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Viewing cable 08MUSCAT565, OMAN REMAINS WARY OF IRANIAN EXPANSIONISM

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MUSCAT565 2008-08-07 07:07 2010-11-28 18:06 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Muscat
VZCZCXRO5264
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHMS #0565/01 2200743
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 070743Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY MUSCAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9835
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/COMUSCENTAF SHAW AFB SC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHBVAKS/COMUSNAVCENT
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 MUSCAT 000565 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/07/2018 
TAGS: PREL PARM IR MU
SUBJECT: OMAN REMAINS WARY OF IRANIAN EXPANSIONISM 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Gary A. Grappo per 1.4 (B and D). 
 
Summary 
------- 
1.  (S/NF)  Minister of the Royal Office and head of the 
Office of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, 
Lieutenant General Ali bin Majid al-Ma'amari, reviewed Oman's 
view on Iran from a security perspective, highlighting Omani 
awareness of Iran's deceptive tactics and expansionist 
ideological desires in the region.  During an introductory 
meeting with NAVCENT commander VADM William Gortney, 
accompanied by the Ambassador, General Ali addressed the 
Iranian nuclear file, security in the Strait of Hormuz, and 
Iranian interference in the region.  Ali Majid's suspicious 
view of Iran stands in stark contrast to conciliatory if not 
obsequious public comments of Omani Minister Responsible for 
Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin 'Alawi regarding Iran and its role 
in the region.  End summary. 
 
Won't Oppose Further Sanctions on Iran 
-------------------------------------- 
2.  (S/NF)  Characterizing Oman's preference for "frankness 
and clarity," General Ali began his comments on Iran by 
noting the reality of Iran as a nearby neighbor, which 
influenced Oman's relations with Iran.  Toward the end of the 
discussion, he compared Oman's normal relations with Iran to 
the relations of other GCC members with Iran.  Throughout the 
meeting, he frequently touched on the theme of how different 
Oman was from other GCC member states, whose real intentions 
and positions often eluded Omani comprehension. 
 
3.  (S/NF)  The Iranian nuclear issue stood at the forefront 
of the General's mind.  He described the nuclear file as an 
international issue, noting that resolution of this issue 
should be dealt with through international bodies such as the 
UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy 
Agency (IAEA).  Oman would respect decisions of these groups 
and play its role in the international community.  Oman would 
not oppose imposition of further measures against Iran by the 
international bodies; however, Oman did not want to play an 
active role in advocating for such measures itself. 
 
Iranian Intentions Clear:  Stall for Time 
----------------------------------------- 
4.  (S/NF)  Ali Majid stated that Oman was aware of Iranian 
stall tactics in the talks over the nuclear issue.  Instead 
of responding by the August 5 deadline, the Iranian side 
offered a new initiative for talks, confirming reports from 
the U.S. and others that Iran indeed is trying merely to buy 
time.  Letting the 5 August deadline pass in responding 
positively to the P5 1 proposal made the Iranian intention to 
stall "very clear to Oman."  The Ambassador noted that the 
U.S. has been working with allies around the world, and 
especially within the EU, to further restrict Iranian 
economic activity in an effort to influence Iran's position 
on the nuclear file.  General Ali agreed that sanctions to 
date were having an impact on the Iranian economy, despite 
Iran's public denials.  Moreover, he said, Iran believed the 
U.S. would never attack Iran, a belief that encouraged Iran 
to persist in its stall tactics.  Nevertheless, he advocated 
a non-military solution as the best option for the U.S., and 
suggested that over the long term, establishment of U.S. 
relations at some level with the Iranian government might 
enable the U.S. to better influence the Iranian government 
and people. 
 
Empty Threats Against the Strait 
-------------------------------- 
5.  (S/NF)  Responding to the Ambassador's question about 
recent Iranian statements threatening the Strait of Hormuz, 
Ali Majid dismissed the threats as "empty words" and perhaps 
a feeble attempt to up its bargaining leverage vis a vis the 
P5 1.  VADM Gortney echoed the Ambassador's comments that 
such rhetoric negatively impacted the world's view of Iran 
and ultimately would undermine Iran's standing in the 
international community.  On this same issue, the General 
expressed his pleasure with the White House press statement 
on August 5 responding to the IRGC commander's comments 
regarding closure of the Strait, agreeing that Iranian 
closure of the strait would be suicide (i.e., more harmful to 
Iran's own economic interests).  He also commended the U.S. 
for not escalating the rhetoric but instead putting Iran's 
comments into proper perspective. 
 
Iraq and Iranian Expansionism 
 
MUSCAT 00000565  002 OF 003 
 
 
----------------------------- 
6.  (S/NF)  Prior to delving into the nuclear issues, Ali 
Majid acknowledged that Iranian interference in Iraq 
prevented achievement of a stable security environment there. 
 He allowed that, at a minimum, Iran indirectly supported 
Shi'a militia in Iraq.  Elaborating on his theme of "Iranian 
expansionist" ideology, he noted that the Iranian national 
radio broadcast commenced with the prelude "the voice of the 
Islamic Republic from Tehran."  Focusing on "from Tehran," he 
astutely raised Omani concerns that such language revealed 
Iran's true intentions:  a "greater Islamic Republic" with 
Tehran at its center.  He further speculated that Iran wanted 
to give the impression that the Islamic Republic might 
already encompass "Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and even the Gulf." 
 
