Lebanon: Sensational Wikileaks Scandal Sparks Debate

Lebanese bloggers, like much of the world, responded to sensational revelations found in the Wikileaks cables.

While Wikileaks are yet to release the bulk of the 2,045 US diplomatic cables it holds on Lebanon, the few it has thus far leaked have stirred the blogosphere.

One damning cable reveals the current Lebanese Minister of Defence, Elias Murr, allegedly advising Israel on how to attack Hezballah.

As expected, Lebanese bloggers pounced on the leak, with calls for Murr to be tried for treason.

Hanibaal at Lebanon Iznogood expressed outrage:

Defense Minister Elias Murr Worked with US and Israel against Hezbollah in 2008

The Lovely Facade of the Lebanese “Consensus” government: They talk to their people about the Israeli “enemy”, but beg US diplomats to tell the Israelis to “Clean Out” Hezbollah….

Shouldn't Minister Murr be arrested and tried for spying on behalf of the Israelis?

Minister Murr is likely target of revenge assassination by Hezbollah

The Angry Arab echoed similar sentiments:

There should be one political priority in Lebanon: the call for the resignation and trial of Al-Murr: who seems to give advice to Israel on how to beat Hizbullah and win support from the Lebanese population.  This corrupt politician was first appointed to office by Syrian intelligence and seems to have stayed in office with the support of other services.  Today, he said that his words were “partial”.  I am sure. He said worst things that were redacted.

Political analyst and blogger, Elias Muhanna, writes at Qifa Nabki that the leak may have “major implications” for Lebanon:

In the cable mentioned, the Lebanese Minister of Defense Elias al-Murr discusses with U.S. Embassy officials his preparations for an impending war with Israel, which involved sequestering the Lebanese Army in its bases until Hizbullah is destroyed. You should read the entire cable, but I’ll post the juiciest bits below.

What makes this leak especially damning is the fact that al-Murr specifically mentions his meeting with General Michel Sleiman (who, in March 2008, was  still the commander of the Lebanese Army, and not yet the President of Lebanon) and talks about sharing his plans with him. Today, al-Murr is considered to be one of the President’s key ministers, so it’s quite possible that the toxic nature of this scandal will spread beyond the Ministry of Defense all the way to the Presidential Palace.

There has been a lot of noise over the past few weeks from March 8 circles to the effect that President Sleiman is no longer considered a “consensual” president (because of his support for Hariri’s bid to table the false witness file until after the Special Tribunal for Lebanon “STL” indictment is released). The Wikileaks scandal is going to provide the perfect excuse  for Hizbullah and Aoun to go on the offensive again against the STL and the March 14 camp. I would not be surprised if Sleiman demands al-Murr’s resignation, just to save his own position.

Ghassan Karam, at Rational Republic, played down the consequences of the leak, stating that no one should be surprised by Murr's stance:

Was it really unexpected to hear Elias Murr, the Lebanese Minister of Defense telling the US ambassador that the Lebanese army will not engage the Israelis if and when a war between them and Hezbollah is waged? Yes it is highly embarrassing for a defense minister to speak so openly about the impotency of his armed forces but should that be a surprise when the Lebanese army is under-equipped, under-trained. It’s an army without ammunition.

Lebanese bloggers also offered their views on other Wikileaks matters, including a US diplomatic cable that accused Iran of smuggling weapons to Hezballah via the Iranian Red Crescent.

Beirut Spring comments on the Wikileaked allegation that Iran smuggled weapons to Hezballah via ambulances:

Iran used the Red Crescent to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah. If that is true, it would really be a shame for a body that lives off its neutrality.

SeifAndBeirut also offers his opinion on the Iranian smuggling allegations:

The most recent from Wikileaks… LEBANON! Here they are:

Iranian spies “used Red Crescent to enter war zones” in Iraq & Lebanon: http://bit.ly/fZA6kO

Iran uses medical shipments to Lebanon to deliver weapons to Hezbollah: http://bit.ly/hVvaGd

I am expecting many people to call these “lies”, but come on this is the guy who completely embarrassed the USA and UK. I can’t wait to see more.

It means, we have far more interference in Lebanon than we thought. It also means that Hezballah is much stronger and far more equiped than we have EVER thought.

The Angry Arab noted that the released documents were damaging to Arab regimes, but left Israel rather unscathed:

Many in the Arab world are expressing doubts and skepticism about Wikileaks.  I note to them–when they ask me the following.  The selection by the New York Times (and even by Guardian) is rather fishy.  There is not a single document that is embarrassing to Israel.  Not one.  The New York Times did a political hack job with the documents: it used them as a campaign to launch a war on Iran.  Yesterday, they drew a silly chart showing all those Arab leaders calling for a war on Iran.  The documents released is a small fraction of the total documents.  We have to wait for the total release.  Is it possible that the intelligence officer who released them protected Israel by holding off on some documents? The volume is too large for him to go through them, I think.  And most importantly, despite the release and the fanfare and the noise from the White House: there is nothing that is really embarrassing or revealing about the US government.  Only embarrassing about US puppets in the Middle East region.

The released cables are but a drop in the ocean of what further damning revelations Wikileaks is set to unleash on Lebanon.

The anxious wait for more information on Lebanon was felt by Frenchy on his blog, Le Liban:

On attend tous les révélations de Wikileaks sur le Tribunal International, l’Affaire des faux témoins dans l’assassinat de Rafic Hariri, l’implication américaine dans la guerre civile de 1975 à 1990, les documents sur le Liban comptant 3 cables secrets, 1655 télégrammes confidentiels et 388 non classés. 2045 documents à être analysés, ce n’est tout de même pas rien. L’Ambassade Américaine au Liban est au 29ème rang des ambassades les plus « publiées » dans le classement Wikileaks. Cela va pouvoir faire la lumière sur l’implication américaine dans l’Histoire moderne du Liban et mieux comprendre cette Histoire d’ailleurs. On peut donc en attendre 2045 autres.

We await all the revelations of Wikileaks on the International Tribunal, the affair of false witnesses in the assassination of Rafic Hariri, the American involvement in the Civil War from 1975-1990, the documents on Lebanon counting three secret cables, 1,655 confidential telegrams and 388 unclassified. A total of 2,045 documents have been analysed, it is not exactly nothing. The American Embassy of Lebanon is listed 29th of the embassies most published in the Wikileaks rankings. It will shed light on the American implication in Lebanon's modern history and better understand this history elsewhere. We, thus, await the 2,045 others.

Wikileaks has undoubtedly caused controversy in Lebanon, with potentially serious consequences. At the very least, the leaked US cables will only deepen the mistrust between rival Lebanese factions, fueling an already tense climate.

One now awaits to see what else Wikileaks has on Lebanon, and whether the fragile state can withstand the pressure the revelations will bring to its stability.


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