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Viewing cable 09RIYADH670, SPECIAL ADVISOR HOLBROOKE'S MEETING WITH SAUDI

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09RIYADH670 2009-05-17 16:04 2010-12-01 23:11 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Riyadh
VZCZCXYZ0003
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRH #0670/01 1371606
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 171606Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY RIYADH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0798
INFO RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI IMMEDIATE 2489
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD IMMEDIATE 4741
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL IMMEDIATE 0254
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI IMMEDIATE 0465
RUEHYN/AMEMBASSY SANAA IMMEDIATE 1648
C O N F I D E N T I A L RIYADH 000670 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/17/2019 
TAGS: PREL PTER AF PK SA YM
SUBJECT: SPECIAL ADVISOR HOLBROOKE'S MEETING WITH SAUDI 
ASSISTANT INTERIOR MINISTER PRINCE MOHAMMED BIN NAYEF 

Classified By: CDA DAVID RUNDELL, 1.4(b),(d) 

1. KEY POINTS: 

-- (C) Ambassador Richard Holbrooke met in Riyadh May 16 with 
HRH Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (MbN), Saudi Assistant Minister 
of the Interior. 

-- (C) Holbrooke emphasized that Afghanistan and Pakistan 
should be treated as a closely inter-related problem. He 
stressed U.S. desire for stronger cooperation and a common 
U.S./Saudi approach to Pakistan based on economic assistance, 
encouraging cooperation between Pakistani political factions, 
and transforming the Pakistani army to fight a 
counterinsurgency war. 

-- (C) MbN noted the Saudis viewed the Pakistan army as the 
strongest element for stability in the country. In reply 
Holbrooke emphasized U.S. support for Pakistan's democracy 
and said the U.S. opposed a military coup. MbN said he 
agreed. 

-- (C) MbN described Yemen as a dangerous failed state and a 
growing threat to Saudi Arabia because it attracts Al-Qaeda 
(AQ), said Yemeni President Saleh is losing control, and 
outlined a Saudi strategy of co-opting Yemeni tribes with 
assistance projects. 

-- (C) MbN strongly supported President Obama's decision to 
oppose release of photographs of U.S. detainee 
interrogations, saying release would provide a boon to AQ, 
and would be "the favor of their life." 

PAKISTAN MUST NOT FAIL 

2. (C) Holbrooke thanked the Prince for Saudi Arabia's $700 
million pledge at the April 17 Pakistan donors' 
conference in Japan. He said he had not come to make demands 
or requests but simply to begin a consultative process. The 
fact that three U.S. special envoys (Senator Mitchell, Dennis 
Ross, and now Holbrooke) have visited Saudi Arabia 
demonstrates the importance President Obama places on 
U.S./Saudi relations and the Saudi role in the region. 
Afghanistan and Pakistan were a major problem the new U.S. 
administration had inherited. 

3. (C) Success in Afghanistan was essential for U.S. 
security as well as security in Europe and the Middle East, 
Holbrooke continued. The U.S. might be able to live with 
some degree of instability in Afghanistan, but not with an 
unstable Pakistan, because of Pakistan's nuclear arms, 
fragile politics, and relationship with India. He asked if 
Saudi Arabia shared this conclusion. MbN said "Absolutely," 
a comment echoed precisely in Holbrooke's subsequent meetings 
with King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal 
(septels). It's clear that Saudi Arabia has a "unique" 
relationship with Pakistan, Holbrooke said. He noted that 
over 800,000 Pakistanis live and work in Saudi Arabia. Saudi 
Arabia was especially important to Nawaz Sharif, the most 
popular politician in Pakistan. These were reasons why what 
happened in Pakistan was of direct concern to both the U.S. 
and Saudi Arabia. 

4. (C) Holbrooke said the U.S. and Saudi Arabia shared a 
common purpose on Pakistan but not yet a "common 
collaboration." The purpose of his visit was thus to begin a 
dialogue on Pakistan and seek a common policy. Neither the 
U.S. nor Saudi Arabia could afford to let Pakistan fall 
apart. There were three important issues to address: 

-- Pakistan desperately needs economic assistance; 
-- Even though the Saudis preferred Nawaz Sharif, Sharif and 
Zardari need to be persuaded to work together; 
-- The Pakistan army needs to restructure itself to fight 
today's war against the Taliban rather than yesterday's war 
against India. 

If Pakistan fell apart, Holbrooke said, the consequences for 
Saudi Arabia would be "unimaginable," 
especially if Pakistan's nuclear weapons fell into unfriendly 
hands. ("God forbid!" interjected the Prince.) 
"Under your leadership," Holbrooke told the Prince "Saudi 
Arabia has defeated terror, but if Pakistan falls apart, the 
result would be catastrophe." 

