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Cablegate: King Hamad On Iran, Regional Integration, Russia

VZCZCXRO8943
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHMK #0765/01 3171349
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 121349Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8246
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 0134
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0231
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMUSCENTAF SHAW AFB SC PRIORITY
RHBVAKS/COMUSNAVCENT PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0314
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0429

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAMA 000765

SIPDIS

BAGHDAD FOR AMBASSADOR ERELI
CENTAF FOR GENERAL NORTH

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/12/2038
TAGS: PREL MARR IR RS CH IN BA
SUBJECT: KING HAMAD ON IRAN, REGIONAL INTEGRATION, RUSSIA,
CHINA AND INDIA

REF: A. MANAMA 759
B. MANAMA 734
C. MANAMA 705

Classified By: CDA Christopher Henzel for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (S) Summary: King Hamad confirmed that Iran expressed
concern to Bahrain about U.S. naval "weapons systems."
Bahrain plans to continue pushing its proposal for a new
regional organization that includes Israel. The King was
suspicious of China, apologetic about his upcoming visit to
Russia, and warm towards India. End summary.

2. (S) A relaxed King Hamad told NAVCENT/Fifth Fleet
Commander Vice Admiral Bill Gortney and CDA November 6 that
the U.S. military presence in the Gulf remained the key to
the Gulf Arabs' security. He thanked the U.S. for the recent
deployment of a U.S. Patriot battery to Bahrain, and for the
DoD decision to return to Bahrain the adult dependents of
Navcent headquarters personnel.

Iran
----

3. (S) The King said that the visiting speaker of Iran's
parliament, Ali Larijani, told him October 22 that Iran was
worried about American naval "weapons systems" (refs A and
B.) The King said he responded that the American military
presence in the region, and particularly U.S.- Bahraini
security cooperation, was to the benefit of all who valued
stability. He told Larijani that as long as Iran acts in a
responsible way, Iran will have nothing to worry about. The
King told us he was displeased that the "the deputy
commander" of Iran's armed forces had been included in the
delegation with no advance notice and wearing civilian
clothes. "This is not how a country should deal with
neighbors." He said he deflected an Iranian request to
exchange military attaches.

4. (S) King Hamad praised the statesmanship of both
president-elect Obama and Senator McCain, and said he
understood that the fundamentals of American policy in the
Gulf rarely shifted dramatically. However, he expressed hope
that "your Arab friends in the Gulf" would be kept briefed if
any substantive U.S.-Iran dialogue develops.

5. (S) Turning to U.S.-GCC military cooperation, the King
said a real, integrated regional air defense against Iran had
been under discussion for too long, and the GCC had to "get
its act together." He indicated that papers would be
presented on this issue at the December 12-14 Manama Dialogue.

A New Regional Organization Including Israel
--------------------------------------------

6. (S) The King spoke optimistically of Bahrain's proposal
for a new regional organization that would include Israel,
Iran and Turkey along with the Arab states (ref C). The UK,
U.S., Arab League, and Israel and others had endorsed the
idea publicly, he noted, while Iran had immediately condemned
it. With a laugh, he added "the Arabs - they don't like it
very much either but maybe they'll get used to it." He
predicted the initiative will enjoy new international
attention during the Manama Dialogue. He acknowledged that
the Islamists who dominate Bahrain's lower house of
parliament loudly oppose the proposal, but added "they are
Bahraini Islamists, which means tame Islamists." In response
to CDA's question, the King said Bahrain did not envisage any
preconditions to Israeli membership in the new organization.

Russia, China and India in the Gulf
-----------------------------------

7. (S) The King appeared eager to allay any concern the U.S.
might have about his upcoming December 2 state visit to
Russia. "This was agreed more than a year ago and I have to
go, but we know our real friends are in the U.S." The King
expressed concern at what he viewed as China's "aggressive"
new efforts to strengthen its economic and diplomatic

MANAMA 00000765 002 OF 002

influence in the region. The Chinese Minister of Defense
would soon be visiting Bahrain as part of a regional tour;
"Thank God I will be out of the country that day." By
contrast, the King viewed India's growing influence in the
Gulf as a healthy development, and said he was happy to see
U.S.-Indian ties improving.

8. (S) Other participants in the meeting were Navcent
Executive Assistant Captain David Grogan, USN, Royal Court
Minister Khaled bin Ahmed bin Salman al Khalifa, and a
Bahraini notetaker.

9. (S) Comment: King Hamad's readout of Larijani's visit
tracks with the Foreign Minister's (ref B). The King's
comments on China are a theme we haven't heard from the GOB
before. On the new regional organization: MFA has hopes that
Turkish President Gul will attend the December 12-14 IISS
Manama Dialogue; the Bahrainis would see Gul's presence as an
opportunity to put the proposal back into the world's
headlines.

10. (U) NAVCENT has cleared this message.

********************************************* ********
Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/manama/
********************************************* ********
HENZEL

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