US embassy cable - 95DAMASCUS5515

SYRIANS SEE PLOTS AND PRESSURE, QUESTION U.S. MOTIVES

Identifier: 95DAMASCUS5515
Wikileaks: View 95DAMASCUS5515 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Damascus
Created: 1995-10-19 16:58:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL SY US IS LE
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 191658Z OCT 95
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9787
INFO AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 
AMEMBASSY RIYADH 
AMEMBASSY PARIS 
AMEMBASSY LONDON 
AMEMBASSY CAIRO 
AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 
AMEMBASSY AMMAN 
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 DAMASCUS 005515 
 
 
LONDON FOR TUELLER; PARIS FOR ALLEGRONE 
 
E.O. 12356: DECL: 10/19/2005 
TAGS: PREL, SY, US, IS, LE 
SUBJECT: SYRIANS SEE PLOTS AND PRESSURE, 
         QUESTION U.S. MOTIVES 
 
1.  CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  SUMMARY.  IN THE CONTINUING ABSENCE OF FOREIGN 
MINISTER SHARA IN CARTAGENA AND NEW YORK, SENIOR 
MFA OFFICIALS HAVE TAKEN EVERY AVAILABLE 
OPPORTUNITY SHORT OF CALLING US IN TO VENT THEIR 
SPLEENS OVER WHAT THEY SEE AS RENEWED ATTEMPTS TO 
PUT PRESSURE ON SYRIA AND WEAKEN ITS POSITION 
VIS-A-VIS ISRAEL.  OUR MFA INTERLOCUTORS HAVE 
FOCUSED ON TWO RECENT DEVELOPMENTS: (A) WHAT THEY 
VIEW AS AN "UNBALANCED" U.S. POSTURE ON RECENT 
EVENTS IN SOUTHERN LEBANON AND (B) "TENDENTIOUS" 
ACCUSATIONS THAT COUNTERFEIT U.S. CURRENCY MAY BE 
PRODUCED IN SYRIA OR LEBANON.  SHARA WOULD 
CERTAINLY ASSOCIATE HIMSELF WITH THEIR VIEWS, AND 
THIS MAY ADD AN EDGE TO ANY FUTURE HIGH-LEVEL 
CONTACTS.  END SUMMARY. 
 
3.  ON OCTOBER 18, DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER SHAKKUR 
AND MFA AMERICAS DIRECTOR JAZZAR SOUGHT THE 
AMBASSADOR OUT SEPARATELY AT A RECEPTION TO 
COMPLAIN ABOUT (A) WHAT THEY VIEW AS AN 
"UNBALANCED" U.S. POSTURE ON RECENT EVENTS IN 
SOUTHERN LEBANON, AS EXEMPLIFIED IN THE 
DEPARTMENT'S OCTOBER 16 PRESS BRIEFING, AND (B) 
"TENDENTIOUS" ACCUSATIONS THAT COUNTERFEIT U.S. 
CURRENCY MAY BE PRODUCED IN SYRIA OR LEBANON AND 
PROTECTED BY THE SYRIAN MILITARY, AS "MANY AT THE 
STATE DEPARTMENT" CONSIDER TO BE A "FACT," 
ACCORDING TO AN ARTICLE IN THE OCTOBER 23 ISSUE OF 
"THE NEW YORKER."  THEY REACTED TO BOTH 
DEVELOPMENTS ALONG SIMILAR LINES. 
 
4.  ON OUR POSTURE WITH REGARD TO SOUTHERN 
LEBANON, AS ENUNCIATED OCTOBER 16, THEY ARGUED 
THAT: 
 
-- NO ONE SHOULD FORGET -- AS IT WOULD APPEAR MANY 
HAVE -- THAT SOUTHERN LEBANON REMAINS UNDER 
ISRAELI OCCUPATION, THAT HIZBALLAH IS EXERCISING 
THE LEGITIMATE RIGHT OF LEBANESE TO RESIST 
OCCUPATION FORCES, AND THAT THIS RIGHT IS BEING 
EXERCISED AGAINST THE BACKGROUND OF DAILY SHELLING 
AND BOMBING OF LEBANESE VILLAGES AND NUMEROUS 
CIVILIAN CASUALTIES. 
 
