Viewing cable 05MUSCAT599

05MUSCAT5992005-04-12 02:52:00 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 000599 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/11/2015 
Classified By: Ambassador Richard L. Baltimore III. 
Reason: 1.4 (b, d). 
¶1. (C)  Senior Omani foreign affairs and defense officials 
shared views with CENTCOM CDR Gen Abizaid on the brewing 
tensions between the U.S. and Iran, with the Omanis 
consistently advocating direct dialogue as a means to ease 
pressures and forestall an Iranian nuclear program.  The 
Omanis shared USG concern over the governmental gridlock in 
Iraq, deeming Sunni Arab participation critical and urging a 
de-emphasis of religion in political dialogue.  Views were 
mixed on whether extremism is losing its appeal in the 
region, with some complaints about poor intelligence sharing 
within the GCC and continuing finance of terror.  The Omanis 
described efforts to combat human smuggling from Iran, 
Pakistan and Yemen, and shared a positive assessment of 
bilateral defense cooperation with the U.S.  Oman looks 
forward to the delivery in October of F-16 aircraft, and 
seeks USG input on the planned airbase in al-Musannah.  End 
¶2. (SBU) General Abizaid, USCENTCOM CDR, paid calls March 
29-30 on Minister Responsible for Defense Affairs Sayyid Badr 
bin Saud bin Harib al-Busaidi, Minister Responsible for 
Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi, and Chief of Staff of the 
Sultan's Armed Forces (COSSAF) LTG Ahmed al-Nabhani.  General 
Abizaid was joined by the Ambassador and senior CENTCOM and 
Embassy staff members.  In each meeting, General Abizaid 
offered a read-out of the current situation in Iraq, 
Afghanistan and in the global war on terror, and solicited 
Omani reactions. 
Views on Iran 
¶3. (C) Bin Alawi solicited the General's views on Iran before 
confiding his own fears should Tehran truly pursue a nuclear 
capability.  If Iran is moving forward in its nuclear 
development program, every day's progress takes it closer to 
a point where it cannot be turned back.  It is possible, in 
his view, that Tehran is using the dialogue with the EU-3 
simply to gain time, and "before we know it, they are testing 
a device."  But Bin Alawi admitted that Oman is as much in 
the dark about Iran's true actions as anyone else.  "They 
tell us the same thing they tell others," he said.  The 
minister revealed, however, that former Iranian president 
Rafsanjani's brother had recently vacationed in Oman and 
vowed that Iran was "fully capable" of building a nuclear 
device.  Should that day ever come, the tenor of the 
international community's negotiations with Iran would change 
dramatically.  For this reason, Bin Alawi urged rapid 
progress toward a diplomatic solution.  Should Iran acquire 
nuclear weapons, he asked rhetorically "Who would be next? 
The Comoros Islands?" 
¶4. (C) Sayyid Badr agreed with others in saying Iran has 
major power ambitions, as evidenced by its nuclear program. 
He urged "prudent measures" to quell media hype that 
threatened to escalate tensions with Iran, noting that the 
region cannot afford another conflict.  Given the heavy 
presence of US forces surrounding Iran, he thought it natural 
that Tehran feels itself a target.  Nevertheless, he believes 
that Iran's dialogue with the EU-3 was reassuring to Tehran 
and advocated more direct dialogue (including with the U.S.) 
to bring more calm.  After all, Sayyid Badr said, Iran hardly 
meddled in Afghanistan and has played a reasonably 
circumspect role in Iraq as well.  Given time, he expects 
reforms in Iran to gain momentum and further secure regional 
peace and stability.  LTG Nabhani separately added his own 
take on Tehran, opining that the government was using the 
threat to pursue a nuclear program as a means to achieve some 
other ends, such as exacting security guarantees from 
Washington.  Iran will want something in return for 
abandoning its nuclear program, he said.  "It's not like 
Assessing Iraq 
¶5. (C) The Foreign Minister blamed factional in-fighting and 
incessant horse-trading for the failure to form an Iraqi 
government, pointing to the Kurds as the biggest single 
obstacle.  Sayyid Badr was more upbeat, welcoming the recent 
elections as a positive development.  Agreeing on the need to 
win greater Sunni involvement, he is confident of progress 
toward establishing a government and the steps that will 
follow.  With U.S. help, particularly in strengthening Iraqi 
security forces, he believes Iraq can again harness its great 
potential.  LTG Nabhani saw the Iraqi elections as another 
source of pressure on the weakened Syrian government.  He 
echoed the Sultan's views (septel) on the Iraqi flag, terming 
it a Baathist relic of the former regime.  He urged a fuller 
incorporation of Sunni Arabs in the Iraqi political process, 
while at the same time minimizing sectarian identity in favor 
of a stronger national identity.  Saying he did not want to 
see Iraq turn into another Iran, he advocated a de-emphasis 
of religion in Iraq. 
