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Cablegate: Townsend-Saleh Meeting Provides Opening For

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHYN #1989/01 3030637
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 300637Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY SANAA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8277
INFO RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 0057
RUEHMS/AMEMBASSY MUSCAT PRIORITY 0506
RHMCSUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

S E C R E T SANAA 001989

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
NOFORN
SIPDIS

NSC FOR ADNAN KIFAYAT; WHITE HOUSE FOR JOHN PEARSON

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/24/2017
TAGS: PGOV PTER YM
SUBJECT: TOWNSEND-SALEH MEETING PROVIDES OPENING FOR
ADDITIONAL CT COOPERATION

REF: A. SANAA 1859
B. SANAA 1935
C. SANAA 1633
D. SANAA 1901

Classified By: DCM Angie Bryan for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1.(U) Frances Townsend, Assistant to the President for
Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, has cleared this
cable.

Summary
- - - - -

2.(S) Frances Townsend, Assistant to the President for
Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, met with President
Saleh in Aden on October 22 to discuss mutual cooperation in
the War on Terror. During the meeting, Saleh accepted
Townsend's request for USG interrogation of Jamal al-Badawi,
convicted architect of the bombing of the USS Cole. Saleh
blamed "aging agents" in the Political Security Organization
(PSO) for inadequate cooperation, asked the USG to pressure
regional Gulf countries to stop their support of southern
"secessionist" movements, accepted Townsend's offer of USG
assistance in preparation of counterterrorism and cash
courier laws, and agreed to the need for joint operations to
combat terrorism outside Yemen. Saleh also warned against
the threat of Iran, specifically with regard to its role
inside Iraq, and promised to do more to curb the flow of
young Yemeni men going to fight in Iraq. The meeting was
generally a constructive one, with the Yemeni President
making some positive commitments. Post will continue to work
with the ROYG to ensure these commitments are not forgotten.
End Summary

Jamal "He is Under my Microscope" al-Badawi and Friends
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3.(S) Frances Townsend, Assistant to the President for
Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, met with President
Ali Abdullah Saleh in Aden on October 22 to discuss mutual
cooperation in the War on Terror. During the lunch portion
of the meeting, also attended by the Foreign Minister, the
Governor of Aden, and a member of Parliament, she asked for
an update on the status of Jamal al-Badawi, convicted
architect of the bombing of the USS Cole (ref B). The
President confirmed al-Badawi's release, clarifying that he
is under house arrest, living and working on his farm near
Aden, while the ROYG closely monitors him. Saleh added that
while Yemeni authorities pursued al-Badawi, the ROYG was
transmitting messages to him "promising" that if he turned
himself in, his "situation would get better." Saleh said he
personally met with al-Badawi "two weeks ago" and had a frank
discussion with him. "Al-Badawi promised to give up
terrorism and I told him that his actions damaged Yemen and
its image; he began to understand," Saleh said.

4.(S) Townsend expressed dismay over al-Badawi's release and
asked for USG access to interrogate him. Saleh told Townsend
not to worry, "he is under my microscope," but had no
objections to her request, reiterating numerous times that
interested USG entities could interrogate al-Badawi by
coordinating with the Political Security Organization (PSO).

5.(S) Saleh specifically mentioned two other escapees that
remain at large: Abdullah al-Wadi'i and Nasr al-Wahishi. He
said al-Wahishi had taken the place of Abu Ali as head of
al-Qaeda in Yemen. Townsend reiterated USG concern over the
ROYG's house arrest system, with a reference to the cases of
Ibrahim Makri and Mansur al-Bahani, both of whom were linked
to terrorist activity while under house arrest.

