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Cablegate: (C) Former Gcc Secgen Optimistic for the Region

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L KUWAIT 005342

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ARP, NEA/NGA, NEA/ARN, NEA/ENA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/21/2013
TAGS: PREL KDEM KU IZ IR SA EG SY
SUBJECT: (C) FORMER GCC SECGEN OPTIMISTIC FOR THE REGION

Classified By: CDA Frank C. Urbancic for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: Poloffs met with senior Adviser to the Prime
Minister and former GCC Secretary General Abdullah Bishara on
November 19. After sharing details of Prime Minister Shaykh
Sabah Al-Ahmed's domestic agenda (septel), Bishara offered an
upbeat view on prospects for the region, based on the US
liberation of Iraq. End Summary.

The Regional Picture
--------------------

2. (C) Bishara was strikingly optimistic about prospects for
the region, despite the recent upsurge of violence in Iraq.
He said the US had been complacent after the end of the Cold
War, but was reawakened by 9/11 and other events, and was
starting to go back "on the offensive" in the Middle East;
this was a good thing. He exuded confidence that the US-led
liberation of Iraq would drive positive change in the region.
He said the US had nothing to fear from Syria, but should
keep an eye on Egypt, which was undergoing a period of
"national fatigue" in which its soaring population,
unresponsive bureaucracy and lack of economic development
were leading it down a potentially dangerous path. Bishara
predicted that the GCC would have good relations with Iraq
once it became stable, and that Iran would move towards
moderation as the grip of the mullahs was reduced by pressure
from its people.
Saudi Arabia
------------

3. (C) Senior Adviser to the Prime Minister and former GCC
Secretary General Abdullah Bishara told Poloffs November 19

SIPDIS
he was pleased that the Saudi monarchy was finally taking
steps to combat the threat of terrorism at home, but
"angered" that the Kingdom was not doing enough to promote
real change. Referencing a scene he had witnessed on Saudi
television in which a mullah declared the Saudi regime
unshakeable, Bishara called efforts by the Saudi government
"pure sheepishness." He said the KSA needs to promote
transparency and understanding by opening up the country to
political discourse and encouraging its citizens to
participate in conferences and other events outside Saudi
territory.

4. (C) Characterizing the royal/clergy partnership in Saudi
Arabia as "out of fuel," Bishara said there needs to be a
major rethinking on the part of the Saudi religious
establishment as to what they are teaching. He faulted the
religious establishment for "hypocrisy" and intruding on
people's lives. Bishara, who is solidly in the liberal camp
but lived in Saudi Arabia for twelve years, said he had
recently visited Jeddah while performing Umrah, and was
pleased to find a raging debate there about the future of
Saudi Arabia.

Iran
----

5. (C) Bishara, whose nephew is Kuwait's current Ambassador
to Tehran, said Iran had signed the recent IAEA agreement
under duress, and predicted the regime would not last more
than five years in its current state. He said the people are
fed up with the poor leadership of the mullahs and the lack
of economic opportunity. "Only oil is keeping the country
afloat," he added. Bishara said the regime's external
policies were dominated by the need to stay relevant in the
world, and Iran tried to balanced its lack of relations with
the US by maintaining and increasing its ties to countries
such as China, India and Russia.

6. (C) Comment: Bishara is a well-connected liberal who has
Shaykh Sabah's ear. The most striking aspect of his
presentation was its implicit confidence that the US-led
liberation of Iraq remains on track and will inexorably
influence the neighborhood for the better. Any serious,
long-term setback for democratic opening in Iraq would also
have serious consequences for Kuwait's modernizing agenda.
Squeezed among Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait is
unlikely to strike out on a blazing path towards reform
without at least some support from at least one of its three
big neighbors.
URBANCIC

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