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Cablegate: Saudi King Abdullah and Senior Princes On Saudi

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OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHIHL RUEHKUK RUEHLH RUEHPW RUEHROV
DE RUEHRH #0649/01 1110847
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O 200847Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY RIYADH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8227
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD IMMEDIATE 0650
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 RIYADH 000649

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

WHITE HOUSE FOR OVP, DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ARP AND S/I
SATTERFIELD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/19/2018
TAGS: EAID ECON EFIN IZ PGOV PREL MOPS SA IR
SUBJECT: SAUDI KING ABDULLAH AND SENIOR PRINCES ON SAUDI
POLICY TOWARD IRAQ

Classified By: CDA Michael Gfoeller, Reasons 1.4 (b,d)

1. (S) Summary: US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and
General David Petraeus met with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abd
al-Aziz, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, General
Presidency of Intelligence Chief Prince Muqrin bin Abd
al-Aziz, and Interior Minister Nayif bin Abd al-Aziz during
their April 14-15 visit to Riyadh. The Saudi King and senior
Princes reviewed Saudi policy toward Iraq in detail, all
making essentially the same points. They said that the
Kingdom will not send an ambassador to Baghdad or open an
embassy until the King and senior Saudi officials are
satisfied that the security situation has improved and the
Iraqi government has implemented policies that benefit all
Iraqis, reinforce Iraq's Arab identity, and resist Iranian
influence. The Saudis evinced somewhat greater flexibility
regarding the issues of economic and humanitarian assistance
for Iraq and debt forgiveness. In a conversation with the
Charge' on April 17, Saudi Ambassador to the US Adel
al-Jubeir indicated that the King had been very impressed by
the visit of Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus, and
al-Jubeir hinted that the Saudi government might announce
changes to its Iraq policy before the President's visit to
Riyadh in mid-May. End Summary.

Positive Signs in Iraq

2. (S) In all their meetings with the Saudi royals, both
Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus conveyed the progress
in Iraq and confirmed the negative role Iran is playing in
Iraq. They characterized the recent ISF-led operations in
Basra and Baghdad as having a striking effect against the
Shia militias, most importantly turning Iraqi public opinion
away from the militias. While Prime Minister Nuri
al-Maliki's decision to take action against the militias was
described as hasty and not well-planned, Ambassador Crocker
and General Petraeus emphasized that any tactical shortfalls
were overshadowed by the greater positive effect of unifying
Iraq and demonstrating the GOI's, and most specifically
al-Maliki's, determined resolve to take on the Shia militias,
especially Jaysh al-Madhi. Concurrently, these operations
unequivocally demonstrated Iran's subversive activities in
Iraq and its broader regional ambitions. Throughout all
their discussions, Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus
stressed the importance and urgent need for the Saudis to
join us in supporting Iraq.

The Saudi Embassy Issue

3. (S) King Abdullah, the Foreign Minister, and Prince
Muqrin all stated that the Saudi government would not send an
ambassador to Baghdad or open an embassy there in the near
future, citing both security and political grounds in support
of this position. The Foreign Minister stated that he had
considered dispatching an ambassador and had sent Saudi
diplomats to Baghdad to identify a site for the Saudi
embassy. However, he said. "the King simply forbade us to go
any farther." King Abdullah confirmed this account in a
separate meeting with Ambassador Crocker and General
Petraeus. The King asserted that the security situation in
Baghdad was too dangerous for him to risk sending a Saudi
ambassador there. "He would immediately become a target for
the terrorists and the militias," he said.

4. (S) The King also rejected the suggestion that by sending
a Saudi ambassador to Baghdad he could give essential
political support to the Iraqi government as it struggles to
resist Iranian influence and subversion. He expressed
lingering doubt on the Iraqi government's willingness to
resist Iran. He also repeated his frequently voiced doubts
about Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki himself by alluding to
his "Iranian connections." The Saudi monarch stated that he
does not trust al-Maliki because the Iraqi Prime Minister had
"lied" to him in the past by promising to take certain
actions and then failing to do so. The King did not say
precisely what these allegedly broken promises might have
been. He repeated his oft heard view that al-Maliki rules
Iraq on behalf of his Shiite sect instead of all Iraqis.

