Cablegate: Scene Setter for Admiral Fallon's September Visit

DE RUEHAD #1479/01 2481359
O 051359Z SEP 07





E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/05/2017

REF: A. ABU DHABI 1214, B) ABU DHABI 702, C) SECDEF 31828

Classified by Charge d'Affaires Martin Quinn, reasons 1.4 (b)
and (d).

1. (S) Admiral Fallon, Embassy Abu Dhabi welcomes you for
your second visit to the UAE as CENTCOM commander. As you
are aware, deepening ties with the UAE is all about
relationships, and the relationship that most matters on the
military front is that with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed
bin Zayed (MbZ), who is also Deputy Supreme Commander of the
UAE Armed Forces, has a personal background in the UAE Air
Force, visited Washington (White House and Pentagon) in
mid-May, and has engaged senior U.S. military officials for
some years on key defense issues. Since your visit falls
during the fasting month of Ramadan, a late evening meeting
with MbZ will likely be the substantive highlight of your
stop in Abu Dhabi. MbZ will be interested in current U.S.
operations in Iraq and forward thinking on how to deal with
Iran, topics that he also discussed with you at length during
your April visit. Additionally, MbZ will want your views on
potential weapons sales to the UAE, designed to deter and
counter the Iranian threat, and how those proposed transfers
will fare when they undergo U.S. congressional scrutiny.
(Note: In spite of Dubai ruler Mohammed bin Rashid (MbR)
holding the nominal title of Minister of Defense -- in
addition to his positions as UAE Vice President and Prime
Minister -- he is not involved in the practical management of
UAE defense issues. We have requested a meeting with him, at
which you could thank Dubai for its hosting of U.S. ship
visits in particular. End note.)

UAE Cooperation

2. (S) The U.S. enjoys strong defense cooperation with the
UAE, working together in key aspects of the war on terror;
the UAE has special operations troops on the ground in
Afghanistan and has been a source of security assistance for
Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, in addition to
assisting virtually every trouble spot in the region in need
of reconstruction support. The nation provides critical
basing and over-flight for U.S. reconnaissance and refueling
assets, extensive naval logistics support, and the Navy's
liberty port of choice in the region (425 ships annually).
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 and elsewhere in the region. A
few quantitative measures of bilateral cooperation include:

--- 1,300 USAF personnel at Al Dhafra Air Base;
--- a vigorous training schedule at the Air Warfare Center
at Al Dhafra;
--- the F-16 Block 60 program;
--- approximately 425 port visits last year;
--- over 24,000 US military overflights/landings in
--- 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;
--- 150 conventional ground forces with South African built
personnel carriers are planned to deploy in support of
OEF, to
work directly with Canadian forces.

3. (S) These contributions are significant in scope but also
enduring in their continuity over a number of years. 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 in Dubai
has hosted more port visits for each of the past three years
than any other port outside the United States. In expressing
appreciation for this outstanding partnership, you might also
remind MbZ that the evolving nature of military requirements
mandates an ongoing focus on joint planning, coordination,
and strategic interoperability.


ABU DHABI 00001479 002 OF 004

4. (S) While the UAE has offered some political and economic
support for Iraq and identifies Iraqi stability as a regional
priority, the UAE's (all-Sunni) leadership has over the past
several months 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 relieve
Iraqi debt (of $3.5 billion) in order to avoid al-Maliki
claiming 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. While clearly skeptical of
al-Maliki's leadership, MbZ also told SecDef on August 2 that
Iraq had not followed up on signals that the UAE would
welcome an al-Maliki visit -- albeit with a rather cautious
welcome mat (ref C).

5. (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 (and Iran). As for its
direct consultations with Baghdad, Iraqi National Security
Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubaie was in Abu Dhabi in late June, a
visit during which the UAE leadership apparently sensed that
al-Rubaie took the attitude that current UAE outreach actions
in Iraq were hostile and indirectly justified Iranian
counter-influence. Al-Rubaie reportedly focused his efforts
on urging the Emiratis not to support the Iraqi Sunnis. MbZ
will certainly be interested in your thoughts on General
Petraeus' report to Congress on Iraq.

6. (S) The UAE sent a team to Baghdad in August to explore
options for re-opening its Embassy. You may wish to inquire
with MbZ about any reports back from the delegation. (Note:
Concern has been expressed by the Coalition about the use by
terrorists of the UAE's abandoned Embassy compound; coalition
forces captured the security chief of the compound, Abu
Shinan, and continue to hold him due to his connections with
Sunni insurgent groups. The UAE has expressed concern over
his potential release to Iraqi forces, fearing his execution.
The UAE has not maintained diplomatic staff in Baghdad since
the May 2006 kidnapping of one of its diplomats. End note.)


7. (S) MbZ reiterated to SecDef that Iran is the UAE's most
serious and long-term threat, a theme we hear repeated often
in UAE defense circles (but not a theme we hear from the more
business-oriented leadership of Dubai). MbZ may opine that
any attempt at dialogue by Iran should be regarded as a pure
faade and he is urgent about setting up a defense
architecture against Iranian missiles. Nonetheless, the
leadership has also 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 potential threat to the UAE. It is 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 was given a red carpet welcome and
gave a defiant anti-U.S. speech at a Dubai sports arena
during his stay.

