Cablegate: Presidential Assistant Brennan's Sept 5 Discussion

O 111328Z SEP 09

S E C R E T JEDDAH 000343



E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/12/2029


Classified By: CG Martin R. Quinn for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)


1. (S/NF) During CDA Richard Erdman's September 5 meeting
with Saudi Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Interior Prince Nayif bin Abdulaziz (reftel), John Brennan,
Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and
Counterterrorism, stressed USG condemnation of the August 28
terrorist attack on Assistant Interior Minister Prince
Mohammed bin Nayif (MbN) and strong USG support for Saudi
Arabia in combating violent extremism. Nayif emphasized that
the attack had in no way diminished the SAG's resolve to
eliminate terrorism -- despite the danger -- and described
SAG's multifaceted approach, which combines refuting
terrorist ideology, security operations, and rehabilitation.
The Prince also complained that Iran had breached its 2001
security agreement with KSA and was supporting aggression
against the kingdom; expressed frustration with European
nations for allowing terrorists to operate against KSA rather
than handing them over, and requested US intercession to
change this European policy. Both parties reaffirmed their
commitment to the US-Saudi relationship begun by FDR and King
Abdulaziz, especially the partnership between security
channels. End summary.


2. (S/NF) At a previously scheduled September 5 farewell call
on Prince Nayif, Charge introduced Mr. Brennan and asked him
to brief on Washington perspectives on current
counterterrorism challenges and efforts. Brennan opened by
conveying U.S. condemnation and concern over the August 27
attack on Assistant Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayif as
well as our great relief that he had survived the cowardly
attack. In this regard, he said he had brought a personal
letter from President Obama to Prince Mohammed expressing our
concern and best wishes. The U.S., he continued, greatly
admired and appreciated the courageous work being done by the
Ministry of Interior and the Mabahith against violent
extremism and terrorism.


3. (S/NF) President Obama felt personally outraged by the
attack, Brennan said, and emphasized that it was critically
important that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia went forward in the
fight against violent extremism. Noting that he would be
visiting Yemen the following day, Brennan said he would
stress to President Saleh, in the strongest possible terms,
the importance of combating terrorism and resolving the
serious problems facing his country. Brennan also confirmed
to Prince Nayif that the USG was working very closely with
the Mabahith and would be discussing in the coming days how
to approach the threat coming from Yemen.

--------------------------------------------- ---------

4. (S/NF) Thanking Brennan for USG support, Nayif emphasized
that the attack had not weakened SAG's resolve to eliminate
terrorism. Following the incident, he said, the King met
with MbN, who stressed that acts of terror "would not keep us
from working and doing our job." At the same time, the door
must always remain open to those militants who wanted to
return to society. These terrorists were attacking the
country as a whole and would not hesitate to attack anyone to
reach their goals. "Every Saudi official is at risk of
attack," he said. "Despite this, we are still willing to put
forth more effort against terrorism, which is more dangerous
than any illness." Fear of losing one's life was not a
reason to stop working. We had a duty to defend the country,
and it was preferable to die doing one's duty. "God
determined a person's fate and everyone will go back to God."

5. (S/NF) Nayif then described SAG's approach to terrorism as
including countering terrorist ideology, armed
counterterrorism operations, and a rehabilitation program for
militants who surrendered. The SAG has created a strategic
communications center where intellectuals and imams worked to
explain to the public that terrorists were working against
the true ways of Islam and attacking Saudi society. In
countering the spread of jihadist ideology, Nayif added, the
Friday mosque sermons -- delivered four times a month in the
country's more than 15,000 mosques -- were one of the most
effective vehicles.

