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Viewing cable 09RIYADH496, SCENESETTER FOR SENATOR BOND'S APRIL 6-8 VISIT TO

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09RIYADH496 2009-03-31 14:02 2010-11-29 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Riyadh
Appears in these articles:
nytimes.com
P 311432Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY RIYADH
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0487
INFO CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
S E C R E T RIYADH 000496

NOFORN

DEPT FOR H(SHANE) AND H/RGF(LANG)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/31/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER ECON SA
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR SENATOR BOND'S APRIL 6-8 VISIT TO
SAUDI ARABIA

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission David Rundell for reasons 1.4 (b)
and (d)

1. (U) The Embassy welcomes your visit to the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia.  This message provides a brief overview of key
current issues in U.S. - Saudi relations, tailored to the
particular issues that your Saudi interlocutors will likely
raise with you.

2. (C) You will be arriving six days after an Arab League
Summit in Doha.  Despite the Saudis pulling out all the
diplomatic stops to ensure the summit conveyed publicly a
sufficient degree of Arab unity, Libyan leader Muammar
Qadhafi's eccentric outburst showed that deep fissures still
exist.  This was the second such embarrassment in the past
three months showing the Arabs to be badly divided on
regional security issues after public disagreements at the
Arab Economic Summit in Kuwait in January.

U.S. Saudi Relations on the Mend
---------------------------------

3. (C) As you will hear, Saudi foreign policy calculations
are driven by a deep fear and suspicion of expanding Iranian
influence.  While U.S.-Saudi relations have improved
dramatically since their post-9/11 nadir, differences remain
over U.S. Middle East policies. The Saudis have three
principal issues areas of concern about U.S. policies:

--(C) As the author of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, King
Abdallah risked his personal prestige to advocate a
comprehensive Middle East peace as the "strategic option" for
the Arabs, only to be frustrated by what he saw as U.S.
reluctance to engage over the next seven years.

--(C) Similarly, in the Saudi view, we ignored advice from
the King and Foreign Minister against invading Iraq. In the
words of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal,
"military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan has tilted the
(regional) balance of power towards Iran."

--(C) Finally, the U.S. debate over whether and how to engage
Iran has fueled Saudi fears that a new U.S. administration
might strike a "grand bargain" without first consultating
Arab countries bordering the Persian Gulf.

Appointment of Prince Nayif
---------------------------

4. (C) Saudi King Abdallah issued a royal decree appointing
his half-brother, Interior Minister Prince Nayif bin
Abdalaziz, as second deputy prime minister March 27.  The
position had been vacant since Abdallah became King in 2005.
Though the previous two crown princes held Nayif's new
position prior to being formally tapped as heirs to the
throne, this appointment does not necessarily mean Nayif is
"Crown Prince in Waiting," because King Abdallah created a
committee -- the Allegiance Council -- to select the King's
successor.

5. (S) The King was likely driven by expediency.  Crown
Prince Sultan is for all intents and purposes incapacitated,
and the King needed to travel abroad.  Someone had to be left
in charge and Nayif, by virtue of his seniority among the
sons of Abdalaziz and his position as Minister of Interior,
was by tradition the leading candidate for the job.
Assistant Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayif (MBN) told the
Ambassador that his father's appointment should not be seen
in the light of succession, but as "an administrative
necessity."

Internal security
------------------

6. (C/NF) With our assistance, Saudi Arabia has largely
defeated terrorism at home.  The Saudis are now arguably our
most important counterterrorist intelligence partner.  They
established tighter controls on charities and the
transporting of cash to disrupt terrorist finance.  We have
signed an Information Sharing Agreement with the Kingdom and
started to exchange Airline Passenger Information and
Passenger Name Record (API/PNR) data to help track terrorist
suspects and facilitate legitimate travel.  We can say
clearly that Saudi Arabia is now part of the solution, not
the problem.

7. (S/NF) The Saudi leadership remains greatly concerned
about the vulnerability of its energy production facilities,
and has put MBN of the Ministry of Interior (MOI) in charge
of efforts to acquire the capability to defend this key
infrastructure.  He is looking primarily to the U.S. to build
this capability through an initiative formalized in May 2008
when Secretary Rice and Prince Nayif signed a TCA creating
the Joint Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection.
We have established an inter-agency, DOS/DOD/DOE, security
advisory organization, the Office of Program
Management-Ministry of Interior (OPM-MOI), to implement this
bilateral security agreement.  King Abdullah has made the
protection of Saudi Arabia's critical infrastructure a top
security priority, with MBN fully empowered to achieve this
objective.

