Viewing cable 05MUSCAT2

05MUSCAT22005-01-01 03:59:00 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 02 MUSCAT 000002 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/30/2014 
REF: A. MUSCAT 2268 
     ¶B. MANAMA 1885 
Classified By: Ambassador Richard L. Baltimore III. 
Reason: 1.4 (b, d). 
¶1. (C) FM Yusuf bin Alawi shared his views with the 
Ambassador on Iran's relations with the region, noting his 
interest in visiting Tehran but ruling out a state visit by 
the Sultan.  He is optimistic that Qatar will take positive 
action to rein in abuses by the Al Jazeera network, and is 
likewise hopeful that good news from Palestine may soon draw 
attention away from Iraq.  Oman is encouraged by interim 
Palestinian leader Abbas' assessment of the situation in the 
territories, and with the improved transparency of the PA. 
Bin Alawi was expansive on what he views as Saudi Arabia's 
disastrous handling of its relations with GCC states over 
free trade agreements and other matters.  He sees Iran as 
doing a better job engaging with the international community 
than Riyadh.  End summary. 
¶2. (C) On December 27, Oman's Minister Responsible for 
Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi (YBA) received the Ambassador 
on short notice to discuss a number of demarches (septels), 
which turned into a 70-minute meeting reviewing a number of 
key regional issues.  Ref A reported the Minister's 
particular concerns over the emergency Arab League 
ministerial scheduled for the first week of January. 
¶3. (C) YBA appreciated recent statements by the Secretary 
that the USG would seek diplomatic means to resolve its 
disputes with Iran, saying that Oman was prepared to help in 
whatever way it could.  Both he and the Sultan were offering 
"advice" (NFI) to Tehran.  Offering no details on the 
Sultan's letter to Pres. Khatami (hand-delivered November 21 
by the Sultan's special envoy for Iranian affairs, Abdulaziz 
al-Rowas), YBA was firm in saying that the Sultan had no 
plans to return the state visit Khatami paid to Oman in early 
October.  Bin Alawi, on the other hand, has thoughts of 
visiting Iran but no definite dates.  Should YBA travel, he 
said he would like to call on Ayatollah Khamenei in addition 
to the "usual suspects" (the President, Foreign Minister, 
Majles Speaker), and his old interlocutor Rafsanjani. 
Calling on the Ayatollah, he said, was not typically done by 
foreign officials, but Bin Alawi said he understood that the 
Supreme Leader was angry at being "neglected" by Tehran's 
guests.  (Note: The Minister recounted having nearly met 
Khamenei during the Iran-Iraq war years when the latter was 
president, but that Khamenei had moved to a location too near 
the front lines for YBA's taste.  End note.)  YBA has not 
traveled to Iran in over a year. 
¶4. (C) YBA said Iran is currently preoccupied with its IAEA 
issues and Iraq.  He noted the porous borders between Iran 
and Iraq, and the illicit smuggling between the two states 
that originated in the Iran-Iraq war years and that has 
intensified in the current situation in view of the lucrative 
opportunities.  He sees a degree of Iranian involvement in 
Iraqi affairs as unavoidable, but manageable if Iran is not 
"backed into a corner."  In fact, he thinks Tehran is either 
incapable or afraid of intervening to control the border 
areas completely.  YBA sees factions within Iran as split 
between backing al-Sadr or al-Hakim, but feels Iran must be 
aware of the fact that Iraqi Shia are determined to wrest 
dominance in Shia religious affairs away from Qom and restore 
it to Najaf.  The Minister is emphatic in noting that Iraq's 
Shia are in no way "dominated" by Iran. 
