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Viewing cable 08RIYADH649, SAUDI KING ABDULLAH AND SENIOR PRINCES ON SAUDI

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08RIYADH649 2008-04-20 08:08 2010-11-28 18:06 SECRET Embassy Riyadh
VZCZCXRO2648
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHIHL RUEHKUK RUEHLH RUEHPW RUEHROV
DE RUEHRH #0649/01 1110847
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 200847Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY RIYADH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8227
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD IMMEDIATE 0650
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 RIYADH 000649 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
WHITE HOUSE FOR OVP, DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ARP AND S/I 
SATTERFIELD 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/19/2018 
TAGS: EAID ECON EFIN IZ PGOV PREL MOPS SA IR
SUBJECT: SAUDI KING ABDULLAH AND SENIOR PRINCES ON SAUDI 
POLICY TOWARD IRAQ 
 
Classified By: CDA Michael Gfoeller, Reasons 1.4 (b,d) 
 
1. (S) Summary: US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and 
General David Petraeus met with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abd 
al-Aziz, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, General 
Presidency of Intelligence Chief Prince Muqrin bin Abd 
al-Aziz, and Interior Minister Nayif bin Abd al-Aziz during 
their April 14-15 visit to Riyadh.  The Saudi King and senior 
Princes reviewed Saudi policy toward Iraq in detail, all 
making essentially the same points.  They said that the 
Kingdom will not send an ambassador to Baghdad or open an 
embassy until the King and senior Saudi officials are 
satisfied that the security situation has improved and the 
Iraqi government has implemented policies that benefit all 
Iraqis, reinforce Iraq's Arab identity, and resist Iranian 
influence.  The Saudis evinced somewhat greater flexibility 
regarding the issues of economic and humanitarian assistance 
for Iraq and debt forgiveness.  In a conversation with the 
Charge' on April 17, Saudi Ambassador to the US Adel 
al-Jubeir indicated that the King had been very impressed by 
the visit of Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus, and 
al-Jubeir hinted that the Saudi government might announce 
changes to its Iraq policy before the President's visit to 
Riyadh in mid-May.  End Summary. 
 
Positive Signs in Iraq 
 
2. (S) In all their meetings with the Saudi royals, both 
Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus conveyed the progress 
in Iraq and confirmed the negative role Iran is playing in 
Iraq.  They characterized the recent ISF-led operations in 
Basra and Baghdad as having a striking effect against the 
Shia militias, most importantly turning Iraqi public opinion 
away from the militias.  While Prime Minister Nuri 
al-Maliki's decision to take action against the militias was 
described as hasty and not well-planned, Ambassador Crocker 
and General Petraeus emphasized that any tactical shortfalls 
were overshadowed by the greater positive effect of unifying 
Iraq and demonstrating the GOI's, and most specifically 
al-Maliki's, determined resolve to take on the Shia militias, 
especially Jaysh al-Madhi.  Concurrently, these operations 
unequivocally demonstrated Iran's subversive activities in 
Iraq and its broader regional ambitions.  Throughout all 
their discussions, Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus 
stressed the importance and urgent need for the Saudis to 
join us in supporting Iraq. 
 
The Saudi Embassy Issue 
 
3.  (S) King Abdullah, the Foreign Minister, and Prince 
Muqrin all stated that the Saudi government would not send an 
ambassador to Baghdad or open an embassy there in the near 
future, citing both security and political grounds in support 
of this position.  The Foreign Minister stated that he had 
considered dispatching an ambassador and had sent Saudi 
diplomats to Baghdad to identify a site for the Saudi 
embassy.  However, he said. "the King simply forbade us to go 
any farther."  King Abdullah confirmed this account in a 
separate meeting with Ambassador Crocker and General 
Petraeus.  The King asserted that the security situation in 
Baghdad was too dangerous for him to risk sending a Saudi 
ambassador there.  "He would immediately become a target for 
the terrorists and the militias," he said. 
 
4.  (S) The King also rejected the suggestion that by sending 
a Saudi ambassador to Baghdad he could give essential 
political support to the Iraqi government as it struggles to 
resist Iranian influence and subversion.  He expressed 
lingering doubt on the Iraqi government's willingness to 
resist Iran.  He also repeated his frequently voiced doubts 
about Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki himself by alluding to 
his "Iranian connections."  The Saudi monarch stated that he 
does not trust al-Maliki because the Iraqi Prime Minister had 
"lied" to him in the past by promising to take certain 
actions and then failing to do so.  The King did not say 
precisely what these allegedly broken promises might have 
been.  He repeated his oft heard view that al-Maliki rules 
Iraq on behalf of his Shiite sect instead of all Iraqis. 
 
