Viewing cable 05MUSCAT1876

05MUSCAT18762005-12-17 04:32:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MUSCAT 001876 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/10/2015 
Classified By: Ambassador Richard L. Baltimore III. 
Reason: 1.4 (b, d). 
¶1. (C) Calling Iran's political scene and new government a 
sea of "shifting sands," royal adviser Abdulaziz al-Rawas 
suggested that U.S. threats have only served to shore up 
hardliners' support in Iranian society, and that a more 
positive approach should be adopted.  Separately, MFA Under 
Secretary Sayyid Badr called U.S.-Iranian tensions the 
greatest strategic threat to Gulf security, and also urged 
more positive U.S. engagement with Tehran.  Sayyid Badr 
expressed optimism over Iraq, noting that during his recent 
visit, Iraqi FM Zebari provided the Omanis with welcome 
reassurances.  End summary. 
Looking for an Opening with Iran 
¶2. (SBU) During a December 5 visit to Muscat, NEA DAS Gordon 
Gray separately called on the Sultan's Special Advisor for 
Cultural Affairs (Oman's chief interlocutor with Iran) 
Abdulaziz al-Rawas, and Foreign Ministry Under Secretary 
Sayyid Badr al-Busaidi (FM Yusuf bin Alawi was out of the 
country).  DAS Gray was accompanied by the Ambassador and P/E 
Chief (notetaker). 
¶3. (C) Abdulaziz al-Rawas, former longtime Minister of 
Information, briefed Gray on his last discussions with the 
Iranian government in his long-standing capacity as the 
Sultan's designated special envoy to Tehran.  Rawas, as later 
did Sayyid Badr, began his remarks by asking whether recent 
reports that Ambassador Khalilzad was empowered to talk to 
the Iranians might signify a new opening in U.S.-Iranian 
dialogue.  Gray put misleading press characterizations into 
context, affirming that Switzerland would remain our 
interlocutor with Iran while the EU-3 led the diplomatic 
effort on the nuclear issues. 
Divergent Iranian Social Currents 
¶4. (C) On the issue of whether Iran was itself prepared for 
dialogue with the U.S., Rawas described the current political 
environment in Tehran as one of "shifting sand."  President 
Ahmadinejad, he observed, is still new and seeking to build 
his reputation as a "man of the people."  His standoff with 
the Majlis over the Oil Minister portfolio illustrated the 
resentment the parliament feels over his tactics.  Rawas 
called Ahmadinejad's circle of advisers "a bunch of 
unknowns," and was uncertain whether any of them had much 
international awareness.  He noted many dichotomies in 
Iranian society.  Conservatives remain dogmatically tied to 
the concept of "velayat e-faqih," yet there is a strong 
reformist opposition and considerable freedom to criticize, 
even in the press.  The journalistic redlines were unclear, 
however, which has led to an "acceptable" but not quite 
"vigorous" amount of public debate. 
¶5. (C) He said young Iranians continue to aspire to greater 
political and social freedom and more economic opportunity. 
They are deeply resentful of the Basij militia.  And yet, 
under Ahmadinejad, Rawas observed that Iranian women are more 
visible in public places (even hotels), ostentatiously 
smoking and chatting with people.  He saw this as women's 
efforts to preserve freedoms previously won.  Iranians, he 
said, are conflicted by the threat they feel from the U.S., 
while at the same time being frustrated by oppression at 
home.  He sensed a nation "waiting for the shoe to drop." 
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Urging Iran to Respect the International Community 
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¶6. (C) During his late August meeting with Ahmadinejad to 
deliver a message from Sultan Qaboos, Rawas said he was 
lectured about letting foreign forces tell Oman what to do. 
He argued back that nations are interconnected and one cannot 
ignore legitimate concerns.  Nasser learned that lesson to 
Egypt's detriment in his confrontation with the UN, just as 
Saddam did over Kuwait.  Rawas said he urged Ahmadinejad to 
learn from those mistakes rather than follow down the same 
disastrous path.  "See the world as it is and not as you wish 
it to be." 
¶7. (C) On Omani-Iranian relations, Rawas again observed that 
Iran is constantly changing and evolving.  He never perceived 
an Iranian threat to Oman, but noted Iran was also never shy 
about asserting its influence.  Given Iran's limited economic 
allure to the Arab Gulf states, and the fact that it has 
nothing on the religious side to teach the Arabs (even Arab 
Shia are more drawn to Iraq than Iran, Rawas noted), he said 
Tehran tends to focus more on Central Asia, where is has a 
better chance to wield influence.  A chief adviser to the 
Iranian president dined with Rawas one evening during his 
visit, and tried to woo Oman with offers of technology. 
