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Viewing cable 10DOHA70, SENATOR KERRY'S MEETING WITH QATAR'S AMIR

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10DOHA70 2010-02-23 10:10 2010-11-28 18:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Doha
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDO #0070/01 0541047
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231047Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY DOHA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9699
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
C O N F I D E N T I A L DOHA 000070 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/13/2020 
TAGS: PREL KWBG KPAL IR QA
SUBJECT: SENATOR KERRY'S MEETING WITH QATAR'S AMIR 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Joseph E. LeBaron, for reasons 1.4 (b, d). 
 
-------------- 
(C) KEY POINTS 
-------------- 
 
--  The Amir of Qatar urged the U.S. in his February 14 
meeting with Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to do everything in 
its power to find a lasting solution to the 
Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The Amir said the best way to 
begin is by moving first on the Syrian track. 
 
--  In Qatar's view, now is the time to reach out to 
Damascus.  The Syrian Government can help Arab extremists 
make tough choices, but only if the U.S., whose involvement 
is essential, demonstrates to Syria early on a willingness to 
address the return of the Golan Heights and supports Turkey's 
mediation efforts between Israel and Syria. 
 
--  According to the Amir, Hamas will accept the 1967 border 
with Israel, but will not say it publicly so as to lose 
popular Palestinian support. 
 
--  The Egyptians' goal, according to the Amir, is to stay in 
the game and maintain their relationship with the U.S., which 
is built around brokering regional peace, for as long as 
possible. 
 
--  The Amir recommended that the U.S. and Qatar establish a 
small bilateral committee to discuss how to advance regional 
peace.  Qatar can help move Hamas, because Qatar does not 
"play in their internal politics."  That does not mean Qatar 
shares Hamas' ideology, stressed the Amir. 
 
--  On Iran, the Amir said President Ahmadinejad is strong 
because he is uncorrupted.  The Amir also advised the U.S. to 
continue ts efforts to open a dialogue with the Iranian 
ladership. 
 
End Key Points. 
 
1. (C)  Senator Joh Kerry (D-MA), the Chairman of the Senate 
Foreig Relations Committee(SFRC), joined by Ambassador,P/E 
Chief, and SFRC staff member Dr. Jonah Blank met February 14 
with the Amir of Qatar, Hamad bn Khalifa Al Thani.  The 
meeting took place at Waba Palace, the residence of the 
Amir, and the Amir began the meeting by pointing out that the 
comfortable chairs on which the U.S. party was seated were 
made in Syria. 
 
------------------------------ 
IMPORTANCE OF THE SYRIAN TRACK 
------------------------------ 
 
2. (C) This opening led Senator Kerry to remark that he had 
held great discussions with Syria's President, Bashar 
Al-Asad, when he met him in Damascus some months ago.  The 
Amir said President Asad is committed to "big change," but 
Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri's death and complications 
resulting from Syria's alleged involvement in it had brought 
about "complications" for Asad.  The Amir added that "Bashar 
is still young and can grow." 
 
3. (C) Senator Kerry said he took away from his visit to 
Damascus that Asad wants change.  The Amir added that the 
Syrian President also wants peace with Israel and that the 
arrival of a U.S. Ambassador in Damascus would help in this 
regard.  Senator Kerry said he had wanted a U.S. Ambassador 
in Syria a year ago, but agreed that the naming of an 
Ambassador is a positive development. 
 
4. (C) The Amir cautioned that the Syrians will not accept 
everything the U.S. proposes, stressing that the Israeli 
occupation of the Golan Heights continues and that the return 
of this land to Syria is paramount for Damascus.  The Amir 
observed that the "Syrians have lost confidence in the U.S. 
and that the Israelis now have the upper hand in the region 
because of the support of the United States."  The Israeli 
leaders need to represent the people of Israel, who 
themselves do not trust Arabs.  The Amir said this is 
understandable and "we can't blame them" because the Israelis 
have been "under threat" for a long time. 
 
5. (C) What has changed, continued the Amir, is that Arabs 
"for sure" now want two states -- Israel and Palestine.  When 
you consider that many in the region perceive that Hizballah 
drove Israel out of Lebanon and Hamas kicked them (at least 
initially) out "of the small piece of land called Gaza," it 
is actually surprising that the Israelis still want peace. 
The region, however, is still "far away" from peace, 
concluded the Amir. 
 
6. (C) Senator Kerry responded that in his long experience 
with the region, it was not unusual for people to take 
positions adverse to their own interests.  Yasser Arafat went 
from living as a terrorist in Tunisia to signing an agreement 
with Israel on the White House lawn.  The transformation of 
Arafat is an example of how actors in the region need to take 
risks if we are to move forward in advancing regional peace. 
Turning the conversation back to Syria, Chairman Kerry 
pointed out that Syria's facilitation of arms to Hizballah 
and its turning a blind eye to missile upgrades in Lebanon do 
not represent risk-taking in the promotion of peace. 
 
