SOVIET POLICY TOWARD LEBANON (NI IIA 84-10012)

Created: 8/7/1984

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

SOVIET POLICY TOWARD LEBANON

Summary

Recent Soviet contacts with Lebanese factional and goverrut*ntal leaders represent an effort by Moscow to capitalize on US setbacks tn Lebanon and the fluid situation there. Lebanon still does notigh priorityhe USSR's Middle Eastern policy, but the US military withdrawal and the formationew government have opened opportunities for the Soviets to build contacts there. Ideally, the Soviets would like to see some kind of leftist coalition emerge that would serve their Interests Independent of Syria but they are not sanguine about the prospects. Assets for the Soviets in Lebanon, become more Important as uncertainty about President Assad's health grows.

Moscow thus far ts being careful not to overstep Itself and antagonize Oamascus, which jealously protects Its predominant positionebanon. The increased Soviet activity risks reviving underlying Soviet-Syrian differences over Lebanon but such frictions are likely to be manageable. The Syrians, moreover, have the assets to undermine Soviet movesebanon If necessary. The USSR Is also concerned that tensions In Lebanon not Increase to the point of sparking Syrian-Israeli hostilities, which would risk drawing the Soviet air defense forces in Syria Into the fighting, endanger the Soviet military buildup of Syria and cause another loss of Soviet orestioe-

During the next few months, the Soviets will attempt to manipulate Arab resentment over the continuing Israeli presence In southern Lebanon to embarrass the US. The renewal of the UNIFIL mandatectober provides an opportunity for such an effort. The Soviets, In principle, oppose the expansion of UNIFIL, but they may suggest to the Lebanese that they would consider the idea, calculating that If the Issue ts brought before the Security Council the US would be forced to veto. Moscow, however, will follow Damascus' lead on the Issue, as It did when the Issue was debated In the UN earlier this year. The Syrians may prefer to leave UNIFIL as ts fearing that Its expansion would complicate their efforts toolution on Lebanon and its removal would lift some constraints on Israeli options In southern Lebanon and tncrease the rtskyrian-Israeli clash. On balance, however, they will probably not foreclose their options on this issue.

rt, nce Assessment was prepared under the auspices

ntelligence Officer for. NESA. It was drafted by CIA and coordinated at the working level by CIA. DIA, State/INR, and NSA. Information as4 was usedreparing the assessment.

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This IIA is Classified as Stated.

Leftist Lebanese factional leaders hope to use Moscow's Increased interest in Lebanon to bolster their own power. Host take their direction from Damascus, however, and will consult the Syrians about greater cooperation with the Soviets. Lebanese governmental leaders probably will carefully respond to Soviet overtures for fearhristian backlash, and because they understand that Soviet freedom of action and leverage are distinctly limited.

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More Active Soviet Role

Soviets, In an attempt to build their influence in Lebanon,contacts with the Lebanese Government and with factional leaders the US Marines withdrew from Beirut and President Gemayel3 Lebanese-Israeli agreementebruary and Marchhave:

the CPSU's top Middle Eastern specialist. Karen Brutents, In April to Lebanon, where he met with Geeiayel and other Lebanese leaders.

eported formation of the Arab Democratic Union to coordinate among Soviet supported elements and the more radical elements.

Praised Prime Minister Karami's new government in May and sentessage from the Soviet Council of Ministers.

Hosted visits in July by Oruze leader Junblatt and Shia AmiI chief Barrl.

Sent the head of the Foreign Ministry's Near East Department, Vladimir Polyakov, to Beirut In early August.

Moscow may also be seeking toodest military relationship with the new government. It suggestedoviet military official accompany Polyakov, according to the Lebanese Charge in Moscow, but Beirut refused.

addition, the USSR has kept up Its traditional ties withsuch as the Lebanese Communist Party. The Soviets consultLCP General Secretary Hawi and presumably encouraged the party's movetoNational Democratic Front" with Junblatt'sParty and other, minor, Lebanese factions.

3. This stepped-up activity coincidesroader Soviet effort to improve ties with other moderate Arab states, such as Jordan, Egypt and Kuwait. The Soviets are trying to capitalize on Arab frustration with US policy. Their problngs in Lebanon are an attempt to take advantage of the US failure to arrange an Internal Lebanese settlement. They evidently hope to rebuild the smaller leftist factions whose power has been curtailed since the beginning of the civil war and Syrian Intervention. Moscow also appears to be seeking to develop its ownofthe more important Lebanese factional and governmental leaders. The Kremlin has long sought Independent lines of Influenceebanon and probably believes therereater necessity to establish these now, with the uncertain health of Syrian President Assad and the possibility of leadership Instability in Oamascus. The Soviets, however, are likely to pursue such contacts carefully to avoid alienating Syria, realizing that Syrian influence with Lebanese leadersar greater than theirs and that the Moscow-Damascus relationship is of paramount importance.

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Lebanon in Soviet Middle Eastern Strategy

Lebanon is important to tbe Soviets because of the Palestinian and Syrian presence and the US interest in it rather than for its Intrinsic significance. They do not have vital interests at stake there. They have sought influence with both the central government and the factions but have neverajor actor. Similarly, the Soviets haveunsuccessfully-to play some role in the international efforts to resolve the Lebanese problem. This has stemmed moreesire to headS-brokered solution and find another entree Into Middle Eastern affairsenuine Interest In getting Involved In the Lebanese quagmire. The Soviets fear that successful US mediation of the Lebanese problem would enhanceapabilities forroader Arab-Israeli peace settlement that left no role for the USSR.

