Cablegate: Iraq - Ambassador Crocker's Meetings with Bahraini

DE RUEHMK #1021/01 3161215
O 121215Z NOV 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAMA 001021



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/06/2017

Classified By: Ambassador Adam Ereli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1.(C) SUMMARY: Crown Prince Salman took the lead for the GOB in pledging Bahrain's continued support for U.S. efforts in Iraq. It would examine positively the possibility of returning an ambassador if security concerns could be accommodated. But he also asked that the U.S. listen to the advice of its friends in the Arab world, and expressed concern over the direction of U.S. policies, whether on Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or democracy promotion in Iraq and the region. FM Shaikh Khalid suggested further discussion in Istanbul of a possible new initiative of Arab states and Turkey in support of Iraq. End summary.

2.(U) Bahrain's King Hamad, his son Crown Prince Salman, and Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmad al Khalifa received visiting Ambassador to Iraq Crocker in Manama October 30 in separate meetings. Accompanying Crocker were Ambassador Ereli and Embassy Baghdad Senior Adviser Pearce. General Petraeus, in Bahrain to host the Iraq Coalition Conference, joined the meeting with the Crown Prince.

3.(C) Crocker and Petraeus thanked Bahrain's leadership for hosting the Coalition Conference. In each meeting, Crocker explained that he was visiting key partners in the region in preparation for the upcoming Istanbul Neighbors Conference. He reviewed recent developments in Iraq, pointing out that violence was down in many parts of the country, and that more Sunni and Shi'a leaders were working to repair sectarian divisions. A Shi'a backlash against the Jaysh al-Mahdi was growing. While there was still much to be done, the improved situation presented a key opportunity for shaping Iraq's future. Now was the time, he stressed, for Arab neighbors to step up their engagement with Iraq, and to offset Iran's influence there. Crown Prince: "I've received the message" on Iraq --------------------------------------------- -----

5.(C) The Crown Prince praised the strong positive relationship between the U.S. and Bahrain, and Bahrain's continued support for a robust U.S. presence in the Gulf. He also stressed the importance of the U.S. Department of Defense school in Bahrain, which he himself had attended, calling it America's most effective long-term ambassador.

6.(C) On Iraq, the CP expressed strong doubts about the Maliki government, calling it closely linked to Iran. The CP said the GOB had invited Maliki to visit Bahrain, but had received no response. The CP agreed that an independent Iraq was essential to counterbalance Iran and was indispensable if the region were to remain stable. He asked "what specifically do we need to do?"

7.(C) Ambassador Crocker responded that Arab governments must take the longer view; they should focus not on Iraqi personalities, which will change, but on Iraqi institutions. Everyone must help the Iraqis build governing capacity and institutions. Withholding support at this critical time only opened the door to Iran's malign influence. This was the time for Arab governments to establish a positive presence in Iraq and Arab ambassadors should return. He urged Iraq's Arab neighbors to host Iraqi official visitors. Both Petraeus and Crocker stressed that Gulf states and Iraq's neighbors needed to help more to limit the access to Iraq of Islamist extremists.

8.(C) The Crown Prince agreed that an Arab counterweight to Iranian influence in Iraq was very important. The Arabs must seek to contain Iran's drive for hegemony. Iran was a "clear and present danger" because of its activities in Iraq and its nuclear program. Iraq must be secured as a stabilizing power, but Iraqis must take responsibility for their own government. The coalition could not prop up individuals - they inevitably fall. He endorsed U.S. activities at the local level and praised Coalition Forces work with the tribes and in limiting the activities of al Qaeda.

9.(C) The Crown Prince replied "I've received the message." He would press other Arabs to do more in support of stability in Iraq, but he stressed the need to back elements in Iraq that work "for stability" and not for Iran. If the U.S. wanted to "win the war in Iraq by using the democracy ticket," he said, "that requires rallying Iraq and regional opinion, which in turn requires resolving the Israeli-Palestinian question." If this was not possible, then the U.S. should drop democracy promotion as the main element of its strategy in Iraq and the region and rely instead on traditional power politics - i.e., identify strong groups that would support U.S. policies, and stand by them. MANAMA 00001021 002 OF 002 "You did it in the Cold War," he said "and you can do it now." The Crown Prince complained that U.S. allies in the Arab world kept" sticking their necks out" for the U.S., while ever-rising popular frustration with U.S. policies put U.S. allies in an increasingly difficult position. Bahrain would rise to the challenge, but unless there is "a fundamental change, a rebalancing of power in Iraq," it would be difficult both to support U.S. policies and at the same time maintain current democratic openings; these would only provide opportunities for Iran to work further mischief. Meetings with King and Foreign Minister ---------------------------------------

10.(C) With King Hamad, Ambassador Crocker made the same points. The King expressed appreciation for Crocker's visit and his update, but offered little substantive comment. In a separate meeting, FM Shaikh Khalid reiterated the CP's concerns about the Maliki government and Iran's role in Iraq. He said Bahrain wanted to help, but must consider its own interests too. He wanted to re-establish a full-fledged Bahraini embassy in Baghdad and would examine this positively, but was limited by security concerns. (Bahrain currently maintains an Embassy in Baghdad staffed by local employees. Bahrain's previous Ambassador to Iraq, Hussain al Ansari, was shot and severely wounded in 2005. He joined the Foreign Minister's meeting with Ambassador Crocker.) Crocker welcomed Bahrain's intention to re-examine this issue, and offered to help in any way it can, e.g. moving it to the International Zone, and locating a suitable property in the International Zone.

11.(C) Shaikh Khalid suggested that the GCC, Jordan, Yemen and Turkey should coordinate action on Iraq and proposed a meeting for this purpose on the margins of the Istanbul Neighbors' Conference. The FM also said that the U.S. has Bahrain's full support for the expanded UNAMI mandate. He commented that, "Some neighbors are more capable than others" and specifically called on Abu Dhabi and Qatar to provide resources in support of UNAMI. ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ********

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