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Viewing cable 09ABUDHABI862, SCENESETTER FOR THE PRESIDENT'S MEETING WITH SHAYKH

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ABUDHABI862 2009-08-31 10:10 2010-11-28 18:06 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Abu Dhabi
INFO  LOG-00   EEB-00   AF-00    AID-00   AMAD-00  A-00     CIAE-00  
      INL-00   DOTE-00  PERC-00  DS-00    DHSE-00  FAAE-00  VCI-00   
      OBO-00   H-00     TEDE-00  INR-00   IO-00    L-00     MOFM-00  
      MOF-00   M-00     VCIE-00  NEA-00   DCP-00   NSAE-00  DOHS-00  
      FMPC-00  IRM-00   SSO-00   SS-00    NCTC-00  CRYE-00  DSCC-00  
      PRM-00   SAS-00   FA-00    GSWA-00  SWCI-00  PESU-00  SRND-00  
      MEPP-00  SANA-00    /000W
  
O 311005Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI
TO NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2881
INFO SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
S E C R E T ABU DHABI 000862 
 
 
NOFORN 
 
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR SRAP, S/SEMEP AND NEA. 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/02/2018 
TAGS: PREL AE
SUBJECT:  SCENESETTER FOR THE PRESIDENT'S MEETING WITH SHAYKH 
MOHAMMED BIN ZAYED 
 
Classified by Ambassador Richard Olson, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (C) Mr President:  Shaykh Mohammed bin Zayed is looking forward 
to renewing your acquaintanceship, established during his 2006 call 
on you. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
MbZ - The Man 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
2.  (C) Shaykh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, or MbZ in USG speak, is 
the man who runs the United Arab Emirates.  Officially he is the 
Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (the most important 
principality of the seven emirate confederation) and his only federal 
title is Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces; in fact he is 
the key decision maker on national security issues.  He will make 
deferential noises about his "boss" (elder half-brother President 
Khalifa, a distant and uncharismatic personage), but we assess that 
he has authority in all matters except for final decisions on oil 
policy and major state expenditures. 
 
3.  (C) Aged 47, MbZ is a leader not just in the UAE, but more 
broadly in the Middle East, where he is seen as a particularly 
dynamic member of the generation succeeding the geriatric cases who 
have dominated the region for decades.  He is a reformer, actively 
seeking to improve the life of his citizens and the UAE's future 
through better education and health care, and through economic 
diversification, including investments in clean energy to prepare his 
citizenry for a post-hydrocarbon future.  He is proud of the fact 
that despite having had the option of life of privilege, he rose 
through the ranks of the UAE Armed Forces, earning his wings as a 
helicopter pilot and retains a common touch that appeals to Emiratis. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
MbZ and the Bilateral Relationship 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
4.  (C) MbZ has staked his reputation, and his country's future, on 
its relationship with the United States, especially since 1990, when 
the UAE leadership saw that the United States was prepared to shed 
blood in the interests of preserving international order and 
stability in the Gulf.  Since that formative experience, MbZ has 
built armed forces (especially his Air Force) that are closely 
aligned with the US.  He is also a proponent of close economic, 
commercial, and where possible political ties with the US.  He has 
generally tried to support us where he thinks we have been right 
(Afghanistan), but also where he thinks we have pursued misguided 
policies (Iraq).  MbZ recognizes that partnership with the US is 
fundamental to the UAE's continued success, but he also knows that 
the relationship is controversial among his people, and that if the 
US is perceived as an unreliable protector, his own power base will 
erode. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
Iran 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
5.  (C) MbZ sees Iran as the primary external threat to the UAE and 
his regime.  To his eyes, Tehran's threatening rhetoric, dominance by 
proxy, and pursuit of nuclear weapons is reminiscent of Saddam in 
1990.  Moreover, the confrontations with Iran during the late 1980s 
tanker wars, long forgotten in the West, are vividly remembered here. 
 MbZ is probably the most passionately anti-Iran of the Arab leaders, 
and the UAE's position is solidly with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan 
in seeing the principal threat to the region as coming from Iran. 
MbZ is particularly concerned at the divisions among the Gulf Arabs, 
and sees Qatar's and Oman's decision to accommodate, rather than 
challenge, Iranian power as troubling. 
 
