the precipitous increase in Israeli overflights of Lebanon.

    Murr does not think that Hizballah can win another war with

    Israel and will be defeated. Describing Hizballah as

    “scared,” Murr opined that they are scared because they know

    that Israel might be about to attack, or, more probably, they

    fear the retribution Israel will heap upon them when

    Hizballah takes revenge for the killing of terrorist Imad

    Mughniya. Murr offered some ideas aimed at avoiding turning

    the Christian population against Israel when the next war

    with Hizballah occurs. Murr also outlined his orders to the

    Lebanese Army when/if Israel invades to counter Hizballah.

    End summary.

    2. (S) Charge, Defense Attache and ODC Chief met with Deputy

    Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Elias Murr on March 10

    at his home in Rabieh. The atmosphere of the meeting was

    cordial and friendly.

    HIZBALLAH MEMBERS RENTING SUMMER HOMES;

    NOT ALL REPORTED ACTIVITY

    DIRECTLY RELATED TO WAR PLANNING

    —————————————

    3. (S) Contacts such as Amine Gemayel (ref A) and Walid

    Jumblatt have been telling us recently that the Shia, and in

    particular senior Hizballah members, have been acquiring land

    or renting homes in the Christian areas of Jezzine, Jebel

    Rihan, Junieh, Zahle as well as in Druze areas. This is

    causing alarm among the Christian populations in these

    locations and is being taken as a sign by some that Hizballah

    is planning for war.

    4. (S) MinDef Murr told us that he has looked into these

    rumors and, indeed, it was impossible to find a rental

    property in these areas. Regarding the activity in Jezzine,

    Murr assured us that this was nothing more than investing in

    Lebanon by Lebanese Shia expats based in West Africa. As for

    the buying of Christian properties, Murr reported that the

    Christians want to sell their property so they can leave

    Lebanon. In any case, Murr did not see a military linkage

    between the sale of homes in Jezzine and Hizballah planning.

    5. (S) As for the areas further north in Lebanon such as

    Keserwan and the Metn, Murr confirmed that Shia are renting

    in high numbers there because they feel that Israel is going

    to attack soon. Such action could take place as early as

    April 2008, he warned. (Comment: Shia took refuge

    throughout Christian areas in south Lebanon during the July

    2006 war, with as many as 300-400 people crowded into a

    single church for weeks on end. End Comment.) Murr also told

    us that Hassan Nasrallah’s cousin has moved his family out of

    the southern suburbs, the Dahiyya, and rented a chalet in the

    resort town of Farayya for a year. According to Murr, this

    means that Nasrallah is on high alert.

    6. (S) In addition to renting homes in these areas, Hizballah

    is making many concessions to the Christians who live in

    these areas. In a meeting three weeks ago between top

    Hizballah officials such as Wafiq Safa and March 14 members

    at MoD Headquarters in Yarze, Hizballah agreed to all of the

    Christians demands. The two most notable concessions were

    that Hizballah will not place any signage with Nabih Berri or

    Hassan Nasrallah’s image in these locations and that

    Hizballah will not have a visible presence in these areas.

    BEIRUT 00000372 002.2 OF 004

    (Comment: This is significant. During the July 2006 war,

    Hizballah members moved into Christian areas and started

    converting them to Hizballah strongholds. On one occasion,

    Hizballah attempted to place a Nasrallah banner on the facade

    of a local church. When the inhabitants protested, the were

    intimidated into acquiescing. The banner was later hung

    inside the church. End Comment.) Murr thinks that Hizballah

    agreed to these concessions because it wants to avoid

    internal problems at all costs while it prepares for its

    external fight with Israel. During this same meeting, March

    14 members learned that Hizballah has rockets that can fly

    over 200 kilometers.

    HIZBALLAH NOT CONVINCED THEY CAN WIN

    THEY WILL LOSE IF THEY TRY WAR WITH ISRAEL

    ——————————————

    7. (S) Murr told us that Hizballah is not “internally

    convinced” that it can win this time. It was internally

    convinced that it could win in 2006. Murr predicted that

    Hizballah’s war with Israel will not be like 2006 and that

    the fight in the Beka’a Valley will be very different.

    Saying that Israel paid the price by fighting in the villages

    in 2006, Murr harbors no illusion that they will not get

    bogged down in the village a second time. Instead, Murr

    thinks they will bypass strongholds in villages and pursue

    the main forces, the rockets.

    8. (S) “I am sure Hizballah is scared and they are preparing

    for a severe lesson this time,” Murr said. Hizballah must

    respond to the Mughniya assassination, but they know it will

    bring retribution. Murr thinks that an attack in West Africa

    or South America would be easier for Hizballah but he thinks

    Nasrallah would prefer to attack inside of Israel if

    possible. Hizballah will attempt to bring in Syria to absorb

    some of the Israeli response to their attack, he added.

    SYRIA’S ASSAD SEES NO SIGNALS OF WAR

    THINKS HIS SUMMIT WILL SUCCEED

    ————————————

    9. (S) Murr related that Saudi journalist Ghassan Charbel of

    the Al-Hayat newspaper recently returned to Beirut from

    Damascus where he met with Bashar Al-Assad. Charbel told

    Murr that Bashar Assad told him “I have no Israeli signal of

    a strike or a war even if Hizballah thinks this way.”

