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Cablegate: Scene Setter - Secdef Gates Visit to Uae

VZCZCXRO7130
OO RUEHDE
DE RUEHAD #1214/01 2001226
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 191226Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9389
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHDE/AMCONSUL DUBAI 7177
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 ABU DHABI 001214

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ARP, PM/FO, S/P
DOD/OSD FOR A/S LONG, DAS KIMMITT, KELSO, QUINN, ANDERSON
CENTCOM FOR CCJ5 - RODRIGUEZ
NSC FOR NRAMCHAND, EABRAMS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/18/2017
TAGS: PREL PTER PARM MOPS MARR IR IZ AF LE AE
SUBJECT: SCENE SETTER - SECDEF GATES VISIT TO UAE

REF: A. ABU DHABI 1180 (MBR)
B. ABU DHABI 1161 (GSD/JMC)
C. ABU DHABI 1143 (DCA)
D. ABU DHABI 1119 (ABZ)
E. ABU DHABI 0956 (AFGHAN DEFMIN)
F. ABU DHABI 0765 (GEN DAYTON)
G. ABU DHABI 0705 (NEW WAY FORWARD)
H. ABU DHABI 0702 (ADM FALLON-MBZ)

Classified By: Ambassador Michele J. Sison,
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

SUMMARY
-------

1. (S) Secretary Gates: Embassy Abu Dhabi looks forward to
your upcoming visit to Abu Dhabi. Your principal
interlocutor will be Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy
Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohamed bin
Zayed Al-Nahyan (MbZ), whom you met at the Pentagon on May
16. The U.S. enjoys a strong defense cooperation
relationship with the UAE and the State-DOD-NSC-led Gulf
Security Dialogue (GSD) has provided an opportunity to deepen
that relationship. The UAE delivers strong support in the
war on terror; has cooperated with us in Afghanistan, Iraq,
Lebanon, and with security assistance to the Palestinians;
and -- very importantly -- provides critical basing and
over-flight for U.S. reconnaissance and refueling assets as
well as naval logistics support.

2. (S) While the UAE has offered political support for Iraq
and identifies the first priority for the region as Iraqi
stability, the UAE's (all-Sunni) leadership has lately
exhibited a hardened attitude toward Prime Minister al
Maliki, perceiving him as beholden to Iran and incapable of
moving beyond sectarian bias to lead a unified Iraq. The UAE
has in the past favored former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and
has stalled on its commitment to Iraqi debt relief in order
to avoid
al Maliki claiming any credit. The UAE has expressed concern
over the continued violence and chaos in and around Baghdad
as well as the failure of the al Maliki government to improve
overall security in the country. End Summary.

3. (S) We suggest you thank MbZ for his strong support for
the U.S. Air Force and Navy in the UAE and encourage
continued partnership in Afghanistan. We offer the following
background on issues facing the UAE and our bilateral
relationship:


I. U.S. Defense Interests (para 4)
II. Iraq (para 5)
III. Other Regional Issues: Afghanistan, Iran,
Lebanon, the Palestinians (paras 8-13)
IV. Gulf Security Dialogue (para 14-15)
V. Defense Cooperation and the DCA (paras 16-17)

--------------------------
I. U.S. DEFENSE INTERESTS
--------------------------

4. (S) The UAE's contribution to U.S. defense interests in
the region has been extensive and enduring. The ports of
Jebel Ali and Fujairah are vital to U.S. Navy interdiction
operations, re-supply and sustainment, and combat support
efforts across the region. Jebel Ali has hosted more port
visits for each of the past three years than any other port
outside the United States. Quantitative measures of UAE
support include:

--- 1,300 USAF personnel at Al Dhafra Air Base;
--- a vigorous training schedule at the Gulf Air
Warfare Center at Al Dhafra;
--- the F-16 Block 60 program;
--- approximately 500 port visits last year;
--- over 24,000 US military overflights/landings in
2006;
--- more than 150,000 U.S. servicemen and women
enjoying liberty annually in the UAE; and
--- 250 UAE Special Operations forces serving with the
Coalition in Afghanistan (possibly increasing to
300) to include BMPs and LeClerc tanks.


ABU DHABI 00001214 002 OF 004


You should express appreciation for this outstanding
partnership. You might also remind MbZ that the evolving
nature of military requirements mandates a bilateral
relationship focused on joint planning, coordination, and
strategic interoperability.

--------------------------------------------- ----
II. IRAQ - UAE LACK OF CONFIDENCE IN PM AL MALIKI
--------------------------------------------- ----

5. (S) In recent months there has been a definite hardening
of the UAE leadership's attitudes toward al Maliki, who is
viewed by the Emiratis as little more than an Iranian
puppet. The UAE leadership has told us they do not see
much hope in investing in Iraq or much light on the horizon
with al Maliki and his government. UAE leaders perceive him
as biased and incapable of leading a non-sectarian, unified
Iraq. Earlier UAE commitments to forgive most of the $3.5
billion in Iraqi debt the UAE holds remain unfulfilled, with
the UAE leadership asking why it should give al Maliki a
chance to claim credit for debt relief. (Note: Although the
UAE has not forgiven the debt, it is not collecting payments
on it. End Note.)

