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Viewing cable 09TELAVIV2502, 40TH JPMG: NEA REGIONAL DISCUSSION (PART 3 OF 4)

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TELAVIV2502 2009-11-18 14:02 2010-11-28 18:06 SECRET Embassy Tel Aviv
VZCZCXRO1504
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHTV #2502/01 3221434
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 181434Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4262
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/18/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS PTER KWBG EG IR SA LE IS
SUBJECT: 40TH JPMG: NEA REGIONAL DISCUSSION (PART 3 OF 4)

Classified By: A/DCM Marc Sievers, reasons 1.4 (b),(d)

1. (S) Summary: As part of the 40th Joint Political Military
Group (JPMG), U.S. and GOI counterparts discussed security
issues in the Near East region. GOI officials expressed
support for the P5 plus 1 engagement process with Iran, but
doubted the process would lead to any change in Iranian
behavior -- Iran will use the engagement process as an
opportunity to continue its pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
Assistant Secretary for Political Military Affairs Andrew
Shapiro stressed that engagement with Tehran was not "open
ended"; the United States is preparing sanctions in the event
engagement does not prove successful. GOI interlocutors
continued to express concerns regarding U.S. support of the
Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF); U.S. participants reiterated
U.S. support of the LAF as a counterweight to Hizballah. A/S
Shapiro noted NEA, with PM participation and support, plans
to brief the GOI on the U.S. policy regarding Lebanon in the
near future. In a continuation from the JPMG Executive
Session, GOI interlocutors made the argument that U.S. arms
transfers in the region could potentially arm future enemies
of Israel. GOI officials expressed frustration over the
Goldstone Report; U.S. officials advocated sharing lessons
learned regarding confronting terrorists in
civilian-populated areas. GOI officials noted improved
counter-smuggling efforts from Egypt regarding arms transfers
to Gaza via the Sinai. However, they argued that Egypt can
and should do more to prevent the flow of arms. U.S.
delegation members also briefed on U.S. policy in Iraq, and
expressed concerns about the current situation in Yemen.
This is the third of four cables (septels) reporting on the
JPMG. End summary.

2. (SBU) Main Israeli Participants:

-- Brigadier General (res) Pinchas Buchris, MOD Director
General
-- Major General (ret) Amos Gilad, MOD Political-Military
Chief
-- Brigadier General Ronen Dan, acting Israeli Defense
Attache to the United States
-- Gad Dovev, Director, MOD Mission, New York
-- Alon Bar, MFA Deputy Director General for Strategic Affairs
-- COL Shimon Arad, IDF J5
-- Rami Yungman, MOD Political-Military Bureau
-- Schmuel Royter, Assistant to the MOD Director General

Main U.S. Participants:

-- Andrew Shapiro, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of
Political-Military Affairs
-- James Hursch, Director, DTSA
-- Dr. Colin Kahl, International Security Affairs, Deputy
Assistant Secretary of Defense
-- Brigadier General Jefforey Smith, Joint Staff
-- Beth McCormick, Deputy Director, DSCA
-- Prem Kumar, Director for Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian
and Jordanian Affairs, NSC
-- Tom Goldberger, Director for Israel and Palestinian
Affairs, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
-- COL Richard Burgess, Defense Attache, U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv
-- Robert Maggi, PM Coordinator for Counter Piracy
-- Kevin Maloney, Licensing Director, PM/DTCL

Plenary
-------

3. (S) MOD Director General Pinchas Buchris began the
plenary, stating this was "perhaps the most important JPMG to
date." He pointed to the threat of a nuclear Iran, and
expressed hope that U.S. leadership will find a way to stop
Iran. Otherwise, a nuclear-armed Iran will "impact the
stability of the world," Buchris said. A/S Shapiro described
this 40th JPMG as a key forum and the primary mechanism in
the political-military dialogue between the United States and
Israel. He said the United States wants to "re-energize" the
JPMG, with the goal to "bring back strategic elements" into
the discussion. A/S Shapiro highlighted the importance of
mutual understanding and transparent dialogue.