    10. (S) Assad feels that his Arab Summit will happen and that

    he can continue to pursue his agenda in Lebanon, Charbel

    informed Murr. Specifically, he intends to push for the

    10-10-10 Cabinet formula while waiting for the term of the

    Bush Administration to expire. He does not see anything at

    all happening this year in Lebanon, Charbel had said. Murr

    seemed to think otherwise, reporting that Syria has recalled

    250,000 migrant agricultural workers from Lebanon who also

    serve in the Syrian military reserves.

    UNSCR 1701 AREAS OF LEBANON ARE PROTECTED

    HIZBALLAH WILL NOT FIGHT ON THIS TERRAIN

    —————————————–

    11. (S) Murr said that Hizballah does not want to move inside

    the UNSCR 1701 areas or to provoke any problems with the

    United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). However,

    if Israel violates the 1701 battlespace, Hizballah will use

    this opportunity to flood back into this area. If Israel does

    not go into the 1701 area, Hizballah will not enter these

    areas either.

    12. (S) Returning to the theme of a wary Hizballah, Murr told

    us that “they (Hizballah) are scared, terrorized. They know

    the Israelis will not lose again.” Murr thinks that Ehud

    Barak is a very different Minister of Defense than the one

    who tried to win a war using airpower. Additionally,

    Hizballah knows that President Bush is coming to Israel in

    May, so they think that this new war must be completed by

    that time.

    MICHEL AOUN “GOING INSANE”

    ————————–

    BEIRUT 00000372 003.2 OF 004

    13. (S) When asked what role Free Patriotic Movement leader

    Michel Aoun is playing right now, Murr deadpanned that he is

    “going insane.” Retired BG Fouad Ashkar, an Aoun advisor

    dating to Aoun’s time as Lebanese Army Commander, came to see

    Murr on March 9 to discuss weapons permits for Aoun’s

    bodyguards. Murr told Ashkar that he was authorized only ten

    permits. Aoun had recently contacted Murr’s father to try and

    pressure the MinDef into agreeing to fifty weapons permits.

    A defiant Murr told Ashkar to “go get some of your Hizballah

    suicide bombers to serve as bodyguards,” the sub-context

    being that perhaps Michel Aoun would get blown up along the

    way.

    14. (S) Murr is also limiting the number of visitors that can

    drive up to Aoun’s house in the protected enclave of Rabieh.

    Murr only allows official visitors such as MPs to approach

    the house; all the others must park outside and ride

    shuttles. Murr says that the residents of Rabieh are

    exhausted with Aoun being a bad neighbor and going against

    Christian traditions by backing Hizballah.

    15. (S) Indeed, Murr assesses that Aoun is “going insane.” He

    is increasingly responding to the demands of Ghassan Gebril

    and his daughters, no matter how outlandish the ideas. He is

    allergic to any mention of Army Commander General Michel

    Sleiman and cannot accept a Sleiman Presidency; all this,

    while taking up to five insulin shots a day to try and

    control his increasingly severe diabetes.

    ENTER “THE PRESIDIUM”;

    CONVINCING THE PATRIARCH

    ————————

    16. (S) The idea of a more permanent arrangement where the

    Cabinet exercises more of its executive (Presidential)

    authorities is being discussed. Some have even dubbed this

    arrangement a “Presidium” since the Cabinet would move to

    exercise full Presidential prerogatives. Murr thinks that

    the Maronite Patriarch will be reluctant to accept this idea

    as it will effectively terminate the existence of the

    Presidency to some indeterminate time in the future. Even so,

    some leaders intend to address this subject with the

    Patriarch in order to revive some government functions that

    are lying dormant.

    17. (S) Murr expressed skepticism about this concept, saying

    leaders such as Amine Gemayel and Saad Hariri will use this

    to elevate “stupid” people so that their own political light

    is not obscured or risk being dimmed by another rising

    politician. They are looking at this from their selfish

    parochial views, an approach not uncommon in Lebanese

    politics, Murr complained.

    BUT ISRAEL IS STILL MY MAIN CONCERN;

    OVERFLIGHTS THE MOST SINCE 1982

    ————————————

    18. (S) Making clear that he was not responsible for passing

    messages to Israel, Murr told us that Israel would do well to

    avoid two things when it comes for Hizballah One, it must not

    touch the Blue Line or the UNSCR 1701 areas as this will keep

    Hizballah out of these areas. Two, Israel cannot bomb bridges

    and infrastructure in the Christian areas. The Christians

    were supporting Israel in 2006 until they started bombing

    their bridges. If Israel has to bomb all of these places in

    the Shia areas as a matter of operational concern, that is

    Hizballah’s problem. According to Murr, this war is not with

    Lebanon, it is will Hizballah. Murr also told us that the

    number of overflights recently (reftel B and C) are the

    highest number since 1982. The last time there were this many

    overflights was just prior to Israel invading south Lebanon

    in April 1982, he stated flatly.

    IT’S NOT OUR WAR

    WE HAVE TO PRESERVE THE ARMY

    —————————-

    19. (S) Murr said that he had summoned LAF Commander General

    Sleiman to discuss preparations for a Hizballah conflict with

    BEIRUT 00000372 004.2 OF 004

    Israel on March 7. Murr was especially concerned for members

    of the 1st and 8th Brigades in the Beka’a valley. Murr thinks

    that these units will be cut off from LAF HQ support while

    Israel is conducting operations against Hizballah in the

    Beka’a. As such, they will have to turn to the local

    populace for food, water etc. Since the populace is mainly

    Hizballah supporters, Murr is afraid that these two units

    could be dragged into the fight, the ultimate disaster that

    Murr hopes to avoid. As such, Murr is trying to ascertain

    how long an offensive would be required to clean out

    Hizballah in the Beka’a. The LAF will move to pre-position

    food, money, and water with these units so they can stay on

    their bases when Israel comes for Hizballah–discreetly, Murr

    added.