5. (S) However, in a potentially significant move, the King
did not reject the idea of dispatching a Saudi ambassador to
Baghdad completely. Instead, he said that he would consider

RIYADH 00000649 002 OF 003


doing so after the Iraqi provincial elections are held in the
autumn. The conduct of these elections would indicate
whether or not the Iraqi government is truly interested in
ruling on behalf of all Iraqis or merely in support of the
Shia, King Abdullah asserted.

Grudging Acknowledgment of Change in Iraq

6. (S) The Foreign Minister signaled another potential
softening in Saudi policy by saying that the Kingdom's
problem was not with al-Maliki as a person but rather with
the conduct of the Iraqi government. The King himself
admitted that the Iraqi government's performance has improved
in recent months and grudgingly accepted the point that
al-Maliki and his security forces have indeed been fighting
extremists, specifically Shia extremists in both Basra and
Baghdad and Sunni extremists and Al Qaeda in Mosul. However,
the King and the senior Princes argued that more time would
be required to judge whether the recent change in Iraqi
behavior was lasting and sincere. The King suggested that
much of the Iraqi government's improved performance is
attributable to US prodding rather than change in Iraqi
attitudes.

7. (S) The Foreign Minister also suggested that the USG
should prod Ayatollah Sistani to speak out in favor of a
unified Iraq and national reconciliation among different
Iraqi sects and groups. "You have paid a heavy price in
blood and treasure, and Sistani and his people have benefited
directly. You have every right to ask this of him," Prince
Saud al-Faisal said.

Possible Saudi Economic Assistance

8. (S) The King, Prince Muqrin, and the Foreign Minister all
suggested that the Saudi government might be willing to
consider the provision of economic and humanitarian
assistance to Iraq. Prince Muqrin asked Ambassador Crocker
and General Petraeus to send him a list of the kinds of
assistance that the US government would like to see the
Kingdom provide Iraq. Al-Jubeir later told the Charge' that
this assistance would be separate from the USD 1 billion in
aid that the Saudi government had promised at the Madrid
Conference but still not delivered due to security worries.
He said that the Madrid commitment consisted of $500 million
in trade credits and $500 million in project assistance with
strict conditionally, along the lines of what the World Bank
would require. Al-Jubeir added that the assistance the Saudi
government might provide via Prince Muqrin would initially be
in the range of $75-$300 million.

Possible Debt Relief

9. (S) The King noted that Saudi debt relief for Iraq "will
come at some point," although he did not say when. Al-Jubeir
told the Charge' that debt relief is a real possibility. He
also noted that the Saudi government might make changes to
its Iraq policy, perhaps including both assistance and debt
relief, prior to the President's visit to Riyadh.

The Need to Resist Iran

10. (S) The King, Foreign Minister, Prince Muqrin, and
Prince Nayif all agreed that the Kingdom needs to cooperate
with the US on resisting and rolling back Iranian influence
and subversion in Iraq. The King was particularly adamant on
this point, and it was echoed by the senior princes as well.
Al-Jubeir recalled the King's frequent exhortations to the US
to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons
program. "He told you to cut off the head of the snake," he
recalled to the Charge', adding that working with the US to
roll back Iranian influence in Iraq is a strategic priority
for the King and his government.

11. (S) The Foreign Minister, on the other hand, called
instead for much more severe US and international sanctions
on Iran, including a travel ban and further restrictions on
bank lending. Prince Muqrin echoed these views, emphasizing
that some sanctions could be implemented without UN approval.
The Foreign Minister also stated that the use of military
pressure against Iran should not be ruled out.


RIYADH 00000649 003 OF 003


12. (S) Comment: Saudi attitudes toward Iraq, from the King
on down, remain marked by skepticism and suspicion. That
said, the Saudis have noticed recent events in Iraq and are
eager to work with the US to resist and reverse Iranian
encroachment in Iraq. The King was impressed by Ambassador
Crocker's and General Petraeus' visit, as were the Foreign
Minister, GPI Chief, and Interior Minister. Cautious as ever,
the Saudis may nevertheless be willing to consider new
measures in the areas of assistance and debt relief, although
further discussions will be required to make these ideas a
reality. End Comment.
13. (U) This cable was reviewed and cleared by Ambassador
Crocker and General Petraeus.
GFOELLER

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