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05ABUDHABI767 2005-02-20 02:24:00 SECRET Embassy Abu Dhabi
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S E C R E T        ABU DHABI 00767




DE RUEHAD #0767/01 0510224
O 200224Z FEB 05
					S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 ABU DHABI 000767 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/16/2015

Classified By: Ambassador Michele J. Sison, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (S) Summary: CENTCOM Commander Gen. Abizaid met with Abu
Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE
Armed Forces General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
(MbZ) February 14 to discuss Iraq,s security situation in
the wake of the January 30 elections. They also discussed
other regional security developments, including Syria, Iran,
Pakistan, and former Lebanese Prime Minister Al Hariri,s
assassination earlier in the day. MbZ focused on UAE fears
of a future extremist threat from Saudi Arabia. He said
the UAE was acquiring sophisticated weapons systems,
including the F-16 Block 60 aircraft, as insurance against
both Iran and any potential threat from Saudi Arabia should
an extremist regime emerge there. It was the most
pessimistic we have seen MbZ on a perceived threat from Saudi

2. (S) Summary continued: MbZ told us that the war on terror
should be an Arab fight, and that Arabs had to play a larger
role. MbZ asked for more timely notification about UAE
nationals captured in Iraq. MbZ and his Special Operations
Commander requested more active combat assignments for the
UAE,s 250-man Special Forces contingent in Afghanistan,
especially near the Pakistani border. End Summary.

3. (U) On February 14, CENTCOM Commander Gen. Abizaid met
with MbZ over dinner. Others attending were Interior
Minister Sheikh Saif bin Zayed (MbZ,s half-brother);
Information Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed (AbZ) (MbZ,s
full brother); UAE Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Hamad
Thani Al Rumaithy; Special Forces Commander Brigadier Jumaa
Al Bawardi; Director for Military Intelligence Brigadier Essa
Al Mazrouie; Ambassador; CENTCOM POLAD Ambassador John
Holzman; Col. Tom Lynch of the Commander,s Action Group;
Executive Officer Col. Joe Reynes; and USLO Chief. Gen.
Abizaid met separately with Lt. Gen. Hamad Thani on February

15. (Note: Gen. Abizaid had met Sheikhs MbZ, Saif, and
Abdullah earlier in the day at the International Defense
Exhibition )- IDEX -) as they toured the American pavilion.
End note.)



4. (C) As Gen. Abizaid and MbZ sat down at the table February
14, MbZ asked bluntly, &Could Bashar (Al Asad) be that
stupid?8 Sheikh Abdullah read an excerpt from the Syrian
President,s statement in which he condemned the &terrible,
criminal action8 and expressed &solidarity with brother
Lebanon in these serious circumstances.8 Abdullah and MbZ
were dismissive of Syria,s official reaction, and said they
supported the French government,s request for an
international investigation into the assassination. Abizaid
conveyed the USG,s sense of shock at the Hariri
assassination, as well as our belief that the people of
Lebanon deserve the freedom to choose their leaders free of
intimidation and terror. During their meeting the following
morning, Lt. Gen. Hamad Thani reiterated to Abizaid that
Bashar was not in control, and that Syria,s &old guard8
are &corrupt and still dangerous.8 The Baathists, he
added, are still a force in Syria.

Saudi Arabia


5. (S) Foremost on MbZ,s mind, however, was the potential
threat from Saudi Arabia (assuming Saudi Arabia one day were
ruled by Islamic extremists), a theme he returned to time and
again during the dinner conversation. In fact, it was the
darkest and most pessimistic we have seen MbZ on Saudi
Arabia. Abizaid described how extremists go to Saudi
mosques, target Saudi men in the 17-19 age group, and
indoctrinate them. They then whisk away these young recruits
to Damascus, issue them new IDs, then send them as part of
&suicide bomber8 groups to carry out operations inside
Iraq. These foreign fighters, many of whom have been
captured by U.S. forces in Iraq, are not welcomed by Iraqis,
Abizaid said. DMI Director Brigadier Al Mazrouie suggested
that DMI assign some of its men to Damascus airport to
&check on who is coming in and out8 of Syria.

6. (S) MbZ then talked at length about the Saudi
leadership,s challenge. Saudi leaders no longer hold the
position of respect they had in the 60s and 70s. MbZ also
was dismissive of the International Counterterrorism
Conference that Riyadh hosted February 5-8. The UAEG opted
not to send &serious8 counterterrorism experts to the
conference because it regarded the conference as a public
relations event, said MbZ. Interior Minister Sheikh Saif
emphasized that there needs to be more regional sharing of
information about CT and security issues, especially by Saudi
Arabia and Kuwait.

