WikiLeaks quotes PSP leader MP Walid Jumblatt as having concerns over Hariri’s ’militias’, says Hariri’s absence ’bad sign’
A leaked US Embassy cable published exclusively in Al-Akhbar newspaper on Tuesday quoted the head of the Progressive Socialist Party MP Walid Jumblatt as saying he was concerned about reports that Saad Hariri's Future Movement was training Sunni militias in Beirut and Tripoli.
According to the cable, Jumblatt also expressed concerns about information he had received that former UNIIIC Commissioner Serge Brammertz failed to act for the past year-and-a-half to act on a key lead discovered by Internal Security Forces Intelligence Officer Wissam Eid, who was assassinated one week after he discussed the lead with Brammertz' replacement, Daniel Bellemare.
The cable also quoted Jumblatt as calling then Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Commander Michel Sleiman's announcement of early retirement "stupid," and saying the Patriarch was now favoring a "mini" cabinet.
HARIRI’S PROLONGED ABSENCE NOT GOOD
The cable says that then Charge Michel Sison, accompanied by Pol/Econ Chief, met with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt at his home in Clemenceau on April 8. Jumblatt was pleased to hear from the Charge that March 14 leader Saad Hariri would return to Lebanon before the April 17-18 visit of NEA A/S Welch. He agreed that Hariri’s prolonged absence was "not good," especially if it was for purely business reasons, and that the jokes circulating about Hariri abiding by the Saudi warning to its citizens to leave Lebanon were a "bad sign."
Jumblatt acknowledged that the current visit of PM Fouad Saniora to Saudi Arabia, where he would join Hariri in a meeting with King Abdullah, was a positive development. However, he noted, the Saudis had yet to follow through with their promised $1 billion deposit for Lebanon's Central Bank, he noted, which indicated they were "not serious."
HARIRI ESTABLISHING OWN SECURITY AGENCIES
According to the cable, Jumblatt raised during the meeting the issue of the reported training of Sunni militias in Lebanon (allegedly 15,000 members in Beirut and more in Tripoli). In establishing his own "security agencies" in Beirut and Tripoli, Saad Hariri was being badly advised by "some people," Jumblatt said, such as ISF General Ashraf Rifi.
In his meeting with Jumblatt, Hassan admitted having knowledge that members of Saad's Future movement were being trained. Hassan reportedly opposed such training, but "people around Saad" (i.e., Rifi) were telling him to go ahead.
Jumblatt said that what he called Hariri’s militia would cause significant damage to March 14, especially because Samier Geagea's Lebanese Forces and Suleiman Franjieh's Marada were in line to train their own forces.
MARCH 14 NOT UNITED
Meanwhile, Jumblatt complained that March 14 (in part due to Hariri’s absence) did not yet have a unified position on cabinet expansion, nor on how to respond to Speaker Nabih Berri's call for a new National Dialogue. Pulling out a power point presentation prepared by the March 14 Secretariat, he confirmed, however, that the Secretariat was consulting with March 14 leaders on the way forward. One of the Secretariat's ideas was to hold an international conference SIPDIS for Lebanon, though it was not clear how, where, or who would host such a conference. He agreed with the Charge that March 14 needed to be proactive, especially to combat the "Lebanon fatigue" that was spreading not only in the international community, but also in his hometown Chouf region, where the people he met with were fed up with the situation.
MICHEL SLEIMAN'S STATEMENT "STUPID"
According to the cable, Jumblatt also called then Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Commander Michel Sleiman's recent announcement that he planned to retire August 21, three months before the end of his commission, "stupid." Jumblatt interpreted the announcement as a warning to both the majority and opposition to hurry up with the election. It's as if he's asking us to beg him to stay, Jumblatt said. "He's a nice guy, but not too bright," he added.