Terror and Extremism 
¶6. (C) Asked whether he perceived a lessening of support for 
extremist views in the region, the Defense Minister allowed 
that that might be "partially" the case.  While he 
acknowledged great efforts to combat terrorism, he sees Arabs 
as still deeply divided over the need for reform.  The 
Sultan's months-long "tour of the people," he cited, was an 
example of reform efforts in Oman, and noted progress in some 
other states as well.  Sayyid Badr urged positive movement in 
the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue to further drain the pretext 
for violence.  Given the new Palestinian leadership, which he 
termed more "dove than hawk," he thought a final settlement 
could be achieved.  The Minister thanked the USG for its 
strong efforts in the global war on terror and vowed that 
Oman's Ministry of Defense would not hesitate to cooperate 
however it could.  LTG Nabhani also urged positive movement 
viz Israel-Palestine, to afford greater balance to the 
pressures being placed on Iran and Syria.  He judged that the 
Palestinian issue presents a greater motivator for extremists 
than does Iraq. 
¶7. (C) Yusuf bin Alawi took a more critical view.  While 
asserting that terrorists are finding it more difficult to 
hide underground in the Middle East, he faulted GCC states 
for not doing enough to combat them.  For one, intelligence 
coordination within the GCC is very weak, either because the 
intel chiefs are incompetents appointed for purely personal 
reasons, or because even the capable ones are not given 
adequate political support.  He likewise decried the lack of 
a coherent plan to battle terrorist ideologies.  Arabs simply 
rely on governments to take action but will not speak out for 
themselves.  Bin Alawi also believes a number of Wahhabi 
groups continue to receive encouragement and support from 
some quarters.  Certain that Al Qaeda supporters in Saudi 
Arabia are unhappy with that government, he said the people 
financing those movements, in contrast, live quite 
comfortably.  Bin Alawi views those financiers as rich people 
who seek power through terror for want of any other means. 
He opined that a great deal of money laundering for 
terrorists takes place in the UAE as part of some cynical 
effort by the UAEG to buy peace at home.  Qatar, he said, 
learned that that strategy does not work. 
Combating Human Smuggling 
¶8. (C) LTG Nabhani highlighted the improved coordination 
between the Royal Navy of Oman and the Royal Oman Police 
Coast Guard (ROP-CG) in combating the flow of illegal aliens 
from Pakistan and Iran into Oman, typically en route to jobs 
in the UAE but in some cases smuggling narcotics as well. 
The two services share a command and control center, and the 
ROP-CG was taking delivery of fast interdiction boats and 
receiving good intelligence from the UK.  He assessed Omani 
interdiction efforts as improved from previous years, but 
said the total number of smugglers is rising at an even 
faster rate.  His counterpart from the Pakistani military is 
due to visit Oman in April, and LTG Nabhani said this topic 
was going to be a key point of discussion.  Nabhani had 
praise for Pakistani President Musharraf, saying the nation 
was lucky to have such a tough leader in these times.  But he 
castigated Pakistan and India for wasting their energies on 
the Kashmir dispute while China's economy continues to surge 
well ahead.  He said Oman's expatriate Pakistani population 
was well-behaved and seemingly untouched by some of the bad 
influences present elsewhere.  Land borders with Yemen, Saudi 
Arabia and the UAE were generally well patrolled, he said, 
though Yemenis and Somalis continue to infiltrate.  He 
praised cooperation with Yemen, but noted that country has 
more serious security concerns vying for its attention. 
National and Bilateral Defense Issues 
¶9. (C) Sayyid Badr warmly praised General Abizaid for the 
transparency and openness of their consultations.  He 
positively assessed the recent "Magic Carpet" joint air 
exercise held in Southern Oman with UK, French and U.S. 
forces, and vowed such cooperation will continue on Oman's 
part.  General Abizaid congratulated Oman for recently 
hosting a successful Middle East Air Symposium.  LTG Nabhani 
also highly valued "Magic Carpet," saying that while Oman was 
still assessing the "lessons learned," he finds joint 
exercises to be far more beneficial than doing them 
separately.  He made a pitch for an additional Omani slot at 
the NDU War College, and discussed the various national and 
international training opportunities available to Omani 
service members.  He said there continues to be each year 
many times more applicants than recruitment slots (1000-1500) 
available in the Royal Army of Oman. 
¶10. (C) Nabhani briefly previewed the upcoming JMC meeting in 
June in Washington, DC.  He said preparations for the 
delivery of the first two of twelve F-16's from the U.S. are 
on track for October, and expressed hope that the many Royal 
Air Force of Oman personnel undertaking training in the U.S. 
will return fully capable of maintaining the aircraft.  He 
suggested that the USG engage now in consultations with Oman 
on requirements for the future airbase in Al Musannah, to 
which will eventually be transferred virtually all of the 
military operations currently handled at the 
military/civilian airport in Seeb.  The UK was also being 
invited to participate in those consultations.  LTG Nabhani 
warmly praised his relationship with the Embassy's Office of 
Military Cooperation and vowed his door was always open to 
¶11. (U) CENTCOM cleared this cable.