Saad al-Hariri visits Tehran amid political standoff at home over the UN investigation into his father’s murder.
|Murr, right, reportedly said Israel should desist from bombing Christian areas while attacking Hezbollah [EPA]|
Lebanon’s defence minister offered advice to Israel in 2008 on how they might defeat Hezbollah, the Shia group based in southern Lebanon, according to US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.
The memo, published in Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, showed Elias Murr telling US officials that areas under Hezbollah control would not receive Lebanese forces’ protection from attacks.
“If Israel has to bomb all of these places in the Shia areas as a matter of operational concern, that is Hezbollah’s problem,” Murr reportedly said.
The minister also said that any Israeli attack on Lebanon should avoid bombing Christian areas, to stop public opinion turning against them.
“Murr told us that Israel would do well to avoid two things when it comes for Hezbollah,” the US officials are quoted as saying.
“One, it must not touch the Blue Line or the UNSCR 1701 areas as this will keep Hezbollah out of these areas,” said the memo, referring to the border region in southern Lebanon patrolled by UN peacekeepers.
“Two, Israel cannot bomb bridges and infrastructure in the Christian areas,” Murr is cited as stating.
However, Murr said that he was not responsible for passing on messages to Israel.
In the March 10 meeting, Murr added that the Lebanese army would avoid taking part in any future war, but the military would be ready to “take over, once Hezbollah’s militia has been destroyed”.
George Soulage, Murr’s principal aide, said Murr had met with Michele Sison, then US ambassador, but refuted the accusation of the leak, stating: “The information posted by WikiLeaks is not complete and is not accurate.
“The aim behind this is to sow discord in Lebanon.
“The cable does not reflect the truth about what happened during the meeting and it has no value.”
The memo states that in the meeting Murr expressed fears that another war between Hezbollah and Israel was imminent, following their battle in 2006.
Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese general, told Al Jazeera that the cable had to be taken in context: “The meeting was like two hours and a half. And it depends who wrote this paper, what is his style and what does he want to do.
“In our field, there is a lot of difference between analyses and real intelligence. This cable is about real intelligence you don’t have to go and analyse it. It will cause political uproar in Lebanon … it will create political problems.
“The damage is done for his political career. “
Another memo reveals that the US secretly flew reconnaissance flights over Hezbollah locations in 2008, using British airbases.
UK officials reportedly complained about the use of their national airbases to launch the missions.
The revelations will cause tensions to rise between Hezbollah and Lebanon’s Western-backed government.
It comes when the potentially explosive outcome of a UN tribunal to uncover the perpetrators of the 2005 assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the ex-prime minister of Lebanon, could be announced this month.
Members of Hezbollah – that claims the trial is biased – could be indicted by the court. Many people fear that such an outcome could ignite violence.
The WikiLeaks website began releasing more than 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables on Sunday, infuriating Washington, which called the leaks an “attack on the international community”.