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Cablegate: Afcent Commander's Meeting with Crown Prince

VZCZCXRO3314
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK RUEHTRO
DE RUEHMK #0611/01 2921055
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 191055Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8977
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHBVAKS/COMUSNAVCENT
RHMFISS/USCENTAF SHAW AFB SC
RUQVSAN/USCENTAF DEPLOYED
RHIUFAA/USCENTAF SWA

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAMA 000611

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/19/2029
TAGS: PREL MARR IR AF BA
SUBJECT: AFCENT COMMANDER'S MEETING WITH CROWN PRINCE
SALMAN FOCUSES ON IRAN

REF: MANAMA 599

Classified By: CDA Christopher Henzel for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (S) SUMMARY: During USAFCENT Commander Mike Hostage and
CDA's October 12 meeting with Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin
Hamad al Khalifa, the CP assured them that Bahrain would keep
the pressure on Iran to live up to the commitments it made in
Geneva (reftel). Lt Gen Hostage explained that the threat
posed by Iran was leading the U.S. to pursue a Regional
Integrated Air and Missile Defense (RIAMD) strategy with GCC
countries. Shaikh Salman welcomed this and stressed that
Bahrain wanted to be part of the solution to the GCC's
defense integration challenges. Lt Gen Hostage and the
Charge thanked him for Bahrain's commitment to contribute a
small contingent for the effort in Afghanistan. End Summary.

IRAN AND REGIONAL AIR AND MISSILE DEFENSE:
------------------------------------------

2. (S) On October 12, U.S. Air Forces Central (USAFCENT)
Commander Lt Gen Mike Hostage and Charge d'Affaires called on
the Crown Prince. The CP commended COMAFCENT for now being
forward deployed to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar because it was
important to spend time with the U.S.' counterparts in the
Gulf. If more U.S. troops were added into Afghanistan, and
Iran tried to delay the process begun in Geneva, Shaikh
Salman commented that there would be tough months ahead for
the region. As the P5 1 pursued its carrot and stick
approach with Iran, Salman wondered if Tehran would pursue a
"tit for tat" in its military posture. Because of the lack
of sophisticated intelligence gathering among the Gulf
states, the CP observed that the press "plays a propaganda
war into our psyche." He decried Iran's interference in Iraq.

3. (S) Lt Gen Hostage explained that, because of the threat
posed by Iran to the region, his primary goal was to work on
establishing Regional Integrated Air and Missile Defense
(RIAMD) between the U.S. and the GCC states. First, this
involved integrating the U.S.' own air and missile defense
assets (Navy Aegis, Army Patriots, etc.). Then he would
offer to link each Gulf state into a Shared Early Warning
(SEW) Common Operating Picture (COP), to the extent that each
government was willing to participate. The U.S. would share
the same picture to all, and each could add as much
information as it liked, while keeping data it did not wish
to share behind a secure firewall.

4. (S) The CP responded that this would be the largest game
changer because it would be a permanent fixture and would
affect Iran's ability to project power. He thanked the U.S.
for the two U.S. Patriot batteries stationed here and said he
would like to help further integrate the Gulf states into
RIAMD project because it would not be enough without
everyone's participation. He cautioned, however, that the
U.S. would have to lead the effort and it would have to be
bilaterally with each government, with a multilateral system
as the long-term goal. He asked whether and where the U.S.
would deploy a THAAD (Theater High Altitude Air Defense)
system to the Gulf. Gen Hostage replied that the location
was not yet certain, but yes, THAAD would be deployed within
a year, and would prove to be a very capable mid-course
intercept system. Prince Salman worried that, in an attack
scenario, Iran would try to swarm and overwhelm specific
targets and we would all have to be ready for that.

5. (S) Lt Gen Hostage pointed to the Air Warfare Center in
the UAE as a Center of Excellence (COE). A COE for RIAMD
could be established there as well as a training vehicle to
help the Gulf states get comfortable with the technical
solutions so they could share information. Shaikh Salman
said he wanted Bahrain to be part of the solution. He noted
that Bahrain had been the first GCC government to participate
in Task Force 152 and it liked to be a leader. "Consider us
serious partners," he stated.

IRAN: TO DEGRADE OR DETER?
--------------------------

6. (S) Lt Gen Hostage asked for the CP's views of Iran's
willingness to deal in good faith with the P5 1. Shaikh
Salman said his views had not changed - Iran's behavior would
continue to be problematic. However, he speculated that the
reason Iran had changed course and cooperated with the P5 1
in Geneva was due to Russian President Medvedev's comment at
UNGA that sometimes sanctions were unavoidable. CDA pointed

MANAMA 00000611 002 OF 002


out that as the P5 1 pursued a dual track strategy of
engagement and preparing for sanctions, the GCC countries'
roles would be important. Confirming that Bahrain would do
what it could to keep the pressure on Iran, the CP lamented
that Gulf countries had few levers on China. He thought that
if Saudi Arabia were to sell more oil to China, it would help
provide some leverage.

7. (S) The CP asked whether Russia had shipped its S-300 air
defense system to Iran yet. Lt Gen Hostage said no. Salman
said he was sure that the international community would have
to wait until the next election in Iran to see real internal
changes. The regime was still in firm control and
Ahmadinejad was consolidating his power, even as the economy
was failing. The world would need a strategy led by the U.S.
"We are still a ways away from knowing whether force is
necessary," the CP stated.

BAHRAIN'S CONTRIBUTION TO THE EFFORT IN AFGHANISTAN
--------------------------------------------- ------

9. (C) The CP asked whether the U.S. was changing its goals
in Afghanistan to a strategy of reconciliation and power
sharing with some elements of the Taliban while targeting
senior Al Qaeda figures. Lt Gen Hostage said a way had to be
found to let the Afghans live in their, not our, version of
peace, but he wondered whether it could be done on our
timeline. Shaikh Salman counseled patience as with the
implementation of the surge in Iraq. Lt Gen Hostage and
Charge thanked him for Bahrain's commitment to contribute a
company from its security forces to provide inner perimeter
security at a coalition base in Afghanistan. Shaikh Salman
stated that his father King Hamad had approved a budget of
USD 13 million for the deployment the day before, so the
troops would have the necessary equipment.

10. (C) The CP asked whether the U.S. would still need to
deploy aerial refueling tankers to Isa Air Base. Lt Gen
Hostage related that AFCENT's problems with the Manas Air
Base (Transit Center) in Kyrgyzstan had been resolved.

HENZEL

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