US embassy cable - 86DAMASCUS7104

CONTINUED WAR FOR THE PALESTINIAN CAMPS -- ANOTHER SYRIAN FAILURE?

Identifier: 86DAMASCUS7104
Wikileaks: View 86DAMASCUS7104 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Damascus
Created: 1986-12-01 15:26:00
Classification: SECRET
Tags: PREL MOPS LE SY
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 011526Z DEC 86
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7504
INFO AMEMBASSY BEIRUT IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY
USCINCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 DAMASCUS 07104 
 
PARIS FOR WINN 
 
E.O. 12356: DECL: OADR 
TAGS:  PREL, MOPS, LE, SY 
SUBJECT:  CONTINUED WAR FOR THE PALESTINIAN CAMPS -- 
          ANOTHER SYRIAN FAILURE? 
 
REF:  A) BEIRUT 6526, B) DAMASCUS 7043 
 
1.  SECRET - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  SUMMARY:  AS REFTELS POINT OUT, SYRIA APPEARS TO BE 
FACING A SUBSTANTIAL DEFEAT IF IT IS NOT ABLE TO QUICKLY 
AND RESOLUTELY RESOLVE THE LATEST ROUND IN THE "WAR OF 
THE CAMPS" IN LEBANON.  WE BELIEVE, HOWEVER, THAT THIS 
LATEST ROUND OF FIGHTING ALREADY REPRESENTS A SUBSTANTIAL 
FAILURE OF SYRIAN POLICY WHICH THREATENS TO ERODE 
DAMASCUS' STRATEGY TOWARDS THE PALESTINIANS AND ITS 
EFFORTS TO SABOTAGE THE PALESTINIAN RECONCILIATION 
PROCESS NOW GOING ON.  FURTHER IT DAMAGES SYRIA'S IMAGE 
WITHIN THE ARAB AND INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY AND 
INCREASINGLY CONTRIBUTES TO DISSENT WITHIN THE POLICY- 
MAKING PROCESS IN DAMASCUS ITSELF.  END SUMMARY. 
 
3.  WE CONCUR WITH EMBASSY BEIRUT (REFTEL) THAT THE 
CONTINUED FIGHTING BETWEEN AMAL AND THE PALESTINIANS, IN 
WHICH AMAL PERFORMANCE HAS BEEN SADLY DEFICIENT, 
REPRESENTS A MAJOR DILEMMA FOR SYRIAN POLICY-MAKERS. 
INDEED, WE WOULD GO FURTHER AND SAY THAT THE FAILURE TO 
RESOLVE THE FIGHTING AT THIS POINT ON TERMS ACCEPTABLE 
TO AMAL AND THE SYRIANS ALREADY REPRESENTS A SEVERE 
SYRIAN DEFEAT AND THREATENS TO FURTHER UNRAVEL DAMASCUS' 
ALREADY DISINTEGRATING PALESTINIAN POLICY. 
 
-- 
4.  A JORDANIAN JOURNALIST WITH EXCELLENT PALESTINIAN 
CONTACTS HAS TOLD US THAT IN THE CURRENT NEGOTIATIONS 
FOR A CEASEFIRE, THE PFLP -- THE ONLY MEMBER OF THE 
SYRIAN-BACKED PNSF WITH SUBSTANTIAL POPULAR SUPPORT AMONG 
THE PALESTINIANS -- HAS TAKEN A DECIDEDLY ANTI-SYRIAN 
LINE AND HAS SPLIT WITH THE MORE TRACTABLE PRO-SYRIAN 
ORGANIZATIONS, INCLUDING THE ABU MUSA FATAH GROUP, THE 
PFLP-GC, AND SAIQA.  ACCORDING TO THIS SOURCE, THE PFLP 
IS NEGOTIATING ON BEHALF OF ITSELF, THE DFLP, FATAH AND 
THE ABU NIDAL ORGANIZATION WITHIN THE CAMPS. 
SPECIFICALLY, THE PFLP NEGOTIATORS REFUSE TO TURN OVER 
TERRITORIES GAINED IN THE SIDON AREA TO ANYONE BUT 
MUSTAFA SA'ID'S POPULAR NASSARISTS MOVEMENT.  THE SCENARIO 
WE HAVE RECEIVED OF NEGOTIATIONS POSITS GREAT BITTERNESS 
BETWEEN THE PALESTINIANS AS A WHOLE ON THE ONE HAND AND 
NABIH BERRI AND THE SYRIAN GOVERNMENT ON THE OTHER, AS 
WELL AS A GREAT DEAL OF BACK-BITING WITHIN BOTH THE 
PALESTINIAN AND LEBANESE GROUPINGS. 
 
