LEBANON: Wikileaks reveals cable saying defense minister gave Israel invasion advice [Updated]
Lebanon's Defense Minister Elias Murr told Americans the army would stay out of the way if Israel tried to wipe out Hezbollah, according to a secret March 2008 conversation revealed in a diplomatic cable revealed by WikiLeaks.
[Updated at 7:53 a.m.: The cable originated from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and was sent to the State Department in Washington.]
"Making clear that he was not responsible for passing messages to Israel, Murr told us that Israel would do well to avoid two things when it comes for Hizbollah," the cable read.
"One, it must not touch the Blue Line or the UNSCR 1701 areas as this will keep Hizbollah out of these areas," the memo read, referring to the southern Lebanese area now patrolled by thousands of international troops.
"Two, Israel cannot bomb bridges and infrastructure in the Christian areas," Murr was cited as saying.
The exact nature of Hezbollah's relationship to the state is not entirely clear, although the group's aim of confronting Israel is enshrined in the government policy statement and enjoys support across Lebanon.
A 2006 war was fought mainly between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hezbollah forces while the Lebanese army stood back. Any assistance or cooperation between the Lebanese army and Israel would be considered treason by many Lebanese, and Murr's assessments could easily be read as tacit collaboration.
The document is especially incriminating as Murr, a member of Lebanon's Christian community, is a presidential appointee, part of a supposedly neutral third bloc in the government.
"Murr is trying to ascertain how long an offensive would be required to clean out Hizballah... The LAF will move to pre-position food, money, and water with these units so they can stay on their bases when Israel comes for Hizbollah -- discreetly, Murr added," the cable read. "For Murr, the LAF's strategic objective was to survive a three week war 'completely intact' and able to take over once Hizbollah's militia has been destroyed."
The cable was published Thursday by the Lebanese daily Al Akhbar, which was given an advance copy of the documents by WikiLeaks.
-- Meris Lutz in Beirut
Photo: Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr arrives at the National Dialogue committee meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda east Beirut on Nov. 4. Credit: Wael Hamzeh / EPA