6.  (S/NF) While MbZ is a hard liner on Iran, there are 
accommodationists within his own system, especially in Dubai, where 
the Ruler, Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (Prime Minister of the UAE) 
takes a position that is much closer to Qatar's.  For this reason, 
and because of the basic disparity in size and power between the UAE 
and Iran, the Emiratis prefer to be seen as quietly supporting a 
hard-line US position, rather than staking out their own views.  MbZ 
is skeptical that US engagement with Iran will be successful in 
reversing Iranian positions on nuclear program, and believes that a 
policy of engagement puts him in an awkward position, both 
domestically and internationally.  He will welcome thinking on next 
steps on sanctions. 
 
7.  (S/NF) Regarding the nuclear issue, MbZ believes that the logic 
of war now dominates the region.  He regularly expresses his belief 
that Israel will launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear 
facilities, most likely within next six months.  This reflects his 
own assessment of the Netanyahu Government, but also, probably, what 
Israelis are telling UAE in their private exchanges.  For this 
reason, one of MbZ's highest priorities is to finalize his integrated 
air defense system (including THAAD and Patriots) and advance 
bilateral contingency planning with the US.  Because of Qatari and 
Omani wobbliness, he is uncomfortable with multilateral (GCC) 
military solutions.  MbZ may float the idea of extending the US 
nuclear umbrella to the Gulf as a way of shoring up an anti-Iran 
coalition, and preventing a regional arms race. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
Israel and the Arabs 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
8.  (S/NF) MbZ's pre-occupation with Iran (and his secondary concern 
about Islamic fundamentalism) lead him to have a strategic view of 
the region that is curiously close to the Israeli one.  But domestic 
politics flow the other way, and he feels constrained in what he can 
say publicly.  Also, for reasons that are not entirely clear, the UAE 
still feels a need to hide behind Arab League and GCC consensus, and 
in particular behind Saudi Arabia (even when, as is now the case, 
bilateral relations with the Kingdom are rocky). 
 
9.  (S/NF)  We should press MbZ to expend political capital in 
resolving the century old Arab-Israeli conflict.  The issue cries out 
for leadership in the Arab world, not least so that the common 
interests of moderate Arabs and Israelis in containing Iran can find 
a political expression.  So far, MbZ has not been prepared to run 
real risks in this area, but we should press him to.  He appreciates 
the bold steps you have taken, and expects to be asked for help in 
this area. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
Afghanistan-Pakistan 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
10.  (C) The discussion on Afghanistan and Pakistan should be an easy 
one.  The UAE has played a useful role since 2001, having deployed 
Special Forces there since 2003, and recently sending a Battalion 
sized task force during the elections.  MbZ tried to organize a 
pan-Arab force, but could not overcome the resistance of Moroccans 
and Tunisians to send troops.  In Pakistan, the UAE has been 
supportive of Zardari and played a very useful role both as donor and 
politically as one of the key members of the friends of Pakistan 
grouping.  MbZ agrees on the need to curtail Taliban financing, but 
is frustrated by our seeming inability to generate actionable 
intelligence. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
CT/CP Cooperation 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
11. (C) The UAE has emerged as one of our principal partners in CT 
Cooperation through intelligence channels, having rounded up a number 
of cells over the past few years, and is moving toward cooperation 
externally as well.  In the counterproliferation area, the UAE has 
interdicted 20 shipments over the past two years, including within 
the past few days, seizing North Korean systems bound for Iran. 
Domestic Export Controls have lagged somewhat, but the UAEG's 
bureaucratic structure for implementing its export control laws is 
finally emerging. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
Conclusion 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
12.  (C) MbZ views himself as one our closest partners in the Middle 
East, and is keen to build on what has been an important aspect of 
his life's work, a good relationship with the US.  From my 
perspective, our relationship with the UAE is one the most promising 
and productive in the region. 
 
OLSON