    20. (S) Murr also gave guidance to Sleiman that the LAF

    should not get involved “when Israel comes.” This guidance

    came four days after Sleiman had instructed his officers to

    be prepared (ref D). Murr told us that he promised Sleiman

    the political cover for LAF inaction. Murr’s opinion is that

    an Israeli action against Hizballah would not be a war

    against Lebanon and that Syria and Iran did not ask Lebanon’s

    permission to equip Hizballah with its rockets. As such, the

    LAF has been ordered to not get involved with any fighting

    and to fulfill a civil defense role, such as humanitarian

    support, when/if hostilities break out. Murr told us that he

    would personally speak to the Shia officers in the Army to

    make sure they understood why the Army was not going to

    participate. For Murr, the LAF’s strategic objective was to

    survive a three week war “completely intact” and able to take

    over once Hizballah’s militia has been destroyed. “I do not

    want thousands of our soldiers to die for no reason,” Murr

    declared.

    COMMENT

    ——-

    21. (S) Murr’s concern over another Hizballah war with Israel

    appeared to be genuine. The length of time spent on this

    topic given the other political machinations in Lebanon

    during the two and a half hour conversation was indicative of

    his level of concern. Murr seems intent on ensuring the Army

    stays out of the way so that Hizballah bears the full weight

    of an Israeli offensive. While we have noted the increase in

    Israeli overflights, to include one over downtown Beirut

    Friday, March 7, we have not seen indications that validate

    Murr’s concern that an Israeli offensive might be imminent.

    SISON

  • Anonymous

    Full Document

    VZCZCXRO1782

    OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV

    DE RUEHLB #0372/01 0711608

    ZNY SSSSS ZZH

    O 111608Z MAR 08

    FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT

    TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1273

    INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

    RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY 1112

    RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

    RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY

    RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2041

    RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2308

    RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

    RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

    Content

    S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BEIRUT 000372

    SIPDIS

    NOFORN

    SIPDIS

    DEPT PASS TO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE

    NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/YERGER

    E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/10/2018

    TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PTER, PARM, PINR, SY, IS, LE

    SUBJECT: LEBANON: MINDEF WORRIED THAT HIZBALLAH WAR WITH

    ISRAEL IMMINENT

    REF: A. BEIRUT 355

    B. IIR 6 857 0185 08

    C. IIR 6 857 0189 08

    D. BEIRUT 324

    BEIRUT 00000372 001.2 OF 004

    Classified By: Charge D’Affaires a.i. Michele J. Sison

    for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

    SUMMARY

    ——-

    1. (S) In a March 10 meeting with Charge, MinDef Murr

    expressed his growing concern that a Hizballah war with

    Israel is imminent. His assessment is based upon recent

    Hizballah preparations, reported movement of families, and

    the precipitous increase in Israeli overflights of Lebanon.

    Murr does not think that Hizballah can win another war with

    Israel and will be defeated. Describing Hizballah as

    “scared,” Murr opined that they are scared because they know

    that Israel might be about to attack, or, more probably, they

    fear the retribution Israel will heap upon them when

    Hizballah takes revenge for the killing of terrorist Imad

    Mughniya. Murr offered some ideas aimed at avoiding turning

    the Christian population against Israel when the next war

    with Hizballah occurs. Murr also outlined his orders to the

    Lebanese Army when/if Israel invades to counter Hizballah.

    End summary.

    2. (S) Charge, Defense Attache and ODC Chief met with Deputy

    Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Elias Murr on March 10

    at his home in Rabieh. The atmosphere of the meeting was

    cordial and friendly.

    HIZBALLAH MEMBERS RENTING SUMMER HOMES;

    NOT ALL REPORTED ACTIVITY

    DIRECTLY RELATED TO WAR PLANNING

    —————————————

    3. (S) Contacts such as Amine Gemayel (ref A) and Walid

    Jumblatt have been telling us recently that the Shia, and in

    particular senior Hizballah members, have been acquiring land

    or renting homes in the Christian areas of Jezzine, Jebel

    Rihan, Junieh, Zahle as well as in Druze areas. This is

    causing alarm among the Christian populations in these

    locations and is being taken as a sign by some that Hizballah

    is planning for war.

    4. (S) MinDef Murr told us that he has looked into these

    rumors and, indeed, it was impossible to find a rental

    property in these areas. Regarding the activity in Jezzine,

    Murr assured us that this was nothing more than investing in

    Lebanon by Lebanese Shia expats based in West Africa. As for

    the buying of Christian properties, Murr reported that the

    Christians want to sell their property so they can leave

    Lebanon. In any case, Murr did not see a military linkage

    between the sale of homes in Jezzine and Hizballah planning.

    5. (S) As for the areas further north in Lebanon such as

    Keserwan and the Metn, Murr confirmed that Shia are renting

    in high numbers there because they feel that Israel is going

    to attack soon. Such action could take place as early as

    April 2008, he warned. (Comment: Shia took refuge

    throughout Christian areas in south Lebanon during the July

    2006 war, with as many as 300-400 people crowded into a

    single church for weeks on end. End Comment.) Murr also told

    us that Hassan Nasrallah’s cousin has moved his family out of

    the southern suburbs, the Dahiyya, and rented a chalet in the

    resort town of Farayya for a year. According to Murr, this

    means that Nasrallah is on high alert.

