Viewing cable 05MUSCAT6

05MUSCAT62005-01-02 10:35:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Muscat
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MUSCAT 000006 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/02/2015 
REF: A. 04 MANAMA 1885 
     ¶B. MUSCAT 002 
Classified By: Ambassador Richard L. Baltimore III. 
Reason: 1.4 (b, d). 
¶1. (C)  Team Muscat was delighted to learn of your transit of 
Oman en route to the tsunami-stricken Asia region.  In the 
event your brief refueling stop in Muscat offers the 
opportunity for an airport meeting with Minister Responsible 
for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi, we offer the following 
background on Oman's position regarding issues of regional 
concern.  You last met with the Minister in September in New 
York; he was unable to attend the Forum for the Future event 
in Rabat.  Bin Alawi held a productive bilateral meeting with 
DNSA Steve Hadley in Manama on December 5 (ref A). 
Tsunami Relief 
The Omani government has yet to announce any disaster relief 
package, though religious officials have encouraged 
charitable contributions and various local private 
organizations - including the expatriate Asian community - 
have begun charity drives.  While the USG has not had to 
avail itself thus far of access to Omani bases for disaster 
relief, doing so would not pose a problem.  Out of Oman's 
population of 2.3 million, approximately half a million 
persons are expatriates, many of whom come from South and 
East Asia. 
While initially strongly recommending against OIF, Oman 
supports all efforts to restore Iraqi stability and 
prosperity and its transition to a democratic government. 
Bin Alawi opposes any efforts (particularly from states like 
Jordan and Saudi Arabia) to seek a postponement in the 
January 30 election date, viewing many of those calling for a 
delay as being overly suspicious of Iran's links to Iraqi 
Shia or in favor of increasing Wahhabist influence in Iraq. 
The Minister takes for granted a certain degree of Iranian 
interest in Iraqi affairs, but vows that Iraq's Shia 
community is not beholden to and in fact is somewhat in 
competition with Iran.  Bin Alawi opposes calls for foreign, 
especially Arab, troops for Iraq, saying the country most 
vitally needs more Iraqi policemen - not foreign soldiers. 
Oman has pledged USD 5 million for Iraq's reconstruction, but 
cites competing requests from Iraqi entities for the 
non-disbursal of those funds.  Oman supports Iraq's 
participation in international fora and has received an Iraqi 
Ambassador.  Oman's voice will be supportive of USG positions 
at the upcoming emergency Arab League ministerial on Iraq. 
Bin Alawi sees steady improvement in Iraq and expresses 
confidence in the eventual outcome.  He likewise welcomes 
progress in Afghanistan's stabilization and transition. 
The Minister told me December 27 (ref B) how happy he was to 
hear recent statements from you that the U.S. would handle 
its concerns with Iran through diplomatic means.  Given its 
shared stewardship of the strategic Strait of Hormuz, Oman 
sees little choice but to seek a congenial if not close 
relationship with Iran.  While their bilateral interaction 
revolves primarily around border security issues 
(particularly the movement of people and goods by sea), 
President Khatami made a state visit to Oman in October.  Bin 
Alawi attributes Iran's objectionable behavior (IAEA, 
Hezbollah, Iraq) to its demand to be treated seriously as a 
regional power by the international community.  He urges 
direct USG-Iranian dialogue as the best means of tempering 
Tehran's negative inclinations, and is willing to play a 
helpful role to that end if ever asked by the USG.  He has 
long maintained that it would be in our collective best 
interests if Iran were allowed to join the WTO in that it 
would focus some of their energies towards complying with a 
set of international rules.  Bin Alawi is contemplating a 
visit to Iran in the coming months, despite his confidence 
that the next Iranian president will be a political 
conservative acceptable to Ayatollah Khamenei. 
Free Trade Agreement-GCC-Saudi Arabia 
Oman and the UAE will formally begin negotiations with USTR 
on a free trade agreement (FTA) in March.  The International 
Trade Commission hosts a public hearing on the proposed Oman 
FTA in Washington on January 14, during which Omani 
Ambassador al-Khosaibi will testify.  Bin Alawi joins the 
rest of the Omani government in firmly backing FTA 
negotiations, signaling its willingness to adopt the Bahrain 
FTA model.  The Minister is sharply critical of Saudi 
Arabia's bumbling efforts to force the GCC into a 
multilateral negotiation on the U.S. FTA, and sees Riyadh's 
actions as more directed at Washington than its GCC 
neighbors.  Bin Alawi welcomes USG efforts through the Middle 
East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) to promote "modernization" 
in Arab societies (he hates the word "reform"), but looks 
down on Riyadh for what he sees as the Al Saud's blindness 
toward the need to foster change.  The Minister is critical 
of the Al Jazeera satellite network based in Qatar, but is 
hopeful Doha will take steps to rein in the channel.  He will 
discuss the matter with the Qataris when he travels there 
January 8. 
Palestine, Sudan 
Palestinian interim leader Mahmoud Abbas paid a recent visit 
to Muscat, impressing the Omanis with his pledge to unify the 
Palestinian security services and to hold to a much higher 
standard of honesty and transparency than Arafat's regime. 
While no more fond of Sharon than he was of Arafat, bin Alawi 
has some optimism for progress in Middle East peace for the 
first time since 2001.  He recently received a mid-level 
Israeli MFA official for a quiet bilateral, and told us that 
Oman contributed USD 1 million to support Palestinian 
elections.  Oman has also maintained a certain degree of 
interest in both the Sudanese peace talks and the Darfur 
crisis, having pledged USD 1 million to support Sudanese 
relief efforts.