5.  THE MILITARY FAILURE ON THE GROUND IN LEBANON IS NOT 
DAMASCUS' ONLY DILEMMA.  AS IN PREVIOUS SYRIAN EFFORTS TO 
SUBJUGATE THE PALESTINIANS IN THE LEBANESE REFUGEE CAMPS 
THROUGH THE USE OF DAMASCUS' AMAL SURROGATE, THE LATEST 
FIGHTING HAS CREATED GREAT BITTERNESS AMONG OTHER ARAB 
GOVERNMENTS.  DAMASCUS IS PRESENTLY OR HAS RECENTLY BEEN 
HOST TO A VARIETY OF SENIOR ARAB AND ISLAMIC ENVOYS -- 
ALGERIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IBRAHIMI, LIBYA'S MAJOR JALLUD, 
SAUDI INTERIOR MINISTER PRINCE NAIF, AND A NUMBER OF 
SENIOR IRANIAN OFFICIALS.  WHILE JALLUD AND THE IRANIANS 
HAVE BECOME PERSONALLY INVOLVED IN THE PALESTINIAN/LEBAN- 
ESE NEGOTIATIONS, WE UNDERSTAND THAT BOTH THE ALGERIAN 
AND THE SAUDI DELIVERED TOUGH MESSAGES TO ASAD REGARDING 
THIS LATEST ASSAULT ON THE PALESTINIANS.  THE SYRIANS MAY 
HAVE BEEN ABLE TO TAKE SOME SMALL COMFORT IN THE ANNOUNCE- 
MENT BY THE "PAN-ARAB COMMAND" CALLING FOR SOLIDARITY WITH 
SYRIA AGAINST THE AMERICAN, BRITISH AND ISRAELI 
CONSPIRACY AGAINST IT, SUPPORT FOR AMAL, AND A REDEFINI- 
TION OF THE PALESTINIAN ROLE IN LEBANON.  THIS 
ORGANIZATION IS, HOWEVER, ONE OF LITTLE STANDING AMONG 
THE ARAB STATES AS A WHOLE, TO SAY THE LEAST, AND IS 
LARGELY A SYRIAN-LIBYAN CREATURE.  INDEED, EVEN THIS MINOR 
"VICTORY" AND JALLUD'S VERY CAREFUL STATEMENT OF 
MEASURED SUPPORT HAVE BEEN CONTRADICTED BY LIBYAN LEADER 
MO'AMMAR QADHAFI'S LATEST BLAST CONDEMNING AMAL. 
 
-- 
6.  AS WE UNDERSTAND IT, NOT ALL THE LEBANESE GATHERED 
HERE ARE IN FULL SUPPORT OF SYRIA EITHER.  WHILE NONE 
WANT TO SEE THE RECREATION OF THE PALESTINIAN "STATE- 
WITHIN-A-STATE" IN LEBANON, FEW ARE IN AGREEMENT WITH 
SYRIA THAT THIS TYPE OF MILITARY ACTION AGAINST THE CAMPS 
IS IN THE INTERESTS OF THE LEBANESE.  AS THEY SEE IT, 
LEBANESE MILITIAS ARE BEING ASKED TO DO SYRIA'S WORK FOR 
IT AND TO SHOULDER THE BLAME WITHIN THE ARAB COMMUNITY. 
DRUSE LEADER WALID JUMBLATT, ACCORDING TO REPORTS, FEELS 
PARTICULARLY SQUEEZED.  AMAL'S SH'IA RIVALS, HIZBALLAH, 
ARE NOT PARTICIPATING IN NEGOTIATIONS, AND, AS IN THE 
PAST, HAVE REFRAINED FROM GETTING INVOLVED IN THE 
FIGHTING.  AT THE SAME TIME, HIZBALLAH'S IRANIAN MENTORS 
ARE PARTICULARLY ACTIVE HERE.  OF INTEREST, PALESTINIANS 
TOLD OUR JORDANIAN SOURCE THAT SHAYKHOLESLAM EXPRESSED 
DEEP SYMPATHY FOR THE PALESTINIAN POSITION WHEN MEETING 
WITH PNSF LEADERS ON NOVEMBER 24.  ON THE EVENING OF 
NOVEMBER 27, HOWEVER, SHAYKHOLESLAM RETURNED TO THE 
PALESTINIAN LEADERSHIP COLDLY BEARING BERRI'S PROPOSALS. 
WE DO NOT, NEVERTHELESS, BELIEVE THAT IRAN'S BASIC 
DISAGREEMENT WITH THE SYRIAN STRATEGY TOWARDS LEBANON 
HAS CHANGED IN ANY WAY.  THEY WANT TO TAKE ASAD'S 
"LEBANESE CARD" AWAY FROM HIM. 
 