7.  (S/NF)  Ali Majid linked the nuclear issue and the 
interference in Iraq by speculating that a resolution might 
entice Iran into ceasing its interference in Iraq.  He 
offered a rhetorical question on whether Iran was serious 
about challenging the major powers or is it posturing in the 
media for domestic consumption.  He conceded that he truly 
did not know the answer, but that with Iran's continued 
attitude on the nuclear issue, the security situation in Iraq 
would remain unresolved.  Citing Oman's preference for a 
non-military solution, he nevertheless acknowledged that a 
nuclear-armed Iran as opposed to war with Iran posed "an 
extremely difficult dilemma for all of us." 
 
Playing to Their Domestic Audience 
---------------------------------- 
8.  (S/NF)  Acknowledging Iran's revolutionary zeal, the 
General attempted to put Iranian public statements in 
perspective when he described as exaggerations those comments 
by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmed-I Nejad or other Iranian 
figures, particularly regarding military capabilities. 
"Countries that believe they have some specific military 
weapons advantages usually keep them secret," he averred.  He 
asserted that in the end, all power resided with Supreme 
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 
 
9.  (S/NF)  Ali Majid portrayed Shi'a ideology as another 
factor complicating possible military conflict with Iran. 
Iranian leaders would not balk at sacrificing a quarter of 
their 60 million citizens in a military conflict.  The Shi'a 
tradition of martyrdom spanned 14 centuries.  The annual 
self-flagellation of Shi'a over 1,400 years served as an 
example of this martyr psychology.  Beyond its Shi'a 
ideology, pride in its Persian national identity compelled 
Iran to demand international recognition and respect. 
 
10.  (S/NF)  Returning back to comments about GCC countries, 
General Ali singled out Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar as three 
Gulf countries that probably would want the U.S. to strike 
Iran.  However, he urged the U.S. to determine whether such 
voices were speaking on the basis of logic or emotion.  He 
likened private entreaties of these countries to the U.S. for 
military action on Iran to the Iraqi opposition in exile 
providing the U.S. false information on Iraq that led to the 
invasion of Iraq.  At the beginning of the meeting, Ali Majid 
had noted that, in contrast to Oman, other GCC members did 
not always speak with candor or clarity, leaving Oman to 
question the real motivations or intentions of its GCC 
brethren. 
 
11.  (S/NF)  Punctuating his comments about Iran's 
irrationality, Ali Majid pointed to Libyan leader Colonel 
Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi's recent comment that "Iran is crazy" not 
to pay attention to the history of Yugoslavia and Iraq, whose 
ignoring of U.S. pressure resulted in their collapse. 
Interestingly, he referred to Qadhafi's transformation from 
pariah to emerging member of the international community by 
noting that Qadhafi had once been "our enemy." 
 
Oman in a "Strategic Relationship" with the U.S. 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
12.  (S)  Shifting from Iran, Ali Majid underscored Oman's 
"strategic relationship" with the U.S. and highlighted Oman's 
cooperation with the U.S. on counterterrorism issues.  He 
described Oman's zero tolerance for extremism and refusal to 
negotiate with terrorists as a policy established at least 
since 1970 (the year of the Sultan's assumed power).  Oman 
has been and continues to prepare itself to confront 
terrorism, he said, as it is not exempt from the plotting of 
terrorists.  While Oman is "encircled by problems" -- 
specifically mentioning Yemen, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan -- 
 
MUSCAT 00000565  003 OF 003 
 
 
Oman remains vigilant in preventing such problems from 
reaching the Sultanate.  On the topic of Oman's partnership 
with the U.S., he harkened back to when the Soviets had 
sought a warm water port during the time of their invasion of 
Afghanistan and were rebuffed by Muscat as an example of how 
"Oman has stood at the side of the U.S."  He also highlighted 
the irony that now the world faced "not the Soviets but the 
Taliban."  He quickly followed this by noting that the U.S. 
would be wise to support talks with moderate members of the 
Taliban, which Oman encouraged as a way toward achieving 
security in Afghanistan. 
 
13.  (S/NF)  Participants in the meeting included VADM 
Gortney, the Ambassador, the admiral's executive officer, 
Embassy Muscat's OMC Chief, and GRPO (notetaker).  Sayyid 
Munthir bin Majid al-Sa'id, head of the Royal Office Liaison 
and Coordination Service participated as notetaker and 
translator for General Ali. 
 
Comment 
------- 
14.  (S/NF)  In light of recent, more conciliatory statements 
by Minister Responsible for foreign Affairs Yusuf bin 'Alawi, 
Ali Majid's blunt assessment of Iranian intentions comes as 
refreshing reassurance of the official Omani position on 
Iran.  While careful to flag Oman's longstanding preference 
for a non-military solution to the Iran question and, less 
directly, Oman's inability to actively confront Iranian 
obstinacy, the Sultanate nevertheless maintains a clear-eyed 
view of Iran, its increasingly threatening behavior and the 
potential repercussions for the region.  His comments 
regarding attitudes and perceptions of fellow GCC members 
were startling as they would appear to confirm oft stated 
views of GCC counterparts of Oman as the sometimes "odd man 
out" in the GCC.  Ali Majid's comments suggest that while not 
entirely comfortable with this, the Omanis acknowledge it. 
Ali Majid, as the Sultan's top security official and advisor, 
is known for taking a more hard-line view of matters relating 
to regional security.  However, given his closeness to the 
Sultan and his status as a member of the inner-most circle of 
the Sultan's confidants, such views to a senior U.S. officer 
can be assumed to accord with those of Qaboos. 
GRAPPO