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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03KUWAIT3623
2003-08-07 11:41:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Kuwait
Cable title:  

(C) SHAYKH SABAH'S VISIT TO WASHINGTON

Tags:   PREL  MARR  MASS  PTER  EFIN  EAID  KDEM  PHUM  PINR  KU  OVIP  SABAH  AL  AHMED  JABER 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KUWAIT 003623 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ARP, DRL, INR/NESA, INR/B

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/05/2013
TAGS: PREL MARR MASS PTER EFIN EAID KDEM PHUM PINR KU OVIP SABAH SABAH AL AHMED AL JABER AL
SUBJECT: (C) SHAYKH SABAH'S VISIT TO WASHINGTON

REF: A. KUWAIT 3358

B. KUWAIT 3316

C. KUWAIT 3589

Classified By: (U) AMBASSADOR RICHARD H. JONES; REASON: 1.5 (B,D)



1. (C) INTRODUCTION: This message is intended to assist
preparations for Prime Minister Shaykh Sabah al-Ahmed
al-Jaber al-Sabah's visit to Washington, where he is due to
meet with President Bush on September 10. We recommend that
he be invited to meet (separately) with the Secretaries of
State, Defense, Treasury, and Commerce.



2. (C) CONGRATULATIONS...: Every meeting with Shaykh Sabah
should begin with congratulations on his elevation to Prime
Minister in July, which strengthened his ability to run the
government and explicitly enhanced his personal prestige (he
is now addressed as "Highness" rather than "Excellency";
previously, only the Amir and Crown Prince merited that
honorific). In his mid-seventies and fitted with a
pacemaker, Shaykh Sabah is nonetheless far more energetic and
mentally alert than his brother the Amir, let alone the Crown
Prince. Always smiling, he speaks passable English but
sometimes prefers to use an interpreter in official meetings.



3. (C) ...AND THANKS: Shaykh Sabah will welcome sincere
thanks for Kuwait's extraordinary support to Operation Iraqi
Freedom. Indeed, as we have reported previously, Kuwait was
the one absolutely indispensable ally, providing the main
platform for the ground campaign (and a good portion of the
air strikes) and giving its all to facilitate our activities:
the GOK closed more than half the country's territory to
civilians in order to accommodate our troop buildup, allowed
us to take over a major seaport and much of the only
international airport, gave us extensive use of all three of
its military airbases, and contributed hundreds of millions
of dollars' worth of Assistance-In-Kind, including unlimited
fuel for US forces operating through or from Kuwait.
Kuwait's government and people were unique in the Arab world
for their forthright united support of OIF. The GOK has also
been a key partner in OEF and has gone to the very limit of
its resources to ensure the security of Americans in Kuwait,
especially since the October 2002 terrorist attack on Failaka
island in which a US Marine was killed.



4. (C) R-E-S-P-E-C-T: The intense cooperation between
Kuwait and the US in the buildup to and execution of OIF was
almost bound to be followed by an anti-climax. The Kuwaitis
now feel underappreciated, taken for granted. Two main
reasons: disappointment that President Bush did not visit
here while in the Gulf region, and unfulfilled (unrealistic)
expectations of being handed lucrative contracts for Iraqi
reconstruction. The most important message Shaykh Sabah will
be looking for is assurance that we remain committed to the
strategic partnership with Kuwait and that we value it as a
more than a cash cow for funding international commitments or
as a regional parking lot for military forces.



5. (C) A STRATEGIC PARTNER: The next most important message
he will be looking for is that we will stay the course in
Iraq, even if the price is high in blood and treasure. The
Kuwaitis know they are strategically bound to us; they want
us to be seen as steadfast masters of events. This small
country's most strategic value for us is its location and its
willingness to place itself at our disposal in defense of
regional stability and in the Global War On Terrorism. At
the same time, now that Saddam's regime is gone, Kuwait hopes
for a peace dividend. It will want to maintain a robust
mil-mil relationship with us, but it will be less willing to
spend as much in support of an enduring large US military
presence. We are working to arrange a visit to Washington by
Defense Minister Shaykh Jaber Mubarak in early CY 2004 to
coincide with the first US-Kuwait Joint Military Commission
meeting since 1999. The Defense Review Group, a joint process
lasting several months starting in September, will assess
Kuwait's military needs in light of the new reality in the
region and help set the stage for the JMC.



6. (C) The GOK has cooperated actively against terrorist
financing. Although there have been no direct hits, some
asset freezes have hit uncomfortably close to home. Foreign
branches of two Islamic charities of international scope
based here have been subject to freeze orders. We have an
interest in strengthening the GOK's -- and the major
charities' -- capacity to exert strict control over funds, to
ensure they are not diverted to terrorist or other criminal
ends. So far the GOK has been good on this issue, despite
occasional sharp criticism from Islamists, but progress has
not been rapid.

(U) REFORM


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




7. (C) It is reasonable to assume (a) that Shaykh Sabah will
try to gauge how hard we intend to push his Government to
enact political, educational and economic reforms, and (b)
that he we will argue that we not push destabilizingly hard.
After all, Kuwait is a prosperous country with a basically
contented citizenry; it ranked first in the UNDP's Arab Human
Development Report. In Washington, Shaykh Sabah may decide
to take the initiative and present himself as a reformer.
This would be out of keeping with his longstanding
personality, but then, he has never before wielded so much
authority. So far it looks like he is treating (or at least
portraying) his elevation to Prime Minister -- which pundits
had openly called for, due to the Crown Prince's incapacity
-- as a mandate from the Amir to enact long-overdue economic
reforms. Indeed, with Shaykh Sabah's blessing, Minister of
Foreign Affairs Shaykh Dr. Mohammed Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah
has organized a high-level interagency working group for
economic reform predicated on a heavy Kuwaiti participation
in Iraqi reconstruction (ref B).



