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Cablegate: Oman Remains Wary of Iranian Expansionism

VZCZCXRO5264
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHMS #0565/01 2200743
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 070743Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY MUSCAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9835
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/COMUSCENTAF SHAW AFB SC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHBVAKS/COMUSNAVCENT

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 MUSCAT 000565

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/07/2018
TAGS: PREL PARM IR MU
SUBJECT: OMAN REMAINS WARY OF IRANIAN EXPANSIONISM

Classified By: Ambassador Gary A. Grappo per 1.4 (B and D).

Summary
-------
1. (S/NF) Minister of the Royal Office and head of the
Office of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces,
Lieutenant General Ali bin Majid al-Ma'amari, reviewed Oman's
view on Iran from a security perspective, highlighting Omani
awareness of Iran's deceptive tactics and expansionist
ideological desires in the region. During an introductory
meeting with NAVCENT commander VADM William Gortney,
accompanied by the Ambassador, General Ali addressed the
Iranian nuclear file, security in the Strait of Hormuz, and
Iranian interference in the region. Ali Majid's suspicious
view of Iran stands in stark contrast to conciliatory if not
obsequious public comments of Omani Minister Responsible for
Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin 'Alawi regarding Iran and its role
in the region. End summary.

Won't Oppose Further Sanctions on Iran
--------------------------------------
2. (S/NF) Characterizing Oman's preference for "frankness
and clarity," General Ali began his comments on Iran by
noting the reality of Iran as a nearby neighbor, which
influenced Oman's relations with Iran. Toward the end of the
discussion, he compared Oman's normal relations with Iran to
the relations of other GCC members with Iran. Throughout the
meeting, he frequently touched on the theme of how different
Oman was from other GCC member states, whose real intentions
and positions often eluded Omani comprehension.

3. (S/NF) The Iranian nuclear issue stood at the forefront
of the General's mind. He described the nuclear file as an
international issue, noting that resolution of this issue
should be dealt with through international bodies such as the
UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA). Oman would respect decisions of these groups
and play its role in the international community. Oman would
not oppose imposition of further measures against Iran by the
international bodies; however, Oman did not want to play an
active role in advocating for such measures itself.

Iranian Intentions Clear: Stall for Time
-----------------------------------------
4. (S/NF) Ali Majid stated that Oman was aware of Iranian
stall tactics in the talks over the nuclear issue. Instead
of responding by the August 5 deadline, the Iranian side
offered a new initiative for talks, confirming reports from
the U.S. and others that Iran indeed is trying merely to buy
time. Letting the 5 August deadline pass in responding
positively to the P5 1 proposal made the Iranian intention to
stall "very clear to Oman." The Ambassador noted that the
U.S. has been working with allies around the world, and
especially within the EU, to further restrict Iranian
economic activity in an effort to influence Iran's position
on the nuclear file. General Ali agreed that sanctions to
date were having an impact on the Iranian economy, despite
Iran's public denials. Moreover, he said, Iran believed the
U.S. would never attack Iran, a belief that encouraged Iran
to persist in its stall tactics. Nevertheless, he advocated
a non-military solution as the best option for the U.S., and
suggested that over the long term, establishment of U.S.
relations at some level with the Iranian government might
enable the U.S. to better influence the Iranian government
and people.

Empty Threats Against the Strait
--------------------------------
5. (S/NF) Responding to the Ambassador's question about
recent Iranian statements threatening the Strait of Hormuz,
Ali Majid dismissed the threats as "empty words" and perhaps
a feeble attempt to up its bargaining leverage vis a vis the
P5 1. VADM Gortney echoed the Ambassador's comments that
such rhetoric negatively impacted the world's view of Iran
and ultimately would undermine Iran's standing in the
international community. On this same issue, the General
expressed his pleasure with the White House press statement
on August 5 responding to the IRGC commander's comments
regarding closure of the Strait, agreeing that Iranian
closure of the strait would be suicide (i.e., more harmful to
Iran's own economic interests). He also commended the U.S.
for not escalating the rhetoric but instead putting Iran's
comments into proper perspective.

Iraq and Iranian Expansionism

MUSCAT 00000565 002 OF 003


-----------------------------
6. (S/NF) Prior to delving into the nuclear issues, Ali
Majid acknowledged that Iranian interference in Iraq
prevented achievement of a stable security environment there.
He allowed that, at a minimum, Iran indirectly supported
Shi'a militia in Iraq. Elaborating on his theme of "Iranian
expansionist" ideology, he noted that the Iranian national
radio broadcast commenced with the prelude "the voice of the
Islamic Republic from Tehran." Focusing on "from Tehran," he
astutely raised Omani concerns that such language revealed
Iran's true intentions: a "greater Islamic Republic" with
Tehran at its center. He further speculated that Iran wanted
to give the impression that the Islamic Republic might
already encompass "Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and even the Gulf."