5. (C) Holbrooke said the U.S. wanted to expand the 
U.S./Saudi relationship concerning Pakistan. Saudi Arabia 
could do a lot for Pakistan, he added, noting that economic 

and social conditions in Pakistan created fertile ground for 
extremism. Zardari had many faults but he was democratically 
elected, so the U.S. tries to get him and Sharif to work 
together. Meanwhile, Holbrooke said, money for the Taliban 
flows in from the region. 

6. (C) MbN said a vacuum in Islamabad would be dangerous. 
He described Pakistan army Chief of Staff General Kayani as a 
"decent man" who wanted to restore dignity to the army, and 
sought consensus support of all the civilian factions. The 
army was the Saudis' "winning horse," MbN said, but it needed 
to prepare to fight the current war against terror. 
Pakistani soldiers needed to be proud of their service, and 
not hide their identity as soldiers when they were off duty, 
MbN said. He had told Kayani that Pakistani troops needed to 
feel they were fighting for Pakistan and not the U.S. The 
Pakistani army had a "golden opportunity" because now 
Pakistan faced an external enemy. MbN emphasized that the 
army was Pakistan's "best bet" for stability. There were 
800,000 Pakistanis and over one million Indians living in 
Saudi Arabia, MbN said, and millions more visited the 
Kingdom to make the Hajj pilgrimage, so anything that 
happened in Pakistan, or between Pakistan and India, was a 
threat to stability in Saudi Arabia. 

7. (C) Holbrooke said he knew Kayani, with the Director of 
Pakistan's intelligence service (ISI), and 
General Pasha, and also Musharraf. He recalled the U.S. and 
Saudi Arabia had decided to support Musharraf in 
the aftermath of 9/11. This had been the right decision at 
the time but Musharraf had been a disappointment. The U.S. 
supported democracy in Pakistan, not any individual leader. 
Holbrooke repeated that the U.S. supported Zardari because he 
was elected, and emphasized that the U.S. was "100 percent 
opposed" to a military coup in Pakistan. MbN assured that 
Saudi Arabia would not support a coup either. 

8. (C) He noted the U.S. agreed that corruption in Pakistan 
was an issue, but the U.S. had decided it was more 
important to help Pakistan. Attaching onerous conditions to 
assistance was a mistake, Holbrooke said. Since the U.S. and 
Saudi Arabia agreed on Pakistan's importance, the question 
was how to start working together. MbN answered that 
U.S./Saudi security cooperation should stay as it is, since 
it had "never been better" despite past tensions. Each side 
knew its own business best, and the focus should be on 
obtaining results. MbN characterized Saudi cooperation with 
U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies as "one team." 

9. (C) Holbrooke reiterated that terrorists in Pakistan were 
not under enough pressure and pressed the point that 
U.S./Saudi cooperation on Pakistan needed to rise to a higher 
level. MbN replied that he had asked King Abdullah 
for permission to maintain a "security channel" with the U.S. 
to remain open at all times to facilitate information 
exchange regardless of other issues in bilateral relations. 
The Prince added that the King despised the corruption he saw 
in Pakistan and this colored his views toward that country. 

"WE HAVE A PROBLEM CALLED YEMEN" 

10. (C) Moving to a new subject, the Prince said "We have a 
problem called Yemen." AQ has found fertile ground 
there, he said. The geography was similar to Afghanistan, 
and many Yemenis were more sympathetic to AQ's goals than 
were the Afghans. Yemen is also closer to AQ targets and 
recruiting grounds in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis had detected 
a pattern of individuals coming to the Kingdom for Hajj or 
Umrah and then traveling south to Yemen ("it's only 400 
miles," he noted) for training before returning to their home 
countries. Saudi forces have arrested Egyptians and 
Algerians, among others, who were attempting to do this. 

11. (C) MbN described Yemen as a failed state that is "very, 
very, extremely dangerous," and required focus. The Huthi 
tribes were Takfiri and Shi'a "like Hizballah South," he 
said. This was a threat forming around Saudi Arabia that 
required action now. The Saudis would like Saleh to be a 
strong leader, MbN said, but "his vision of Yemen has shrunk 
to Sana'a," and he was losing control over the rest of the 
country. Saleh's old advisors were gone and now he relied on 
his son and other younger men who did not have good 
connections with the Yemeni tribes. In contrast, Saudi 
Arabia had good connections with the tribes, MbN said. 