Weapons Trafficking: You Can't Make This Stuff Up
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

6.(C) As Townsend began to ask Saleh about his efforts to
combat weapons trafficking, Saleh interrupted her to invite
one of Yemen's top three weapons traffickers, Faris Mana'a,
into the lunch meeting. When Mana'a, who met with the
President earlier in the day, entered the room, Saleh
jokingly addressed the Embassy Assistant Legal Attach
(Legatt), saying, "hey FBI, if he does not behave properly,

you can take him... back to Washington in Townsend's plane or
to Guantanamo." The Legatt replied, "we could put both
Mana'a and al-Badawi on the plane;" however, the translator
did not report this to Saleh, making it unlikely that the
President heard the Legatt's reply. Meanwhile, Presidential
staff provided Mana'a with a chair at the table. Saleh
explained that the ROYG had recently confiscated a shipment
of "pistols" from Mana'a and given them to the military.
Townsend lightheartedly commented, "he has donated weapons to
the nation's military -- he can be considered a patriot now."
Saleh responded with laughter, saying, "no, he is a double
agent -- he also gave weapons to the al-Houthi rebels." The
President said the Ministry of Defense was the only entity in
Yemen authorized to purchase weapons. (Comment: If the
President,s statement were an accurate portrayal of the
situation, arms dealers would effectively be out of business.
Saleh's comment has been made to Post numerous times before.
This, and Mana'a's presence at the Palace, raises serious
questions about the President's commitment to stopping
weapons trafficking. Mana'a also runs a construction company
and a petroleum services business, with contracts in Iraq.
His ties to Saleh may extend beyond money made from the
weapons trade. End Comment)

7.(C) Saleh said the new weapons ban (ref C) in Yemen's major
cities had been a success, receiving a surprisingly positive
public response. He specified that in the past month 45,000
pieces of weaponry had been collected. The Governor of Aden
added that his city was "100% clean of weapons." Saleh
expressed a desire to "follow the United States example" of
licensing guns. When asked by the Legatt if he was going to
expand the weapons ban outside major cities, Saleh responded
that it is a "step-by-step" process.

PSO: The Old Guard is the Problem
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

8.(S) Townsend complimented Yemen's National Security Bureau,
saying, "it has done good work, despite its youth," yet
complained of a lack of cooperation from the PSO with the
USG. Saleh replied that his proposed constitutional
amendments (ref A) were the first step in addressing this
problem. At Foreign Minister al-Qirbi's insistence, Saleh
elaborated upon his answer, adding that, "although the PSO
has firm orders to cooperate and respond quickly, its agents
are aging," alluding to PSO Head, Ghalib Mutahi Qamish.
(Note: Qamish has been a topic of (sometimes tense)
discussion between Townsend and Saleh in the past. End Note)

The Gulf Factor: Fueling Southern Unrest
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

9.(S) While Saleh claimed the situation in the rebellious
northern Saada governorate was "very calm," he expressed
apprehension over the unrest in the South. The President
asked the USG to pressure countries funding southern
opposition, saying, "it is important that Yemen not reach a
state of instability. We need your support." Townsend
replied, "you do not even have to think about it. Of course
we support Yemen."

10.(S) Saleh asserted that neighboring Arab countries were
intent on destabilizing his country by supporting the
southern "secessionist" movement, "not because they have
anything against Yemen, but because we are following the
United States' democracy model, and they do not want a
democracy in the region." He specifically referred to Crown
Prince Sultan of Saudi Arabia, but inculpated other Gulf
countries as well. According to Saleh, Gulf Islamic
organizations are funding the opposition in the South and
supporting secessionist movement leaders living in Oman,
Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. He said some of those regional
Islamic organizations had links to the radical factions
within the Islamist opposition party Islah - calling them
"jihadists, salafis, and al-Qaeda." (Note: Islah is the
largest opposition party in Yemen and is largely recognized
as moderate. It includes radical factions that are
considered to be a minority. End Note)

USG Support: CT, Cash Courier Law and Joint Operations
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - -


11.(C) Townsend asked about the progress of Yemen's draft
counterterrorism (CT) law. Saleh answered, "it has come a
long way, but we have not yet fully achieved our goals."
Townsend offered USG technical assistance in drafting the law
and training for its implementation, which Saleh casually
accepted. (Note: The Minister of Legal Affairs recently
rejected an offer for the same assistance (ref D). The lack
of an effective CT law sometimes leaves the ROYG without a
legal basis to hold terrorists. Post views passage of a
comprehensive CT Law as a significant step in strengthening
counterterrorism bilateral relations. End Note)

12.(C) Townsend recommended a cash courier law to strengthen
Yemen's efforts at combating terrorism and proposed USG
assistance with the drafting of this law as well, which Saleh
also nonchalantly accepted. (Comment: Saleh's informal
manner makes it unclear how resolute he was in accepting, yet
it is certain that he did not reject the offers made by
Townsend and generally agreed to her proposals. End Comment)