7.  WHAT IS CLEAR IS THAT THE PNSF LEADERS BLINDLY LOYAL 
TO DAMASCUS DO NOT HAVE ANY REAL ABILITY TO DELIVER THE 
PALESTINIAN FIGHTERS IN THE TYRE, SIDON, OR BEIRUT 
CAMPS.  WHAT IS NOW AT STAKE FOR DAMASCUS IS NOT MERELY 
AN EMBARRASSMENT THROUGH A MILITARY DEFEAT FOR ITS 
LEBANESE SURROGATES.  RATHER, SYRIA IS FACED WITH BITTER 
DIVISIONS WITHIN ITS OWN UMBRELLA PALESTINIAN ORGANIZA- 
TION THAT COULD FINALLY TEAR IT APART, LEAVING A RUMP OF 
"YES-MEN" WITH NO BROAD PALESTINIAN POPULAR SUPPORT. 
SYRIA COULD LOSE ITS "PALESTINIAN CARD." 
 
-- 
8.  THIS PARALLELS THE CURRENT STAGES OF THE PALESTINIAN 
RECONCILIATION EFFORT, WITH PFLP LEADER GEORGE HABASH 
NOW IN THE THIRD ROUND OF NEGOTIATIONS WITH FATAH 
NUMBER TWO MAN KHALIL AL-WAZIR IN ALGIERS.  ALTHOUGH 
HABASH CONTINUES TO HOLD OUT FOR HIS DEMANDS THAT 
INCLUDE PRIOR  ABROGATION OF THE AMMAN ACCORDS, 
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE ADEN-ALGIERS AGREEMENTS, AND PLO 
BREAKING OFF ITS CONTACTS WITH EGYPT, THE FACT THAT THE 
NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE IS DEEPLY DISTURBING TO DAMASCUS. 
KHALID FAHOUM HAS TOLD WESTERN DIPLOMATS THAT THE SYRIANS 
HAVE INFORMED THE DAMASCUS-BASED PALESTINIANS THAT ANY 
OF THEM ATTENDING AN ALGERIAN PNC WILL NOT BE PERMITTED 
TO RETURN TO SYRIA. 
 
9.  COMMENT:  THE CAMPS WAR REPRESENTS A MULTIFACETED, 
COMPLEX DILEMMA FOR DAMASCUS.  ITS IMPACT IS NOT MERELY 
ONE OF SYRIAN PRESTIGE AND SUPPORT OF ITS AMAL ALLY. 
IT HAS SIGNIFICANT IMPLICATIONS FOR ASAD'S PALESTINIAN 
POLICY, HIS IMAGE WITHIN THE ARAB WORLD, AND HIS PERSONAL 
RELATIONS WITH ARAB AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL - INCLUDING 
SOVIET - LEADERS.  CLOSER TO HOME, WE BELIEVE THAT THERE 
IS INTENSE INTERNAL DEBATE AMONG ASAD'S LIEUTENANTS 
AS TO HOW TO DEAL WITH BOTH THE CAMPS WAR AND LEBANON 
AS A WHOLE.  THUS FAR, ASAD DOES NOT SEEM TO HAVE A GRIP 
ON THE SITUATION.  THE LONGER THIS REMAINS THE CASE, THE 
MORE ROOM HIS LIEUTENANTS WILL HAVE TO MANEUVER AND TO 
INTRIGUE AGAINST ONE ANOTHER.  SEVERAL KEY SYRIAN 
OFFICIALS, AMONG THEM VICE PRESIDENT KHADDAM AND MILITARY 
INTELLIGENCE CHIEF ALI DUBA, HAVE GREAT PERSONAL 
INVOLVEMENT IN THE EVOLUTION OF SYRIA'S LEBANESE AND 
PALESTINIAN POLICIES.  FAILURE IS NOT USUALLY PERMITTED 
BY DAMASCUS UNDER ASAD.  HOWEVER, AS WE LOOK AROUND HERE, 
FAILURE SEEMS TO BE BECOMING AN INCREASING PHENOMENA 
WITHIN SYRIAN INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC POLICY. 
 
10.  MINIMIZE CONSIDERED. 
 
RANSOM 

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