US embassy cable - 85BEIRUT1014

HIZBALLAH ON THE MOVE

Identifier: 85BEIRUT1014
Wikileaks: View 85BEIRUT1014 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Beirut
Created: 1985-02-19 13:22:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PINT LE
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 191322Z FEB 85
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1806
INFO AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY
AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 01014 
 
E.O. 12356: DECL: OADR 
TAGS: PINT, LE 
SUBJECT: HIZBALLAH ON THE MOVE 
 
1.  C-ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  BEGIN SUMMARY:  SOME WEEKS AGO, IN A MESSAGE ON 
POTENTIAL NEW HIZBALLAH TACTICS IN THE WAKE OF THE 
JENCO KIDNAPPING AND THE MURDER OF TWO FRENCH MILITARY 
OBSERVERS, EMBASSY BEIRUT SPECULATED THAT HIZBALLAH IS 
BEGINNING TO SHIFT TOWARD A MORE PUBLIC, VISIBLE STANCE, 
PARTLY BECAUSE WE THOUGHT THEY FELT STRONG ENOUGH.  WE 
NOW HAVE MORE EVIDENCE OF THIS.  FIRST, ON FEBRUARY 16 
HIZBALLAH ISSUED ITS FIRST PUBLIC PROGRAMMATIC MANIFESTO 
(BEIRUT 1013), INTER ALIA, CALLING FOR THE DEPARTURE OF 
THE US, FRANCE AND THEIR ALLIES FROM LEBANON AND THE 
ESTABLISHMENT OF AN ISLAMIC REGIME.  SECOND, ON 
FEBRUARY 18, ARMED HIZBALLAH DEMONSTRATORS, VARIOUSLY 
NUMBERED AT 1500-12,000, WERE BUSSED TO SIDON FROM BEIRUT 
AND CONTROLLED THE CITY'S STREETS FOR A DAY AS ARMY 
STOOD BY.  THIS WAS AN OMINOUS DEMONSTRATION OF STRENGTH 
AND WILL AND ABILITY TO ACT THAT WILL SHARPEN EXISTING 
BATTLE LINES AND TENSIONS IN LEBANON.  END SUMMARY. 
 
3.  BUSLOADS OF HEAVILY ARMED HIZBALLAH DEMONSTRATORS, 
BOTH MEN AND WOMEN AND ESTIMATED BY WESTERN NEWS AGENCIES 
TO NUMBER 1500-12,000, DROVE FROM BEIRUT TO SIDON ON 
FEBRUARY 18 TO MARCH THROUGH CITY STREETS, BURNING THE 
LEBANESE FLAG AND SHOUTING SLOGANS AGAINST PRESIDENT 
GEMAYEL.  SOME 20 SHOPS SELLING ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES 
WERE SACKED.  AS SIDON RESIDENTS AND LAF TROOPS LOOKED 
ON WITHOUT INTERVENING, DEMONSTRATORS ARMED WITH AK-47S 
AND ROCKET-PROPELLED GRENADES RALLIED IN CITY SQUARES, 
SHOUTING SLOGANS SUCH AS "DEATH TO GEMAYEL," "SIDON IS 
MUSLIM AND CANNOT BE RULED BY A MARONITE," AND "GEMAYEL 
IS AN AGENT."  DEMONSTRATORS WAVED IRANIAN AND HIZBALLAH 
FLAGS AND CARRIED PICTURES OF AYATOLLAH KHOMEINI.  A 
SMALLER GROUP OF AMAL MEMBERS CONDUCTED THEIR OWN 
DEMONSTRATION SEPARATE FROM THAT OF HIZBALLAH.  (AMAL 
LATER ISSUED A STATEMENT DENOUNCING THE HIZBALLAH RALLIES 
AND CONDEMNING THE VIOLENCE.) 
 
4.  ACCORDING TO PRESS REPORTS, AT THE ARMY CHECKPOINT AT 
KHALDE, LAF TROOPS CHEERED AND WAVED THE BUS CONVOY 
THROUGH, WHILE PSP MILITIAMEN FURTHER SOUTH ALSO 
WELCOMED IT. 
 
5.  IN AN INTERVIEW WITH THE DAILY STAR, SIDON DEPUTY 
NAZIH BIZRI, A SUNNI, EXPRESSED DISMAY THAT THE 
MILITIAMEN IGNORED THE AGREEMENT REACHED BY SIDON'S 
LEADERS NOT TO ALLOW THE BEARING OF ARMS IN THE CITY.  HE 
SAID THAT THE PEOPLE OF SIDON WERE CROSS AND ANGRY, BUT 
THAT THE INCIDENT WILL NOT SPOIL THE UNITY OF THE CITY. 
HE SAID THAT THE ARMY DID NOT INTERVENE IN ORDER NOT TO 
PROVOKE A CLASH.  ON MONDAY, A GROUP OF SIDON SUNNI 
NOTABLES ISSUED A COMMUNIQUE CONDEMNING MONDAY'S "ARMED 
AND MASSIVE" DEMONSTRATION.  "WE WILL NOT ALLOW ANYONE, 
REGARDLESS OF FACTION, TO VIOLATE THE DECISION TO BAN 
ARMS FROM THE LIBERATED CITY, OTHER THAN THOSE OF THE 
ARMY AND THE ISF." 
 