6. (S/NF) Asked about the economic impact of the recent
attack, Nayif asserted that Saudi Arabia was better off than
any country in the region and among the best-situated
globally in terms of economic activity. Using a favorite
line, he said: "We know that capital is a coward and wants a
safe place." For this reason, people could invest with
confidence in the Kingdom, the economy was growing, and the
government was continuing its development plans. The economy
was thriving and the security situation was good despite
being among the countries most subject to terrorist attacks.
Saudi Arabia had thwarted more than 200 terrorist operations,
he said, and only 5 percent of planned attacks had actually
occurred. "We've achieved many things in protecting the
country and, God willing, we will achieve many more things
with our friends." Brennan praised SAG efforts to combat
terrorism: "I wish other countries in the world were as
willing and capable." Saudi Arabia, he stated, was on the
front line of terrorism, a model in preventing individuals
from being corrupted by the propaganda of Al Qaeda, and thus
instrumental in demonstrating to the West and the U.S. that
Al Qaeda was a perversion of Islam and did not represent the
true faith.


7. (S/NF) Nayif complained that over the past two years Iran
has hosted Saudis (all Sunnis) -- including Osama bin Laden's
son Ibrahim -- who had contacts with terrorists and worked
against the Kingdom. SAG considered this aggressive action a
breach of the 2001 security agreement between the two
nations. The SAG has informed Iran through its ambassador
and the MFA, asking the GOI to hand over these Saudis. Nayif
recalled that after the operations in Khobar in 1996, the SAG
tried to open channels with Iran and tried to improve
relations during Khatami's presidency. He himself had met
personally with Iranian National Security Secretary General
Dr. Hassan Rohani (Iran's Supreme Council on National
Security) and had signed a security agreement in which Iran
promised to show respect and not take any actions inside or
outside Iran against the Kingdom. Brennan agreed that Iran
had the capacity to cause trouble, and assured the Prince
that the USG was very concerned and looking carefully at the
situation. President Obama's willingness to talk to the
Iranians did not mean he did not understand the problem.
Brennan emphasized the SAG's strong friends in the White
House, including President Obama, wanted to work very closely
with Saudi Arabia on this front.


8. (S/NF) Nayif expressed frustration with the limited
cooperation of friendly European nations with whom the
Kingdom has security agreements. The governments, he
complained, shared information but did not take any action.
As a result, "terrorists roam around freely in their
countries," and the Europeans have not handed over
terrorists. For example, Ibrahim (Salih Mohammed Al-Yacoub),
a very important suspect involved in the Khobar bombing, was
in Europe. Saudi Arabia asked several nations to hand him
over as a terrorist who had acted against the Kingdom and the
United States. Nayif complained that while these European
countries were friendly, had good relations, and shared
interests with the Kingdom, he failed to understand why
Europeans harbored terrorists working against Saudi Arabia in
their countries. If there were people in Saudi Arabia
working against friendly countries, the SAG would intervene.
Nayif requested USG help in convincing Europe to work more
cooperatively. Brennan commented that we had similar
frustrations with some countries.


9. (S/NF) Throughout the two-hour meeting, Nayif highlighted
the importance of bilateral security cooperation, noting that
the level of professional exchange has been excellent. Nayif
commented that there has been success in exchanging
information, procuring the best, newest, most updated
technology and in finding and preventing terrorist acts
before they happen. The final goal, he stressed, was to stop
terrorists and "dry out their resources." Asked by Charge if
he meant terrorist financing, Nayif replied: "Yes. When we
say 'resources' we mean people, training, and money. We have
found huge sums of money on many terrorists we have caught."
Nayif expressed the hope that through joint cooperation Al
Qaeda as the source of terrorism in the Kingdom and
throughout the world could be destroyed. He added that the
support from U.S.-Saudi leadership in this area was
critically important to reach the goal. Nayif thanked
President Obama for supporting strengthened security ties
between the two countries and said that King Abdullah was
strongly committed to cooperating with the United States
against terrorism. Recalling the 1945 visit between FDR and
King Abdulaziz, Nayif declared, "We're acting upon what they
decided." Brennan responded that President Obama would be
pleased to hear that the Saudi commitment to our special
relationship remained stronger than ever.

10. (U) This message was cleared by Assistant to the
President John Brennan.


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