    6. (S) In addition to renting homes in these areas, Hizballah

    is making many concessions to the Christians who live in

    these areas. In a meeting three weeks ago between top

    Hizballah officials such as Wafiq Safa and March 14 members

    at MoD Headquarters in Yarze, Hizballah agreed to all of the

    Christians demands. The two most notable concessions were

    that Hizballah will not place any signage with Nabih Berri or

    Hassan Nasrallah’s image in these locations and that

    Hizballah will not have a visible presence in these areas.

    BEIRUT 00000372 002.2 OF 004

    (Comment: This is significant. During the July 2006 war,

    Hizballah members moved into Christian areas and started

    converting them to Hizballah strongholds. On one occasion,

    Hizballah attempted to place a Nasrallah banner on the facade

    of a local church. When the inhabitants protested, the were

    intimidated into acquiescing. The banner was later hung

    inside the church. End Comment.) Murr thinks that Hizballah

    agreed to these concessions because it wants to avoid

    internal problems at all costs while it prepares for its

    external fight with Israel. During this same meeting, March

    14 members learned that Hizballah has rockets that can fly

    over 200 kilometers.

    HIZBALLAH NOT CONVINCED THEY CAN WIN

    THEY WILL LOSE IF THEY TRY WAR WITH ISRAEL

    ——————————————

    7. (S) Murr told us that Hizballah is not “internally

    convinced” that it can win this time. It was internally

    convinced that it could win in 2006. Murr predicted that

    Hizballah’s war with Israel will not be like 2006 and that

    the fight in the Beka’a Valley will be very different.

    Saying that Israel paid the price by fighting in the villages

    in 2006, Murr harbors no illusion that they will not get

    bogged down in the village a second time. Instead, Murr

    thinks they will bypass strongholds in villages and pursue

    the main forces, the rockets.

    8. (S) “I am sure Hizballah is scared and they are preparing

    for a severe lesson this time,” Murr said. Hizballah must

    respond to the Mughniya assassination, but they know it will

    bring retribution. Murr thinks that an attack in West Africa

    or South America would be easier for Hizballah but he thinks

    Nasrallah would prefer to attack inside of Israel if

    possible. Hizballah will attempt to bring in Syria to absorb

    some of the Israeli response to their attack, he added.

    SYRIA’S ASSAD SEES NO SIGNALS OF WAR

    THINKS HIS SUMMIT WILL SUCCEED

    ————————————

    9. (S) Murr related that Saudi journalist Ghassan Charbel of

    the Al-Hayat newspaper recently returned to Beirut from

    Damascus where he met with Bashar Al-Assad. Charbel told

    Murr that Bashar Assad told him “I have no Israeli signal of

    a strike or a war even if Hizballah thinks this way.”

    10. (S) Assad feels that his Arab Summit will happen and that

    he can continue to pursue his agenda in Lebanon, Charbel

    informed Murr. Specifically, he intends to push for the

    10-10-10 Cabinet formula while waiting for the term of the

    Bush Administration to expire. He does not see anything at

    all happening this year in Lebanon, Charbel had said. Murr

    seemed to think otherwise, reporting that Syria has recalled

    250,000 migrant agricultural workers from Lebanon who also

    serve in the Syrian military reserves.

    UNSCR 1701 AREAS OF LEBANON ARE PROTECTED

    HIZBALLAH WILL NOT FIGHT ON THIS TERRAIN

    —————————————–

    11. (S) Murr said that Hizballah does not want to move inside

    the UNSCR 1701 areas or to provoke any problems with the

    United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). However,

    if Israel violates the 1701 battlespace, Hizballah will use

    this opportunity to flood back into this area. If Israel does

    not go into the 1701 area, Hizballah will not enter these

    areas either.

    12. (S) Returning to the theme of a wary Hizballah, Murr told

    us that “they (Hizballah) are scared, terrorized. They know

    the Israelis will not lose again.” Murr thinks that Ehud

    Barak is a very different Minister of Defense than the one

    who tried to win a war using airpower. Additionally,

    Hizballah knows that President Bush is coming to Israel in

    May, so they think that this new war must be completed by

    that time.

    MICHEL AOUN “GOING INSANE”

    ————————–

    BEIRUT 00000372 003.2 OF 004

    13. (S) When asked what role Free Patriotic Movement leader

    Michel Aoun is playing right now, Murr deadpanned that he is

    “going insane.” Retired BG Fouad Ashkar, an Aoun advisor

    dating to Aoun’s time as Lebanese Army Commander, came to see

    Murr on March 9 to discuss weapons permits for Aoun’s

    bodyguards. Murr told Ashkar that he was authorized only ten

    permits. Aoun had recently contacted Murr’s father to try and

    pressure the MinDef into agreeing to fifty weapons permits.

    A defiant Murr told Ashkar to “go get some of your Hizballah

    suicide bombers to serve as bodyguards,” the sub-context

    being that perhaps Michel Aoun would get blown up along the

    way.

    14. (S) Murr is also limiting the number of visitors that can

    drive up to Aoun’s house in the protected enclave of Rabieh.

