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Cablegate: Bahraini Lawmakers Visit Fifth Fleet Hq

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DE RUEHMK #0063 0350751
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 040751Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9189
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
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RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
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C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAMA 000063

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/04/2020
TAGS: PGOV MARR BA
SUBJECT: BAHRAINI LAWMAKERS VISIT FIFTH FLEET HQ

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

1. (SBU) Summary: Ambassador and U.S. Fifth Fleet Commander met with members of the Shura Council's Foreign Affairs, Defense, and National Security Committee at NAVCENT HQ. Despite their key role on defense and security issues in parliament, this was the members' first visit to the NAVCENT/Naval Support Activity Bahrain (NSA) facility. The Embassy and the Navy plan to arrange more such visits in an effort to promote transparency and demystify the activities of the U.S. Navy for key sectors of Bahraini society. End summary.

2.(C) Six members of Bahrain's (appointed) upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, met with Ambassador and VADM Gortney at NAVCENT HQ on January 31. The six sit on the Shura Foreign Affairs, Defense and National Security Committee. (Note: One member of the committee, Abdulrahman Abdulsalam - a Sunni Islamist imam, decided at the last minute not to attend, and the corresponding committee in the elected lower house declined the invitation, saying that a visit to the facility was "too sensitive" with parliamentary elections slated for later this year.) NAVCENT/Fifth Fleet Commander VADM William Gortney briefed the visitors on the U.S. Navy's mission to protect the sea lanes of communication, counter Iran, and conduct anti-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa. He also detailed the multi-national character of Coalition operations, noting in particular how Bahrain's command of Task Force 152 had been a catalyst for increased participation by other GCC states. The Shura members greatly appreciated th e opportunity to visit "the base," noting that none of them had ever been inside the facility. Their questions ranged from how the U.S. would defend Bahrain in a confrontation with Iran, to the economic impact of the Navy's presence on the island.

3.(SBU) Comment: While the presence of the U.S. Navy is supported by the leadership and generally accepted matter-of-factly by the Bahraini population, both the Embassy and NAVCENT recognize the need for greater transparency regarding the NSA facility and the mission of the Navy and its Coalition partners - both to dispel myths and to humanize the Navy presence. Based on the success of this visit, we will continue working with NAVCENT to arrange additional, periodic visits for leadership and other key actors in Bahraini society. On February 15, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa will call on VADM Gortney to see the facility and meet with some of the newly-returned U.S. Navy dependents, including at least two families who recently gave birth to children here in Bahrain. ERELI

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