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Cablegate: Ahmedinejad Visit to Bahrain

VZCZCXRO0065
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHMK #1045 3231353
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 191353Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7426
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA PRIORITY 0018
RHBVAKS/COMUSNAVCENT PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHDC PRIORITY

S E C R E T MANAMA 001045

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/19/2017
TAGS: PREL KNNP IAEA EPET IR BA
SUBJECT: AHMEDINEJAD VISIT TO BAHRAIN

REF: A. MANAMA 1012
B. MANAMA 922
C. MANAMA 873
D. MANAMA 666

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

1.(S) Summary: The Iranian President stopped briefly in Bahrain to meet the King, Crown Prince, and Prime Minister. The King and Foreign Minister told him that Iran must address the international community's concerns about its nuclear program. While the visit received positive coverage in the local press, Iranian press reports trumpeted the signing of a natural gas agreement. According to the GOB, the agreement was a framework agreement to continue ongoing discussions about the purchase of natural gas from Iran. End summary.

2.(S) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad paid a brief visit to Bahrain November 17 on his way to the OPEC meeting in Riyadh. According to media, he met with King Hamad, Crown Prince Salman, and the Prime Minister, and was accompanied throughout his visit by Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid.

3.(S) In a meeting with DCM November 18, MFA Undersecretary Abdulaziz bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa claimed both the King and Foreign Minister told Ahmedinejad that Bahrain did not support war, but that Iran must address the international community's concerns about its nuclear program. Sheikh Abdulaziz said that Ahmedinejad repeatedly referenced the most recent IAEA report as evidence that Iran's nuclear program had received a clean bill of health. The U/S added that, while Bahrain didn't buy Ahmedinejad's spin, he worried that it might gain traction in some quarters. He believed Ahmedinejad's visit was intended to show his domestic audience that Iran is not completely without friends.

3.(S) According to Sheikh Abdulaziz, the GOI pressed Bahrain to prepare 13 memoranda of understanding for signature during the short visit. In the event, two were signed: one relating to natural gas and the other on fisheries. According to Sheikh Abdulaziz, the gas MOU was an agreement only to continue discussions on the possible purchase of Iranian gas by Bahrain (refs B, C, and D).

4.(S) While Ahmedinejad was afforded all of the head-of-state courtesies, he was not given any opportunity to interact with Bahrain's Shi'a Arab population. Ahmedinejad's motorcade proceeded directly from the airport in the Sunni stronghold of Muharraq to the King's Gudabiya Palace, then back to the airport. Security for the motorcade was tight, with black-clad SWAT teams manning truck-mounted machine guns along the route and helicopters hovering overhead. By contrast, when former president Mohammed Khatemi visited Bahrain in February 2006, large crowds turned out to greet him.

5.(C) Ghanem Al-Buanain, the leader of the largest Sunni bloc in Parliament, perhaps summed up the ambivalence of this visit best in a meeting with the Ambassador. Asked to explain why Bahrain's leaders harshly condemn Ahmedinejad and his policies in private, but in public the Crown Prince greets him at the airport on arrival and the King sends him off on departure, Al-Buanain replied, "Because we're Arabs. We don't like them, but we need them." ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ******** ERELI

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