Hizbullah parade 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
BEIRUT — Lebanon's defense minister offered US officials advice on how Israel could defeat Hizbullah in a future war and vowed to keep the Lebanese army out of the fighting, according to secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.
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That memo and another secret cable that revealed US secret spy flights over Hizbullah locations in Lebanon in 2008 are sure to fuel tensions.
A UN tribunal is expected to issue indictments in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, possibly as early as this month.
The tribunal has caused deep divisions within Lebanon's government, which includes Hizbullah along with pro-Western blocs led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the son of the slain leader.
There are fears of an outbreak of violence if the court indicts members of Hizbullah, which claims the court is bias.
The tribunal has exacerbated tensions and a deep mistrust between Hizbullah and Hariri's coalition. Hizbullah has accused members of the coalition of collaborating with the US against the group, including during the monthlong 2006 war between Israel and the group.
The diplomatic records exposed on the WikiLeaks website this week revealed a 2008 conversation between the Lebanese Defense Minister, Elias Murr, and US officials in Lebanon, in which he offered advice on how Israel could defeat Hizbullah in a future war.
Although he made clear he is not responsible for passing on messages to
Israel, he said the Israelis should, for instance, avoid bombing bridges
and infrastructure in Christian areas in a future war, so as not to
turn public opinion against them.
"If Israel has to bomb all of these places in the Shiite areas as a
matter of operational concern, that is Hizbullah's problem," Murr
Murr also said the Lebanese army would not get involved in the next war,
adding that the objective was for the army to survive a three week war
"completely intact" and to be able to "take over once Hizbullah's
militia has been destroyed."
The classified memo was published in full on Thursday by the Lebanese
daily Al-Akhbar, which was given an advance copy of the document by
Murr's office on Thursday denied he had made the comments, saying the report was "out of context and inaccurate."
Another memo released by WikiLeaks on Wednesday revealed the US in 2008
flew secret spy plane missions over Hizbullah locations in Lebanon. The
planes, which used foreign British airbases, collected intelligence that
was passed on to third party governments including Lebanon, according
to the memo.
British officials reportedly complained to US diplomats about the secret
American spy flights using foreign UK airbases, fearing that the data
collected during those missions could implicate their country in
potential human rights violations.
The documents were part of more than 250,000 cables from hundreds of US
embassies around the world obtained by WikiLeaks, and posted on its
website. The trove of secret material has been published by newspapers
worldwide, embarrassing the US government and numerous foreign leaders.