Viewing cable 05MUSCAT1934

05MUSCAT19342005-12-31 05:27:00 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 001934 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/27/2015 
REF: A. MUSCAT 1917 
     ¶B. MUSCAT 547 
Classified By: Ambassador Richard L. Baltimore III. 
Reason: 1.4 (b, d). 
¶1. (C) In a convivial 80-minute exchange on December 26, 
Sultan Qaboos shared with USCENTCOM CDR Gen Abizaid his 
thoughts on Iraq, Iran, the war on terror and the state of 
bilateral relations.  Agreeing with Gen Abizaid on many 
points, the Sultan argued for a less intrusive Arab role in 
Iraq's transition, saying too many Arab states are not 
"neutral," and that in any case Iraqis must resolve their own 
problems.  On Iran, the Sultan expressed concern over 
President Ahmadinejad's erratic behavior while remaining 
optimistic that cooler heads there would eventually prevail. 
The Sultan assessed Al Qaeda as being in a weaker position 
now than two years ago, in part thanks to counter-terrorism 
successes by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, but warned that 
governments must remain vigilant.  He voiced concern about 
the difficulty of maintaining Oman's maritime security, and 
gratitude for the friendship of the U.S.  Gen Abizaid's 
invitations for Oman to post a liaison officer in Tampa, and 
suggestions for more Omani assistance to Iraq, were 
acknowledged without response.  End summary. 
¶2. (SBU) On December 26, USCENTCOM CDR General Abizaid paid a 
call on Sultan Qaboos at the Bait Bahjat al-Andhar royal farm 
near Sohar.  The Sultan was joined in the 80-minute meeting 
by Chief of Staff of the Sultan's Armed Forces, LTG Ahmed 
al-Nabhani.  General Abizaid was accompanied by the 
Ambassador and senior CENTCOM and Embassy staff members.  The 
party was flown to Sohar aboard two of the Sultan's 
¶3. (C) Recalling points he made recently to Vice President 
Cheney (ref A), the Sultan reiterated that Iranian politics 
is passing through a "gray area" as new President Mahmoud 
Ahmadinejad continues to shape his own team and political 
identity.  Repeatedly expressing his hope that "wisdom" will 
prevail and that "wise men" around the erratic Iranian leader 
will prevent the country from "sailing into deep water," the 
Sultan predicted that the political picture in Tehran will 
come into greater focus in 3-4 months.  Though the Iranian 
Revolution took place over 25 years ago, the Sultan said it 
appears the revolutionary spirit has been resuscitated - at 
least in the person of Ahmadinejad.  When Gen Abizaid 
remarked that Iranian meddling in Southern Iraq served an 
unclear purpose, and that Ahmadinejad appealed to base 
populism, the Sultan said the art of hiding one's intentions 
has long been practiced in Iran.  As for populism, the Sultan 
sees signs that even working class Iranians are growing 
frustrated with unfulfilled electoral promises. 
Ahmadinejad's campaign rhetoric about redistributing oil 
wealth to the people was folly from the start.  The Sultan 
noted that government's true role is to provide services, not 
dole out cash, for without money a government cannot govern. 
Iraq - The Qaboos Doctrine 
¶4. (C) Responding to Gen Abizaid's point about the 11 million 
Iraqis who voted in December for a new future, the Sultan 
wondered what kind of future the voters had in mind.  While 
Gen Abizaid observed that there were more Iraqis seeking to 
hold the country together then tear it apart, the Sultan 
worried about those for whom that statement did not apply. 
He recognized Iraq's manifest best interest in preserving its 
territorial integrity, but warned that selfishness is a 
pernicious human trait that grows quickly out of control once 
it takes hold.  He hoped the Iraqi Kurds, for instance, who 
have long harbored nationalist aspirations, would defer the 
goal of statehood to a distant future.  The Sultan sought Gen 
Abizaid's views on how Iraq might descend into a civil war 
that could draw in neighbors, responding that he could see 
Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia getting involved, but not Syria 
or Jordan.  He fretted over sectarian divides in Iraq, noting 
that India has far greater diversity yet somehow manages to 
work.  Though Iran has a long history of involvement in 
southern Iraq, the Iraqi Shia have no allegiance to Iran. 
¶5. (C) The Sultan solicited Gen Abizaid's ideas on how the 
region could help Iraq.  The General replied that the Arab 
states must fully support Iraq's unity and territorial 
integrity, and wield their influence with domestic Iraqi 
groups toward this end.  The Sultan responded that the Arab 
League did dispatch a delegation to Iraq prior to the 
election, and found that its presence was far from 
universally welcomed.  Moreover, he said not all Arab states 
are "neutral parties."  Without naming names, he said some 
Arab rulers find it outrageous that a Kurd could become 
Iraq's president.  He also doubted that all Arab League 
members were as desirous as Oman to see Iraq strong and 
prosperous again.  Dubious that many Arab states could in 
fact play a truly helpful role in Iraq, the Sultan counseled 
against Arabs "rushing in" for fear of being seen as 
interfering.  He argued instead for a much more subtle 
involvement that will give Iraqis space to sort through their 
own issues without a lot of unsolicited advice from 
neighbors.  Arab states, he said, should respond to specific 
Iraqi requests; otherwise, they should butt out.  "Patience 
is key." 
