Rumsfeld’s Papers: The Perennial Anti-Syrian
By: Sabah Ayoub
Published Thursday, June 28, 2012
In the second installment of “Rumsfeld’s Lebanon Papers,” Al-Akhbar publishes the minutes of his meetings with the Israeli prime minister and defense minister at the end of 1983.
Rumsfeld does not request anything from the Israelis, nor does he interrogate them like he does with Lebanese and Arab counterparts. His meetings with the Israelis are closer to deliberations concerning common interests.
In the published documents going back to the period between 2001 and 2006, the most noteworthy seems to be a memo written following the 11 September 2001 attacks.
In the memo, Rumsfeld explains his “war on terror” strategy and its main objectives to former US President George W. Bush.
It spells out five main steps in the war, including “Syria out of Lebanon.” This came true four years later following the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on 14 February 2005.
Rumsfeld Engineers a Lebanese Propaganda Campaign Against Syria
Following a shuttle diplomacy tour of the Middle East, Rumsfeld presented the results of his visit to five Democratic and Republican congressmen, in a breakfast meeting on 24 January 1984.
Rumsfeld spoke about “state-sponsored terrorism,” “those who don’t share our values,” and “the radical wing” (terms that would be later heard in the Bush era).
The US envoy warned about “the radical wing” gaining ground in the Arab world, which is made up of Syria, Iran, Libya, and South Yemen.
He tried to convince the participants of the necessity of keeping US forces in Lebanon. “If we decide as a country [...] that we can thus use only diplomatic and economic means to pursue mid- to long-range US goals, we will have effectively yielded the field to those who don't share our values,” he said.
He was asked about the reason why US troops should remain in Lebanon although it is not geographically strategic and in circumstances that makes them easy targets for the Soviets and their proxies.
Rumsfeld replied that a pullout from Lebanon “would almost surely bring down the constitutional government.”
In addition, “Jordan is convinced that they are next on the
Syrian list” at a time when King Hussein is being considered as a “linchpin of a rejuvenated peace process with Israel.”
“Syria, virtually the only Soviet card in the Middle East, will have proved that standing up to the US pays dividends,” he maintained. Although he said it was “clear that Assad desires to maintain a line of contact with the West.”
“The IDF remains only 23 kilometers from Damascus,” said Rumsfeld.
On the other hand, a memo dated 3 February 1984, shows Rumsfeld preparing a secret propaganda campaign to support the implementation of the US’s new plans regarding Lebanon’s security.
Rumsfeld said that “Syria and Syrian factions in Lebanon have been winning the public relations battle.” He insisted that the Amin Gemayel government must “unambiguously demonstrate to the world” that they are seeking reconciliation.
Rumsfeld suggested that “this might include publicized requests” by Gemayel for PSP leader Walid Jumblatt and Amal leader Nabih Berri to come to the Presidential Palace and meet with him.
He proposed that Gemayel gives “a public speech well in advance of any possible military step” to say the government has made an offer for national reconciliation but that “Syria and factional leaders” are the ones blocking it.
“In short there needs to be a concentrated public effort to demonstrate that it is Syria that is blocking the political reconciliation process [and] the formation of the GNU [Government of National Unity] [...], that is conducting the infiltration into the city of Beirut, [and] that is maintaining artillery within the range of Beirut for political intimidation,” Rumsfeld explained.
He proposed that the idea of Lebanon’s inability to confront Syria on its own, therefore it will need US and/or Israeli support, and the only solution remaining is military.
Yitzhak Shamir: The Lebanese Are Too Soft
“Something must be done to ‘liberate’ Beirut,” Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir told US envoy Donald Rumsfeld in a meeting held on 16 January 1983. By “liberate” Shamir meant getting rid of what he called the terrorists. But how?
Shamir said that they “must support Gemayel” politically. On the ground, they must get rid of terrorist targets in Beirut and its suburbs, in a manner similar to the attack on what he called an Iranian Revolutionary Guard training camp in Bekaa that led to 30 persons being killed.
He stressed that Beirut must be cleaned up and that US-Israeli allies must be protected because they are in constant danger.
Shamir warned that Hafez al-Assad will prepare for the “grand war” on Israel after taking control of the PLO. “Syria must also accept the principle that Lebanese territory could not be used by the PLO or the Iranians for terrorist purposes,” he maintained.
Rumsfeld also relayed to Shamir that Gemayel was unhappy with Israeli involvement in attempts to create a Druze “mini-state” in the Chouf region. The Israeli PM replied by saying that the Lebanese side must cooperate better.
He held that “[US] Ambassador [and special envoy to the Middle East Philip] Habib had previously stressed the importance of intelligence cooperation but there had been no results.”
“Gemayel had to realize [that the Druze] wanted to have their piece of the political cake and they had a considerable fighting force to back up their position,” Rumsfeld added.
The both agreed on saying that the Lebanese are “too soft” and “have become accustomed to depending on the support of others.”
On 17 November 1983, Rumsfeld met with the Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens to discuss the Lebanese and Syrian conflicts.
Strategically, they agreed on the “necessity for both the US and Israel to bolster [Amin] Gemayel’s position in every possible way” to realize the “shared US-Israeli goals for Lebanon.”
Arens believed that “if the US withdraws its Marines [from Beirut], then Gemayel would be finished” and warned of a prolonged war with Hafez al-Assad in Lebanon.
“If the worst case eventuates, you will take Amin Gemayel out of Beirut and we will end up having to stay in South Lebanon,” Arens continued.
The Israeli Defense Minister indicated that the Lebanese forces will not “fall apart. Their morale is indeed poor and they are upset about what they see as President Gemayel’s mistakes in his not being sufficiently pro-Christian, pro-Israeli, and strong enough in standing up to the Muslims in general and Syrians in particular.”
“Gemayel wants it both ways. He wants to attack us publicly while telling us privately that he needs our help. He wants to tell the Syrians that he detests the Israelis but has to keep the agreement in order to get rid of us, while telling us privately to back him up,” Arens maintained.
Syria Out of Lebanon
On 30 September 2001, just 19 days after the attacks on New York and Washington DC, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent a memo to President George W. Bush elaborating his “strategic thoughts” on the “war on terrorism,” which should be implemented without haste.
He begins by defining the general framework of the war plans, arguing that “the US strategic theme should be aiding local peoples to rid themselves of terrorists and to free themselves from regimes that support terrorism.”
Practically, “US Special Operations Forces and intelligence personnel should make allies of Afghanis, Iraqis, Lebanese, Sudanese, and others who would use US equipment, training, financial, military, and humanitarian support to root out and attack the common enemies.”
The second practical suggestion was to conduct “some air strikes against al-Qaeda and Taliban targets” in Afghanistan soon.
“We should avoid as much as possible creating images of Americans killing Muslims until we have set the political stage that the people we are going after are the enemies of the Muslims themselves,” he stressed.
One of the main goals of the war “would be to persuade or compel States to stop supporting terrorism. The regimes of such States should see that it will be fatal to host terrorists who attack the US as was done on September 11.”
“If the war does not significantly change the world's political map, the US will not achieve its aim,” he maintained.
He concluded that the US government “should envision a goal along these lines:
- New regime in Afghanistan and another key State (or two) that supports terrorism,
- Syria out of Lebanon.
- Dismantlement or destruction of WMD capabilities [in two countries whose names have been removed].
- End of [name removed] support to terrorism.
- End of many other countries' support or tolerance of terrorism.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.