7. (S/NF) Ali Majid linked the nuclear issue and the
interference in Iraq by speculating that a resolution might
entice Iran into ceasing its interference in Iraq. He
offered a rhetorical question on whether Iran was serious
about challenging the major powers or is it posturing in the
media for domestic consumption. He conceded that he truly
did not know the answer, but that with Iran's continued
attitude on the nuclear issue, the security situation in Iraq
would remain unresolved. Citing Oman's preference for a
non-military solution, he nevertheless acknowledged that a
nuclear-armed Iran as opposed to war with Iran posed "an
extremely difficult dilemma for all of us."

Playing to Their Domestic Audience
----------------------------------
8. (S/NF) Acknowledging Iran's revolutionary zeal, the
General attempted to put Iranian public statements in
perspective when he described as exaggerations those comments
by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmed-I Nejad or other Iranian
figures, particularly regarding military capabilities.
"Countries that believe they have some specific military
weapons advantages usually keep them secret," he averred. He
asserted that in the end, all power resided with Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

9. (S/NF) Ali Majid portrayed Shi'a ideology as another
factor complicating possible military conflict with Iran.
Iranian leaders would not balk at sacrificing a quarter of
their 60 million citizens in a military conflict. The Shi'a
tradition of martyrdom spanned 14 centuries. The annual
self-flagellation of Shi'a over 1,400 years served as an
example of this martyr psychology. Beyond its Shi'a
ideology, pride in its Persian national identity compelled
Iran to demand international recognition and respect.

10. (S/NF) Returning back to comments about GCC countries,
General Ali singled out Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar as three
Gulf countries that probably would want the U.S. to strike
Iran. However, he urged the U.S. to determine whether such
voices were speaking on the basis of logic or emotion. He
likened private entreaties of these countries to the U.S. for
military action on Iran to the Iraqi opposition in exile
providing the U.S. false information on Iraq that led to the
invasion of Iraq. At the beginning of the meeting, Ali Majid
had noted that, in contrast to Oman, other GCC members did
not always speak with candor or clarity, leaving Oman to
question the real motivations or intentions of its GCC
brethren.

11. (S/NF) Punctuating his comments about Iran's
irrationality, Ali Majid pointed to Libyan leader Colonel
Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi's recent comment that "Iran is crazy" not
to pay attention to the history of Yugoslavia and Iraq, whose
ignoring of U.S. pressure resulted in their collapse.
Interestingly, he referred to Qadhafi's transformation from
pariah to emerging member of the international community by
noting that Qadhafi had once been "our enemy."

Oman in a "Strategic Relationship" with the U.S.
--------------------------------------------- ---
12. (S) Shifting from Iran, Ali Majid underscored Oman's
"strategic relationship" with the U.S. and highlighted Oman's
cooperation with the U.S. on counterterrorism issues. He
described Oman's zero tolerance for extremism and refusal to
negotiate with terrorists as a policy established at least
since 1970 (the year of the Sultan's assumed power). Oman
has been and continues to prepare itself to confront
terrorism, he said, as it is not exempt from the plotting of
terrorists. While Oman is "encircled by problems" --
specifically mentioning Yemen, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan --

MUSCAT 00000565 003 OF 003


Oman remains vigilant in preventing such problems from
reaching the Sultanate. On the topic of Oman's partnership
with the U.S., he harkened back to when the Soviets had
sought a warm water port during the time of their invasion of
Afghanistan and were rebuffed by Muscat as an example of how
"Oman has stood at the side of the U.S." He also highlighted
the irony that now the world faced "not the Soviets but the
Taliban." He quickly followed this by noting that the U.S.
would be wise to support talks with moderate members of the
Taliban, which Oman encouraged as a way toward achieving
security in Afghanistan.

13. (S/NF) Participants in the meeting included VADM
Gortney, the Ambassador, the admiral's executive officer,
Embassy Muscat's OMC Chief, and GRPO (notetaker). Sayyid
Munthir bin Majid al-Sa'id, head of the Royal Office Liaison
and Coordination Service participated as notetaker and
translator for General Ali.

Comment
-------
14. (S/NF) In light of recent, more conciliatory statements
by Minister Responsible for foreign Affairs Yusuf bin 'Alawi,
Ali Majid's blunt assessment of Iranian intentions comes as
refreshing reassurance of the official Omani position on
Iran. While careful to flag Oman's longstanding preference
for a non-military solution to the Iran question and, less
directly, Oman's inability to actively confront Iranian
obstinacy, the Sultanate nevertheless maintains a clear-eyed
view of Iran, its increasingly threatening behavior and the
potential repercussions for the region. His comments
regarding attitudes and perceptions of fellow GCC members
were startling as they would appear to confirm oft stated
views of GCC counterparts of Oman as the sometimes "odd man
out" in the GCC. Ali Majid's comments suggest that while not
entirely comfortable with this, the Omanis acknowledge it.
Ali Majid, as the Sultan's top security official and advisor,
is known for taking a more hard-line view of matters relating
to regional security. However, given his closeness to the
Sultan and his status as a member of the inner-most circle of
the Sultan's confidants, such views to a senior U.S. officer
can be assumed to accord with those of Qaboos.
GRAPPO

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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