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Viewing cable 08MUSCAT174, ADMIRAL WILLIAM J. FALLON'S MEETING WITH SULTAN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MUSCAT174 2008-03-01 05:05 2010-11-28 18:06 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Muscat
VZCZCXRO2105
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHMS #0174/01 0610549
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 010549Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MUSCAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9318
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 MUSCAT 000174 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/01/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER ENRG KWMN IR IZ MU
SUBJECT: ADMIRAL WILLIAM J. FALLON'S MEETING WITH SULTAN 
QABOOS 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Gary A. Grappo for Reasons 1.4 (b, d) 
 
------- 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
1.  (C) Sultan Qaboos discussed both domestic and regional 
issues during his February 19 meeting with Admiral William J. 
Fallon, CENTCOM Commander.  On the domestic front, the Sultan 
described his desire to empower the government to be more 
responsive to citizen concerns.  Seeking to strengthen the 
role of Omani women, the Sultan plans to convene a conference 
in 2009 designed to increase the participation and leadership 
of women in all aspects of Omani society.  Sultan Qaboos also 
shared plans for continued infrastructure development in Oman 
and described efforts underway to obtain more natural gas. 
On Iraq, the Sultan advised against a premature withdrawal of 
U.S. forces and stated that more regional assistance would be 
forthcoming if Iraqis would "come together" to take charge 
of, and invest in, their own country.  Sultan Qaboos shared 
U.S. concerns about Iranian meddling in Iraq and elsewhere, 
but contended that Tehran knew confrontation with the U.S. 
was not in its interest.  Iran's "charm offensive" in the GCC 
had succeeded in lessening suspicions of some officials about 
the true intentions of Iranian policies.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C) CENTCOM Commander Admiral Fallon, accompanied by the 
Ambassador, met February 19 with Sultan Qaboos bin Sa'id for 
approximately 2 hours at one of the Sultan's castles -- Husn 
al Shumugh -- in the interior of Oman.  (Note:  The Sultan 
was outside of Muscat on his annual 4-6 week "meet the people 
tour" during which he visits selected sites outside the 
capital.  End Note.)  The Sultan appeared in good health and 
was cheerful, although he commented that his role as ruler of 
Oman was demanding and did not allow him time to do all the 
things he wanted to do, such as reading more books.  "My 
office is wherever I am," he stated, noting that he 
constantly had to attend to paperwork and urgent requests 
from his staff, among other tasks.  The Sultan added that 
despite his busy schedule, he always made time to "watch the 
news," though he did not elaborate on his preferred media 
outlet. 
 
------------------- 
CONCERNS ABOUT IRAQ 
------------------- 
 
3.  (C) The Sultan expressed concern over a premature 
withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.  Recognizing recent 
improvements in the security situation, he counseled that 
American troops should only leave "when the time is right." 
He stressed that Iraqis had to "take charge" of the fate of 
their country, but questioned whether the different factions 
would be able to "come together" to accomplish this.  He 
pointedly asked the Admiral, "Do you really think Prime 
Minister Maliki and his government are capable of pulling the 
country together?"  The Sultan did not directly respond to 
Admiral Fallon's comment on the need for assistance and 
investment for Iraq from elsewhere in the region.  Instead, 
he stated that if the Iraqi people helped themselves and 
invested in their own country, others would follow suit. 
 
4.  (C) The Sultan appeared to follow events in Iraq closely. 
 He commented, for example, that the Kurds had apparently 
"come out well" in recent central government talks on budget 
issues, and asked about the status of electricity production 
in Iraq.  The Sultan seemed to take a particular interest in 
Admiral Fallon's discussion of Iraqi Shia leader Abdul Aziz 
al-Hakim, including the status of Hakim's health and his 
possible successors. 
 
-------------------------- 
INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT 
-------------------------- 
 
5.  (C) In addition to emphasizing the need for outside 
investment in Iraq, Admiral Fallon highlighted the importance 
of assistance from regional states for infrastructure 
development in Afghanistan and other Central Asian nations. 
Again the Sultan sidestepped the issue and shifted the 
conversation to the critical role of roads and highways in 
economic development.  He then mentioned infrastructure 
projects for Oman currently under consideration, including 
construction of a new dam and a freight rail line from the 
northern port of Sohar to the planned port in Duqm.  The 
Sultan hoped that the southern port of Salalah could be 
linked by rail to Muscat and, eventually, to other GCC 
states. 
 
MUSCAT 00000174  002 OF 003 
 
 
 
-------------- 
IRANIAN ISSUES 
-------------- 
 
6.  (C) The Sultan commented that the Iranians are "not 
fools," and claimed that Tehran realized there are "certain 
lines it cannot cross" (i.e., direct confrontation with the 
U.S.).  Regarding GCC relations with the Iranian government, 
he stated, "Iran is a big country with muscles and we must 
deal with it."  He continued that Iran's "charm offensive" in 
the region had achieved a degree of success as some GCC 
authorities (he did not mention names) were now less 
suspicious of Iranian intentions.  The Sultan added, 
laughing, that "I must say that as long as (the U.S.) is on 
the horizon, we have nothing to fear." 
 
