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Cablegate: A/S Welch's Meeting with Field Marshal Tantawi

P 261349Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0717
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

S E C R E T CAIRO 002255


E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/23/2018
TAGS: PREL MASS MARR IZ IR EG

SUBJECT: A/S WELCH'S MEETING WITH FIELD MARSHAL TANTAWI

Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey per 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (S) Summary: On October 21, Assistant Secretary David Welch and Ambassador met with Minister of Defense Field Marshal Tantawi to discuss the bilateral security relationship, supporting the Iraqi government, and containing Iran. A/S Welch noted that the security relationship remained strong, but encouraged the Egyptian military to play a larger role in regional security, including building stronger relations with the Iraqi military. On Iraq and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), Tantawi agreed that the GOI must find a way through the current political impasse, fearing that a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops would "leave a chance for Iran to interfere." End Summary. ------------------------- Iraq: More Support Needed -------------------------

2.(S) A/S Welch provided an overview of the proposed SOFA and urged Tantawi to privately encourage the Iraqis to overcome their political differences and support the agreement. Tantawi agreed on the importance of reaching an agreement before the UN mandate expires at the end of the year. "Don't run away, this will only damage Iraqi security and leave a chance for Iran to interfere," Tantawi continued. Tantawi asked what else the Egyptian military could do to support Iraq. A/S Welch replied that re-establishing a strong military relationship was important, and encouraged Tantawi to send a high-level military official to Baghdad once the Egyptian embassy reopens. Tantawi replied that once the Egyptian Ambassador arrived in Baghdad, he would send "military representatives" at an undetermined level. Later, in a smaller group, A/S Welch recommended that Tantawi send a general officer to visit Baghdad soon to initiate direct contact between Egyptian and Iraqi forces, and that he convey his decision to do so in his call to General Petraeus to congratulate him on his change of command. --------------------- Iran: What Can We Do? ---------------------

3. (S) Tantawi solicited A/S Welch's opinion on the best way to handle Iran and contain their regional influence. A/S Welch replied that "Egypt must be strong on Iran" to counter Iranian perceptions of strength, adding that improved security in Iraq and Lebanon eroded opportunities for Iranian interference. Tantawi agreed on the need to keep political pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program, but urged against using military force. --------------------- Security Relationship ---------------------

4. (C) A/S Welch acknowledged the strong U.S. - Egyptian security relationship and encouraged Tantawi to seize the opportunity of a new administration and Congress by playing a greater role in regional security issues. Ambassador added that potential areas for increased cooperation included Iraq, Iran, and counter terrorism. Tantawi agreed that the new administration would "be a chance for us" to demonstrate Egypt's ability to foster regional security and stability.

5. (S) Comment: Tantawi's physical and mental health has long been rumored to be deteriorating. During the meeting, however, Tantawi appeared in good health and was engaged and quick-witted throughout the conversation.

6. (U) Assistant Secretary Welch has not cleared this message. SCOBEY NNNN End Cable Text

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