7. (C) The Amir pointed out that any progress toward regional 
peace had come about due to American involvement.  He implied 
that it would take U.S. intervention on the Syrian-Israeli 
track to address these issues and asked Senator Kerry what he 
would have Damascus do. 
 
8. (C) The Chairman responded that President Asad needs to 
make a bolder move and take risks.  He observed that if the 
Syrian President wants peace and economic development for his 
country, he needs to be more statesman-like, which would in 
turn help Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu engage him. 
 
9. (C) The Amir agreed with Senator Kerry's assessment of 
Asad's aims and said he is ready for peace, but asked if the 
Israelis are ready.  Would Israel accept to resume Turkey's 
mediation between Syria and Israel?  Would the U.S. play a 
role in advancing the Syria track? 
 
10. (C) If we can get Abu Mazen back to the negotiating 
table, we can engage on border issues -- including Israel's 
borders with Syria, advised Senator Kerry.  Abu Mazen right 
now is not strong enough, though, to make necessary 
compromises with Israel because the Palestinian people have 
wanted him to stick to his guns on a settlement freeze and 
the Goldstone Report.  The Chairman added that Netanyahu also 
needs to compromise and work the return of the Golan Heights 
into a formula for peace. 
 
11. (C) The Amir encouraged the U.S. to work the Golan 
Heights issue first.  He stressed that Syrians are very 
different from Iranians in "mentality," and said the Syrians 
turned to Iran for support only because they had nowhere else 
to go.  Now is the time, the Amir told Senator Kerry, to 
reach out to Damascus. 
 
------------------------- 
PARAMETERS FOR DISCUSSION 
------------------------- 
 
12. (C) Senator Kerry responded that the U.S. is prepared to 
play a strong role in bringing about peace in the region. 
President Obama, said the Chairman, understands that he 
personally must engage and do so strongly.  The Senator told 
the Amir that in his speech to the U.S.-Islamic Forum the 
previous evening, the Senator had focused on former President 
Clinton's parameters for peace and the 2002 Arab League peace 
initiative.  Now, said the Senator, is the time to put those 
back on the table and resume talking, with the U.S. acting as 
a legitimate agent of peace.  Chairman Kerry told the Amir he 
is convinced that we can see great progress in the coming 
year by moving swiftly from proximity talks, to direct talks 
between the parties and ending with final status discussions. 
 
 
13. (C) To be successful, continued Senator Kerry, we must 
begin by agreeing at the outset the amount of land each side 
(Israelis and Palestinians) will obtain in the end and use 
that understanding to draw the borders.  If both sides make 
good compromises, we can address the settlement issues in the 
context of giving something up so that the borders, when 
drawn, contain the agreed-upon amounts of land for both 
sides.  The Amir agreed with the Senator's assessment and 
complimented President Obama for being the first U.S. 
President to take on the Middle East conflict in the first 
year of his term. 
 
14. (C) Continuing the presentation of his ideas on the 
parameters of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, 
Senator Kerry noted that one of the biggest problems for 
Israel is the potential return of 5-6 million Palestinian 
refugees.  The parties broached the return issue in 
discussions at Taba and agreed that the right of Palestinian 
return would be subject to later negotiation, pointed out the 
Chairman.  If we can proceed from that point on the right of 
return, the Senator believes there is an "artful way" to 
frame the negotiations on borders, land swaps, and Jerusalem 
as a shared capital. 
15. (C) Any negotiation has its limits, added Senator Kerry, 
and we know for the Palestinians that control of Al-Aqsa 
mosque and the establishment of some kind of capital for the 
Palestinians in East Jerusalem are not negotiable.  For the 
Israelis, the Senator continued, Israel's character as a 
Jewish state is not open for negotiation.  The 
non-militarization of an eventual Palestinian state and its 
borders can nonetheless be resolved through negotiation. 
 
16. (C) The Amir underscored that Abu Mazen needs Arab 
support to make the above happen.  Hamas "for sure," he said, 
will accept the 1967 border but will not say it publicly so 
as to lose popular Palestinian support. 
 