7.  (C) Responding to Admiral Fallon's frustration with 
Iranian interference in Iraq, the Sultan remarked that 
Iranian meddling abroad was "almost a game" to the regime in 
Tehran, and said that Iran's leaders would have to stop this 
practice if Iran wanted to "join the world as a noble 
country."  The Sultan hoped that Iraqi leaders would clearly 
tell and convince Iranian President Ahmadinejad during his 
upcoming visit to Iraq to cease Iran's unhelpful interference 
in their internal affairs.  On the possibility that Iran is 
waiting out the President's final term before re-assessing 
its strategy, the Sultan said that Tehran should realize that 
it has to deal with the U.S. as a country, and not just the 
current administration. 
 
------------------ 
THE SEARCH FOR GAS 
------------------ 
 
8.  (C) After noting Iranian dependence on imports of refined 
fuel, the Sultan described Oman's efforts to obtain more 
natural gas to fuel growing domestic power needs and 
large-scale industrial projects.  Oman had committed too much 
of its limited gas production to long-term liquefied natural 
gas (LNG) export contracts.  As a result, the government was 
trying to boost production by taking smaller and less 
productive gas fields away from Petroleum Development Oman 
(PDO) -- 60% owned by the government and 34% owned by Royal 
Dutch Shell -- and awarding them to outside companies such as 
British Gas and BP.  The Sultan claimed these firms were in a 
better position to increase productivity in these fields, and 
pointed to the progress of U.S.-based Occidental Petroleum 
Company in raising oil production in former PDO concession 
areas, such as Mukhaizna. 
 
9.  (C) Looking offshore, the Sultan said he hoped that new 
gas fields would be found in the Gulf of Oman to help ease 
the country's natural gas shortage.  India's Reliance 
Industries was currently exploring a deepwater oil and gas 
block in this body of water, but had made no significant 
discoveries yet.  Qatar would begin supplying gas to Oman by 
2013, the Sultan noted, but not in quantities sufficient to 
meet outstanding needs.  He added that Oman was still 
supplying limited gas from Musandam to Ras al-Khaimah in the 
UAE due to an agreement he made with its emir -- and which 
the Sultan felt he could not break -- well before Oman was 
squeezed for this resource. 
 
--------------------------- 
THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION 
--------------------------- 
 
10.  (C) Sultan Qaboos shared that he placed a great deal of 
importance on education, and noted that a study of history 
provided the context needed to better understand present 
trends and events.  Regarding claims that some rulers in the 
region wanted to keep their people uneducated in order to 
more easily control them, the Sultan explained that this 
strategy could easily backfire as it also left the populace 
more susceptible to influence by extremists, such as the 
Muslim Brotherhood.  Former Egyptian president and 
pan-Arabist leader Gamal Abdal Nasser, the Sultan said, had 
"set the region back" by being "anti-everything" and engaging 
in vitriolic rhetoric designed to keep the masses ignorant. 
 
----------------------------------- 
EMPOWERING THE GOVERNMENT AND WOMEN 
----------------------------------- 
 
11.  (C) On domestic politics, the Sultan announced that he 
would hold the first-ever combined meeting of his Cabinet of 
Ministers and the Majlis al-Shura (the directly elected lower 
 
MUSCAT 00000174  003 OF 003 
 
 
house of Oman's bicameral advisory body) on February 26.  By 
meeting together, the Sultan hoped that the Cabinet and the 
Majlis would learn how to cooperate better and jointly focus 
on important issues.  He commented that both bodies also 
needed to "demonstrate more leadership" and avoid past 
foot-dragging on promises made to the populace.  "People need 
to see the results of decisions," the Sultan stated. 
 
12.  (C) Letting Admiral Fallon and the Ambassador in on a 
"secret," the Sultan confided that he planned to call for a 
conference of all "notable women" in Oman in 2009 in a bid to 
encourage Omani women to expand their participation and 
leadership in different aspects of Omani society.  Minister 
of Social Development, Dr. Sharifa bint Khalfan al-Yahyaiya 
(one of Oman's three female cabinet ministers) will chair the 
meeting on the Sultan's behalf.  Lamenting that no women won 
seats in the October 2007 election for the Majlis al-Shura, 
Sultan Qaboos observed that Omani women were stuck in 
tradition and needed to be empowered to "take more charge" 
and to be "less shy."  "Some customs (regarding women)," he 
added, "shouldn't be kept."  Nevertheless, gradual change is 
occurring in Oman, the Sultan asserted.  His philosophy was 
to "let it happen," rather than hold it up to public debate, 
as the latter course of action often led to factional 
fighting, internal strife, and other ills. 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
A RECURRENT THEME: MORE RESPONSIVE GOVERNMENT 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
13.  (C) In concluding the meeting, Sultan Qaboos returned to 
his goal of improving the responsiveness of the Omani 
government to citizen concerns.  He stated that he would be 
pressing "harder" on his ministers to engage in more and 
better public relations efforts before the Omani police and 
to effectively enforce their decisions so that the people 
could see the benefits of announced actions.  Giving one 
particular example, the Sultan said that rather than simply 
announce a new development project, the government should 
explain the downstream employment opportunities the project 
would generate for Omani citizens.  Effective cooperation 
between ministries and the Majlis Oman was also needed to 
strengthen the civil institutional framework in Oman, the 
Sultan added. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
14.  (S/NF) In discussing his desire for operational change 
in the senior government ranks, the Sultan twice implied (but 
did not directly state) that such change was needed to 
prepare the country for his eventual departure from power. 
The Sultan's comments indicated that he may feel the 
government is too dependent on his authority and should be 
empowered to run more effectively without constant direction 
from the palace.  End Comment. 
 
15.  (U) This message has been reviewed by Admiral Fallon. 
GRAPPO