    Murr only allows official visitors such as MPs to approach

    the house; all the others must park outside and ride

    shuttles. Murr says that the residents of Rabieh are

    exhausted with Aoun being a bad neighbor and going against

    Christian traditions by backing Hizballah.

    15. (S) Indeed, Murr assesses that Aoun is “going insane.” He

    is increasingly responding to the demands of Ghassan Gebril

    and his daughters, no matter how outlandish the ideas. He is

    allergic to any mention of Army Commander General Michel

    Sleiman and cannot accept a Sleiman Presidency; all this,

    while taking up to five insulin shots a day to try and

    control his increasingly severe diabetes.

    ENTER “THE PRESIDIUM”;

    CONVINCING THE PATRIARCH

    ————————

    16. (S) The idea of a more permanent arrangement where the

    Cabinet exercises more of its executive (Presidential)

    authorities is being discussed. Some have even dubbed this

    arrangement a “Presidium” since the Cabinet would move to

    exercise full Presidential prerogatives. Murr thinks that

    the Maronite Patriarch will be reluctant to accept this idea

    as it will effectively terminate the existence of the

    Presidency to some indeterminate time in the future. Even so,

    some leaders intend to address this subject with the

    Patriarch in order to revive some government functions that

    are lying dormant.

    17. (S) Murr expressed skepticism about this concept, saying

    leaders such as Amine Gemayel and Saad Hariri will use this

    to elevate “stupid” people so that their own political light

    is not obscured or risk being dimmed by another rising

    politician. They are looking at this from their selfish

    parochial views, an approach not uncommon in Lebanese

    politics, Murr complained.

    BUT ISRAEL IS STILL MY MAIN CONCERN;

    OVERFLIGHTS THE MOST SINCE 1982

    ————————————

    18. (S) Making clear that he was not responsible for passing

    messages to Israel, Murr told us that Israel would do well to

    avoid two things when it comes for Hizballah One, it must not

    touch the Blue Line or the UNSCR 1701 areas as this will keep

    Hizballah out of these areas. Two, Israel cannot bomb bridges

    and infrastructure in the Christian areas. The Christians

    were supporting Israel in 2006 until they started bombing

    their bridges. If Israel has to bomb all of these places in

    the Shia areas as a matter of operational concern, that is

    Hizballah’s problem. According to Murr, this war is not with

    Lebanon, it is will Hizballah. Murr also told us that the

    number of overflights recently (reftel B and C) are the

    highest number since 1982. The last time there were this many

    overflights was just prior to Israel invading south Lebanon

    in April 1982, he stated flatly.

    IT’S NOT OUR WAR

    WE HAVE TO PRESERVE THE ARMY

    —————————-

    19. (S) Murr said that he had summoned LAF Commander General

    Sleiman to discuss preparations for a Hizballah conflict with

    BEIRUT 00000372 004.2 OF 004

    Israel on March 7. Murr was especially concerned for members

    of the 1st and 8th Brigades in the Beka’a valley. Murr thinks

    that these units will be cut off from LAF HQ support while

    Israel is conducting operations against Hizballah in the

    Beka’a. As such, they will have to turn to the local

    populace for food, water etc. Since the populace is mainly

    Hizballah supporters, Murr is afraid that these two units

    could be dragged into the fight, the ultimate disaster that

    Murr hopes to avoid. As such, Murr is trying to ascertain

    how long an offensive would be required to clean out

    Hizballah in the Beka’a. The LAF will move to pre-position

    food, money, and water with these units so they can stay on

    their bases when Israel comes for Hizballah–discreetly, Murr

    added.

    20. (S) Murr also gave guidance to Sleiman that the LAF

    should not get involved “when Israel comes.” This guidance

    came four days after Sleiman had instructed his officers to

    be prepared (ref D). Murr told us that he promised Sleiman

    the political cover for LAF inaction. Murr’s opinion is that

    an Israeli action against Hizballah would not be a war

    against Lebanon and that Syria and Iran did not ask Lebanon’s

    permission to equip Hizballah with its rockets. As such, the

    LAF has been ordered to not get involved with any fighting

    and to fulfill a civil defense role, such as humanitarian

    support, when/if hostilities break out. Murr told us that he

    would personally speak to the Shia officers in the Army to

    make sure they understood why the Army was not going to

    participate. For Murr, the LAF’s strategic objective was to

    survive a three week war “completely intact” and able to take

    over once Hizballah’s militia has been destroyed. “I do not

    want thousands of our soldiers to die for no reason,” Murr

    declared.

    COMMENT

    ——-

    21. (S) Murr’s concern over another Hizballah war with Israel

    appeared to be genuine. The length of time spent on this

    topic given the other political machinations in Lebanon

    during the two and a half hour conversation was indicative of

    his level of concern. Murr seems intent on ensuring the Army

    stays out of the way so that Hizballah bears the full weight

    of an Israeli offensive. While we have noted the increase in

    Israeli overflights, to include one over downtown Beirut

    Friday, March 7, we have not seen indications that validate

    Murr’s concern that an Israeli offensive might be imminent.