8. (C) Shaykh Sabah announced before the July National
Assembly elections that he would work with the new Assembly
to extend political rights to women. If he does present
himself as a reformer, the Prime Minister may emphasize that
overt US advocacy in this area would be counter-productive.
There is more than a grain of truth to this: last December,
the then-Minister of Education tried to reform the school
curricula and met a torrent of resistance from Islamists in
parliament who sought to discredit his initiative as a US
imposition (even though we had no direct involvement).



9. (C) COMMERCIAL ISSUES: As noted ref A, we have won
several contracts for American companies recently, and US
firms are well positioned to be big players in the
development of Kuwait's northern oil fields, though the terms
offered thus far need improvement. Fulfillment of the Amir's
1996 commitment on the long-delayed Al-Zour North power
project remains elusive as it finally appears poised to move
to tendering. Secretary of Commerce Evans recently wrote the
Prime Minister asking for reaffirmation of this commitment.



10. (C) POTENTIAL IRRITANTS: Now that the unifying threat of
Saddam is gone, Kuwaitis are turning to domestic issues and
losing some of their sense of needing to accommodate the
United States as the ultimate guarantor of their country's
security. This frees them to notice and speak up about
perceived slights or irritants in the relationship, and there
are some:

- Guantanamo: The detention of twelve Kuwaitis at Guantanamo
is an issue that periodically nags at the relationship
(inevitably, as time passes with no indication of movement
towards disposing of their cases one way or another). We
should expect that Shaykh Sabah will make passing reference
to it. Recently, after several Islamists picked up the issue
again, the President of the National Assembly dutifully made
a strong public statement against their continued detention
without due process, and Foreign Minister Shaykh Dr. Mohammed
al-Sabah expressed the Government's agreement with his view,
albeit it considerably milder terms. A proposed visit by an
MOI delegation to Guantanamo could help take some steam out
of the issue, particularly if it were seen as a result of
Shaykh Sabah's visit.

- Mogas: The GOK's belief that KBR (on behalf of the CPA,
and under the direction of the US Army Corps of Engineers) is
increasingly buying mogas from Turkey instead of Kuwait (ref
C), feeds the Kuwaitis' sense of being ill-rewarded for being
a steadfast ally. A promise to continue buying fuel
(including LPG) from Kuwait as long as foreign purchases by
ACE/KBR are necessary would help salve their wounds.

- Missing Persons: Significant progress is being made in the
search for the remains of Kuwaitis missing since the Iraqi
occupation, and there is strong cooperation between the GOK
and the Coalition. Even so, the issue of the missing is a
deeply emotional one here, and some Kuwaitis feel that we did
not do enough to find their kin immediately following
liberation.

- UN Compensation Commission: The GOK understands that we
played a constructive role in safeguarding in UNSCR 1483 the
principle of Iraq's obligation to pay compensation, but it
felt let down when we departed from agreed language and
substituted new text at the last minute that, it fears,
copuld make it easier to eliminate compensation in the
future. Given the huge volume of outstanding claims,
including from private citizens and companies, this has the
potential to become a huge negative. Assurances that it will
not would be music to Shaykh Sabah's ears.

- TIP: The Secretary got the GOK's attention when he raised
Trafficking In Persons with then-Minister of State for
Foreign Affairs (now Foreign Minister) Shaykh Dr. Mohammed
Sabah in April. Kuwait was ranked in Tier 2 this year, but
will need sustained progress to stay off Tier 3 next year.
The GOK's acute sensitivity to its international reputation
will motivate it to address concerns that it considers valid,
but prevailing attitudes towards foreign laborers --
especially domestic servants -- make for some big blind
spots; as a result, Kuwaitis are not always prepared to
acknowledge that they have a problem. Shaykh Sabah should
hear directly how important an issue this is for the US. The
best step would be to extend the Labor Law to cover
domestics.

- Visas: This is actually two issues; both have been
manageable thus far:

-- Getting a US visa has become a much less pleasant
experience for Kuwaitis than it used to be, alienating some
who would otherwise choose to travel to the US for study,
business or tourism.

-- Since the start of OIF, a flood of Americans -- and others
traveling under our auspices, including Iraqis -- into and
out of Kuwait, all too often without proper documentation, or
without proper entry/exit formalities. The GOK has been very
flexible, but has nonetheless suffered snide criticism in the
US media for attempting to reassert sovereign control over
its borders -- something we continually ask it to ensure, for
our own safety.

- Terrorist Financing: The GOK has cooperated fully in
asset-freezes including some involving foreign branches of
Kuwait-based Islamic charities that are considered reputable
here, without seeing evidence that it would consider
compelling. It has also taken steps to get better control of
local fundraising activities. This has exposed the
Government to complaints that it is blindly abetting Western
hostility towards Islam.

- IPR: This is our nickel. Shaykh Sabah should be politely
warned that barring significant progress in enforcing
intellectual property rights, Kuwait is headed for elevation
to the Special 301 Priority Watch List. The copyright law
needs revision and more needs to be done to run street
vendors of pirated electronic media out of business.
Penalities for piracy must be strengthened dramatically and
enforcement needs to move from the Ministry of Information to
the Ministry of Interior.
JONES