¶6. (C) The Sultan traded questions about Iraqi government 
stability, its corruption problems, and how to build up Iraqi 
security and military forces.  In reply to Gen Abizaid's 
description of the U.S. force reductions envisioned for 2006 
and plans to put Iraqi forces more in a leading role, the 
Sultan inquired about the quality of those Iraqi forces.  He 
acknowledged that building their sheer numbers right now must 
be the priority, as upgrading quality and instilling a proper 
culture is a more long-term venture.  He sees the Iraqi 
police forces as being more critical to law and order--and 
fighting corruption--than the Iraqi army.  Gen Abizaid 
replied that any assistance Arab police academies could offer 
in terms of training and exchanges would be most appreciated. 
GWOT, Al Qaeda and Maritime Security 
¶7. (C) Gen Abizaid and the Sultan agreed that Al Qaeda's (AQ) 
presence and popularity in the region appeared to be on the 
wane.  The Sultan attributed this to the public's increasing 
awareness that AQ targets civilians in contravention to 
Islam, to Saudi Arabia's success in bringing AQ violence 
there "under control," and to Pakistan's ability to extend 
government influence into the tribal areas.  He nevertheless 
warned against underestimating those elements that remain. 
Though AQ is much reduced from a few years ago, the Sultan 
said it must be closely monitored for as long as it has "a 
voice."  The two agreed that stanching financial flows to AQ 
was key, particularly as the network can function with even 
minimal funding.  The Sultan surmised that many young Arabs 
volunteer as suicide bombers as a means to redeem themselves 
of sin - a desire ruthlessly exploited by AQ brainwashers. 
He noted the parallels to how Ayatollah Khomeini had 
distributed "keys to paradise" to induce Army volunteers to 
clear minefields with their bodies during Iran's war with 
Iraq.  Gen Abizaid described how AQ's network in Syria was 
most effective in channeling volunteers for Iraq, though he 
noted that both Baghdad and Damascus were doing a better job 
of interdicting that flow. 
¶8. (C) The Sultan expressed his partnership with the West in 
fighting the war on terror, while voicing concern over Oman's 
maritime security.  He revealed that a boatload of smuggled 
illegal immigrants came ashore astride one of his residences 
very recently in the middle of the night.  They were quickly 
rounded up and consisted of nothing more sinister than 
economic migrants, but the Sultan said one never knows when 
more nefarious individuals might seek entry by similar means. 
 Oman's maritime boundaries, the Sultan lamented, are very 
difficult to defend.  Gen Abizaid noted that success on other 
fronts in the GWOT may spur AQ elements increasingly to seek 
refuge in Yemen and the Horn of Africa.  The Sultan retorted 
that the Yemeni government doesn't "govern" all of its 
territories but rather, at most, only "manages" its regions. 
He does not envy the Yemeni government's formidable task, and 
said the GCC states try to do what they can to assist their 
neighbor.  As for Somalia, the Sultan agreed that it cannot 
be allowed to simply fester, but rejected with gusto any 
notion of sending Omani peacekeepers to that land. 
Bilateral Relations 
¶9. (C) Gen Abizaid echoed Vice President Cheney's deep 
appreciation for the close U.S.-Omani relationship.  The 
Sultan said he has had the pleasure of many meetings with Mr. 
Cheney over the years and considers him a good friend.  He 
recounted the visit of his father, Sultan Said, to the U.S. 
in 1938, and periodic calls on his father in the 1950's by 
the U.S. Consul in Aden, but that otherwise, the bilateral 
relationship only began to truly blossom after the U.S. 
established its Embassy in Muscat in the 1970's.  Gen Abizaid 
thanked the Sultan for his recent generous land grant to The 
American International School in Muscat, which the Sultan 
modestly accepted.  Gen Abizaid invited the Sultan to send an 
Omani Liaison Officer to Coalition Headquarters in Tampa, 
which would give Oman the benefit of valuable information 
sharing. The Sultan thanked the General for the offer, but 
did not volunteer a response. 
¶10. (C) The Sultan praised Gen Abizaid for his balanced 
approach to strategic concerns in the region, expressing 
satisfaction that Oman's shared interests are being properly 
weighed.  A heavy hand, especially in these times, he warned, 
could backfire for the U.S.  Oman, he recalled, had come 
under criticism from GCC neighbors when it sought Western 
help to defeat the Communist-supported Dhofar rebellion in 
the 1970's.  The Sultan argued at the time that, "if the 
rebels could have friends, then why can't we?"  Though the 
Cold War is over, Oman still faces challenges for which it is 
grateful to have a friend such as the United States.  The 
Sultan said he shared Gen Abizaid's positive outlook for the 
region, agreeing that there is no question that life is 
better now than it was two years ago.  He said Oman would 
never hesitate to speak openly to its friend if it felt 
things were off track. 
¶11. (U) CENTCOM has cleared this message.