Although Moscow's long-term objective may be the establishmenteftist, pro-Soviet regime In Lebanon, it has no illusions that this Is likely to occur soon. More realistically, it probably hopes that leftist-groups can increase their voice in Lebanese affairs and prod the central government toward closer ties with the USSR. rimary Soviet aim Is to ensure that the government Is not closely tied to the US or Israel. The Soviets have long opposed partition because they fear It would lead to the creation of Christian and Muslim mini-states dominated by Israel and Syria, respectively.

6. The USSR has benefited, at times, from tensionsebanon/ most notably from the fighting in and around Beirut in4 that led "the withdrawal of the MNF. The Sovietsropaganda windfall irom tne US military intervention against Lebanese factions and the eventual abrupt pull-out of the Marines. They also exploit the continuing Israeli presence In southern Lebanon to rally Arab opinion against Israel and the

7. Nonetheless, turmoil in Lebanon has created almost as many problems as opportunities for Moscow, including acts of violence directed against soviet facilities. Soviet Influence in the country, never great, dwindled once the civil war began. The Soviets' relations with Damascus were severly strained by the Syrian Intervention6 and by their Inability to prevent2 defeat of Syrian forces in Lebanon. Moscow realizes that, as long as Syrian and Israeli forces sithort distance apart In the Bekaa Valley, the risks remain high of another war. Into which It might be drawn. The presence of Soviet forces manning theurface-to-air missiles in Syria and the likelihood that they would become Involvedajor in Lebanon makes the limitation of tensions all the more Important to the USSR. The likely future turnover of control of theo the Syrians will decrease Soviet stakes, but the remaining extensive Soviet involvement would continue to give Moscow good reason for wanting to avoid major hostilities.

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SECRET

'Man Factor

t COnn1tf"ent to Syria-reflected by the presence

n 0araascuS tuples In

rnand strongly suggests that the buePendft Influence In Lebanon, will continueSyrian views on how to proceed tactically in

Lebanon apparently are closer than they have been In years. The Soviets

E fllttt,the Uusafine Conference and after In puttingovernment of national unity. Soviet officials also have emphasized in

Hoscow

not made explicithe past.

Soviet-Syrian differences persist, however, over broader strategy toward Lebanon. oviet Defense Ministry briefing earlier this year, for example, reportedly stated that Moscow still does not want to see Lebanon dominated by Oamascus and hopes that Syrian troops eventually arelear to Assad that they do not consider themselves obligated to protect the Syrian presence in Lebanon.

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Future Soviet-Syrian frictions might ariseumber of Issues

Syr1a's des1re t0 1nvolve tnetates Insecurity arrangements for southern

lead to the most significant differences. Moscow

would not want to see Washingtonajor diplomatic success while the

'e he sidelines and thus might press the Syrians to move

discussion of the issueN forum. The Soviets would have little choice,

Sf f SyrU proyed determined to involve the US,hope tnat Washington's efforts backfire and lead

K ? frictions In Soviet-Syrian relations over Lebanon,* could develop over the Issue of expanding or curtailing The Syrians also would notn ^pendent power base in Lebanon and probably would use their own Lebanese surrogates to hinder Soviet

turn*yrian decision to putr?ssureIsraeli forcesebanon, fearing this would risk renewed hostilities.

to another setback to US interests in Lebanon. "

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Lebanese Response to Soviet Overtures

12. The Lebanese set policy only after close consultation with the Syrians, and talks between Beirut and Oamascus presumably cover Soviet-Lebanese ties. Junblatt and Barrl, for example, stopped off In Damascus after their separate visits to Moscow in July. Government leaders in Beirut do not appear to be alarmed by Soviet contacts in Lebanon and probably view Soviet activities as partandem effort with Syria to Impose stability and get Israeli troon* out nf th-

13. Xarami's recent public statement that he has no qualms about purchasing Soviet military equipment probablyloy to encourage the US to be more forthcoming In training and equipping the Lebanese Armed Forces. Lebanese leaders are sensitive to the potential Christian backlashhe government moves too far in Its ties with Moscow. In any case, apart from ammunitionew Soviet artillery pieces acquired in, the LAF has no current need for Soviet arms, exceptolitical gesture to assert Lebanon's non-aligned status. I

Implications for the United states

14. Lebanon Is unlikely toigh priority area for Moscow. Soviet policy in the Middle East will continue to place greater emphasis on Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, the Palestinian Issue and the broader Arab-Israeli peace process. Ue can expect the Soviets, however, to continue to be more active in Lebanese affairs than tn recent years, especially If the Lebanese Government responds positively to their approaches. Arab diplomatsoscow believe that Karaml will soon visit the USSR, although this has not been confirmed. The Soviets will attempt to exploit such contacts, probably with minimal success, to undercut US-Lebanese relations and increase pressure for Israeli withdrawal from the south. They will portray the continued Israeli presence to Arab audiencesesult of US designs to prevent the creationnified ^Arab Lebanon" and will attempt to claim credit for any Israeli withdrawal. I

15. Moscow may well use the Issue of UHIFIL's presence in the south to embarass the US. UHIFIL's six-month mandate expires onctober, and. as usual. Its future will be debated In the UN in the preceding weeks. During the last mandate renewal debate in April, the Soviets attempted to limit extension of UHIFIL's mandate to three months and hedged on the Lebanese Government's idea of expanding UNIFIL's area of operation. They let the US bear the onus, however, for scuttling the expansion Idea,ltimately, the mandate was renewed with no changes for the usual six months. The Kremlin is again likely to try to manuever the US Into appearing obstructive. Although the Soviets oppose. In principle, the use of UN forces In Internal security situations, they might, for Instance, hint to Lebanese leaders that they would favorably consider the idea of expanding UMfIt In thecheme for which Nabih Barrl has been lobbying.,

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