Leaked US Embassy cable quotes LF chief as telling between 7,000 and 10,000 of his fighters ’ready’ to combat Hezbollah
A leaked US Embassy cable published exclusively in Al-Akhbar newspaper on Tuesday uncovered another Lebanese scandal: Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea telling US Ambassador to Lebanon Michele Sison that 10,000 LF fighters are ready to combat Hezbollah!
According to the cable, dated May 9, 2008, Geagea also stressed the importance of strengthening then Prime Minister Fouad Saniora, the Lebanese Army Commander Michel Sleiman and the Saniora government. He mentioned the idea of an Arab peacekeeping force in Lebanon.
GRAND SERAIL NATIONAL SYMBOL
According to the cable, Geagea made a surprise visit to the embassy, immediately following a five-hour meeting with 50 members of March 14 at his residence. Sison told Geagea that the March 14 declaration was very good.
Geagea reported that March 14 sent a delegation to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and another, led by his wife, MP Setrida Geagea, to Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Commander Michel Sleiman. Geagea said the latter delegation was blunt in delivering the message to Sleiman. The delegation implored General Sleiman to ensure the security of the Grand Serail, where Prime Minister Saniora lives and works, and the residences of all of the key political figures. If these institutions and their leaders stand fast, he said, we will win this round. Sisson concurred, saying that the Grand Serail in particular is a national symbol as well as a place of business.
BACK SANIORA ALL THE WAY
The cable went on to reveal that Geagea confirmed to his US host that Hezbollah was pressuring PM Saniora to resign, but that while some of Saniora’s (unnamed) advisors reportedly were contemplating the option earlier this morning, the PM is refusing.
Geagea requested the Charge to put a great deal of pressure on Sleiman and to back Saniora up "all the way." He also suggested Sison talk to Saad Hariri and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt to "keep their spirits high."
ARAB PEACEKEEPING FORCE VICTORY AGAINST HEZBOLLAH
During the same meeting, Geagea proposed requesting friendly Arab countries to dispatch an Arab peacekeeping force to Lebanon. He recommended lobbying Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, and other countries supportive of Lebanon, to agree to send troops. He estimated that 5,000 troops would be sufficient.
According to Geagea, such force would be a practical way to strengthen the Saniora government. If the Arab countries agree to send a peacekeeping force, Hezbollah will be in trouble, Geagea claimed. “It will be a victory, even if the Arab troops don’t wind up coming,” he went on to say.
The LF chief concluded that a UN or EU force were not good options.
LF READY TO COMBAT HEZBOLLAH
Yet, the most important part of the meeting was the “private” session between Geagea and Sisson.
According to the cable, Geagea stressed the need to push the Lebanese Army to do its job. However, he made it clear he wasn’t sure that the army would succeed.
If the army failed to protect Christian areas, Geagea said, Washington should know that he has between 7,000 and 10,000 well-trained Lebanese Forces fighters who could be mobilized. “We can fight against Hezbollah,” he stated with confidence. “We just need your support to get arms for these fighters,” he told the US official. “If the airport is still closed, amphibious deliveries could be facilitated.”