STRENGTHENING A SHAKY CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES -- AND A TEETERING GOL

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id: 74803
date: 8/14/2006 15:48
refid: 06BEIRUT2615
origin: Embassy Beirut
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 06BEIRUT2615
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIRUT 002615

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/SINGH/HARDING

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/14/2026
TAGS: PREL, MOPS, PTER, EAID, LE, SY, IS
SUBJECT: STRENGTHENING A SHAKY CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES --
AND A TEETERING GOL

Classified By: Jeffrey Feltman, Ambassador, per 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (SBU) This message contains a non-exhaustive list of
initiatives that we suggest the USG support, in the first
days of the fragile cessation of hostilities forged by U.S.
leadership in UNSCR 1701. We seek to strengthen the GOL and
move Lebanon toward a permanent cease-fire. After the U.S.
success in getting UNSCR 1701 adopted unanimously, we see
other steps as essential to translate the diplomatic progress
into lasting improvements on the ground.

2. (C) Despite the silencing of the guns, few of our
Lebanese contacts are optimistic about the cessation of
hostilities that entered into force today, 8/14. Most people
cite two parallel dangers: first, Israel is expected to
define the prohibition on "offensive military operations"
more narrowly than the average Lebanese would see as
reasonable. We have told our contacts that Israel will
continue its surveillance activities and use all means to
disrupt suspected resupply of weapons and strategic goods to
Hizballah. Second, Hizballah, while likely to suspend (at
least initially) rocket attacks into Israel, may lick its
wounds momentarily before resuming attacks against Israeli
positions inside Lebanon. Hizballah can easily --
intentionally -- provoke Israeli force protection operations
that will be seen by the Lebanese as excessive.

3. (C) Thus, despite the cessation of hostilities,
Israeli-Hizballah fighting could easily spin out of control,
with both sides perhaps crossing the informal red lines the
next time around (e.g., Hizballah fires rockets into Tel
Aviv, Israel destroys Lebanon's power plants or hits GOL
institutions, etc.). Even lower-level fighting would make
many countries reluctant to step forward with troop
contributions for the beefed up UNIFIL force that, upon
deployment, triggers the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.
And that, we would guess, is exactly what Hizballah and its
Iranian and Syrian backers desire: no additional UNIFIL
troops, no LAF deployment to the south, no IDF withdrawal,
and no Hizballah disarmament.

4. (C) At the same time, the Lebanese cabinet is
approaching a moment of truth. With a cabinet meeting on
exactly how to implement UNSCR 1701 postponed, ministers will
soon -- upon LAF deployment with UNIFIL -- have to say once
and for all whether they will stand up to Hizballah and
insist on disarmament, first in the south and eventually
everywhere. As we will explore in other messages, the
cabinet's 8/12 unanimous acceptance of UNSCR 1701, while good
news, is less solid than it appears. Yet the continued IDF
presence in south Lebanon makes it difficult for the
non-Hizballah members of the cabinet to unify behind
immediate disarmament of Hizballah, lest they be accused of
collusion with an Israeli occupation. We do not
underestimate the ability of Lebanon's political class to
muddle through by relying on the ambiguity of various
interpretations. But the cabinet might easily collapse over
UNSCR 1701, with far-reaching, and mostly negative, political
and security implications for Lebanon.

5. (C) We believe that we can reinforce the cessation of
hostilities and build public support for the requisite
Hizballah disarmament if we can show some changes on the
ground now. In many ways, for most Lebanese, today feels
like yesterday, despite the cessation of hostilities: people
remain distracted by the need to find gasoline, milk, and
other essentials; people worry about the destabilizing impact
of the IDPs who have no homes to reclaim; businesses cannot
import essential supplies or export products; travel in and
out of Lebanon remains difficult and open only to those who
have no fear of transiting Syria -- to name only a few of the
hardships of daily life here. Israel may hope that these
deprivations move more people away from Hizballah, but, with
the cabinet now behind UNSCR 1701, people should start to
feel some relief as an incentive to go further.

6. (C) To build momentum for the more permanent cease-fire,
we suggest that the USG support some initiatives now, to
demonstrate that there are initial benefits to subscribing to
the cessation of hostilities -- and that normal life can
gradually be restored as implementation of UNSCR 1701 moves
forward. The sticks for non-compliance remain clear:
ongoing Israeli military presence in south Lebanon, defensive
Israeli measures that will strike Lebanese as offensive, and
the ongoing Israeli air and sea blockade. With those sticks
obvious to all, we believe that the international community,

BEIRUT 00002615 002 OF 003

under USG leadership, should offer some carrots now. Our
ideas, most of which deal with access and safety, follow:

-- Immediate opening of an air shuttle for passenger travel
between Beirut and (probably) Amman. We have discussed this
idea before, and now we hope it can be implemented. Given
that the Israelis have, we understand, expressed confidence
in Jordan's security procedures, we suggest that Lebanon's
national carrier, Middle East Airlines, be permitted to begin
operating passenger shuttles multiple times a day between
Beirut and Amman (assuming the Jordanians would be amenable).
If we could inform the Lebanese even today that runway
repairs and munition-clearing could commence now, this
shuttle could start operating on one of the runways within
days. We can also broker Israel's acceptance of Lebanon
starting longer-term runway repair and replacement of
destroyed fuel tankers now. We can at the same time make it
clear that more general aviation traffic depends on the GOL
having effective plans to prevent arms, money, and alien
smuggling via the airport.