5. (S) However, in a potentially significant move, the King 
did not reject the idea of dispatching a Saudi ambassador to 
Baghdad completely.  Instead, he said that he would consider 
 
RIYADH 00000649  002 OF 003 
 
 
doing so after the Iraqi provincial elections are held in the 
autumn.  The conduct of these elections would indicate 
whether or not the Iraqi government is truly interested in 
ruling on behalf of all Iraqis or merely in support of the 
Shia, King Abdullah asserted. 
 
Grudging Acknowledgment of Change in Iraq 
 
6.  (S) The Foreign Minister signaled another potential 
softening in Saudi policy by saying that the Kingdom's 
problem was not with al-Maliki as a person but rather with 
the conduct of the Iraqi government.  The King himself 
admitted that the Iraqi government's performance has improved 
in recent months and grudgingly accepted the point that 
al-Maliki and his security forces have indeed been fighting 
extremists, specifically Shia extremists in both Basra and 
Baghdad and Sunni extremists and Al Qaeda in Mosul.  However, 
the King and the senior Princes argued that more time would 
be required to judge whether the recent change in Iraqi 
behavior was lasting and sincere.  The King suggested that 
much of the Iraqi government's improved performance is 
attributable to US prodding rather than change in Iraqi 
attitudes. 
 
7.  (S) The Foreign Minister also suggested that the USG 
should prod Ayatollah Sistani to speak out in favor of a 
unified Iraq and national reconciliation among different 
Iraqi sects and groups.  "You have paid a heavy price in 
blood and treasure, and Sistani and his people have benefited 
directly.  You have every right to ask this of him," Prince 
Saud al-Faisal said. 
 
Possible Saudi Economic Assistance 
 
8.  (S) The King, Prince Muqrin, and the Foreign Minister all 
suggested that the Saudi government might be willing to 
consider the provision of economic and humanitarian 
assistance to Iraq. Prince Muqrin asked Ambassador Crocker 
and General Petraeus to send him a list of the kinds of 
assistance that the US government would like to see the 
Kingdom provide Iraq.  Al-Jubeir later told the Charge' that 
this assistance would be separate from the USD 1 billion in 
aid that the Saudi government had promised at the Madrid 
Conference but still not delivered due to security worries. 
He said that the Madrid commitment consisted of $500 million 
in trade credits and $500 million in project assistance with 
strict conditionally, along the lines of what the World Bank 
would require.  Al-Jubeir added that the assistance the Saudi 
government might provide via Prince Muqrin would initially be 
in the range of $75-$300 million. 
 
Possible Debt Relief 
 
9.  (S) The King noted that Saudi debt relief for Iraq "will 
come at some point," although he did not say when. Al-Jubeir 
told the Charge' that debt relief is a real possibility. He 
also noted that the Saudi government might make changes to 
its Iraq policy, perhaps including both assistance and debt 
relief, prior to the President's visit to Riyadh. 
 
The Need to Resist Iran 
 
10.  (S) The King, Foreign Minister, Prince Muqrin, and 
Prince Nayif all agreed that the Kingdom needs to cooperate 
with the US on resisting and rolling back Iranian influence 
and subversion in Iraq.  The King was particularly adamant on 
this point, and it was echoed by the senior princes as well. 
Al-Jubeir recalled the King's frequent exhortations to the US 
to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons 
program.  "He told you to cut off the head of the snake," he 
recalled to the Charge', adding that working with the US to 
roll back Iranian influence in Iraq is a strategic priority 
for the King and his government. 
 
11.  (S) The Foreign Minister, on the other hand, called 
instead for much more severe US and international sanctions 
on Iran, including a travel ban and further restrictions on 
bank lending.  Prince Muqrin echoed these views, emphasizing 
that some sanctions could be implemented without UN approval. 
 The Foreign Minister also stated that the use of military 
pressure against Iran should not be ruled out. 
 
 
RIYADH 00000649  003 OF 003 
 
 
12.  (S) Comment: Saudi attitudes toward Iraq, from the King 
on down, remain marked by skepticism and suspicion.  That 
said, the Saudis have noticed recent events in Iraq and are 
eager to work with the US to resist and reverse Iranian 
encroachment in Iraq.  The King was impressed by Ambassador 
Crocker's and General Petraeus' visit, as were the Foreign 
Minister, GPI Chief, and Interior Minister. Cautious as ever, 
the Saudis may nevertheless be willing to consider new 
measures in the areas of assistance and debt relief, although 
further discussions will be required to make these ideas a 
reality.  End Comment. 
13.  (U) This cable was reviewed and cleared by Ambassador 
Crocker and General Petraeus. 
GFOELLER