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Cablegate: Oman's Sultan Qaboos and a/S Feltman Discuss Yemen

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DE RUEHMS #0103 0540622
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 230622Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY MUSCAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1255
INFO GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

S E C R E T MUSCAT 000103

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/23
TAGS: PREL PTER MU YM
SUBJECT: OMAN'S SULTAN QABOOS AND A/S FELTMAN DISCUSS YEMEN

CLASSIFIED BY: Richard J. Schmierer, Ambassador, State, EXEC; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (S) SUMMARY: In a February 17 meeting with NEA Assistant Secretary Feltman, Sultan Qaboos

-- Supported President Saleh and a united Yemen;

-- Concurred wholeheartedly with the U.S. analysis and approach to
Yemen, especially on the need to maintain pressure on President
Saleh;

-- Agreed the fight against al-Qaida should be the highest priority in Yemen and the region;

-- Explained that he had placed Omani security forces on alert to counter al-Qaida;

-- Saw Yemen's 2013 presidential elections as a potential watershed; between now and then Saleh would need to prove himself
"worthy" to his fellow Yemenis.

END SUMMARY.

2. (C) NEA Assistant Secretary Jeffrey Feltman called on Oman's
Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said February 17. In a meeting lasting
almost two-hours, the two focused discussions on Iran and Yemen.
This cable reports the Yemen discussion; Iran is reported septel. Also present on the Omani side was MFA Secretary General (D-equivalent) and fellow royal Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Humud Al Busaidi. Ambassador Richard Schmierer and DCM (notetaker) filled out the U.S. side.

3. (S) SHRINKING CIRCLE. A/S Feltman reviewed the U.S. assessment of the situation in Yemen and President Ali Abdallah Saleh. Saleh appears to be muddling through a challenging situation, but there is concern that he is relying on a shrinking leadership circle
consisting of family, the military, and some tribal elements. At the same time, Saleh appears focused on non-existential distractions such as the Houthis when the focus should be on the potentially existential threat Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) poses. The question that arises is whether Saleh see these "distractions" as useful to him in managing the situation. The United States sees no real alternative to supporting Saleh. The U.S. is nevertheless determined to send a very clear message on its future expectations while assistance will be conditionally based. The Sultan cautioned that Saleh might use competition among donors to degrade conditionality.

4. (S) BALANCING ACT. The Sultan agreed on the need to support
Saleh. Yemen was at a "crucial" point in time. The Yemeni president continues to conduct a "balancing act." Recent information the Sultan has received corroborates the U.S. analysis that Saleh is increasingly inward looking, relying on a small circle of trust and not sharing the responsibilities of governing as he had done before. Further, Saleh is losing support of the Hashed tribe that led him to power. The Houthi struggle was a domestic issue. The Sultan believed it would be coming to an end soon because Saudi Arabia, on which Saleh is dependent, realized it needed to stop.

5. (S) FOCUSING ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. The Sultan reviewed some history of Yemen. He had been personally involved in efforts to avert the 1994 civil war. The south entered the union because it calculated it would dominate the government, a calculation that proved wrong. The situation has been exacerbated because the north has neglected the south, especially after the north's victory in
the war. Consequently, in the south today there are two schools
developing. One is seeking greater autonomy within a united Yemen, and the other seeks independence. Oman supports a united Yemen.
The 2012 [sic] presidential election will be a key to gauging the future. Developments in Yemen will be difficult to predict, but Oman will work to preclude the development of any political "vacuum." If Saleh is to be re-elected, he must use the intervening years to convince Yemenis that he is worthy.

6. (S) NO MORE GAMES. For the present, the Sultan believed that
dealing with AQAP was the highest priority for all concerned. Oman's policy is to root out AQAP. The Sultan had recently placed Oman's security forces at maximum alert against AQAP. Al-Qaida moved to Yemen because it saw opportunities there. It could prey on territorial, tribal, and religious differences. Saleh must be kept under pressure to do more, not just against AQAP directly, but also more to deny AQAP the tools it uses to create dissension. Thus, Saleh must do more for his people in terms of good governance. His message to Saleh is that there must be "no more games."

7. (U) A/S Feltman cleared this message.
Schmierer

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