Al Jazeera 
¶5. (C) The Ambassador noted DNSA Hadley's appreciation of his 
chat with YBA December 5 (ref B), and sought the Minister's 
further views on how to address the Al Jazeera problem.  YBA 
said he understood Qatar had set up a working group to try to 
resolve abuses, and that he planned to raise the matter 
specifically with the Qataris when he travels to Doha January 
¶8.  Acknowledging that Al Jazeera crosses the boundaries 
between free speech and promoting extremism, YBA was 
optimistic that Qatar will "do something."  He was likewise 
hopeful that the positive developments coming out of 
Palestine would give Al Jazeera some good news upon which to 
focus, shifting some of the spotlight away from Iraq. 
¶6. (C) YBA noted that the Sultan had given USD 1 million to 
Palestine to assist with the election process.  He said Oman 
is greatly encouraged by Abbas, Qorei, and Finance Minister 
Fayyad for their improved transparency, bringing about a "new 
day" compared to the Arafat years.  Abbas, who visited Muscat 
December 18-19, gave the Sultan an encouraging readout on his 
ability to keep Hamas within acceptable norms of behavior as 
well as to unify Palestine's disparate security services. 
Arab League Issues 
¶7. (C) YBA's concerns over the upcoming Emergency Arab League 
ministerial were reported ref A.  He further noted that Iraq 
will dominate discussions primarily because "there is nothing 
right now" to say about Palestine.  While Oman stands firmly 
behind the January 30 Iraq election date, YBA continued to 
express opposition to any notion of providing Arab forces to 
Iraq.  He said Iraq is gradually improving with each passing 
day, and what it most needs now is a greater Iraqi police 
presence on the streets - not more armies.  The sooner 
Coalition forces melt into the background, the greater 
legitimacy the Iraqi government will enjoy. 
Saudi Arabia's Disastrous GCC Policies 
¶8. (C) Asked about the December 20 GCC Summit and Saudi 
Arabia's unhappiness with the USG pursuit of bilateral free 
trade agreements (FTAs), bin Alawi admitted that he missed 
Saudi FM Saud al-Faisal's speech at the ministerial.  YBA is 
nevertheless of the view that Saudi Arabia's dispute is more 
with the U.S. than with Bahrain or other potential FTA 
partners.  At least in the past, YBA said in reference to the 
1990's, the view in the region was that being a squeaky wheel 
was the best way to win attention from Washington.  Such is 
Riyadh's tactic now, he believes.  He also believes there may 
be positive references in the U.S.-Bahrain FTA to Iran (NFI), 
that may be provoking Riyadh's ire.  Bin Alawi said Saudi 
Arabia nevertheless badly misplayed its hand with the other 
GCC states and has now isolated itself on the FTA issue "five 
against one," made worse by Riyadh's blockage of a gas 
pipeline project between Kuwait and Qatar.  Riyadh's approach 
has backfired so badly, the Minister said, that Bahrain and 
Qatar are actively considering construction of a new bridge 
simply to bypass the need to enter Saudi territory.  An even 
more ambitious project to build a bridge between the UAE and 
Qatar was motivated by the same purpose of cementing trade 
ties among the non-Saudi members of the GCC.  The Minister 
observed that Iran's stock with the international community 
appears to be in even better shape than Saudi Arabia's. 
¶9. (C) Bin Alawi observed that the Al Saud are restricting 
debate on foreign policy issues to the top family circles, 
which only serves to stifle dialogue.  YBA had previously 
opined that FM Saud al-Faisal did not agree with Riyadh's 
stand on reform at the IISS Forum in early December.  He 
recounted having questioned his Saudi colleague on why the 
Saudi National Dialogue effort was not headed by a royal 
family member, since royals could rise above petty tribal 
disputes likely to be raised in such dialogues.  Despite the 
fact that Oman's ruling dynasty has successfully employed 
that tactic for over two centuries, YBA said Saud replied 
"that doesn't work in Saudi Arabia."  Bin Alawi observes that 
the Saudi government is now trying to buy off a delay in 
critical reform decisions by distributing more of the current 
oil profit windfall among the unemployed.  Not only does that 
tactic merely delay difficult decisions, but it also worsens 
the situation since those support payments will be viewed as 
an entitlement by the time oil prices eventually decline.