Cablegate: Codel Voinovich Meeting with Egis Chief Soliman


DE RUEHEG #0009/01 0021807
O 021807Z JAN 08

S E C R E T CAIRO 000009



E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2018

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Stuart Jones
Reasons: 1.4 (B) and (D)

1. (S) Summary. EGIS Chief Omar Soliman told Ambassador and
a visiting Codel led by Senator George Voinovich December 31
that he is optimistic progress will be made on
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. However, Soliman was
concerned with continuing Israeli criticism of Egyptian
anti-smuggling efforts. He was worried that the Egyptians
would not be able to work out an arrangement with the
Israelis for Hajj pilgrims to return to Gaza. On Iran,
Soliman said that the USG's release of the National
Intelligence Estimate had altered the calculus through which
Arab states are interacting with Iran. On Iraq argued that
the Iraqi government needed to amend its constitution and
that Prime Minister Malaki should not deal with the Iraqi
people in a "sectarian way." End summary.

2. (S) Soliman led off the New Year's Eve meeting by telling
the Codel that the region is at a special, critical juncture.
Egypt is America's partner. Sometimes we have our
differences. But Egypt will continue to provide the USG with
its knowledge and expertise on the critical regional issues,
such as Lebanon and Iraq. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict
remains the core issue; Soliman contended a peaceful
resolution would be a "big blow" to terrorist organizations
that use the conflict as a pretext. For this reason,
President Mubarak is committed to ending the Israeli-Arab

3. (S) Soliman applauded the Administration's efforts,
commenting that Annapolis had given hope and begun a process.
The timing is right for progress based on four factors.
First, the PA leadership is moderate and willing to
negotiate. Second, Hamas is isolated and politically cut off
in Gaza. Third, the Israelis are ready for peace; Soliman
assessed that the GOI coalition is broad and strong, and
larger than Rabin's coalition of the mid-nineties. Fourth,
Arab states are ready to see an end to "the struggle."

4. (S) Soliman stressed that Egypt stands ready to help the
U.S. effort. The GOE knows both the Palestinians and the
Israelis, and knows the obstacles to peace. Soliman
recommended two steps be taken. First, both the Israelis and
Palestinians must be pressed hard to sign an agreement, which
the U.S. and international community could endorse, to be
implemented at the proper time. Second, the U.S. should
insist that "phase one" of the Roadmap should be completed
before the end of 2008.

5. (S) Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Soliman opined that the
Palestinian Authority was ready to sign an agreement, but
that establishment of a state may take between 1-3 years.
While Hamas is isolated politically and unable to stop an
Israeli-PA agreement, it remains entrenched in Gaza, and it
was unclear to Soliman how long that would last. At one
point in the discussion, Soliman seemed to imply Hamas may
remain in control of Gaza for more than a year; at another
juncture, he told Senator Voinovich that if negotiations
proceeded briskly, Hamas may be forced to cede power in Gaza
in 3-4 months. The bottom line for Hamas, according to
Soliman, is that they must be forced to choose between
remaining a resistance movement or joining the political
process. They cannot have it both ways, he said.

6. (S) Palestinian training: Soliman reiterated GOE
willingness to train and support Palestinian security forces.
He claimed that the GOE had training facilities ready, but
that he was waiting for an answer from U.S. Security
Coordinator General Keith Dayton. (Note: We have advised
Soliman that initial training of Palestinian security forces
will take place in Jordan, and that we will revisit the
option of training in Egypt this spring. End note). He
continued that the GOE would keep pressure on Hamas but will
maintain "low-level" contacts with Hamas. Egypt, he said,
wants Hamas isolated. The Qassam rocket attacks must stop.
When they do stop, the GOE will ask Israel to "meet quiet
with quiet."

7. (S) Border issues: Senator Voinovich asked Soliman why
the Israelis continue to report problems with Egypt's
anti-smuggling efforts. Soliman said that the Israelis do
not complain to him directly, and that GOI-GOE cooperation
and exchange of information continues. He was at a loss as
to why Israeli politicians continue to criticize Egypt
publicly. The GOE would like the USG to be included in the
GOI-GOE LAWIO discussions, but the Israelis continue to
object. "They don't want a witness in the room," Soliman
said. Nevertheless, Soliman was willing to turn the page.
"We have a short time to reach peace. We need it. We need
to wake up in the morning with no news of terrorism, no
explosions, and no news of more deaths. We want everyone
happy. That is the Egyptian dream."

8. (S) Syria: Congressman Turner asked if Iran and/or Syria
might be play a spoiler role. Soliman answered that Syria
wants desperately to halt the United Nations special tribunal
on the Hariri assassination. At the same time, the SARG is
ready to negotiate with the Israelis, and Soliman believed
that the GOI also is ready. Syria, Soliman said, can be
induced to play a constructive role but added that there are
no guarantees, however, on Syrian performance.

9. (S) NIE: Regarding the USG's National Intelligence
Estimate of Iran's nuclear program, Soliman was concerned
that many in the Arab world were recalculating their position
vis a vis Iran based on an assumption that the NIE
represented a USG policy shift. Soliman said the Egyptians
are working to correct this misimpression among Arab states.
"We tell the Arab world: Don't be happy with the NIE and
don't warm up to Iran. We know that the United States will
never allow Iran to have a nuclear bomb."

10. (S) Iran: Soliman said that Iran remains a significant
threat to Egypt. It continues to influence Shiaa in Iraq and
the Gulf. Iran is supporting Jihad and spoiling peace, and
has supported extremists in Egypt previously. If they were
to support the Muslim Brotherhood this would make them "our
enemy," he said. The GOE continues to press the Iranian
regime to turn over extremists given "safe harbor" in Iran.
This issue, he said, will remain an obstacle to improving
Egyptian-Iranian relations. (Soliman met with Iranian former
nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani earlier in the week.
Larijani was in Egypt on a week-long "private visit."

11. (S) Iraq: Soliman said he remains concerned that the
Maliki government in Iraq is not representing all Iraqis
(i.e. the Sunni population). The GOE has urged Maliki not to
deal with the Iraqi people in a sectarian way, and to amend
to constitution to allow greater Sunni representation. In
addition, the Iraqi government must remove militias from the
ranks of the army and police. In the long run, Soliman did
not think that the decrease in violence would be sustainable
absent these two steps. In addition, Iranian influence is
problematic. Soliman said that the GOE had worked to
reconcile 21 clans and tribes in Iraq, with good results, and
that this kind of efforts had to continue. He assessed that
both Sistani and Sadr were practical men, and able to be
dealt with.

12. (U) Delegation composition:

Senator George Voinovich (R-OH)
Congressman Mike Turner (R-OH)
Congressman Steve Pearce (R-NM)
Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT)
Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-GA)

13. (U) The delegation did not clear this message.

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