    SISON

  • 7akibalash

    waiting for the top secret wires between hizbilkhara and iran and syria … as if that would ever happen… if those wires ever got out, we would really have something to talk about then. as far as these “wires” are concerned, i see nothing wrong in what elias el murr said, keep in mind hizbilkhara didnt consult with the government in 2006 before kidnapping the Israeli soldiers and causing the war, why do you think the government has any need to consult with hizbilkhara over anything? especially when it comes to national security. if things had played out as said in those wires, el murr would have been responsible for keeping our military intact and the majority of lebanese out of the conflict. hizbilkhara cannot drag us all lebanese into their adventures, and they have proven that they wont hesitate to do it .. ie: 2006 war. hizbilkhara wants wars with israel, then they should go at it by themselves and we lebanese should do all in our powers to safeguard ourselves and stay out of the way. hizbilkhara’s ideologies can not be forced upon us.
    Elias Murr is a Patriot.

  • Anonymous

    waiting for the top secret wires between hizbilkhara and iran and syria … as if that would ever happen… if those wires ever got out, we would really have something to talk about then. as far as these “wires” are concerned, i see nothing wrong in what elias el murr said, keep in mind hizbilkhara didnt consult with the government in 2006 before kidnapping the Israeli soldiers and causing the war, why do you think the government has any need to consult with hizbilkhara over anything? especially when it comes to national security. if things had played out as said in those wires, el murr would have been responsible for keeping our military intact and the majority of lebanese out of the conflict. hizbilkhara cannot drag us all lebanese into their adventures, and they have proven that they wont hesitate to do it .. ie: 2006 war. hizbilkhara wants wars with israel, then they should go at it by themselves and we lebanese should do all in our powers to safeguard ourselves and stay out of the way. hizbilkhara’s ideologies can not be forced upon us.

    Elias Murr is a Patriot.

  • 7akibalash

    Full Document
    VZCZCXRO1782
    OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
    DE RUEHLB #0372/01 0711608
    ZNY SSSSS ZZH
    O 111608Z MAR 08
    FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
    TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1273
    INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
    RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY 1112
    RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
    RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
    RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2041
    RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2308
    RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
    RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
    Content
    S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BEIRUT 000372

    SIPDIS

    NOFORN
    SIPDIS

    DEPT PASS TO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
    NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/YERGER

    E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/10/2018
    TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PTER, PARM, PINR, SY, IS, LE
    SUBJECT: LEBANON: MINDEF WORRIED THAT HIZBALLAH WAR WITH
    ISRAEL IMMINENT

    REF: A. BEIRUT 355
    B. IIR 6 857 0185 08
    C. IIR 6 857 0189 08
    D. BEIRUT 324

    BEIRUT 00000372 001.2 OF 004

    Classified By: Charge D’Affaires a.i. Michele J. Sison
    for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

    SUMMARY
    ——-

    1. (S) In a March 10 meeting with Charge, MinDef Murr
    expressed his growing concern that a Hizballah war with
    Israel is imminent. His assessment is based upon recent
    Hizballah preparations, reported movement of families, and
    the precipitous increase in Israeli overflights of Lebanon.
    Murr does not think that Hizballah can win another war with
    Israel and will be defeated. Describing Hizballah as
    “scared,” Murr opined that they are scared because they know
    that Israel might be about to attack, or, more probably, they
    fear the retribution Israel will heap upon them when
    Hizballah takes revenge for the killing of terrorist Imad
    Mughniya. Murr offered some ideas aimed at avoiding turning
    the Christian population against Israel when the next war
    with Hizballah occurs. Murr also outlined his orders to the
    Lebanese Army when/if Israel invades to counter Hizballah.
    End summary.

    2. (S) Charge, Defense Attache and ODC Chief met with Deputy
    Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Elias Murr on March 10
    at his home in Rabieh. The atmosphere of the meeting was
    cordial and friendly.

    HIZBALLAH MEMBERS RENTING SUMMER HOMES;
    NOT ALL REPORTED ACTIVITY
    DIRECTLY RELATED TO WAR PLANNING
    —————————————

    3. (S) Contacts such as Amine Gemayel (ref A) and Walid
    Jumblatt have been telling us recently that the Shia, and in
    particular senior Hizballah members, have been acquiring land
    or renting homes in the Christian areas of Jezzine, Jebel
    Rihan, Junieh, Zahle as well as in Druze areas. This is
    causing alarm among the Christian populations in these
    locations and is being taken as a sign by some that Hizballah
    is planning for war.

    4. (S) MinDef Murr told us that he has looked into these
    rumors and, indeed, it was impossible to find a rental
    property in these areas. Regarding the activity in Jezzine,
    Murr assured us that this was nothing more than investing in
    Lebanon by Lebanese Shia expats based in West Africa. As for
    the buying of Christian properties, Murr reported that the
    Christians want to sell their property so they can leave
    Lebanon. In any case, Murr did not see a military linkage
    between the sale of homes in Jezzine and Hizballah planning.

    5. (S) As for the areas further north in Lebanon such as
    Keserwan and the Metn, Murr confirmed that Shia are renting
    in high numbers there because they feel that Israel is going
    to attack soon. Such action could take place as early as
    April 2008, he warned. (Comment: Shia took refuge
    throughout Christian areas in south Lebanon during the July
    2006 war, with as many as 300-400 people crowded into a
    single church for weeks on end. End Comment.) Murr also told
    us that Hassan Nasrallah’s cousin has moved his family out of
    the southern suburbs, the Dahiyya, and rented a chalet in the
    resort town of Farayya for a year. According to Murr, this
    means that Nasrallah is on high alert.