Rawas bluntly told him that Oman relied on the West for its 
trade and alliances. 
No Substitute for Dialogue 
¶8. (C) Rawas urged the U.S. to seek a more active, direct 
dialogue with Tehran.  He cautioned Washington to remember 
three key factors that would influence any rapprochement. 
First, Iran's strong sense of national pride is deeply 
offended by such things as having its assets frozen in the 
West.  Second, it is threatened by the decision to route a 
Caspian oil pipeline to Turkey rather than the Persian Gulf. 
Third, Iran desires recognition as the major regional power. 
Gray replied that the USG desires good relations with the 
Iranian people, but deeply opposes such Iranian policies as 
its support for terrorists.  Rawas agreed that, were Tehran 
to cease its financial support of Hezbollah, that 
organization "would dry up in six months." 
¶9. (C) Gray described the serious USG concerns about Iran's 
nuclear activities.  Rawas said the Iranians insisted to him 
that they were not pursuing nuclear weapons, to which he 
replied, "Then why are you antagonizing the international 
community?"  The Iranians rejoined that nobody could deny 
them their sovereign rights, and rejected the notion of any 
confidence building measures since the U.S., they feel, is 
bent on humiliating Iran.  The Iranians, he said, were 
offended that their cooperation in Afghanistan earned them no 
favors from Washington.  Rawas said he told his hosts that 
the "U.S. didn't attack you - that's your reward."  But 
despite his bluntness with Tehran, Rawas reiterated to Gray 
that U.S. threats against Iran have only helped reinforce 
public support for hardliners these past 25 years.  The U.S., 
he said, must keep pressure on Iran, yet also use fewer 
threats.  He acknowledged that finding a proper balance would 
not be easy. 
U.S.-Iran Tensions: A Threat to Gulf Security 
¶10. (C) Similar sentiments were expressed by MFA Under 
Secretary Sayyid Badr al-Busaidi, who was accompanied in his 
meeting by A/S-equivalent for Europe and North America, 
Ambassador Mohammed Tahir Aided.  Departing that evening to 
address a seminar on Gulf security in London, Sayyid Badr 
said he intended to sound an optimistic note.  If he had to 
pick the single biggest challenge to Gulf security, however, 
he said frankly that it was U.S.-Iranian tensions.  As long 
as that bilateral relationship "lacks a proper footing," it 
poses a strategic danger to the region.  Sayyid Badr noted 
that Iranian-Arab relations have their own share of problems, 
but that Iran cannot be simply ignored or marginalized any 
¶11. (C) Sayyid Badr said he was pleased to hear from Gray 
that the U.S. remained open to dialogue with Iran to resolve 
deep concerns over Iranian policy, even if Tehran perhaps did 
not show a similar willingness.  He said Oman shares USG 
concern over Iran's nuclear program, support for terrorism, 
and human rights abuses.  Nevertheless, the Sultanate has 
rejected the impulse to either isolate or confront Iran, but 
rather pursued the only attractive option: dialogue and 
cooperation.  Acknowledging that "the stick" has its proper 
place, Sayyid Badr said there was still considerable room for 
"the carrot."  He and Gray discussed the U.S., the EU-3 and 
IAEA's approach to Iran's nuclear program, with Gray 
emphasizing the need for Iran to understand it was facing 
international rather than simply U.S. opposition.  Gray 
underscored that the USG remained focused on the goal of 
reaching a successful conclusion with measurable results on 
Tehran's nuclear program. 
Buoyant on Iraq, Engagement with U.S. 
¶12. (C) Turning to Iraq, Gray provided an overview of 
positive trends as the Iraqis approached another historic 
election on December 15, as well as remaining challenges. 
Sayyid Badr replied that Oman continues to be optimistic 
about Iraq's future, citing the country's considerable 
natural resources and a confidence that its people are 
capable of living in harmony. Iraqi FM Zebari had recently 
visited Muscat, he said, and provided a reassuring, 
first-hand impression of the situation there.  The Omani said 
reconstruction cannot be deterred by security problems. 
¶13. (C) Sayyid Badr was appreciative of these bilateral 
consultations with the U.S., noting that he was "bullish" on 
life in Oman and, more widely, within the GCC - even if the 
media did not always portray this in the West.  Gray said 
Oman's June participation in the Smithsonian Folklife 
Festival on the Mall, and plans to dispatch a tall ship to 
the U.S. in 2006, combined with an activist Omani Embassy in 
Washington, were all key to better portraying the reality. 
Sayyid Badr agreed, noting that U.S. engagement in Oman was 
equally important. 
¶14. (U) DAS Gray cleared this cable.