6. (S) Meanwhile, the UAE has been engaged in regional
efforts to facilitate reconciliation between Sunni and Shi'a
forces. The UAEG has frequently expressed alarm regarding
Iranian influence in Iraq, and has made attempts to reach out
to moderate Shi'a to encourage their engagement in the Iraqi
political process independently of Iran. The UAE values and
seeks reassurance of continued close consultation on U.S.
plans and strategy involving Iraq.

7. (S) While al Maliki has not visited the UAE in a year,
Iraqi National Security Adviser Muwaffaq Al Rubaie was in Abu
Dhabi on June 28, briefing the UAE National Security Advisor
and Foreign Minister (both are MbZ's brothers) on security
developments in Iraq. Reportedly, Al Rubaie was told that
the Group of Six nations (UAE, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait) would invite Iraq's security chief to its
next meeting. According to the UAE leadership, during this
visit Al Rubaie took the attitude that UAE outreach actions
in Iraq were hostile and also indirectly justified the
Iranian influence. Al Rubaie reportedly focused his efforts
on urging the Emiratis not to support the Iraqi Sunnis. At
the same time, Al Rubaie promised to work with the UAEG to
identify a location for a new UAE embassy in Baghdad.
(Concern has been expressed by the Coalition about the use by
terrorists of the UAE's abandoned Embassy compound -- the UAE
has not maintained diplomatic staff in Baghdad since the 2006
kidnapping of one of its diplomats.)

--------------------------
III. OTHER REGIONAL ISSUES
--------------------------

IRAN - UAE BALANCING ITS PRIVATE
RHETORIC WITH PUBLIC CAUTION
--------------------------------

8. (S) MbZ has called privately for action sooner rather
than later against Iran and speaks caustically about
Ahmadinejad. MbZ may opine that any attempt at dialogue by
Iran should be regarded as a pure facade. He has also
remarked that the UAE thinks carefully about risks in the
region and about its own future. The leadership has told us
they are not in a position to sacrifice $16 billion in annual
trade with Iran, while realizing that this same neighbor and
major trading partner is also a threat to the UAE. It is
also worth recalling that the May 10-12 visit of Vice
President Cheney to the UAE was immediately followed by a
one-night stopover by Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who gave
a defiant anti-U.S. speech at a Dubai sports arena. (The
following day, MbZ left on his official visit to Washington,
where he met you.)

9. (S) However, much as they may assist our mission in the
region, the Emiratis are conscious of being vulnerable
players in a rough and unforgiving neighborhood. The UAE
leadership has consistently pursued a cautious,
non-confrontational public posture towards Iran. In the past
the UAE has been hesitant to participate in certain military
exercises. The UAE did, however, send observers to Leading
Edge 07 in October 2006 in the Gulf, which had a

ABU DHABI 00001214 003 OF 004


Proliferation Security Initiative theme. The decision to
host Eagle Resolve 2008, with a Theater Air and Missile
Defense theme, should be seen as a praiseworthy step.

AFGHANISTAN - UAE SPECIAL OPERATIONS TROOPS
-------------------------------------------

10. (S) While the UAE contributes 250 Special Operations
troops to the Coalition effort in Afghanistan (with a
potential increase of 50), it has not yet publicly
acknowledged this participation in Operation Enduring
Freedom. The UAE pursues Afghanistan reconstruction aid with
an emphasis on road networks, mosques, medical facilities and
schools and has made efforts at political mediation between
Pakistan and Afghanistan. In January 2007 LTG Eikenberry
escorted Afghan Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Bismillah
Mohammadi Khan to Abu Dhabi in a bid to deepen direct
engagement between the UAE and Afghanistan. The UAE Armed
Forces Chief of Staff declared himself willing to help in any
way possible, including training Afghan troops. UAE
subsequently disbursed another $30 million in general
assistance and is renovating two runways in Afghanistan for
military use. During the June visit of Afghan Defense
Minister Wardak to Abu Dhabi, MbZ agreed to donate nine Mi-19
helicopters to Afghanistan. One of MbZ's oft-stated
interests in sending Emirati Special Ops troops to
Afghanistan is to get his military forces battle-hardened so
they may effectively confront imported or domestic extremism.

