JUMBLATT RECOUNTS SAUDI TRIP, MONEY PROBLEMS, SYRIAN THREATS

id: 70884
date: 7/11/2006 5:48
refid: 06BEIRUT2323
origin: Embassy Beirut
classification: SECRET//NOFORN
destination: 06BEIRUT2323
header:
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P 110548Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4540
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
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----------------- header ends ----------------

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 002323

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/SINGH/HARDING
LONDON FOR TSOU

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/09/2016
TAGS: PGOV, PTER, KISL, KDEM, EAID, LE, SA, SY
SUBJECT: MGLE01: JUMBLATT RECOUNTS SAUDI TRIP, MONEY
PROBLEMS, SYRIAN THREATS

BEIRUT 00002323 001.2 OF 002

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

SUMMARY
-------

1. (S/NF) In a 7/7 meeting, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said
he had recently asked Saudi King Abdullah for funding to help
him and his "March 14" allies counter Iranian/Syrian
influence in Lebanon. King Abdullah had been noncommittal,
and Jumblatt was left waiting for his partner Sa'ad
al-Hariri's "caravans loaded with gold and emeralds" to
arrive. Jumblatt said he understood from other high-ranking
Saudi officials that Syrian military intelligence chief Asif
Shawkat had, days earlier, visited Saudi Arabia to deliver
what appeared to be a veiled threat, leaving King Abdullah
furious at the SARG. End summary.

TRIP TO JEDDAH, CAP IN HAND
---------------------------

2. (C/NF) In a July 7 meeting with the Ambassador and
Embassy staff, Jumblatt described his recent visit to Saudi
Arabia as an effort to persuade Saudi King Abdullah to fund
the "March 14" political alliance as a way of blocking an
ongoing wave of "Shiite expansionism" in Lebanon and
elsewhere in the region. This was a reference to Hizballah;
its primary backer, Iran; and their Alawite-led ally, Syria.

3. (C/NF) King Abdullah was noncommittal in a July 4 meeting
in Jeddah, however. In response to Jumblatt's request, "he
just looked at me," Jumblatt recalled. King Abdullah's
predecessor, King Fahd, had been "more generous," Jumblatt
said wistfully.

4. (C/NF) Jumblatt was candid about his needs for external
funding as a "za'eem," a communal leader, in a political
system in which patronage is all-important. He recalled
that, when former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri was alive --
a time when Jumblatt's situation was not nearly so difficult
as it is now -- Hariri subsidized him to a tune of USD three
million per year. In the current situation, Jumblatt
estimated that he needed at least that much, probably more.
But he has not found a source to replace the generosity of
Rafiq Hariri.

WAITING FOR HARIRI'S "CARAVANS" TO COME IN
------------------------------------------

5. (C/NF) Instead of being embarrassed at going begging,
Jumblatt delighted in recalling a letter he had recently
written to his "March 14" partner, Sa'ad al-Hariri, Rafiq's
second-born son and political heir. In it, he had expressed
hope that Hariri's "caravans loaded with gold and emeralds
had made it safely across the Empty Quarter," in which case
Hariri might be willing to spare Jumblatt "a few small
pennies." In a touch that Jumblatt found particularly
hilarious, he had signed his letter, "The Poor Servant."

6. (C/NF) Comment: As Jumblatt and his close political
allies, such as Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh,
have pointed out to us in previous meetings, Hariri has
provided no funding to Jumblatt since the 2005 parliamentary
elections. Hariri continues to have problems collecting the
billions of USD that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reportedly
owes his family's business enterprises. End comment.

PAYING THE BILLS
----------------

7. (C/NF) Jumblatt said that has no problem covering his
personal expenses. His sources of revenue include Lebanon's
Kefraya winery, of which he is a major stakeholder.
Kefraya's annual profit amounts to approximately USD 200,000.
In addition, Jumblatt owns a gasoline distribution network
that earns him another USD 100,000 per year.

8. (C/NF) While this is enough to pay the bills of a
21st-century equivalent of a feudal lord -- the exquisitely
furnished stone castle in the Chouf mountains, the household
staff, a Range Rover or two -- it is nowhere near the amount
needed to meet the expectations of Jumblatt's constituents.
Jumblatt pointed out that this is particularly the case in a
relatively low-income, economically undeveloped area, such as

BEIRUT 00002323 002.2 OF 002

his native, Druze-dominated Chouf mountain region.

KEEPING UP WITH AOUN IS EXPENSIVE
---------------------------------

9. (C/NF) Jumblatt said that Saatchi & Saatchi Levant, the
Beirut-based element of the global advertising and public
relations firm, had submitted a proposal for a media campaign
for "March 14." While such a campaign could put "March 14"
on an equal footing with the Hizballah-allied Free Patriotic
Movement of Michel Aoun, Saatchi & Saatchi's price was USD 15
million, a figure far beyond the collective current means of
the "March 14" leadership. (Note: The firm's head, Eli
Khoury, was a major force behind the highly effective
"branding" of protests that followed Rafiq al-Hariri's
assassination -- culminating in the massive demonstration in
Beirut on March 14, 2005 -- which featured the distinctive
white-on-red "Independence 05" logo. End note.)

SHAWKAT VISIT: A VEILED THREAT TO THE SAUDIS?
--------------------------------------------- -

10. (S/NF) Jumblatt said that, while still in Jeddah, he met
with the Director of the Saudi General Intelligence
Presidency, Prince Muqrin, and the Head of the Saudi National
Security Council, Prince Bandar. From them, he learned that
Asif Shawkat, chief of Syrian military intelligence (and
brother-in-law of Syrian President Asad) had visited Saudi
Arabia just four days earlier. While there, Shawkat met with
Prince Mohammad bin Na'if (whom Jumblatt described as the
Saudi equivalent of General Ashraf Rifi, Director-General of
Lebanon's Internal Security Forces). Shakwat reportedly
warned Mohammad bin Na'if that Saudi Arabia risked facing an
increased threat of terrorist attacks.

11. (S/NF) When asked if the Saudis had interpreted
Shawkat's warning as a threat -- along the lines of President
Asad's claim in a recent newspaper interview that Lebanon was
at risk of being attacked by "al-Qa'ida," Jumblatt replied,
"It is a threat." He understood from Bandar and Muqrin that
Shawkat's message, added to what Jumblatt and Egyptian
President Mubarak had already told King Abdullah about Syrian
intentions, made King Abdullah "furious" at the SARG.
Shawkat had sought an audience with King Abdullah, but was
turned down, according to Jumblatt.
FELTMAN

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