--------------------------- 
DEALING WITH THE EXTREMISTS 
--------------------------- 
 
17. (C) Senator Kerry told the Amir he knew Qatar could help 
the U.S. but asked how we deal with those who advocate 
violence.  The Amir said the short answer is to work the 
Syrian track, which means pushing for Israel's return of the 
Golan Heights to Syria.  The Amir said return of the Golan is 
important not just to Syria but also to Hizballah and Iran. 
The U.S. must bear in mind that Misha'al, a leader of Hamas 
based in Damascus, has drawn the conclusion that the Oslo 
accords were bad for Arafat.  He lost the support of his own 
people and died living under Israeli siege.  The Syrians can 
help Misha'al and others make tough choices, but only if the 
U.S. demonstrates to Syria early on a willingness to address 
the Golan.  Senator Kerry responded that the U.S. would 
accept a legitimate discussion of the Golan Heights. 
 
18. (C) What is more, said the Amir, the U.S. needs to 
support Turkey's mediation between Israel and Syria.  It is 
important that the U.S. encourage Israel to understand that 
that resolving the status of the Golan Heights is very 
important to the United States. 
 
19. (C) Senator Kerry asked the Amir if Hamas is under 
pressure given the circumstances in Gaza.  The Amir answered 
by saying that Hamas needs Iranian support.  He added that 
the biggest misconception in the region is that the Syrians, 
who host Hamas leaders in Damascus, go to Iran because they 
like the Iranians.  This is wrong.  Syria goes to those who 
will not shun them. 
 
------------- 
ROLE OF EGYPT 
------------- 
 
20. (C) Returning to the pressure Hamas is facing, Senator 
Kerry observed that economic development in the West Bank is 
taking place, but not in Gaza.  The Palestinian 
reconciliation that would make possible developmental 
assistance in Gaza has not happened.  The Egyptians have not 
delivered, said Senator Kerry. 
 
21. (C) The Amir said the Egyptians' goal is to stay in the 
game and maintain their relationship with the U.S., which is 
built around brokering Middle East peace, for as long as 
possible.  According to the Amir, Fatah and Hamas agreed on a 
memorandum of understanding, but the Egyptians wanted it 
changed.  The Amir remarked that he has a feeling he knows 
which capital (Cairo) is the source of reports that Gaza is 
under pressure.  He said the economic pressure in Gaza on 
families is not what it was.  He offered as an example that 
Qatar Charity recently offered a family in Gaza 500 USD, but 
the family declined the gift saying its members had enough to 
get by and suggested another family that was in more dire 
need of assistance.  The Amir said the notion that a family 
would turn down money is new. 
 
22. (C) The Amir told Senator Kerry that everyone knows 
"Egypt has a problem with the Muslim Brotherhood.  Okay, we 
understand.  But Egypt should not expect the world to take 
external actions that would help it internally." 
 
23. (C) Asked his advice for President Obama, the Amir 
recommended the establishment of a small U.S.-Qatar committee 
to discuss how to proceed.  Qatar is close to Hamas, 
emphasized the Amir, because "we don't play in their internal 
politics."  That does not mean we share their ideology or do 
not disagree with them.  "I can remember many arguments with 
them (Hamas) on the 1967 border with Israel."  The Amir noted 
that he had mediated with Hamas previously at the U.S. 
request, namely when he urged Hamas at the previous 
Administration's request to participate in Palestinian 
elections. 
 
24. (C) Returning to the leadership of Hamas, Senator Kerry 
asked the Amir for his insights into how the leadership, with 
leaders sitting in both Gaza and Syria, makes decisions.  The 
Amir said the impression that Misha'al sits in Damascus and 
others take orders from him is wrong.  Several key players 
within Hamas are involved in decisions.  They have 
differences over policy, but "the bottom line is that they 
all want the Palestinians to take their rights from Israel." 
 
---- 
IRAN 
---- 
 
25. (C) Senator Kerry observed that the international 
community is moving toward imposing additional economic 
sanctions on Iran.  Understanding and respecting that Qatar 
needs to balance its relationships with regional powers, 
including Iran, the Chairman asked the Amir for his 
perspective on where we are going on Iran. 
 
26. (C) The Amir answered by affirming that his first 
obligation is to defend the interests of Qatar.  Due to the 
natural gas field Iran shares with Qatar, Qatar will not 
"provoke a fight" with Iran.  He added that in the history of 
the two countries, "Iran has not bothered us."  That said, 
the Amir noted that Iran is an important country in the 
Middle East.  He faulted the U.S. for "making the mistake of 
speaking up for protesters" after the disputed Iranian 
presidential elections. 
 
27. (C) The Iranian regime is strong, continued the Amir, 
because President Ahmadinejad is uncorrupted.  "That is the 
secret to his success."  Khatami is also not corrupted, but 
as a reformer he is in a weak position.  Rafsanjani, on the 
other hand, is corrupt. 
 