Iran
----

4. (S) MOD Political-Military Director Amos Gilad presented a
strategic overview. He began with Iran, reciting President
Obama's statement made during a visit to Israel prior to
becoming president that the United States would not tolerate
a nuclear Iran. Gilad said Israel concurs, and described
current dialogue with Iran as the "most sensitive stage" and
Iran's "last chance." He said Iran remains determined to

TEL AVIV 00002502 002 OF 004


reach the "nuclear option," which he described as
"intolerable." He quoted former President and Ahmadinejad
opponent Rafsanjani as saying Iran "only needs one bomb for
Israel," implying that Iran will continue to threaten Israel
regardless of its leadership.

5. (S) A/S Shapiro noted that the United States shares
Israel's concerns that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons
program. He said that the United States is beginning with
engagement, but at the same time is preparing tougher
measures should engagement fail. A/S Shapiro stressed that
engagement was not "open ended" -- the United States needs to
see concrete steps and tangible results from the P5 1 talks.
He noted concerns over the Qom facility; if Iran does not
respond to engagement, then the United States will move
toward stronger steps such as sanctions. DASD Kahl
reiterated that it is not our intention to allow Iran to "run
out the clock," and noted that engagement also serves to
build international consensus on sanctions. MFA Deputy
Director for Strategic Affairs Alon Bar argued that the
United States must present a clearer message to the Europeans
on what is expected of them regarding sanctions.

6. (S) A representative from Mossad said Tehran understands
that by reacting positively to engagement, Iran can continue
to "play for time" and avoid sanctions while pursuing its
strategic objective to obtain a military nuclear capability.
From Mossad's perspective, there is no reason to believe Iran
will do anything but use negotiations to stall for time so
that by 2010-2011, Iran will have the technological
capability to build a nuclear weapon -- essentially reducing
the question of weaponizing to a political decision. Mossad
said Iran's main crisis is in the political sphere -- the
current regime is weaker than prior to the elections, but
does not face significant risk as its security apparatus
remains loyal, while the opposition lacks a charismatic
leader. The goal of the regime, therefore, is to calm down
the domestic political environment -- Khamenei realizes the
frustration demonstrated following the elections has not
disappeared. BG Smith asked if Khamenei's death might change
the political landscape; Mossad noted no information to
suggest a change in Khamenei's health, while those
surrounding him appear more loyal than ever.

7. (S) Mossad believes Iran wants to become a regional
hegemon, and is dictating its agenda by using Hamas and
Hizballah as force multipliers. In that respect, Iran is
very creative in finding ways to transfer weapons systems to
its proxies. Mossad said Tehran also understands the effort
to split Syria from Iran's influence, and is working hard to
deepen its relationship with Syria as a result. DASD Kahl
argued that Iran is weaker regionally today than in recent
years. He noted progress in Iraq, the results of the recent
Lebanese elections, and outreach to Syria as signs of a
weaker Iran. DASD Kahl also noted increased U.S. credibility
in the Muslim world, while the crackdown following the
Iranian elections exposed the current regime as brutal to the
region and in Europe.

Hizballah/Lebanon/Syria
-----------------------

8. (S) Gilad addressed threats posed by "Hizballahstan" and
"Hamastan," noting that Hizballah/Hamas-Syria-Iran
cooperation has strengthened. He noted that rockets from
Lebanon can now cover the entire territory of Israel, while
ballistic missiles -- although not new -- remain Israel's
most serious threat with adversaries having the capability to
target Israeli citizens and major cities. IDF J5 Col Shimon
Arad noted four main trends in Lebanon: 1) internal political
deadlock since the elections; 2) Hizballah's growing military
capabilities; 3) Lebanon as a volatile military arena; and 4)
Lebanon's susceptibility to outside influences, including
Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. He recommended improved
US.-Israel coordination, and called for an exchange of views.
Arad also recommended creating Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF)
deconfliction measures, demanding improved LAF performance,
and exerting greater pressure on Syria and smuggling.
Finally, he called for sanctions on the Iranian Republican
Guard Corps (IRGC), trilateral meetings with the Lebanese and
UNIFIL to deter Hizballah, and bolstering UNIFIL by extending
Gen. Graziano's tour for an additional six months.

