Cablegate: Kuwait Interior Minister Sounds Alarm On Iran;

DE RUEHKU #0142/01 0481442
P 171442Z FEB 10

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 KUWAIT 000142



E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/16/2020


Classified By: DCM Tom Williams for reasons 1.4 b and d

1. (S/NF) Summary: Interior Minister Jaber Al-Khaled Al
Sabah told Ambassador February 16 that he is deeply concerned
about Iranian actions, particularly in Yemen with the
Houthis. A security hard-liner whose views do not always
reflect those of the rest of the GoK, Shaykh Jaber suggested
Iran is intent upon exporting its revolution and can only be
deterred by force from achieving its nuclear ambitions; he
characterized Iran as the "beating heart" of Islamic
extremism, adding that even Palestinians now aspire to be
Shi'a because they have bought Iranian "stories" about Shi'a
being more prepared to "fight to the end" and stand up to
Israel. Now Iran is trying to infiltrate Egypt, exploiting
poverty there. Ambassador emphasized USG effort to pursue a
"pressure track" with Iran; on Yemen she suggested many of
Yemen's problems were home-grown and required economic and
social solutions at least as much as military ones. Shaykh
Jaber concurred, calling President Saleh "a leader with an
NCO mentality who thinks he can buy loyalty" when what is
needed is strong, honest government and firmer security
measures. Ambassador sought GoK assurances on legality and
intent to ensure monitoring and withholding of travel
documents for any future GTMO returnees, noting that without
those firm commitments the cases of the remaining two
Kuwaitis in GTMO may prove difficult to resolve. The
Minister promised a more formal response but offered his
personal assurances that travel documents would not be
issued, and said monitoring of the last two returnees was
constant and ongoing. Ambassador also raised the need for
GoK outreach to the Parliament to prioritize passage of
pending legislation to criminalize terror financing; Shaykh
Jaber said politics was hindering progress on this issue and
on many other important bills, including one to criminalize
cyber crimes, but said his Ministry was committed to pursuing
radical extremists and ensuring the safety of Americans in
Kuwait, with or without new laws. End Summary.

Iran on my mind

2. (S/NF) The blunt and outspoken Minister of Interior,
Shaykh Jaber Al-Khaled Al Sabah, told Ambassador and DCM
February 16 that Iran is his major concern. Iran is intent
upon exporting its revolution and Shi'ism, has a gameplan,
and will only be deterred from achieving its objectives -
including a nuclear weapons capability - by force. The U.S.
will not be able to avoid a military conflict with Iran, if
it is serious in its intention to prevent Tehran from
achieving a nuclear weapons capability. In Yemen, the
Houthis have shown remarkable resilience - where is their
power coming from? Yemeni extremists are making money from
the drug trade, moving narcotics into Saudi Arabia. The GoK
has been able to block some of the flow of these drugs from
Saudi into Kuwait, but remains very concerned about this.
Iran is involved, clearly, as a producer of drugs and a
facilitator of transit along the
Afghanistan-Iran-Somalia-Yemen pipeline. Now Iran is trying
to expand its influence in Egypt, seeking to exploit poverty
there and infiltrate the security services.

Iranian Mythology Resonates

3. (S/NF) Shaykh Jaber said that the Sunni-Shi'a balance in
the region is at risk and chaos could ensue. Iran is
"calling the shots" in Iraq, and has so convinced the region
of its stories - that Shi'a and Iran will "fight to the end"
where others will not, that only the Shi'a and Iran really
stand up to Israel - that now many Palestinians want to
convert to Shi'ism. As a consequence, Iran has become "the
beating heart of Islamic extremism." The Minister apologized
for speaking so frankly, but said he wanted to clearly convey
what is of greatest concern to the GoK.