Rehabilitation Program
----------------------

8. (S/NF) We estimate that at least 1,500 former extremists
have passed through the Interior Ministry's rehabilitation
program for extremists (1,200 through the prison rehab
program and 300 through the care center), including 119
Guantanamo returnees, with an overall recidivism rate of 8-10
percent.  Despite the front page treatment of former
Guantanamo detainee Sa'eed al-Shihri's appearance in Yemen,
the real story of the Saudi rehabilitation program is one of
success:  at least 90 percent of its graduates appear to have
given up jihad and reintegrated into Saudi society.  The
recidivists are the exception, not the rule.  The Ministry
takes a dynamic approach to the rehab program and will look
for ways to strengthen it by learning from these incidents of
recidivism.

9. (S/NF) We know less about recidivism among non-Guantanamo
detainees since they were arrested here for activities inside
Saudi Arabia and as such their cases are an internal Saudi
matter.  However we believe a small minority of these have
re-engaged in violent extremist activity, and MOI tells us
former Guantanamo detainees were harder to rehabilitate than
this other category.

The Peace Process after Gaza
----------------------------

10. (C) King Abdullah stated the Saudi position bluntly in
the opening session of the January Summit in Kuwait:  Israel
should realize that the choice between peace and war will not
be available indefinitely, and the Saudi-authored Arab Peace
Initiative, currently on the table, will not remain there
forever.  However, the Saudis have made no move to withdraw
the plan yet.  Saudi and Arab public opinion have reacted
strongly to the Israeli offensive on Gaza, creating intense
pressure on Arab governments to act.  The Saudis fear
instability and increasing Iranian influence could result,
and believe that there is a limited window of opportunity for
action.

Iran
-----

11. (S) Iran remains the strategic threat at the forefront of
Saudi security concerns. Senior U.S. officials visiting the
Kingdom recently have heard the King expound at length about
the great danger that Iran poses to the region.  In general,
the Saudi leadership has begun to look at all regional
security issues through the prism of their fears about
growing Iranian influence.  They see Iran's activities as
dangerously provocative, not only in Iraq, but also in
Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen, parts of Africa, and southeast Asia.
King Abdullah met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki
earlier this month, and subsequently informed the NSC's John
Brennan that he had had a "heated exchange" with Mottaki,
upbraiding him that "Persians" have no business meddling in
"Arab" affairs and threatening that he would give Iran no
more than a year to repair its relations in the region.
Saudi intelligence chief Prince Muqrin told Brennan the
"Shi'a crescent has become a full moon," implying that the
Saudis are surrounded by Iranian intrigues.

12. (S) On Iranian nuclear activities, the Saudi view is that
nations have the right to a peaceful nuclear program, but
that Iran does not have the right to do what it is doing.
The Saudis want to see a peaceful solution to the Iran
nuclear problem but they also want reassurance that Saudi
interests will be factored into any deal struck with Iran.

Afghanistan
------------

13. (S/NF) We have been encouraging the Saudi government to
be more active in support of the Karzai government, in
particular by helping to train, or to fund the training of,
Afghan security forces.  Saudi Arabia has been helpful in
providing assistance, but we would like them to do more.  One
area in which Saudi diplomacy has been forward leaning is in
offering to help mediate between the Afghan government and
the Taliban.

Pakistan
---------

14. (C) The Saudis are extremely concerned about Pakistan's
political fragility, and have worked hard, through their
embassy in Islamabad, to bring the Pakistani factions
together.  Saudi relations with Pakistan have been strained
because the Saudis don't trust Zardari and see him and other
leading Pakistani politicians as corrupt.  Zardari visited
Saudi Arabia last November for talks with King Abdullah on
Saudi support for the "Friends of Pakistan" initiative and
oil subsidies.  The visit was an opportunity for Zardari to
persuade skeptical Saudis that he can be a trustworthy
partner in managing one of Saudi Arabia's most important
regional relationships, but his trip appears not to have
resulted in new Saudi assistance or other commitments.  The
Saudis say they have been holding back economic and political
support pending evidence that the political situation in
Pakistan is stabilizing.

FRAKER