Cablegate: Ambassador Raises Iranian Nuclear Concerns With


DE RUEHKU #0088/01 0321145
P 011145Z FEB 10

C O N F I D E N T I A L KUWAIT 000088



E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2020

REF: A. STATE 9124
B. 09 KUWAIT 1112

Classified By: Political Counselor Pete O'Donohue for reasons 1.4 b and

1. (C) Ambassador, during a January 31 luncheon in honor of
Tony Blair at the residence of Prime Minister Shaykh Nasser
Al Sabah, pulled aside Foreign Minister Shaykh Dr. Mohammed
Al Sabah and raised ref A points concerning Iran's nuclear
program, continuing USG concerns, and our efforts to address
Tehran's intransigence, which now require greater application
of international pressure. Ambassador also noted Washington
interest in Kuwait's recent high-level diplomatic engagement
with Iran (PM's visit in November -- ref B), Iranian
Parliamentary Speaker Larijani's visit in January (Ref C and
septel), and reports of a possible Amiri visit later this
Spring, as well as efforts to expand commercial ties,
including oil/gas deals on the continental shelf (septel) --
and said that enhanced bilateral cooperation to align our
strategies would be welcome. The FM took the points on
board, but declined to be drawn out further on Kuwait's
strategy for dealing with Iran.

2. (C) Earlier at the same event, Ambassador raised reftel
points with the FM's Office Director, Shaykh Dr. Ahmad Naser
Al Sabah (Note: also the Prime Minister's son. End Note),
who asked whether the Iranian side had committed "in writing"
to the Tehran reactor fuel swap, the Qom facility inspection
and the follow-on meeting of P5 1. Shaykh Dr. Ahmed
suggested that the two critical issues are whether Iran's
nuclear program is now so widespread as to be for practical
purposes unstoppable -- and whether Tehran has or is close to
having the actual wherewithal to construct a nuclear device.
Ambassador replied that we are aware of at least three
reactors, but said the issue of capability was more difficult
to judge -- technical know-how had to be combined with all
the various necessary physical components, and there would
need to be a political decision to proceed. She emphasized
that the President's hand is still outstretched to Iran, but
at some point Iran will have to face the consequences of its
recalcitrance; moreover, the President was walking a
carefully considered fine line in dealing with others who
wished to take actions we hoped to avoid.

3. (C) Dr. Ahmad took Ambassador's point and noted that a
year or two ago, many in Kuwait hoped a silent, targeted
strike would take out the troublesome reactor and leave the
region more relaxed. He suggested that now, however, Iran
might have multiple reactors and was so intent on achieving
its nuclear goal that no matter what the West did, Iran would
get the bomb, and any attempt to disrupt it militarily or
through tough sanctions would go badly for the West. He
offered his analysis that "Iran is very different from Iraq;
if the "Murshid" orders his people to do something (like
revenge attacks across the Gulf, striking
American interests as well as Arab), they will do it, to a

4. (C) Polcounselor separately alluded to USG concerns raised
reftel during a January 31 meeting with MFA Asia Department
Counselor Rashid Al-Hajri during a January read-out on
Iranian Speaker Ali Larijani's visit last week to Kuwait (Ref
C and septel). Al-Hajri, in response, delivered the GoK's
standard (and not particularly convincing) talking points on
this issue, emphasizing the GOK's "clear and unchanging
position" that Iran must abide by UN and IAEA safeguards on
its nuclear program and opposes any military options in the
Gulf. Al-Hajri said GOK officials invariably stress these
points in meetings with Iranian counterparts; at the same
time, Kuwait is obliged to conduct bilateral relations on a
variety of issues with its larger neighbor.

5. (C) Comment: Kuwaitis at all levels are deeply worried
about the nuclear ambitions of their much larger neighbor,
but are unsure how to respond. They worry that an Iran
emboldened by a nuclear arsenal would assert greater regional
hegemony at the expense of Kuwaiti interests, and would be
more inclined to meddle in Kuwaiti internal affairs given the
thirty percent of the nation that is Shi'a. However,
Kuwaitis are equally concerned about military pre-emption,
which they believe would not prove decisive and would lead
Iran to lash out at US interests in the Gulf (including US
military facilities in Kuwait), and against those states in
the region seen as allied with the US. Kuwait's current
limited engagement with Iran appears to be motivated by a
desire to try to lower regional tensions (particularly
between Iran and Saudi Arabia), with Kuwait able to distance

itself from the message by emphasizing that it is speaking on
behalf of the GCC in its capacity as GCC chair for 2010.

6. (U) Comment continued: At the same time, Kuwait more
parochially is seeking a way forward to secure Iranian
agreement to tap gas reserves in the disputed continental
shelf (Kuwait needs the gas, which it has little of
domestically, to fuel more and cleaner power plants to meet
growing electricity demand). The careful balancing act
Kuwait is playing was perhaps best exemplified during the
visit last week of Iranian parliamentary Speaker Larijani --
his warning that GCC states should not allow their territory
to be used by the US to launch attacks against Iran was
carried in most local papers on the front page, above the
fold, with prominent coverage given below the fold to
comprehensive coverage (including photos) of the US-Kuwait
military exercise "Eager Mace." Kuwait's nuanced approach
requires careful footwork, but PM Nasser Mohammed Al Sabah,
former dean of Tehran's diplomatic corps and self-described
Iran expert, apparently feels confident he is up to the task
-- and doesn't need much help from the US with the
choreography. End Comment.

********************************************* *********
For more reporting from Embassy Kuwait, visit:
visit Kuwait's Classified Website at: it
********************************************* *********

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