8. (S) Iran is the large neighbor that will not go away, so
the UAE feels a need to engage (particularly on the economic
side and especially in Dubai) with a potential foe in this
rough and unforgiving neighborhood. While assisting our
mission in the region, 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 designed to show a
strong defensive front against Iran. The UAE did, however,
send observers to Leading Edge 07 in October 2006 in the
Gulf, which had a 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

ABU DHABI 00001479 003 OF 004

step. Iran is an adversary to prepare defenses against,
which the UAE is doing, yet it considers economic engagement
one of those defenses.


9. (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. 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 ten Mi-17 helicopters to Kabul. 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 when called upon to do so back home. The
UAE contribution in Afghanistan warrants our frequent
expressions of appreciation.

Elsewhere in the region

10. (S) The UAE provides significant humanitarian and
security assistance to Lebanon; MbZ spoke with SecDef at some
length about the need to bolster Lebanon's ability to stand
against Syrian influence. 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. Earlier in the summer the UAE Foreign
Minister had a conversation with Lebanese PM Siniora on a
proposal for a Muslim force for Lebanon (under UN mandate).
The UAE seeks to strengthen the Siniora government, having
delivered $300 million in assistance to Lebanon this year,
while also seeking limited engagement with Syria (to include
a mid-July visit by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al
Nahyan and a donation of $10 million towards the support of
Iraqi refugees and $100 million to build a hospital in Syria).

11. (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

Weapons packages -- high UAE expectations

12. (S) The UAE has committed billions to current and
anticipated Foreign Military Sales cases, in addition to over
$8.5 billion in direct commercial sales in the Block 60 F-16
program, one of the premier security assistance portfolios in
the region. At the invitation of the Pentagon and State
Department to deepen the security relationship by cooperating
on an integrated missile defense shield, the UAE has recently
submitted Letters of Request on the Patriot (nine PAC-3/GEM-T
batteries), Surface Launched Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air
Missile (SL-AMRAAM), and Theater High Altitude Air Defense
(THAAD) system (3 fire units), for an estimated total value
of $8 to 12 billion. It is now incumbent upon the USG to
make good on our offer of enhanced engagement by pressing for
expeditious Congressional notification this fall (pressing at
every opportunity for favorable results in any congressional

ABU DHABI 00001479 004 OF 004

review of the weapons package). The UAE will see our posture
as a critical measure of USG willingness to truly stand by
the UAE in a contingency involving Iran.

13. (S) The UAE recently signed the High Mobility Artillery
Rocket System (HIMARS) Letter of Offer and Acceptance for
counter battery, a case valued at $597M. Both Boeing and
Northrop-Grumman have provided Requests for Information on an
Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft later this year.
The UAE has also expressed a short-term interest in
purchasing three E2-C Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft as an interim
solution until delivery of a more permanent AEW&C platform.
(Note: That decision is expected in mid-2008. End note.)
The UAE has also made a request to buy 40 UH-60 Blackhawk
helicopters for its Special Operations Command. They have
already signed the Letter of Offer and Acceptance for 26
Blackhawks, plus a training package, a case valued at $807M.
They have also purchased 10 Blackhawks via Direct Commercial
Sales from Sikorsky. The UAE is upgrading its 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 Letters of Request
for additional weapons for their F-16s have been received,
valued at over $800M. (The current UAE portfolio of active
cases handled by USLO stands at 44 cases, valued at just over
$4 billion with another $1.56 billion in cases under
development, most of which are expected to be signed by the
end of the calendar year. These figures do not include the
$8-12 billion for the missile defense requests or $1-3
billion estimated for the AEW&C platform.)

Defense Cooperation Agreement

14. (S) In spite of differences 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
recently moved routine military cargo flight operations from
UAE civil airports in the northern Emirates to the Minhad air
station, in accordance with a UAE request. The request
enhances force protection considerations but comes with a
one-time cost of approximately $4.5 million. Minhad is
generally better positioned geographically to support CENTCOM
needs. In very limited circumstances when a C-5 is required
to land at Fujairah, the UAE has granted all requested

15. (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 2-3 Joint Military Committee
(JMC) working group meetings in Tampa and a full JMC meeting
tentatively set for January 2008 in Abu Dhabi. We
recommended urging the UAE to sign a new DCA superseding the
un-ratified 1994 version as the official basis for existing
and expanding military-to-military cooperation (taking care
NOT to link the DCA issue with pending sales or other routine
cooperation, which would be seen as unhelpful pressure.)

Getting the relationship right

16. (S) The UAE's reliable and enduring support for mutual
military interests in the region creates both a sense of
momentum in the relationship and high expectations on the
part of our hosts. They will be looking for your endorsement
of our partnership in the form of ongoing consultations on
U.S. intentions in the region (particularly Iraq and Iran,
but also Afghanistan and Lebanon), an honest sense of the
congressional mood in terms of weapons sales in the region
(keeping in mind that the UAE seeks congressional
notification of its systems this fall and notification to be
handled separately from any other nation, GCC or otherwise),
and genuine appreciation for the UAE role in the region.

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