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Cablegate: Omani Government Reacts Strongly to Suggestion of Patriot

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DE RUEHMS #0071/01 0331443
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FM AMEMBASSY MUSCAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1190
INFO RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L MUSCAT 000071

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/02
TAGS: PREL MARR MOPS IR MU
SUBJECT: OMANI GOVERNMENT REACTS STRONGLY TO SUGGESTION OF PATRIOT
OFFER

CLASSIFIED BY: Richard Schmierer, Ambassador, Department of State,
Embassy Muscat; REASON: 1.4(A), (B), (D)

1. (C) Summary: A recent New York Time's (NYT) article describing
Patriot missile deployment to countries in the Gulf in order to
counter Iran, assuage Israel, and reassure our Gulf partners has
been disquieting to the Omani Government. There has never been an
official USG offer of Patriots to Oman, due in large part to the
GoO's rejection of any undertaking that might include or would
imply the presence of Patriot missiles here. Oman's close
partnership with the USG, particularly through the Base Access
Agreement (BAA), is contingent on maintaining an extremely low
profile and continuing the Sultanate's foreign policy objective of
carefully balancing public perception of its relationships with the
U.S. and Iran. Press of this sort, however unintended, makes it
extremely difficult for Oman to maintain that balance. End
Summary.

Press Articles on Missile Defense in the Gulf

--------------------------------------------- ----------

2. (U) A NYT article appeared on January 30 titled "U.S. Speeding
Up Missile Defenses in Persian Gulf," which quoted General Petraeus
as saying that Patriot missile batteries would be located in four
gulf countries, and noted that Saudi Arabia already has Patriots.
An unnamed military official named the countries as Qatar, the UAE,
Bahrain and Kuwait. The version of this article syndicated by the
NYT news service includes the sentence "Oman, which has always been
sensitive about perceptions that it is doing U.S. bidding, has also
been approached, but there is no deployment of Patriots there,
according to U.S. officials." (Note: That sentence does not/not
appear in the version currently available via the NYT website, and
it is unclear to post if it appeared in the print edition on
January 31; the syndicated version of the article is otherwise not
substantially different from the NYT original. End Note). The
item was picked up by regional press on January 31, quoting the NYT
article and specifically noting that "Oman has declined the offer."
On February 2, the private English daily "Times of Oman" carried a
front page article titled "Missile Shield: Oman denies receiving
any offer from US." In it, Sayyid Badr al Busaidi, Secretary
General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), is quoted as
saying, "the Sultanate's position on such matters is firm and that
it does not ... enter into alliances or axis (sic) against any
state." He stressed that Oman "does not allow its territory to be
used to carry out any military operations against any country in
the region."

Oman is not Interested

------------------------------

3. (C) The Embassy has no record of a formal offer of Patriot
missiles made to Oman by the USG. However, a number of discussions
have occurred in which USG intent was to gauge Omani interest in
collective missile defense capability. Oman has consistently shown
a lack of interest and has politely declined to engage in
substantive discussions on "shared early warning" systems,
"integrated air defense," or "collective defense." (Note: This
is likely due to its assessment that Iran does not pose an imminent
threat, its desire to not needlessly antagonize Iran, and its
distrust of fellow GCC members, making it unwilling to share data
within that group. End Note.) Further, in official
correspondence, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) rejected an offer for
a "Missile and Air Defence Working Group" on February 6, 2009;
rejected further offers for an "Air and Missile Defense Shared
Early Warning (SEW) System" on March 30, 2009, citing Oman's
"unwillingness to commit itself to a SEW"; and on July 22, 2009
again rejected any participation in the "Air Defense Missiles
Advanced Warning System" project.

Direct Omani Reaction

-----------------------------

4. (C) The Omani Royal Office made contact with the Embassy on
February 2 to express strong concern about the article and its
repercussions, as that office had just received a pointed inquiry
from the Sultan on this matter. In a follow-up discussion embassy
officer provided the history of discussions on the issue, of which
the Royal Office was previously unaware, due to what was described


as a "lack of lateral coordination within the GoO."

5. (C) Comment: The strength of Oman's immediate reaction, and the
level at which it transpired, is reflective of the tremendous
seriousness with which this matter is viewed by the GoO. It is
likely that one of the goals of Badr's media statement was to
protect the U.S./Omani relationship, as any belief that the U.S.
would attempt to utilize Omani territory in this way could
potentially cause a public backlash that would jeopardize other
aspects of our relationship. The deployment of Patriots to Oman,
especially with the goal of countering the Iran threat, would run
completely counter to Oman's publicly-stated foreign-policy
objectives. Although they do not find the threat imminent, Iran is
Oman's number one strategic threat; however, the GoO fundamentally
believes the threat can be mitigated through careful management of
the relationship. Therefore, the GoO works very deliberately to
create a public perception of balance in its relationships with
the U.S. and Iran. Oman's security strategy of keeping a low
public profile in general has been threatened by the attention
brought by the NYT article, and the GoO is working to manage the
message for the public. End Comment.
Schmierer

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