-- Immediate lifting of the sea blockade for fuel tankers
and automatic clearances for shipments of grain and
humanitarian deliveries (perhaps from recognized sources) to
Lebanon, with the UN required to inform the Israelis. The
Israelis would retain the ability to stop suspicious
freighters at the sea embargo line for inspection. As with
the airport, this partial opening of sea lanes would provide
some relief to Lebanon while maintaining a strong incentive
-- the potential full reopening -- for the GOL to improve its
security procedures at the port.

-- Large-scale Mine Action activities: On the first day of
the cease-fire, Lebanon already suffered casualties when
IDPs, returning home, encountered unexploded ordnance. With
the long-standing U.S. leadership in Mine Action activities
in Lebanon (and given that we are held largely responsible
for Israeli weaponry, whether of U.S. origin or not), we
could play an important role in providing safety for people
returning to the south that would have a major impact on
public opinion here. The UAE has also announced a resumption
of its mine-clearing program. We recommend a vast increase
in USG funding for Mine Action activities, to be announced
immediately and used as quickly as possible.

-- Immediate deployment of a planning unit to UNIFIL.
UNIFIL is going to play the key role in coordinating the
IDF's withdrawal and the LAF deployment, yet UNIFIL in its
current incarnation does not have sufficient planning
capacity. If the French are expected to play a key role in
the beef-up UNIFIL authorized in UNSCR 1701, perhaps we could
encourage the French could send a planning unit to Naqoura
now. If the French are not available, someone else should
provide competent military planners. UNIFIL and LAF
deployment needs to be done right, and that requires
planning. The initial planning meeting held today by UNIFIL
Commander Pellegrini was encouraging (with the Lebanese and
Israeli generals eventually sitting in the same room,
although talking through Pellegrini), but UNIFIL needs more
planning power.

-- Providing transitional housing materials for IDPs --
which could in many cases be done through local purchases,
thus helping Lebanon's economy overall. It is already clear
from spontaneous traffic jams today that IDPs who are from
the south want to go back home. (The UN counted 1200 cars an
hour heading south out of Beirut, each averaging five people,
on the main road alone.) Many of them are going to discover
that their houses have been damaged, some severely, by the
fighting. Purchases (or shipments, for items not in stock in
Lebanon) of building materials such as, wood, corrugated
steel and plastic sheeting would enable residents to move
back home, by permitting them to make at least part of their
houses habitable. As part of this, we should accelerate the
delivery of basic cooking utensils and cooking gas as well.

-- Focus on reopening hospitals and medical clinics in the
south. This will entail working with NGOs and others to
ensure that staff can return safely to hospitals, that fuel
supplies are sufficient for generators, and that medical and
other supplies are delivered.

-- Transfer of UN security responsibilities from the UNICEF
representative to either the UN Humanitarian Coordinator (our
first choice) or the UNSYG's Personal Representative to
Lebanon. While this is an internal UN organizational matter

BEIRUT 00002615 003 OF 003

that would not be noticed by the Lebanese, it is in fact critical to the ability of the Humanitarian Coordinator to
work effectively. Currently, the UN's Designated Security
Officer (DSO) for Lebanon is housed with UNDP and temporarily
placed with UNICEF. This means that the HC cannot prioritize
relief staffing needs. Given our lack of confidence based on
prior experiences in both UNDP's and UNICEF's local
representation, we suggest that the USG quietly suggest to UN
headquarters that the DSO be housed either with the HC or in
the office of Geir Pedersen. (While Geir Pedersen is
bureaucratically senior to HC David Shearer, there is no
formal link between their critical operations. But,
according to both, Pedersen and Shearer work well together,
having done so for years in the West Bank during the second
Palestinian Intifada.)

-- Shipment to Lebanon of military-style trestle and Bailey
bridges, to restore key traffic linkages. Until Lebanon
begins to take seriously its responsibilities under UNSCR
1701 to control arms smuggling, the Israelis will be
reluctant to allow the restoration of all transportation
linkages. But, in coordination with the Israelis, we and
others could provide some emergency, military-type steel
spans as temporary replacements in some areas quickly.

-- Work on a private-sector initiative that could bring U.S.
business representatives -- with as many Lebanese-Americans
as would be willing to participate -- to Lebanon in
September, to look at how U.S. business consortia might be
willing to participate in Lebanon's reconstruction, both by
adopting certain projects to finance and by finding economic
opportunities to create local jobs. While this initiative
would be (for security reasons) kept at arm's length from the
USG, initiatives sponsored by the American business community
will have far-reaching impact by providing hope to the
Lebanese people that Lebanon's international connections,
like its infrastructure, can be repaired.

7. (C) Over the longer term, we need to be prepared for
reconstruction and job creation in the areas of the country
hardest hit by the fighting -- which means in the areas of
the country where Hizballah's infrastructure and support was
strongest, such as the south. To beat out the Iranian
funding that will surely flow in, we will need to be
generous, flexible, and quick. Our strategy should be to
strengthen the GOL and its institutions, in order to counter
the "state-within-a-state" charitable institutions Hizballah
had used (with Iranian financing) to garner support. We will
send ideas septel on the longer term, but in general we
believe we should focus on some infrastructure work, some
housing guarantee financial programs, and much related job
creation. One complication we will face: how to use our
assistance to reduce support for, and reliance on, Hizballah,
while ensuring that we stick to USG rules about not helping
those associated with terrorist organizations.
FELTMAN

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