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July War Cables— Ahdab: Hariri Has One Answer… “DO NOT WORRY”
LEBANON: MP MOSBAH AL-AHDAB FEARS MARCH 14 HAS LOST ITS WAY

id: 75268
date: 8/17/2006 16:45
refid: 06BEIRUT2691
origin: Embassy Beirut
classification: CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
destination:
header:
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OO RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK
DE RUEHLB #2691/01 2291645
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
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FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5133
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNFB/FBI WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0115

----------------- header ends ----------------
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIRUT 002691
SIPDIS
SIPDIS
NOFORN
NSC FOR ABRAMS/ZAROTE/DORAN/SINGH/HARDING
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/17/2016
TAGS: PREL, PTER, KDEM, LE, SY, IS
SUBJECT: LEBANON: MP MOSBAH AL-AHDAB FEARS MARCH 14 HAS
LOST ITS WAY

Classified By: Jeffrey D. Feltman, Ambassador. Reason 1.4 (d).

SUMMARY
--------
1. (C/NF) During an August 17 luncheon with the Ambassador
and poloff, Tripoli MP Mosbah al-Ahdab presented a bleak
precis of the situation in Lebanon. Ahdab, a Sunni and March
14 charter member, described the March 14 movement as
rudderless and bereft of good ideas. The government is
ill-prepared to rebuild the country. Meanwhile, Iran and
Hizballah are well on their way to winning over hearts and
minds through a directed propaganda campaign to portray
Hizballah as the only power capable of rebuilding Lebanon.
Ahdab fears Hizballah is rearming and preparing to emerge in
two or three months' time to directly challenge the primacy
of the state in Lebanon. Clearly dismayed, but not willing
to concede just yet, Ahdab said the GOL needs to develop a
step-by-step plan to work in concert with the international
community to strengthen the central government so that it can
challenge Hizballah head-on and dismantle the "state within a
state." Ahdab said the first step should be the removal of
President Emile Lahoud, and suggested that someone should
examine the President's suspected financial improprieties.
Short on clear ideas for moving ahead, Ahdab promised to
brainstorm and get back to the Ambassador. END SUMMARY.

"THERE IS NO TEAM"
------------------
2. (C) One of the original March 14 members (and the only
Sunni MP who dared defy Syria's wishes and vote against Emile
Lahoud's extension), Ahdab said he has grown frustrated with
the laissez-faire attitude of the group, particularly Saad
Hariri (whom he described as "my friend" enough to suggest
doubt in the listeners' ears). Complaining that the typical
Saad response to any problem is a casual "don't worry," Ahdab
believes that Hariri is surrounded by yes-men who convince
him that he is managing everything perfectly, to such an
extent that Saad apparently believes he can rally two million
people to his cause just by snapping his fingers. Snickering
about the ubiquitous images of Saad hobnobbing with global
leaders under the media slogan "The Diplomatic Resistance,"
Ahdab said that Saad's public relations campaign is
ill-conceived, particularly by the plastering of his father's
picture everywhere, and added that "Saad needs a course in
diction." (Note: Saad's Qureitem mansion is a veritable
Rafiq Hariri photo exhibit, while the Hariri-controlled
Future TV has an ever-present ticker, now in the high 500s,
counting the days since Hariri's assassination. End Note.)
Saad needs to stop living in the past, argued Ahdab, and
start thinking about how to fix Lebanon. "'Don't worry',"
parrotted Ahdab, "I've had a year and a half of him saying
'don't worry'. We need ideas now."
3. (C) Sounding discouraged, Ahdab gave an account of the
August 16 meeting of the March 14 group, describing an
increasingly factionalized atmosphere. At one point, Saad
interrupted a conversation Ahdab was having with someone and
took that person aside for a private chat with Marwan
Hamadeh, which Ahdab didn't appreciate at all. "There's no
transparency, even in March 14." Ahdab described Lebanese
Forces leader Samir Ja'ja' as "scared," and that some
Maronites were opposed to sending the army into the south
without first confronting Hizballah over disarmament. MP
Fares Souaid even suggested that the Maronites should
"demarcate" themselves from the rest of March 14 in order to
more strenuously oppose Nasrallah. Ahdab said that the
meeting decided nothing, not even a coordinated media
strategy or "talking points" for tackling the various issues.
(Note: Thus, in his 8/17 press conference, Walid Joumblatt
strenuously objected to Hizballah's unilateral decision to
kidnap the Israeli soldiers, whereas Saad, in his speech only
one hour beforehand, hailed the "heroic resistance." End
Note.) "There is no team," lamented Ahdab, "We just take
pictures together." Ahdab liked the Ambassador's idea that
the March 14 group develop some sort of coordinating body,
such as a secretariat, that could send out daily messages for
everyone to reinforce publicly.
BEIRUT 00002691 002 OF 003
4. (C) Ahdab said the inaction stretches to the Cabinet and
Council of Ministers. Though the March 14 members have held
a controlling share in those two bodies for the past year,
they have accomplished nothing. Complaining that there was
"no communication or planning," Ahdab said that "decisions
aren't made in the Government of Lebanon." Ahdab argued that
the Lebanese government needs to be front and center in
leading the reconstruction charge and reclaim the initiative
from Hizballah, with ministers visiting the South and plans
laid out for rebuilding. Yet there is as yet no real
assessment of the damage in the South and no clear idea about
the social services and infrastructure situation.
5. (C) Meanwhile, a "huge team" is preparing itself in
Tehran and in "the caves" of southern Lebanon to expand the
Hizballah's support and rebuild its militant infrastructure.
Hassan Nasrallah is handing out $10,000 a family for
destroyed homes, buying a whole new generation of followers,
and claiming that Iranian money is "clean money." When the
Ambassador asked why Ahdab didn't respond to this Hizballah
claim about the money, Ahdab said he didn't feel confident he
would receive support from March 14, claiming there are
"jealousies" in the group. He'd stuck his neck out before,
he said, and "they tried to get rid of me."