12. (C) MbN said the Saudis had established a bilateral 
council with Yemen that met twice a year to consider 
assistance projects. The Saudi representatives were the 


Crown prince and the oil minister (Note: Crown Prince 
Sultan has been incapacitated by illness for at least he past 
year; it is not clear whether the bilateral council 
has continued to meet in his absence.) Saudi assistance to 
Yemen was not in the form of cash payments, MbN said, since 
cash tended to end up in Swiss banks. Instead the Saudis 
backed projects in the tribal areas of Yemen where AQ was 
hiding. The idea was that when Yemenis saw the concrete 
benefits of these projects they would push their leaders to 
eject the extremists. Saudi Arabia was counting on this 
strategy, MbN said, to persuade Yemenis to see extremists as 
criminals rather than heroes. Holbrooke replied that the 
U.S. understood Saudi concerns about Yemen, and would work 
with the Saudis to address the problem there. 

TERRORISTS STOLE OUR FAITH 

13. (C) Turning to another issue, MbN recalled that the day 
following President Obama's inauguration, White House 
counterterrorism advisor Brennan had telephoned to assure him 
the new president was committed to continuing the war on 
terror. "Terrorists stole the most valuable things we have," 
said the Prince. "They took our faith and our children and 
used them to attack us." It had not been easy to see Saudi 
involvement in 9/11 and other terrorist incidents, he said. 
AQ was smart in wanting to hit both the U.S. and Saudi 
Arabia. AQ's strategic goal was to hurt the U.S. and to take 
control of the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina. 

14. (C) MbN claimed that in 2003 radicals were present in 
"90 percent" of Saudi mosques. The current Saudi leadership 
had decided it needed to be on the front lines of the 
struggle against terrorism, that the task could not be left 
to the next generation, since AQ gained momentum every time 
it succeeded. The Saudis realized they could not fight back 
without public support, he said, and developed a strategy of 
working with families of suicide bombers and other extremists 
who had been killed. This approach involved providing 
support to the families and telling them their sons had been 
"victims" and not "criminals." This gave the families "a way 
out" and 
provided a public relations advantage to the government. "If 
you stop five but create fifty" new radicals, "that's dumb." 
MbN said. The Saudis measure their success against extremism 
by looking at levels of terrorist recruitment the number of 
successful operations, and they see a growing rejection of 
extremist violence. The Prince related an anecdote about an 
anti-terrorist operation in which the officer commanding 
Interior Ministry forces had discovered his cousin was the 
leader of the terrorists inside a surrounded building. MbN 
said he had offered to relieve the officer, but the latter 
had refused, and had insisted on leading the attack. The 
officer succeeded in defeating the terrorists while capturing 
his cousin alive. 

15. (C) Saudi Arabia was not yet free of terrorism, MbN 
said. Thus it remained important to defeat the terrorists on 
the ground, in the media, and ideologically. The Saudis 
wanted to do this in cooperation with the U.S., the Prince 
said. Time was the key, and it was "not in our favor," he 
added, so "we need to work fast." 

16. (C) On terrorist financing, MbN said "We are trying to 
do our best." Saudi Arabia has millions of visitors, 
especially during Hajj. The Saudis are making arrests, but 
are not making this public. Instead, the Saudi goal is to 
make the public aware that donations could go to the wrong 
places. MbN said that "if money wants to go" to terrorist 
causes, "it will go," and that terrorist attacks were 
inexpensive, "but let's make it harder." Holbrooke asked 
what the Saudis would do with Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia who 
financed terrorism. The Prince replied the suspects would be 
tried in Shari'a courts with Wahhabi judges so that the 
results of the judicial process could be used to condemn 
extremist ideology. 

A BIG FAVOR TO AL-QAEDA 

17. (C) Holbrooke explained that President Obama had decided 
to oppose release of 2000 photographs of U.S. 
interrogations of terrorist suspects on grounds of national 
security, and asked what the Saudi public reaction would be 
to publication of these photos. MbN responded "You bet!" it 
would be bad for security, and noted that following 
publication of the first Abu Ghraib photos, Saudi authorities 
had arrested 250 individuals trying to leave Saudi Arabia to 
join extremist groups in Afghanistan. Release of more 
pictures would give AQ "the favor of their life," said the 

Prince. Saudi Arabia had fought very hard to defeat AQ on 
the Internet, but he couldn,t see how to fight 2000 new 
photos. 

18. (U) Meeting participants 

U.S. 

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Saudi Arabia 

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19. (U) Amb. Holbrooke cleared this telegram. 
RUNDELL