13.(S) Townsend said USG agencies want to work with the ROYG
on counterterrorism outside, not just inside, Yemen. Saleh
agreed. He noted that Usama bin Laden's personal bodyguards
are all Yemeni, alluding to the need for USG-ROYG cooperation
in the tribal areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Saleh
added that "violence by governments is not always the
answer," and asked for greater USG assistance in development.
(Note: Yemen is a beneficiary of significant non-CT aid
through the Middle East Partnership Initiative, the US
Department of Agriculture Food for Progress Program and, as
of November 1, returns to the Millennium Challenge
Cooperation's Threshold Country Program. End Note)

Iran, Iran, Iran
- - - - - - - - -

14.(S) Throughout the meeting, Saleh repeatedly asked about
Iran and the USG's position vis-a-vis the country. Townsend
replied that if Iran does not get serious, the USG will be
forced to return to the United Nations to request more
sanctions.

15.(S) Saleh warned Townsend about Qatar's relationship with
Iran, cautioning that although the two countries are allies,
Iran could turn on Qatar at any time. Townsend agreed,
saying she had relayed the same message to Qatar, and asked
Saleh if he had spoken to the Qatari Emir about this matter.
Saleh responded, "of course." He also asked Townsend to
deliver a verbatim message to President Bush about Iran: "you
must discipline and tame a child when he is young."

16.(S) On Iraq, Saleh asked Townsend to tell President Bush
that, "Maliki represents Iran in Iraq, he is worse than
Ahmedinejad." He repeatedly referred to Maliki as a "dog,"
although the embarrassed interpreter substituted the word
"he."

Foreign Fighters to Iraq
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

17.(S) Townsend expressed USG concern over young Yemeni men
going to fight in Iraq and asked Saleh to do more to tackle
the problem. Saleh replied that it is an extremely difficult
task, as Yemeni men do not travel directly to Iraq. They
first travel to Cairo, Damascus, or Riyadh, making it
practically impossible to track who is traveling to Baghdad.
Townsend suggested publicly announcing airport interrogations
of young men suspected of going to Iraq. She noted that the
fear of getting caught itself might stem the flow of foreign
fighters. Saleh agreed and said the ROYG will try to do
more. (Note: Yemeni security services currently try to
scrutinize young male Yemeni travelers, particularly those
traveling to Damascus, as a means to identify foreign
fighters, and sometimes deny them travel. End Note)

Letters Exchanged
- - - - - - - - - -

18.(C) Townsend delivered a letter from President Bush to
President Saleh. The letter was read by both Saleh and
Foreign Minister al-Qirbi. Saleh responded to it by

emphasizing Yemen's willingness to "cooperate with everything
that is included in President Bush's letter." With this, he
insisted the United States continue to support Yemen, both
financially and politically, and "stand in the way of those
against us." Saleh presented Townsend with a letter for
President Bush and a report on Yemen's efforts to combat
terrorism.

Comment
- - - - -

19.(S) Overall, this meeting was more constructive than some
observers would have expected. Given Saleh's colorful
character and knack for theatrics, the inclusion of a weapons
trafficker during his lunch with Townsend was not a complete
surprise. Saleh's action was seen by some as a veiled threat
to Mana'a, but was clearly also a message to the USG that in
his country he will do as he pleases. Like other leaders in
the region, Saleh is loathe to be perceived as subservient to
US or Western interests. His use of the dual threats of
terrorism and instability when referring to internal conflict
is also not new. Saleh consistently uses this tactic when
attempting to garner USG support. Saleh's allowing USG
interrogation of al-Badawi is positive. The fact that Saleh
released this convicted terrorist, despite USG objections,
however, is cause for concern. Saleh's acceptance of
Townsend's proposal of assistance in drafting the CT and cash
courier law and his commitment to joint action to combat
terrorism outside Yemen are welcome developments, as is his
willingness to cooperate to stem the flow of Yemeni fighters
to Iraq, even if his acceptance of these ideas is nonchalant.
Post will continue to work with the ROYG to ensure these
commitments are not forgotten.

20.(U) Minimize considered for Baghdad.
SECHE

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