-- HIZBALLAH, AS A FORCE THAT CRYSTALLIZES 
LEBANESE OPPOSITION TO ISRAELI OCCUPATION, 
EXPRESSES THIS OPPOSITION INDEPENDENTLY OF OUTSIDE 
ACTORS. 
 
-- SYRIA RECOGNIZES THE RIGHT OF LEBANESE TO 
RESIST THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION THROUGH ATTACKS ON 
ISRAELI MILITARY PERSONNEL IN THE OCCUPIED ZONE. 
AT THE SAME TIME, IT RECOGNIZES THAT AN ESCALATION 
OF THE SITUATION COULD HARM THE PEACE PROCESS. 
 
-- SYRIA DOES HAVE INFLUENCE WITH HIZBALLAH AND 
HAS USED IT ON MANY OCCASIONS IN THE PAST, WHEN 
VIOLENCE HAS ESCALATED TO A DANGEROUS LEVEL AND 
WHEN SYRIA WAS SATISFIED THAT WE WERE URGING 
RESTRAINT ON THE ISRAELIS TO TAMP DOWN WHAT WE 
HAVE TRADITIONALLY CALLED "THE CONTINUING CYCLE OF 
VIOLENCE." 
 
-- ON THIS OCCASION, HOWEVER, WE CHOSE TO SOLICIT 
SYRIAN ASSISTANCE "IN AN INCOMPREHENSIBLE 
MANNER."  FIRST, OF ALL, WE DID IT IN PUBLIC. 
SECOND OF ALL, WE GROUNDED OUR SOLICITATION IN 
WHAT WAS, FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES, THE 
ISRAELI VIEW OF EVENTS, ABANDONING OUR TRADITIONAL 
 
-- AND MINIMALLY ACCEPTABLE -- LINE ABOUT "THE 
CYCLE OF VIOLENCE," CALLING LEBANESE RESISTANCE 
"TERRORISM," ESCHEWING ANY MENTION OF THE CONTEXT 
OF THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION, FOCUSING EXCLUSIVELY ON 
ISRAELI LOSSES, AND FOCUSING ON SYRIA AS THE PARTY 
PRINCIPALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR CONTROLLING THE LEVEL 
OF VIOLENCE IN SOUTHERN LEBANON. 
 
-- ALL OF THIS LED SYRIAN LEADERS TO QUESTION ONCE 
AGAIN THE IMPARTIALITY OF THE U.S. AS "AN HONEST 
BROKER" IN THE PEACE PROCESS AND TO SUSPECT THAT 
"CERTAIN PEOPLE" HAD ENGINEERED A CHANGE IN OUR 
STANCE. 
 
5.  ON THE ALLEGATION THAT SYRIA MIGHT BE THE 
LOCUS OF COUNTERFEITING, THE AMBASSADOR'S 
INTERLOCUTORS NOTED THAT: 
 
-- NOT ONCE DURING THE SUCCESSIVE VISITS OF EXPERT 
DELEGATIONS TO SYRIA HAD THIS POSSIBILITY BEEN 
MENTIONED. 
 
-- SYRIA HAD NO CAPABILITY TO PRODUCE NOTES OF THE 
HIGH QUALITY BEING CITED.  IF IT DID, IT WOULD 
HAVE NO NEED TO HAVE ITS OWN CURRENCY PRINTED 
ABROAD. 
 
-- FURTHERMORE, SYRIA HAD NO INTEREST IN BRINGING 
THE INTEGRITY OF U.S. CURRENCY INTO QUESTION, 
"SINCE EVERY SYRIAN PROBABLY HOLDS QUANTITIES OF 
DOLLARS." 
 
-- AS A MATTER OF POLICY, SYRIA WAS DEEPLY OPPOSED 
TO COUNTERFEITING OF ANY KIND AND WAS SUPPORTING 
ONGOING LEBANESE EFFORTS TO TRACK DOWN 
COUNTERFEITERS ACTIVE IN LEBANON. 
 