28. (C) Senator Kerry lamented that every communication the 
current Administration has attempted to the Government of 
Iran has gone back channel and been met with no response. 
There have been non-U.S. initiatives, too.  Again, no 
success.  The Chairman observed that the Iranians are scared 
to talk. The Supreme Ayatollah had met with Russian President 
Putin, but seems not inclined to meet with other political 
leaders.  Our instinct is that we need to find a way to talk 
to him. 
 
29. (C) Your instinct is right, replied the Amir.  The U.S. 
needs to talk directly with senior Iranian officials.  The 
Amir then asked, "What if I talk to the Iranian President. 
What would you have me say?" 
 
30. (C) Senator Kerry responded, "The U.S. seeks serious 
discussion and sought to create a new foundation for a 
relationship based on Iran's non-confrontational compliance 
with IAEA requirements and other mutual interests."  Those 
interests include dealing with drug-running, the Taliban, and 
illicit trade.  The Chairman told the Amir he feared that 
Iran still thinks it is dealing with the 1953 America that 
tried to overthrow the Iranian government. 
 
31. (C) The Amir responded that you cannot blame them for 
having that attitude, and Senator Kerry agreed, adding that 
the U.S. has a very different posture in the post-Cold War 
world of today.  Iran has ambitions; I know this from other 
regional leaders, said the Senator.  These are the first 
words that come out of their mouths. 
 
32. (C) Iran wants to be a "big power," agreed the Amir, but 
what sort?  He reminded Senator Kerry the U.S. should not 
forget that Iranians are Persian and the U.S. needs to 
approach them in that framework. 
 
33. (C) Senator Kerry stressed that the U.S. "would love to 
have that dialogue."  The U.S. respects Iranian civilization 
-- talent, art, culture, etc.  It is crazy to continue on 
this collision course.  The region needs schools and jobs, 
emphasized the Chairman, not another war.  The Amir agreed 
that "demographics are a big worry."  Not just for the 
countries in the region but for the U.S. too. 
 
34. (C) Many scientific and technological transformations are 
underway, noted the Senator, "but Iran misinterprets the road 
to being a great power and the degree to which the 
international community is concerned about Iran's acquisition 
of nuclear weapons."  We are at a "fork in the road," and 
Iran must choose between confrontation or building 
partnerships.  If the latter, we can open up new 
opportunities for cooperation in the sciences, technology, 
education, robotics, energy and other ongoing 
transformations. 
 
35. (C) Going back to the speech he had delivered in Doha the 
previous evening, Senator Kerry told the Amir that 17 former 
U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense had come out in favor 
of eliminating nuclear weapons.  Every stop closer to 
realizing that goal is a sign of progress, but "no one 
believes Iranian nukes get us closer to that goal." 
 
36. (C) Senator Kerry reported that leaders of regional Arab 
countries tell me they want nuclear weapons if the Iranians 
have them.  The Amir responded that he did not believe they 
were serious, but are saying this to put additional pressure 
on Iran. 
 
37. (C) The Chairman noted that the disputed Iranian 
presidential elections may have derailed U.S. efforts to have 
serious dialogue with Tehran.  The Amir agreed, offering that 
the Israelis are also using Iran's quest for nuclear weapons 
as a diversion from settling matters with the Palestinians. 
The historical backdrop of Arab-Persian relations does not 
help, the Amir added. 
 
-------------- 
FINAL THOUGHTS 
-------------- 
 
38. (C) The Amir advised the U.S. to continue trying to open 
a dialogue with the Iranian leadership.  He also told Senator 
Kerry the U.S. needs to tell the Israelis they are causing 
the U.S. to lose the hearts and minds of Muslims.  There was 
a time, such as during the Suez Canal crisis, when the Arabs 
loved the Americans and disliked the British and French, he 
said. 
 
39. (C) Senator Kerry asked the Amir how the U.S. goes about 
changing its reputation.  The Amir said first and foremost 
the U.S. must do everything in its power to find a lasting 
solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the best 
way to begin is by moving first on the Syrian track. 
 
40. (C) The Chairman of the SFRC said he expects a genuine 
effort by the President this year on an agreement and 
expressed his hope that Iranian issues would not complicate 
matters.  The Amir agreed, adding that China likes the 
distraction for the U.S. as its forces fight in Iraq and 
Afghanistan. 
 
41. (C) Senator Kerry concurred, noting that China is lending 
the U.S. money and expanding its influence at U.S. expense. 
He added that he ran against President George W. Bush saying 
the war with Iraq was the wrong war in the wrong place and 
time. 
 
42. (C) The Amir closed the meeting by offering that based on 
30 years of experience with the Iranians, they will give you 
100 words.  Trust only one of the 100. 
 
43. (U) CODEL Kerry has cleared this message. 
 
Lebaron