Cablegate: Bahraini Fm Meets with Navcent Commander: Iraq,

DE RUEHMK #0586/01 2461503
P 021503Z SEP 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAMA 000586


E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/02/2028

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

1. (C) On August 28, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmad bin Mohammad Al-Khalifa called on NAVCENT Commander Vice Admiral Bill Gortney. Admiral Gortney reviewed NAVCENT operations and Coalition membership and operations. FM Al-Khalifa briefly detailed expanding GOB ties with Iraq (progress toward opening an Embassy in Baghdad; plans for an office in Najaf; new Gulf Air routes); expressed GOB concern about Iran, spoke in detail about the potential for GCC naval operations (including a suggestion that Bahrain and the UAE take up rotating command of CTF-152); offered Bahraini assistance for upgrading the participation of other Coalition members; and asked for U.S. assistance regarding FIRs. --------------- Meeting Details ---------------

2.(C) On August 28, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, hosted an office call, base tour and lunch for Bahraini FM Khalid bin Ahmad bin Mohammad Al-Khalifa at NAVCENT headquarters in Manama, Bahrain. This was the FM's first visit to NAVCENT headquarters and Naval Support Activity Bahrain. The Foreign Minister was accompanied by Ambassador at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Saeed Mohammed Saeed Al-Faihani, Advisor at Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jamal Faris Mohammed Al-Rowaiei, and Second Secretary at Office of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Hayfa Ali Ahmad Matar. Admiral Gortney was accompanied by Embassy Manama Charge d'affaires Chris Henzel, UK deputy commander of Combined Maritime Forces Commodore Keith Winstanley, as well as the Executive Assistant and POLAD (notetaker). ---- Iraq ----

3.(C) The Foreign Minister expressed appreciation for U.S. support for the re-opening of a Bahraini Embassy in Baghdad. He said that Gulf Air intended to start flights to Najaf soon, and that the GOB intends to open an office in Najaf to assist Bahraini pilgrims. He expected a continuing increase in the number of Bahraini Shi'a making pilgrimages to Iraq. ---- Iran ----

4.(C) The Foreign Minister reiterated long-standing concerns regarding Iran, noting that countries in the region had differing threat perceptions regarding the Iranians, but that the GOB saw Iran as a regional threat - causing problems not just in the Gulf, but also in areas such as Lebanon, Iraq, and the West Bank/Gaza through its support for groups such as Hizbollah and Hamas. The Foreign Minster said that, in his discussions in Tehran, he attempted to defuse Iranian concerns about the Coalition naval presence in the Gulf, explaining that the forces were not directed against Iran, but rather had been there since the end of World War II to maintain security and stability. -------------------- GCC Naval Operations --------------------

5.(C) The Foreign Minister and the Admiral held a detailed conversation regarding GCC and Coalition naval operations. Admiral Gortney highlighted the contributions of CTF-152, the Combined Task Force responsible for Maritime Security Operations in the central and southern Arabian Gulf. The command of CTF-152 has shifted between Bahrain and Western countries, and Admiral Gortney expressed his goal of instead having CTF-152 under the rotating command of GCC Coalition countries. He commended Bahrain for its recent command of CTF-152 and for the signal Bahrain's accomplishment sent to other GCC navies. Gortney reiterated U.S. support for any GCC government heading up CTF-152, noting that "we will not let them fail." He said that the navies in question did not have to provide significant ship assets, but rather effective command and control elements that the U.S. and other Coalition navies would support.

6.(C) The Foreign Minister seized upon the idea of Arab leadership for CTF-152 and strongly suggested that Bahrain and the UAE be the first countries to begin a rotating command. He said that such an effort would likely spur the other GCC countries to later take up command duties. Further, MANAMA 00000586 002 OF 002 the Foreign Minister offered for Bahrain to weigh in with other Coalition navies - offering Japan as an example - reinforcing the GOB's support for Coalition efforts and urging them to upgrade their contributions to the CMF. --------------------------------- Flight Information Regions (FIRs) ---------------------------------

7.(C) The Foreign Minister asked for U.S. assistance in maintaining the current FIR for Bahrain. He explained that the FIR emanating from Bahrain used to stretch from Jordan to Oman, but had in recent years been trimmed to the region around Bahrain and northern Saudi Arabia. He said the Saudis were looking to trim the Bahrain FIR further and that Bahrain had safety and operational concerns about such a move. Admiral Gortney said he would look into the matter. --------------- NAVCENT Comment ---------------

8.(C) The meeting and follow-on lunch were warm and productive. The Foreign Minister suggested that the Admiral make the same presentation to key regional leaders, and NAVCENT will follow-up with regional country teams about appropriate interlocutors and venues. ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ******** ERELI

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