9. (S) A/S Shapiro acknowledged the GOI's desire for
specifics regarding U.S. policy on Lebanon, and hoped to
invite GOI representatives to Washington in the near future
for a full brief led by NEA, with PM participation and
support. He cited the need to provide an alternative to
Hizballah, which explains U.S. goals to strengthen the LAF as
a counterweight. DASD Kahl argued that any LAF cooperation

TEL AVIV 00002502 003 OF 004


with Hizballah is pragmatic given the LAF's current weakness.
He noted that U.S. assistance has been temporarily put on
hold since there is still no Lebanese government. Kahl also
argued that prospects for better relations with Damascus
depend on Syrian desires for better relations with the United
States and the return of the Golan Heights. Arad argued that
more must be done to weaken radicals and cease smuggling.
Gilad said the GOI cannot envision a government in Lebanon
without Hizballah, and said the LAF will come to the defense
of Hizballah if attacked by Israel -- thus, a strengthened
LAF hurts Israel.

QME
---

10. (S) Turning to U.S. regional arms transfers, Gilad
suggested Qualitative Military Edge (QME) as a "codename" for
potential threats against Israel. Israel currently enjoys
peace with regimes in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the
United Arab Emirates -- but the future is uncertain, and each
of these regimes faces the potential for change, he argued.
U.S. weapons -- "the best in the world" -- level the playing
field by reducing the need for training -- and could
ultimately aid a future enemy of Israel, Gilad said. A/S
Shapiro stressed the importance of transparency -- while
there may be differences between Israel and the United States
in terms of a regional assessment, the key is to ensure that
there are no surprises, he said.

Peace Process
-------------

11. (S) Gilad described the Middle East peace process as a
"pillar" of Israeli security. He quoted PM Netanyahu and
President Peres that Israel remains sincerely committed to
peace. Gilad noted however, that the re-launching of
negotiations is complicated by the split in Palestinian
leadership. He said a weak and corrupt PA had lost Gaza
despite Israeli warnings. Gilad said 2010 will prove pivotal
with Palestinian elections looming and Egyptian mediation
efforts to broker reconciliation between Hamas and the PA
having failed. That said, he noted that Israeli-PA security
and economic cooperation in the West Bank continues to
improve as Jenin and Nablus flourish, and described
Palestinian security forces as the "good guys." NEA/IPA
Director Tom Goldberger said Special Envoy Sen. Mitchell
continues his mission, and noted that Egyptian reconciliation
efforts were meant to strengthen the PA, not weaken it.

Goldstone Report
----------------

12. (S) Gilad addressed Israel's immediate neighbors within
the context of the Goldstone Report. He said Israel has
checked "all the details" of the report, and have concluded
that the report's accusations are "baseless." Buchris said
the report sets a bad precedent for countries trying to
protect its citizens from terrorists; he noted 300,000 phone
calls from the IDF to houses in Gaza ahead of strikes in the
effort to prevent civilian casualties -- "no other country
has taken such steps," Buchris argued. A/S Shapiro
highlighted strong U.S. opposition to the report's referral
to the UN Security Council, noting the report's biased
mandate.

13. (S) Gilad said Israel only entered Gaza after Hamas
violated the ceasefire or "tahdiya," which many Israelis felt
was "humiliating" and left Defense Minister Barak open to
criticism. Gilad characterized Operation Cast Lead as a
success that accounted for humanitarian issues; the IDF
showed restraint in the operation because Israel did not want
to re-occupy Gaza. DASD Kahl advocated sharing perspectives
and lessons learned on strategic communication to more
effectively confront terrorists in civilian-populated areas.
NSC Director for Israel and Palestinian Affairs Prem Kumar
noted continued UNSC interest in the Goldstone Report, and
asked Israel to inform the United States on any additional
efforts or investigations the GOI was taking to help deflect
any further damage from the report.