    6. (S) In addition to renting homes in these areas, Hizballah
    is making many concessions to the Christians who live in
    these areas. In a meeting three weeks ago between top
    Hizballah officials such as Wafiq Safa and March 14 members
    at MoD Headquarters in Yarze, Hizballah agreed to all of the
    Christians demands. The two most notable concessions were
    that Hizballah will not place any signage with Nabih Berri or
    Hassan Nasrallah’s image in these locations and that
    Hizballah will not have a visible presence in these areas.

    BEIRUT 00000372 002.2 OF 004

    (Comment: This is significant. During the July 2006 war,
    Hizballah members moved into Christian areas and started
    converting them to Hizballah strongholds. On one occasion,
    Hizballah attempted to place a Nasrallah banner on the facade
    of a local church. When the inhabitants protested, the were
    intimidated into acquiescing. The banner was later hung
    inside the church. End Comment.) Murr thinks that Hizballah
    agreed to these concessions because it wants to avoid
    internal problems at all costs while it prepares for its
    external fight with Israel. During this same meeting, March
    14 members learned that Hizballah has rockets that can fly
    over 200 kilometers.

    HIZBALLAH NOT CONVINCED THEY CAN WIN
    THEY WILL LOSE IF THEY TRY WAR WITH ISRAEL
    ——————————————

    7. (S) Murr told us that Hizballah is not “internally
    convinced” that it can win this time. It was internally
    convinced that it could win in 2006. Murr predicted that
    Hizballah’s war with Israel will not be like 2006 and that
    the fight in the Beka’a Valley will be very different.
    Saying that Israel paid the price by fighting in the villages
    in 2006, Murr harbors no illusion that they will not get
    bogged down in the village a second time. Instead, Murr
    thinks they will bypass strongholds in villages and pursue
    the main forces, the rockets.

    8. (S) “I am sure Hizballah is scared and they are preparing
    for a severe lesson this time,” Murr said. Hizballah must
    respond to the Mughniya assassination, but they know it will
    bring retribution. Murr thinks that an attack in West Africa
    or South America would be easier for Hizballah but he thinks
    Nasrallah would prefer to attack inside of Israel if
    possible. Hizballah will attempt to bring in Syria to absorb
    some of the Israeli response to their attack, he added.

    SYRIA’S ASSAD SEES NO SIGNALS OF WAR
    THINKS HIS SUMMIT WILL SUCCEED
    ————————————

    9. (S) Murr related that Saudi journalist Ghassan Charbel of
    the Al-Hayat newspaper recently returned to Beirut from
    Damascus where he met with Bashar Al-Assad. Charbel told
    Murr that Bashar Assad told him “I have no Israeli signal of
    a strike or a war even if Hizballah thinks this way.”

    10. (S) Assad feels that his Arab Summit will happen and that
    he can continue to pursue his agenda in Lebanon, Charbel
    informed Murr. Specifically, he intends to push for the
    10-10-10 Cabinet formula while waiting for the term of the
    Bush Administration to expire. He does not see anything at
    all happening this year in Lebanon, Charbel had said. Murr
    seemed to think otherwise, reporting that Syria has recalled
    250,000 migrant agricultural workers from Lebanon who also
    serve in the Syrian military reserves.

    UNSCR 1701 AREAS OF LEBANON ARE PROTECTED
    HIZBALLAH WILL NOT FIGHT ON THIS TERRAIN
    —————————————–

    11. (S) Murr said that Hizballah does not want to move inside
    the UNSCR 1701 areas or to provoke any problems with the
    United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). However,
    if Israel violates the 1701 battlespace, Hizballah will use
    this opportunity to flood back into this area. If Israel does
    not go into the 1701 area, Hizballah will not enter these
    areas either.

    12. (S) Returning to the theme of a wary Hizballah, Murr told
    us that “they (Hizballah) are scared, terrorized. They know
    the Israelis will not lose again.” Murr thinks that Ehud
    Barak is a very different Minister of Defense than the one
    who tried to win a war using airpower. Additionally,
    Hizballah knows that President Bush is coming to Israel in
    May, so they think that this new war must be completed by
    that time.

    MICHEL AOUN “GOING INSANE”
    ————————–

    BEIRUT 00000372 003.2 OF 004

    13. (S) When asked what role Free Patriotic Movement leader
    Michel Aoun is playing right now, Murr deadpanned that he is
    “going insane.” Retired BG Fouad Ashkar, an Aoun advisor
    dating to Aoun’s time as Lebanese Army Commander, came to see
    Murr on March 9 to discuss weapons permits for Aoun’s
    bodyguards. Murr told Ashkar that he was authorized only ten
    permits. Aoun had recently contacted Murr’s father to try and
    pressure the MinDef into agreeing to fifty weapons permits.
    A defiant Murr told Ashkar to “go get some of your Hizballah
    suicide bombers to serve as bodyguards,” the sub-context
    being that perhaps Michel Aoun would get blown up along the
    way.

    14. (S) Murr is also limiting the number of visitors that can
    drive up to Aoun’s house in the protected enclave of Rabieh.
    Murr only allows official visitors such as MPs to approach
    the house; all the others must park outside and ride
    shuttles. Murr says that the residents of Rabieh are
    exhausted with Aoun being a bad neighbor and going against
    Christian traditions by backing Hizballah.

    15. (S) Indeed, Murr assesses that Aoun is “going insane.” He
    is increasingly responding to the demands of Ghassan Gebril
    and his daughters, no matter how outlandish the ideas. He is
    allergic to any mention of Army Commander General Michel
    Sleiman and cannot accept a Sleiman Presidency; all this,
    while taking up to five insulin shots a day to try and
    control his increasingly severe diabetes.