WHICH IS THE STATE WITHIN A STATE?
----------------------------------
6. (C) Ahdab said that Hizballah plans to build itself up
so that it is bigger than the state and in "two or three
months" will be able to openly challenge the Lebanese state.
"Then the government will be the state within a state, within
the state of Hizballah." Scoffing at the strategy, espoused
by Saad, that merely by embracing the Hizballahis into the
government -- what he derisively calls the "marhaba shabab"
approach -- you will get them to lay down their weapons. He
absolutely agreed with the Ambassador's point that Hizballah
will never become a normal Lebanese political party on its
own volition.
7. (C) Ahdab wants a plan in place to build up the state,
supported by the international community, so that it can face
up to the Hizballah challenge and begin, gradually, to
dismantle the militant infrastructure. Supportive of the job
PM Siniora is doing, he nevertheless feels that Siniora does
not have the necessary support structure in place to take
action. (Comment: Our perception is that Siniora is a
micro-manager, even getting into the nitty-gritty details of
fuel shipments during the crisis, and needs to delegate more.
Lebanon is lucky to have Siniora at this time, but Siniora
needs to be less of a control freak. End Comment.) The LAF
deployment to the South is a critical first step in this, and
the government responsiveness in reconstruction will be key
in rallying people to the GOL. Over time, the government
should also begin replacing the upper echelons of the LAF
with more March 14-sympathetic figures. "There are Sunnis
and Christians now in the LAF who are more Hizballahi than
Hizballah itself." The Ambassador stressed that GOL control
over all points of entry would contribute to the perception
of a strengthened state and combat arms smuggling, allowing
the LAF, with new equipment and training, to become
relatively stronger.

"FIRST THING'S FIRST --
GET RID OF LAHOUD"

-----------------------
8. (C/NF) Ahdab stressed that to have a more assertive
state, President Lahoud must first be removed from office.
Not certain that Speaker Berri will be willing to support a
constitutional removal, Ahdab suggested -- as have others
such as Nayla Mouawad and Amin Gemayel -- that Lahoud's
rumoured financial improprieties be examined more closely.
If something were found linking him to the Bank al-Medina
scandal or his son Emile Emile to the oil-for-food morass,
Ahdab argued, then he might more easily be dislodged from
Baabda Palace. When the Ambassador asked why the March 14
group has not vigorously pursued exposing the Bank al-Medina
scandal, Ahdab said that he suspects some March 14 members
could be implicated. "But," he added, "we may have to make
BEIRUT 00002691 003 OF 003
some sacrifices in order to get Lahoud out." The Ambassador
reminded Ahdab that the Lebanese Prosecutor-General, Said
Mirza (linked to the Hariris), has many documents related to
the Bank al-Medina scandal.

COMMENT
-------
9. (C) Still only speaking in generalities, Ahdab promised
the Ambassador to come up with some ideas before he is due to
meet with the Ambassador for dinner on August 22. We will
see what he can dig up about Bank al-Medina and oil-for-food.
On the one hand, removing Lahoud now, particularly without
Berri's support, would throw the political situation in
Lebanon into disarray for a month or two, diverting attention
from the important rebuilding effort, but on the other hand,
it would remove one of the main obstacles to March 14
realizing some of its objectives, such as changing the LAF
leadership. If Lahoud can be ousted, on balance, it would be
positive and contribute to the weakening of Hizballah.
10. (C) Ahdab also seemed genuinely miffed by the
cliqueishness developing within the March 14 group, and we
detected a certain amount of wounded pride, since he
considers himself a founding member. We would be especially
concerned by a possible Maronite defection from the ranks of
March 14. In the coming days, we will assess the potential
for this and will keep people focused on getting a firm
reconstruction plan in place as soon as possible to combat
the perception that Hizballah is in control of the effort.
End Comment.

FELTMAN

16-04-2011 | 11:50


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