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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
03ABUDHABI2733 2003-06-08 11:36:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abu Dhabi
Cable title:  

SYRIA'S BASHAR URGED TO WORK WITH THE

Tags:   PREL PTER ETTC KPAL SY IS TC 
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Cable 
Text:                                                                      
                                                                           
      
CONFIDENTIAL

SIPDIS
TELEGRAM                                            June 08, 2003


To:       No Action Addressee                                    

Action:   Unknown                                                

From:     AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI (ABU DHABI 2733 - UNKNOWN)         

TAGS:     PREL, PREL, PTER, ETTC, KPAL                           

Captions: None                                                   

Subject:  SYRIA'S BASHAR URGED TO WORK WITH THE U.S. BY THE      
          FORMER UAE OIL MINISTER                                

Ref:      None                                                   
_________________________________________________________________
C O N F I D E N T I A L        ABU DHABI 02733

SIPDIS
CXABU:
    ACTION: POL 
    INFO:   DCM ECON RSO P/M AMB 

DISSEMINATION: POL
CHARGE: PROG

APPROVED: AMB:MMWAHBA
DRAFTED: POL:STWILLIAMS
CLEARED: A/DCM:TEWILLIAMS

VZCZCADI506
OO RUEHC RUEHXK RHEHNSC RUEAIIA RHEFDIA RUCJACC
DE RUEHAD #2733/01 1591136
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 081136Z JUN 03
FM AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0310
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUCJACC/USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL//CCJ2/POLAD//
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ABU DHABI 002733 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ARP, NEA/ARN AND NEA/IPA

NSC FOR THEROUX

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/08/13
TAGS: PREL PREL PTER ETTC KPAL SY IS TC
SUBJECT: SYRIA'S BASHAR URGED TO WORK WITH THE
U.S. BY THE FORMER UAE OIL MINISTER

REF: DAMASCUS 2781



1. (U) Classified by Ambassador Marcelle M. Wahba
for reasons 1.5 (B) and (D).



2. (C) SUMMARY: Former UAE Oil Minister and Zayid
confidant Mana'a Saeed Al-Otaiba requested a
meeting with the Ambassador on June 7 to brief her
on the outcome of his late May one-on-one in
Damascus with Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad. Al-
Otaiba, who served as the UAE Oil Minister from
1973-90, was personal friends with Hafez Al-Asad
and said he met with Bashar to express his deep
concerns about the course of the U.S.-Syrian
bilateral relationship and to urge the younger Al-
Asad to take some difficult but ultimately
necessary steps with regard to the Palestinian
hardline presence and Syria's ties with Hezballah
and Iran. Al-Otaiba advised Bashar to reach out to
the U.S. and suggested that he open a channel to
the Israelis. He also used the opportunity to
press for an economic and political opening in
Syria. Al-Otaiba confided that he had undertaken
this mission voluntarily and without prior
consultation with the UAEG, but had briefed both
President Zayid and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Khalifa
bin Zayid following his Damascus visit. Al-Otaiba
said the conversation with Bashar had been
extremely "frank;" his sense was the young Syrian
was "listening" but struggling to extricate himself
from the grip of some of his father's old advisors.
The fact that Al-Otaiba decided to personally
engage Bashar is indicative of just how worried a
number of current and former UAE officials are
about the future of Syria and the course of the
Syrian-U.S. relationship.



--------------------------


NO LOVE LOST BETWEEN THE AL-ASADS AND SADDAM


--------------------------





3. (C) Former UAE Oil Minister Mana'a Saeed Al-
Otaiba met one-on-one with Bashar Al-Asad sometime
in late May. In a June 7 meeting at his well-
appointed home in Abu Dhabi, Al-Otaiba told the
Ambassador he was aware that UAE InfoMin Abdullah
bin Zayid had also met with Al-Asad to deliver
essentially the same message (reftel). Bashar
asked Al-Otaiba if he was carrying a message from
the UAEG or the USG to which Al-Otaiba answered in
the negative, though Al-Otaiba did offer to the
Ambassador to serve as a channel to the SARG.



4. (C) Al-Otaiba prefaced his remarks to the
Ambassador by noting that the Al-Asad family
absolutely loathed Saddam Hussein. He was
confident that Bashar would never have provided
refuge to Saddam. In fact, Al-Otaiba stated,
Bashar "would have been among the first to have
Saddam killed."



--------------------------

---
FRIENDLY ADVICE: REACH OUT TO U.S., CLOSE THE
PALESTINIAN HARDLINE OFFICES AND TONE DOWN TIES
WITH HEZBALLAH AND IRAN


--------------------------

---



5. (C) Al-Otaiba told the Ambassador that he had
decided to approach Bashar as a friend, drawing on
his decades-long personal relationship with Asad
pere. Al-Otaiba told Bashar that he was deeply
worried about Syria and urged him to reach out to
the U.S. "Put your hand in America's hand," Al-
Otaiba advised, noting that if Bashar's ultimate
goal was the return of the Golan, the path lay
through Washington. Al-Otaiba also suggested that
Bashar open a channel to Israel. He strongly
recommended that the SARG close the hardline
Palestinian offices, asking rhetorically what
benefit these organizations brought to Syria. Al-
Otaiba told the Ambassador he was confident Bashar
would do the necessary on closing these offices.



6. (C) Turning to Hezballah, Al-Otaiba noted that
with the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon,
there was no reason to maintain ties with
Hezballah. He also suggested that Bashar tone down
the relationship with Iran. Bashar demurred that
Iran had helped the Al-Asad family through
difficult times (NFI). Al-Otaiba rejoined that the
times have changed and "you should not back the
losing horse."



--------------------------


NEED FOR ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL INFITAH


--------------------------





7. (C) Al-Otaiba advised Bashar to open up Syria
economically and politically. "The era of one-
party rule is over," Al-Otaiba told his Syrian
host; he ruefully noted to the Ambassador that the
Arab world is the only place where the
"ishtirakeen" (socialists) continue to have a hold.
He urged Bashar to actively court foreign
investment and give concessions to Western oil
companies, both of which are necessary if Syria is
to modernize. Al-Otaiba compared the development
of Dubai with that of Damascus, noting to Bashar
that when he landed at Damascus International, all
he saw on the tarmac were two old Syrian Airlines
passenger jets. Dubai, by contrast, has become the
transit and destination point for hundreds of
airlines. Bashar sought Al-Otaiba's help in
arranging training for Syrians in the UAE.

COMMENT


--------------------------





8. (C) Al-Otaiba was once a powerful figure in UAE
politics. He served as Oil Minister from 1973-90
and was one of Zayid's closest advisors. Since
relinquishing the oil portfolio, Al-Otaiba's
profile has diminished though he told the
Ambassador he still maintains ties to Zayid, Abu
Dhabi Crown Prince Khalifa bin Zayid and Armed
Forces Chief of Staff Muhammad bin Zayid (MBZ).
One of Al-Otaiba's sons, Yousef, is MbZ's personal
assistant. The Al-Otaiba are one of Abu Dhabi's
oldest and most prestigious families and are
intermarried with the Al-Nahyan. While Al-Otaiba
is enjoying his early retirement (he was only 44
when he lost the oil portfolio), he clearly
relishes being in the limelight.

WAHBA