6.  COMMENT: THE FEBRUARY 16 MANIFESTO AND MONDAY'S 
DEMONSTRATION MARK A NEW STEP BY HIZBALLAH TOWARDS BE- 
COMING AN ACTIVE POLITICAL MOVEMENT OVERTLY DECLARING 
AND PURSUING ITS GOAL OF THE ISLAMICIZATION OF LEBANON. 
AT A MINIMUM, THIS MEANS THAT THE TENSIONS AND BATTLE 
LINES AMONG COMPETING FORCES IN LEBANON WILL BE MUCH 
MORE SHARPLY DRAWN: 
 
A.  WITHIN THE SHIA COMMUNITY.  THE MONDAY DEMONSTRATIONS 
PROVIDED GRAPHIC EVIDENCE OF AMAL-HIZBALLAH RIVALRY. 
PRESS REPORTS SPOKE OF EVIDENT DISPLEASURE ON THE PART 
OF AMAL DEMONSTRATORS, WHILE AMAL'S LATER DENUNCIATION 
OF THE DEMONSTRATION IS THE FIRST EXPLICIT DISAPPROVAL OF 
THIS TYPE THAT WE CAN RECALL.  MOREOVER, HIZBALLAH HAS 
CLEARLY MARKED OUT ITS FUTURE POLITICAL IDENTITY IN 
LEBANON--IN THE SIDON RALLIES, ITS SLOGANS SUPPORTING 
AN ISLAMIC REPUBLIC TOOK PRIDE OF PLACE OVER AMAL'S 
CALLS FOR THROWING THE ISRAELIS OUT OF THE SOUTH. 
 
B.  SUNNI-SHIA.  HIZBALLAH'S RALLY IN THE VERY HEART 
OF THE SUNNI CAPITAL OF THE SOUTH RECALLS THE WORST FEARS 
OF THE SUNNIS, AS EVIDENCED BY THEIR COMMUNIQUE.  IN 
FURTHER SUNNI REACTION, A DELEGATION FROM THE SUNNI 
CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION MAQASSAD (WHICH IS HEADED BY 
SAIB SALAM'S SON TAMAM) IS TRAVELLING TO SIDON ON 
TUESDAY IN THE WAKE OF REPORTS THAT A PTT EMPLOYEE HAS 
BEEN KILLED BY ARMED MEN NEWLY APPEARING ON CITY STREETS. 
 
C.  THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY.  THE MONDAY DEMONSTRATIONS 
WILL ALSO EVOKE THE WORST FEARS OF THE CHRISTIAN 
COMMUNITY, FURTHER PROVOKING A DEFENSIVE, SEIGE 
MENTALITY AND PUTTING MORE OBSTACLES IN THE WAY OF THE 
POLITICAL PROCESS.  WE ARE STRUCK, FOR EXAMPLE, BY 
HIZBALLAH'S SINGLING OUT THE PHALANGE IN ITS WEEKEND 
COMMUNIQUE AND BY ITS ATTACKS ON GEMAYEL.  THIS, 
TOGETHER WITH JUMBLATT'S HEATED RHETORIC AGAINST THE 
REGIME AND MIMICKING OF THE ISLAMIC CAUSE OVER THE 
WEEKEND (BEIRUT 0993),WILL HARDLY ENCOURAGE ANY 
CHRISTIAN TENDENCIES TOWARD FLEXIBILITY. 
D.  SECURITY AND THE ROLE OF THE ARMY.  THE LIMP 
AND EVEN HARMFUL PERFORMANCE OF THE ARMY ON MONDAY HAS 
ABRUPTLY NULLIFIED THE EUPHORIA OF THE SIDON CITIZENRY 
AS A RESULT OF THE LAF'S TRIUMPHAL ENTRY INTO THE CITY 
ON SATURDAY.  PRECISELY WHEN IT WAS EXPECTED TO MAINTAIN 
ORDER AND TO SUPPORT SIDON NOTABLES' CALLS FOR 
"DISARMAMENT," THE LAF FAILED ITS FIRST, AND PERHAPS 
MOST CRUCIAL, TEST. 
 
7.  IN ONE SENSE, IT CAN BE ARGUED THAT THE MORE 
HIZBALLAH COMES OUT OF THE WOODWORK AND BATTLE LINES 
ARE DRAWN, THE BETTER THE SITUATION IS IN TERMS OF 
GALVANIZING BARRI (WHOM WE HAVE BEEN WARNING ON THIS 
VERY TOPIC FOR SOME TIME) AND THE SUNNIS, AT LEAST 
IN SIDON.  ONE THING IS CLEAR: FEW LEBANESE OF ANY 
COMMUNITY OR PERSUASION WANT TO LIVE IN AN ISLAMIC 
REPUBLIC.  (THE BULK OF THE SHIA DO NOT FOLLOW THIS LINE 
YET, ALTHOUGH IT MAY HAVE CONSIDERABLE LATENT STRENGTH.) 
IN ANY EVENT, ON THIS POINT, THERE IS A TIE THAT BINDS 
THE GREAT MAJORITY OF MUSLIMS TO THE GREAT MAJORITY 
OF CHRISTIANS.  ACCORDINGLY, IT SHOULD BE POSSIBLE TO 
FIND A BASIS FOR CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM COOPERATION IN MEETING 
A THREAT TO ALL OF THEM WHICH IS GREATER THAN ANY 
DIFFERENCES THAT MAY SEPARATE THEM.  THEN AGAIN, THIS 
IS LEBANON.  IN ANY CASE, WE WILL BE CLOSELY TRACKING 
THE REACTION TO THE SIDON DEMONSTRATIONS, PARTICULARLY 
ON THE PART OF THE MODERATE SHIAS. 
 
BARTHOLOMEW 

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