4. (S/NF) Note: The Interior Minister's concern about Iran
may have been informed by a couple of recent incidents
briefed February 17 to the US Navy LNO at the Kuwait Navy
Base (see IIR septel for details). In one incident, on
February 6, IRGC Navy speedboats harassed Kuwaiti fishermen;
in a more serious incident on February 15 and again on
February 16, three IRGC Navy speedboats approached a joint
Kuwait/Saudi oil terminal in international waters (located in
the Al-Hout field off Mina Az-Zour), approached as close as
fifty meters and lingered for forty-five minutes on the first
occasion, but only fifteen minutes the second time (perhaps

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as a result of the presence of the Kuwaiti patrol boat
Istiqlal that was dispatched to the terminal to hold station
after the first incident). End Note.

Pressure Track and Yemen Clarification

5. (S/NF) Ambassador took issue with the Minister's
characterization of Iran's role in Iraq and then moved to
review U.S. efforts along the "pressure track" with Iran. In
Yemen, Iran may no doubt try to exploit the situation with
the Houthis, but the causes of the conflict were largely
internal and would require Yemeni President Saleh to pursue a
political and social effort as well as a military campaign -
as was noted in the recent London conference, many of Yemen's
challenges are ones of governance. Shaykh Jaber agreed,
characterizing Saleh as having "an NCO's mentality that you
can win everything with money" when what is needed is less
corruption and a more proactive security posture. The
Minister noted that Kuwaiti Salafists are sympathetic to the
cause of the southern secessionists in Yemen and are being
watched by the GoK; he stated, however, that no Kuwaitis are
actively involved in the fighting. Ambassador noted that
some in the U.S. intelligence community believe that a
considerable number of Kuwaitis are involved with Al-Qaeda,
particularly in the AFPAK theater; Shaykh Jaber said Kuwaitis
tend more to be sympathizers than practitioners, but said
they all were being watched closely.

GTMO Assurances/Clarifications Needed

6. (S/NF) The Ambassador raised the issue of the remaining
two Kuwaiti GTMO detainees, and sought the Minister's
confirmation that the commitments outlined in the latest
draft diplomatic note on oversight of returnees -
particularly with reference to constant monitoring and
withholding of passports - were both legal and accurately
reflected GoK intent. Clarification of the pending
assurances would likely be necessary given the greater
seriousness of the cases against the remaining two. The
Minister promised a more formal response later, and made
clear that he could not interfere with the activities of the
judiciary, but said he was sure the two most recent returnees
did not have passports, and characterized their level of
monitoring by the security service as "so close they can
smell us and feel our breath on the back of their necks."

Need for Passage of AML law

7. (S/NF) The Ambassador - as she had earlier with the
Foreign Minister (reftel) - noted that Kuwait is now the only
country on the Arabian Peninsula not to have criminalized
terror financing. A pending law is before parliament, but
Speaker Jassem Al-Khorafi had commented privately to the
Ambassador that the government had not made its passage a
priority for the current legislative session. Shaykh Jaber
responded that politics was getting in the way of much needed
legislation, not just TF, but also a bill to define cyber
crime. The Minister offered his assurances that the GoK is
very serious on the matter of terror financing and
facilitation, with or without the law, and was committed to
this and to protecting Americans in Kuwait. At the close of
the meeting, the Ambassador provided Shaykh Jaber with drop
copies of two previous requests for information on alleged
anti-American plotters in Kuwait, acknowledging that these
could be "poison pen" cases, but requesting a formal response
from the Ministry to ensure appropriate due diligence had
been done.


8. (S/NF) Shaykh Jaber survived a no-confidence vote in
Parliament late last Fall, but the GoK expended only enough
effort to ensure his victory by a relatively narrow margin.
The reported cost of that governmental support (arranged by a
Prime Minister from whom Shaykh Jaber is estranged) was
Shaykh Jaber's acceptance that KSS Chief 'Athbi Al-Fahad Al
Sabah would report directly to the PM, not to the Interior
Minister as has traditionally been the case. The Interior
Minister's tough and candid talk on Iran, consequently, while
it offers useful insight into the private worries likely
shared by many of Kuwait's seniormost leadership, should not
necessarily be seen as an articulation likely to result in
any meaningful GoK policy initiatives.

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