Cablegate: Marine Corps Commandant Discusses Iraq, Iran With
OO RUEHDE RUEHDIR
DE RUEHMK #0336/01 1010550
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 110550Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6702
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE PRIORITY 0218
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
Wednesday, 11 April 2007, 05:50
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAMA 000336
EO 12958 DECL: 04/05/2017
TAGS PREL, PGOV, MARR, MCAP, BA, BILAT, REGION, OFFICIALS
SUBJECT: MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT DISCUSSES IRAQ, IRAN WITH
Classified By: Ambassador William T. Monroe for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) .
1. (C) Crown Prince Shaikh Salman Al Khalifa told visiting Marine Corps Commandant General Conway April 5 that the “tide needs to be turned” in Iraq, and the Iraqi security forces need to find those perpetrating the violence to stop them. He advised coalition troop level reductions in urban areas and movements to outlying areas as soon as possible, with the exception of Baghdad, to force Iraqi forces to step up and handle the security situation. He admitted violence might rise for several months but would then settle down. The CP advocated for Iraq a strong civilian government backed by the military, similar to Turkey. Regarding Iran, Shaikh Salman expressed concern about Iran’s continued support for extremist groups around the world, including attempts to build networks in Bahrain, which Bahraini security works to disrupt. Commenting on the release of the 15 British sailors, the CP said that Iran had benefited disproportionately in terms of public relations over the incident. Recently back from a trip to Singapore, the CP said that officials there are concerned about the Islamic threat and youth in the community who might cause trouble. End summary.
Tide Needs Turning in Iraq
2. (C) On an April 5 visit, Commandant of the Marine Corps General James Conway met with Crown Prince Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who said that he had been watching the situation in Iraq closely, especially the activities of Commander of the Multinational Force in Iraq General David Petraeus. He commended General Petraeus for his clear commitment to the mission in Iraq, including his “Marhaba, shabab” (Hello, youth) statement. The “tide needs to be turned,” the CP said, and security forces need to find those responsible for the violence and stop them. General Conway said that there has been incremental progress, including with some Sunni tribes in Anbar province, some of whom are turning away from Al Qaida in Iraq (AQI) because of its brutal tactics and abuse of some Sunni tribal leaders.
3. (C) Regarding U.S. troop levels in Iraq, the CP advised reducing troop levels as soon as possible in urban areas, with the exception of Baghdad, and moving the troops to outlying areas. He stressed the importance of keeping the borders secure, but counseled to let Iraqis begin to sort out the security situation. Admittedly there will be a rise in violence between people who want to “settle scores,” but after six months the situation will calm down. The Iraqi military needs to take over more responsibility, and it will grow to fill its role. Similarly Iraqi leaders need to increase their initiative and leadership over its people, demonstrating a sense of common purpose. When asked by General Conway whether he had expressed these ideas to U.S. Defense Secretary Gates, the CP said that he had and that Secretary Gates had listened carefully. The CP said that he
SIPDIS had experienced difficulty previously trying to convince U.S. policy-makers who still believed Iraq could be a model of democracy in the region, but Secretary Gates had not dismissed his ideas. Shaikh Salman said, “Iraq will not be a model of democracy, at least not in the next 10-15 years.”
4. (C) The CP said that Iraq needs a strong federal government with 18 provinces. Splitting the country into three areas by sects is the wrong thing to do, because the country will eventually fall apart. He said Iraq needs a strong civilian government backed by the military, referring to Turkey as a model. He also said that total de-Baathification was the wrong approach, but that there needed to be efforts to root out militia members from the security forces. Shaikh Salman stated that Prime Minister Al Maliki may not be the right leader for the job in the long run, “but he is the guy for now. It was unrealistic to expect that merely a single election cycle could take Iraq from Saddam to stability.” The CP offered Bahrain’s support in any way it could assist.
Concern About Iran
5. (C) Shaikh Salman expressed his concern about domestic
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problems in Iran, including the poor state of the economy, which increases desperation, and the corresponding danger, of the Iranian government. He said he was worried about a nuclear-armed Iran, as it would likely spark a nuclear arms race in the Gulf. The CP focused on Iran’s consistent activity around the world spreading violence and unrest, including Iran’s support of Hizbullah, Hamas, militias in Iraq, and extremists in Indonesia. Iran is also trying to build networks in Bahrain, so the Bahraini security services are working diligently to contain and disrupt their activities. Iran’s policies to spread the revolution have nothing to do with being Shia, but everything to do with its Persian identity. The Iranians want to project their Persian identity across the entire Gulf. The CP noted that coverage of the release of the 15 British sailors and marines showed messages about the “Persian Gulf” prominently placed on signs in the background.
6. (C) The CP wondered aloud how the 15 British allowed themselves to be caught and why the British decided against immediate action. He surmised that they must have been too far from their support ship. General Conway added that the British seek to de-escalate tension in such incidents. The CP quipped that sometimes there is a need for quick, strong escalation (to send a message). He commented that Iran has benefited disproportionately from the incident in terms of public relations. The CP also said that he assumed the release of Jalal Sharafi, the Iranian official who had been abducted in Iraq, was connected to the release of the British sailors, mentioning that Iran has always used hostage-taking to their benefit.
Success in Singapore
7. (C) When asked by the Ambassador about his recent trip to Singapore, the CP said that it was a productive visit. Bahrain is in a similar position in terms of development and economic growth that Singapore was in 20 years ago. Even though Singapore is not close to the Middle East, the CP said that officials he talked with were concerned about the Islamic threat. Singaporeans live with Muslims, and officials fear the ways extremist messages affect their youth. He had been told there are approximately 2,000 hardened, completely convinced “psychopaths,” who have the potential to cause serious problems in Singapore. The CP said these extremists need to be handled like a cult and stopped at their source. He said that extremist groups often cut off their recruits from their families and friends to break their support network. Consequently, officials in Singapore encourage parents and other family members to be heavily involved in their youths’ lives to be more in touch with their activities and prevent their mixing with extremists.
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