    ENTER “THE PRESIDIUM”;
    CONVINCING THE PATRIARCH
    ————————

    16. (S) The idea of a more permanent arrangement where the
    Cabinet exercises more of its executive (Presidential)
    authorities is being discussed. Some have even dubbed this
    arrangement a “Presidium” since the Cabinet would move to
    exercise full Presidential prerogatives. Murr thinks that
    the Maronite Patriarch will be reluctant to accept this idea
    as it will effectively terminate the existence of the
    Presidency to some indeterminate time in the future. Even so,
    some leaders intend to address this subject with the
    Patriarch in order to revive some government functions that
    are lying dormant.

    17. (S) Murr expressed skepticism about this concept, saying
    leaders such as Amine Gemayel and Saad Hariri will use this
    to elevate “stupid” people so that their own political light
    is not obscured or risk being dimmed by another rising
    politician. They are looking at this from their selfish
    parochial views, an approach not uncommon in Lebanese
    politics, Murr complained.

    BUT ISRAEL IS STILL MY MAIN CONCERN;
    OVERFLIGHTS THE MOST SINCE 1982
    ————————————

    18. (S) Making clear that he was not responsible for passing
    messages to Israel, Murr told us that Israel would do well to
    avoid two things when it comes for Hizballah One, it must not
    touch the Blue Line or the UNSCR 1701 areas as this will keep
    Hizballah out of these areas. Two, Israel cannot bomb bridges
    and infrastructure in the Christian areas. The Christians
    were supporting Israel in 2006 until they started bombing
    their bridges. If Israel has to bomb all of these places in
    the Shia areas as a matter of operational concern, that is
    Hizballah’s problem. According to Murr, this war is not with
    Lebanon, it is will Hizballah. Murr also told us that the
    number of overflights recently (reftel B and C) are the
    highest number since 1982. The last time there were this many
    overflights was just prior to Israel invading south Lebanon
    in April 1982, he stated flatly.

    IT’S NOT OUR WAR
    WE HAVE TO PRESERVE THE ARMY
    —————————-

    19. (S) Murr said that he had summoned LAF Commander General
    Sleiman to discuss preparations for a Hizballah conflict with

    BEIRUT 00000372 004.2 OF 004

    Israel on March 7. Murr was especially concerned for members
    of the 1st and 8th Brigades in the Beka’a valley. Murr thinks
    that these units will be cut off from LAF HQ support while
    Israel is conducting operations against Hizballah in the
    Beka’a. As such, they will have to turn to the local
    populace for food, water etc. Since the populace is mainly
    Hizballah supporters, Murr is afraid that these two units
    could be dragged into the fight, the ultimate disaster that
    Murr hopes to avoid. As such, Murr is trying to ascertain
    how long an offensive would be required to clean out
    Hizballah in the Beka’a. The LAF will move to pre-position
    food, money, and water with these units so they can stay on
    their bases when Israel comes for Hizballah–discreetly, Murr
    added.

    20. (S) Murr also gave guidance to Sleiman that the LAF
    should not get involved “when Israel comes.” This guidance
    came four days after Sleiman had instructed his officers to
    be prepared (ref D). Murr told us that he promised Sleiman
    the political cover for LAF inaction. Murr’s opinion is that
    an Israeli action against Hizballah would not be a war
    against Lebanon and that Syria and Iran did not ask Lebanon’s
    permission to equip Hizballah with its rockets. As such, the
    LAF has been ordered to not get involved with any fighting
    and to fulfill a civil defense role, such as humanitarian
    support, when/if hostilities break out. Murr told us that he
    would personally speak to the Shia officers in the Army to
    make sure they understood why the Army was not going to
    participate. For Murr, the LAF’s strategic objective was to
    survive a three week war “completely intact” and able to take
    over once Hizballah’s militia has been destroyed. “I do not
    want thousands of our soldiers to die for no reason,” Murr
    declared.

    COMMENT
    ——-

    21. (S) Murr’s concern over another Hizballah war with Israel
    appeared to be genuine. The length of time spent on this
    topic given the other political machinations in Lebanon
    during the two and a half hour conversation was indicative of
    his level of concern. Murr seems intent on ensuring the Army
    stays out of the way so that Hizballah bears the full weight
    of an Israeli offensive. While we have noted the increase in
    Israeli overflights, to include one over downtown Beirut
    Friday, March 7, we have not seen indications that validate
    Murr’s concern that an Israeli offensive might be imminent.

    SISON

  • 7akibalash

    waiting for the top secret wires between hizbilkhara and iran and syria … as if that would ever happen… if those wires ever got out, we would really have something to talk about then. as far as these “wires” are concerned, i see nothing wrong in what elias el murr said, keep in mind hizbilkhara didnt consult with the government in 2006 before kidnapping the Israeli soldiers and causing the war, why do you think the government has any need to consult with hizbilkhara over anything? especially when it comes to national security. if things had played out as said in those wires, el murr would have been responsible for keeping our military intact and the majority of lebanese out of the conflict. hizbilkhara cannot drag us all lebanese into their adventures, and they have proven that they wont hesitate to do it .. ie: 2006 war. hizbilkhara wants wars with israel, then they should go at it by themselves and we lebanese should do all in our powers to safeguard ourselves and stay out of the way. hizbilkhara’s ideologies can not be forced upon us.
    Elias Murr is a Patriot.