Egypt/Counter-Smuggling
-----------------------

14. (S) Gilad said Israel was frustrated by its Arab
neighbors -- including specifically Egypt -- for supporting
the Goldstone Report, which complicates the peace process.
Israel continues to benefit from good security cooperation
with Jordan, he said. Gilad argued that Egypt could stop
smuggling into Gaza "completely," and questioned whether
Egypt should be judged by its efforts or results. Gilad

TEL AVIV 00002502 004 OF 004


stressed the latter, and argued Egypt can do more on
counter-smuggling. Finally, he noted Israeli concerns that
Egypt continues to prepare for a potential future military
confrontation with Israel, while no Egyptian military
officers visit Israel.

15. (S) A/S Shapiro outlined U.S. military assistance to
strengthen Egyptian border security, counter-terrorism,
peacekeeping and civil defense efforts. He said the United
States is working with Egypt to improve regional security
efforts, such as counter-smuggling. Regarding the Gulf
States and Saudi Arabia, A/S Shapiro stressed efforts to
improve energy security and counter-terrorism, while
bolstering the capabilities of the Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC) in the face of the Iranian threat. Finally, he noted
U.S. withdrawal from the Anatolian Eagle exercise following
the Turkish decision to suspend the IDF's participation. A/S
Shapiro said the United States has been delivering the
message that Turkey must improve its relationship with
Israel.

16. (S) PM Counter-Piracy Coordinator Maggi briefed on the
counter smuggling technical discussion meeting (septel). He
cited the importance of working with Israel's neighbors --
including especially Egypt and Turkey -- to prevent Iranian
weapons from entering Gaza. Maggi said more pressure should
be applied in the EU and UN to gain more latitude -- and
possibly further action from the EU. He said tracking cash
flows, and increasing prosecutions and incarcerations were
important, with the ultimate goal of increasing cooperation
and momentum. Goldberger said Egypt sees Hamas as a national
security threat, and added that Egypt had closed 200 tunnels
since the beginning of 2009.

17. (S) Goldberger noted Egyptian domestic political
sensitivities, and questioned whether more commercial and
humanitarian goods could be allowed through the Gaza border
crossings. Gilad strongly stated that there were no limits
on commercial goods through the border crossings. Goldberger
asked about construction materiel like cement; Gilad said the
GOI would not allow Hamas to build bunkers -- goods such as
cement or iron would not be allowed because of their military
applications. He also argued that smuggling is a lucrative
business for all involved, including the Egyptian government,
and said the best way to stop the smuggling was to increase
arrests and incarcerations. Goldberger mentioned U.S.
economic and development assistance efforts in Sinai. He
noted that most requests to third countries to deny arms
transfer overflights are based on Israeli intelligence;
additional information/intelligence from the GOI would ensure
greater cooperation. Bar raised prosecuting shipping
companies complicit in arms transfers to Gaza; A/S Shapiro
said he would take that back to Washington for further
consideration.

Iraq/Yemen
----------

18. (S) On Iraq, DASD Kahl noted there are currently 125,000
U.S. soldiers in Iraq, which will be reduced to 50,000
soldiers by September 1, 2010 with complete U.S. troop
withdrawal by the end of 2011. He noted the U.S. goal of
establishing a long-term strategic relationship with a
sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq. A/S Shapiro and
DASD Kahl briefed the GOI on U.S. efforts to assist the Iraqi
military to complete its counterinsurgency force, transition
the military to a force that can defend its borders, and
align the Iraqi military more closely to the United States.

19. (S) DASD Kahl pointed to the growing threat (al Qaida, al
Houthi insurgency, and southern secessionists) in Yemen. He
said the United States is attempting to prevent Yemen from
heading toward an "Afghanistan-type scenario" with general
lawlessness and increased ungoverned spaces. BG Smith noted
that al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) continues to
fester in North and sub-Saharan Africa. He said Egypt is
actively involved in countering AQIM with 3,800 soldiers in
Sudan -- this should be encouraged and expanded.

20. (U) A/S Shapiro has cleared on this cable.


CUNNINGHAM