-- AGAIN, AS WITH OUR "NEW STANCE" ON SOUTHERN 
LEBANON, SYRIAN LEADERS HAD TO QUESTION THE 
MOTIVES OF THOSE WHO HAD FLOATED THIS TENDENTIOUS 
ALLEGATION. 
 
6.  THE AMBASSADOR NOTED TO SHAKKUR AND JAZZAR 
THAT WE REMAINED OPPOSED TO VIOLENCE AND COMMITTED 
TO NEGOTIATIONS AS A WAY OF BRINGING THE ISRAELI 
PRESENCE IN SOUTHERN LEBANON TO AN END, THAT 
INDEED WE LOOKED TO SYRIA TO HELP CALM THE 
SITUATION, AND THAT WE WERE UNDOUBTEDLY LOOKING TO 
THE ISRAELIS TO DO THE SAME.  NEITHER WAS 
CONVINCED, CITING ONCE AGAIN THE "ONE-SIDED" 
STANCE WE HAD TAKEN ON OCTOBER 16 AND THE 
INAPPROPRIATENESS OF USING A PUBLIC FORUM TO SEEK 
SYRIAN HELP. 
 
7.  THE AMBASSADOR ALSO NOTED THAT, TO THE BEST OF 
HIS INFORMATION, WE DID NOT BELIEVE THAT SYRIA WAS 
THE LOCUS OF COUNTERFEITING OF U.S. CURRENCY AND 
THAT THE SOURCES CITED BY "THE NEW YORKER" WERE 
EITHER MISINFORMED OR SPECULATING.  IT HAD BEEN 
AGREED AT THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF OUR TWO 
GOVERNMENTS THAT WE WOULD WORK TOGETHER TO COUNTER 
THIS ACTIVITY, AND WE LOOKED FORWARD TO CONTINUING 
TO DO SO. 
 
8.  SHAKKUR CLOSED OFF THE DISCUSSION BY 
EMPHASIZING THAT, IF ANYONE IN THE U.S. THOUGHT 
THAT PRESSURE TACTICS WOULD WORK WITH SYRIA, THEY 
COULD NOT BE MORE WRONG.  PRESSURE MERELY 
INCREASED THE RESOLVE OF SYRIAN LEADERS TO STAY 
THE COURSE.  PRESIDENT CLINTON AND SECRETARY 
CHRISTOPHER UNDERSTOOD THE PROPER WAY TO DEAL WITH 
THE SYRIAN LEADERSHIP, BUT "OTHERS" EVIDENTLY DID 
NOT. 
 
9.  ON OCTOBER 19, JAZZAR WENT ON THE OFFENSIVE 
AGAIN DURING A MEETING WITH POLOFF ON THE UPCOMING 
CUBAN RESOLUTION AT THE UNGA.  HE DESCRIBED OUR 
OCTOBER 16 STATEMENT AS "HORRIBLE" AND ASKED AGAIN 
WHY WE HAD MADE SUCH A MAJOR CHANGE IN OUR 
CUSTOMARY LINE ON THIS ISSUE.  "WHY IS THE U.S. 
ASKING SYRIA TO USE ITS INFLUENCE WITH HIZBALLAH 
TO PREVENT LEGITIMATE RESISTANCE TO ISRAEL'S 
OCCUPATION OF SOUTHERN LEBANON?  IT SOUNDS AS IF 
YOU HAVE ENDORSED THE OCCUPATION AND THAT YOU 
CONDEMN ALL RESISTANCE TO IT."  JAZZAR WENT ON TO 
SAY THAT "SYRIA CAN SWALLOW, ALTHOUGH WITH A 
GRIMACE," OUR CUSTOMARY RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS ON 
THIS ISSUE, BUT THE LATEST STATEMENT WAS A MAJOR 
DEPARTURE. 
 