LEBANON (AND SYRIA)
-------------------

11. (S) The UAE provides significant humanitarian and
security assistance to Lebanon. The UAE has been at the
forefront of reconstruction efforts, continuing a
longstanding de-mining operation, and contributing resources
for school construction and hospitals. UAE Air Force C-130s
and helicopters have been used in relief efforts. The UAE
has also provided UAE-manufactured pistols (Caracal) and
ammunition to the LAF. The UAE Foreign Minister recently had
a conversation with Lebanese PM Siniora on a proposal for a
Muslim force for Lebanon (under UN mandate).

12. (S) The UAE seeks to strengthen the Siniora government,
having delivered $300 million in assistance to Lebanon this
year, while also seeking engagement with other parties. UAE
President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other senior
UAE officials paid a July 15-16 visit to Damascus, announcing
the donation of $10 million towards the support of Iraqi
refugees. The UAE has conveyed private frustration and
displeasure with Syrian meddling in Lebanon and has said it
would express its (and our) concern about foreign fighters
entering Iraq through Syria to the Syrian leadership. UAE's
goal, according to the UAE Foreign Minister, is to try to
persuade Syrian President Bashar Al Asad to loosen his close
ties to Iran.

Palestinian Issue
-----------------

13. (S) The UAE would like to see tangible progress on the
Middle East Roadmap, rejects the Hamas agenda, and continues
to support the Palestinian people through more than $400
million in housing and humanitarian assistance since 2000.
MbZ and his brothers, Foreign Minister Abdullah and National
Security Advisor/State Security Director Hazza, are in close
contact with President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam
Fayyad. As the result of the May 2007 visit of USSC General
Dayton, the UAE transferred $80 million to the Palestinian
president. The UAE has issued a public statement supporting
the choice of Tony Blair as the Quartet envoy (Blair is
scheduled to meet MbZ on July 24).

---------------------------
IV. GULF SECURITY DIALOGUE
---------------------------

14. (S) The UAE currently has over $2.6 billion in Foreign
Military Sales cases and another $8.5 billion plus in direct
commercial sales in the Block 60 F-16 program, one of the
premier portfolios in the USCENTCOM Area of Operations.
Since the May 2007 Gulf Security Dialogue and earlier
meetings of the Joint Military Committee working groups and
Air and Missile Defense working group, we have seen progress

ABU DHABI 00001214 004 OF 004


in our bilateral relationship in the areas of defense
cooperation and regional security. The UAEG has indicated
strong interest in purchasing 12 Patriot PAC-3/GEM-T
anti-ballistic missile batteries and other lower and
upper-tier missile defense systems in order to create an
overarching Air and Missile Defense architecture and Concept
of Operations. The UAE has also requested Stinger/Avenger
missiles for short range air defense and has expressed
interest in Surface Launched Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air
Missile and Theater High Altitude Air Defense missile system.
The UAE is on the verge of purchasing the High Mobility
Artillery Rocket System for counter battery, a case valued at
approximately $650M. Both Boeing and Northrop-Grumman are
providing Requests for Information on an Airborne Early
Warning and Control aircraft later this year. The UAE has
also expressed interest in leasing three E2-C Hawkeye AEW&C
aircraft as a stop-gap measure until a permanent AEW&C
aircraft is procured.

15. (S) The UAE has also made a request to buy 40 UH-60
Blackhawk helicopters for their Special Operations Command.
They should be offered a contract for 26 of those, plus a
training package, in the next several weeks, a case valued at
$750M. The UAE is upgrading their AH-64 Apache helicopters
to the D (LONGBOW) model and has requested 1300 Hellfire
missiles with the expectation of a request for an additional
1200 missiles. Three separate requests for additional
weapons for their F-16s have been received, valued at over
$200M. Additionally, the UAE is coordinating to include
Proliferation Security Initiative themes in Iron Falcon at
the UAE Air Warfare Center and Iron Siren, a Naval Surface
Warfare exercise in the upcoming year.

-----------------------------------
V. DEFENSE COOPERATION AND THE DCA
-----------------------------------

16. (S) Although differences exist on status of forces issues
and the use of passports/visas versus military IDs/orders for
UAE entry and exit, overall mil-to-mil cooperation with the
UAE has been excellent, with consistently reliable support at
Jebel Ali and Fujairah ports and at Al Dhafra Air Base. We
are currently moving routine military cargo flight operations
from UAE civil airports in the northern Emirates to the
Minhad air station, in accordance with the UAE's request.

17. (S) The Embassy believes the timing may be right to make
progress on negotiating a new Defense Cooperation Agreement
(DCA) with the UAE and has suggested submission of a USG
counter-draft in answer to the UAE draft DCA presented for
possible discussion at October 17-19 Joint Military Committee
(JMC) working group meetings and a full JMC meeting
tentatively set for January 15-17, 2008 in Abu Dhabi. We
recommended that we urge the UAE to sign a new DCA
superseding the unratified 1994 version as the official basis
for existing and expanding military-to-military cooperation.
(It is, however, important that no linkage be made between
the DCA and pending sales or other routine cooperation.)

SISON

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