10.  POLOFF READ JAZZAR THE DEPARTMENT'S GUIDANCE 
ON RECENT VIOLENCE IN SOUTHERN LEBANON (STATE 
254743).  JAZZAR REPLIED THAT "THIS IS YOUR USUAL 
STATEMENT, BUT IT IS NOT WHAT MR. BURNS SAID.  HE 
SAID MUCH MORE THAN THAT.  WHAT HE SAID GIVES 
HIZBALLAH MORE CREDIBILITY.  THE RESISTANCE IS NOT 
ATTACKING CHILDREN OR CIVILIANS.  IT IS ATTACKING 
MILITARY TARGETS -- THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION FORCE. 
THAT IS NOT TERRORISM.  SYRIA WILL NOT TAKE STEPS 
TO STOP LEGITIMATE RESISTANCE TO OCCUPATION." 
 
11.  AN OCTOBER 18 EDITORIAL IN THE 
ENGLISH-LANGUAGE "SYRIA TIMES" ECHOED THESE 
THEMES: THE DEPARTMENTAL SPOKESMAN'S OCTOBER 16 
STATEMENT "WAS NOT IN LINE WITH THE DECLARED U.S. 
POLICY THAT SUPPORTED THE IMPLEMENTATION OF U.N. 
RESOLUTIONS."  REFLECTING THE FEELING THAT THE 
STATEMENT DIFFERED FROM PREVIOUS ONES, THE 
EDITORIAL CONTINUED THAT "PRESSURE SHOULD NOT BE 
DIRECTED AGAINST THE VICTIMS, BUT AGAINST THE 
OPPRESSORS."  PREDICTABLY, IT WENT ON TO SAY THAT 
"OPERATIONS AGAINST OCCUPATION ARE A KIND OF 
SELF-DEFENSE, NO MATTER WHAT THE U.S. STATE 
DEPARTMENT THINKS OR SAYS." 
 
12.  COMMENT: SHARA WOULD CERTAINLY ASSOCIATE 
HIMSELF WITH SUCH VIEWS.  COMBINED WITH STANDING 
SYRIAN COMPLAINTS ABOUT BEING SINGLED OUT FOR 
BLAME OVER THE IMPASSE IN THE SYRIAN TRACK, "WHEN 
RABIN HIMSELF DOES NOT WANT TO MOVE," AND 
LINGERING SYRIANS SUSPICIONS ABOUT OUR PATTERN OF 
CONSULTATIONS ON IRAQ, THESE NEW CONCERNS MAY WELL 
ADD AN EDGE TO FUTURE HIGH-LEVEL CONTACTS BETWEEN 
OUR TWO GOVERNMENTS. 
 
13.  THE BEST WAY TO GET SYRIA TO REIN HIZBALLAH 
IN HAS ALWAYS BEEN TO USE PRIVATE APPROACHES FIRST 
AND THEN BUTTRESS THEM WITH PUBLIC STATEMENTS THAT 
CALL ON ALL PARTIES WITH A ROLE IN SOUTHERN 
LEBANON TO HELP CALM THE SITUATION.  EVEN IF THE 
SYRIANS FIND IT IN THEIR INTEREST TO COUNSEL 
RESTRAINT ON HIZBALLAH ON THIS OCCASION, OUR 
LATEST STATEMENTS HAVE RUBBED THEM IN ALL THE 
WRONG WAYS, INCREASING THEIR FEARS THAT THEY ARE 
BEING PRESSURED AND ISOLATED AND POTENTIALLY 
MAKING THEM EVEN MORE RIGID IN DISCUSSING THE 
PEACE PROCESS. 
 
14.  SIMILARLY, THE SPECULATIVE STATEMENTS OF 
UNNAMED DEPARTMENTAL OFFICIALS ON SYRIA'S ALLEGED 
ROLE IN PRINTING COUNTERFEIT U.S. CURRENCY WILL 
NOT ONLY RENDER FUTURE COOPERATION IN TRACKING THE 
CULPRITS DOWN MORE DIFFICULT, BUT WILL ALSO FEED 
THE SAME FEARS OF PRESSURE AND ISOLATION. 
 
ROSS 

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