7. (S) Still on the Saudi theme, MbZ for the first time
linked his country,s decision to adopt a sophisticated
defense posture (including the acquisition of 80 F-16 Block
60 aircraft) to a potential attack from Saudi Arabia, should
the KSA regime be overthrown by Islamic extremists. The UAE
has always perceived Iran as the primary conventional threat,
he said. Now, however, MbZ said he worries increasingly
about the prospect that a revolt by Islamic extremists in KSA
might succeed there. Should an extremist regime come to
power in Riyadh, how was he going to bring down their F-15s?
Certainly not with the UAE,s fleet of Mirages, he said.

8. (C) MbZ also was seized with the issue of terrorism
financing, particularly the links between Saudi Arabia, Ansar
Al Islam and Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. He said that the UK had
(indirectly) passed information to the UAE on terrorism
financing trails, and asked whether the U.S. had seen similar
information. We noted that terrorism financing had been one
of the major themes during White House Homeland Security
Advisor Fran Townsend,s visit to the UAE a week earlier, and
that the U.S. and UAE were working together closely on the
issue. Abizaid opined that if Zarqawi were not captured or
killed in Iraq, then he would likely move south, and could
easily move to Saudi Arabia, &and it will really get bad.8
Both he and MbZ characterized Saudi Arabia as the future
¢er of gravity8 in the war on terror.

9. (C) As he often does in meetings with USG visitors, MbZ
shared his views about the importance of proper education
standards in the Islamic world. He observed that an end to
the dominance of the radicalized madrassa school systems was
vital to winning the war against extremist ideology and
terrorism over the long term.



10. (C) MbZ and AbZ had exchanged thoughts about Iraq,s
elections with Gen. Abizaid earlier in the day at IDEX. AbZ
expressed satisfaction that the Iraqi people had turned out
in significant numbers to vote on January 30. Both Abizaid
and his UAE interlocutors shared the sentiment that Iraq,s
Sunnis had been unwise to boycott the elections. While MbZ
expressed misgivings about Iran,s influence in Iraq after
the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) victory, Abizaid said both
Sunnis and Shi,a Iraqis are Iraqis and Arabs first. The
United States did not necessarily see the UIA election
results as a victory for Iran.

11. (C) In his meeting with Abizaid, Lt. Gen. Hamad Thani
asked how long it would take to rebuild Iraq,s military.
The U.S. intends to build up Iraq,s armed forces capability
and thus be able to provide a &fundamental security role8
by December 2005, Abizaid replied. He added that there could
be a &substantial reduction8 in U.S. forces by 2006, and
more Iraqis in charge. Hamad Thani expressed concern that
the Iraqi Chief of Staff had &no vision.8 Echoing the
previous evening,s discussion, Abizaid and Hamad Thani also
shared concerns about Iran,s influence. Abizaid noted that
one of the warning signs of Iranian interference would be if
the constitutional process in Iraq were not followed as
currently envisioned.

12. (C) Hamad Thani said he was worried about a
&revolutionary export of Iran,s brand of Islam to southern
Iraq, that would in turn spread to Kuwait. &Then we would
have another problem on our hands,8 he stated.

UAE Detainees


13. (S) MbZ raised the issue of his need to receive timely
notification about UAE nationals detained by Coalition forces
in Iraq. MbZ suggested that UAE military intelligence
officers could question Emirati nationals held by the
Coalition in Iraq. &If they say five words, we can tell
whether they are from the UAE,8 MbZ said. Gen. Abizaid
welcomed questioning by UAE authorities. (Note: We are aware
of three UAE nationals being detained by Coalition forces in
Iraq: Musalem Al Sayri, Adnan Mahmoud Hamood, and Awad Al
Mustad. End note.) MbZ had learned from Iraqi TV that
Emiratis had been captured in Fallujah and had contacted
Embassy Abu Dhabi. It then took several days for the Embassy
to receive confirmation from Baghdad of these names and to
pass the information back to MbZ,s staff. (Comment: MbZ is
looking to speed up a time-consuming process. As we
understand it, the current process is as follows: The UAE
Embassy in Baghdad sends a letter to the U.S. Ambassador in
Iraq requesting access. MNF-I forwards the request to
CENTCOM JSD, which in turn either obtains CENTCOM approval,
or goes to the Joint Staff. Once approved, MNF-I and UAE DMI
are informed. At that point, there would be coordination by
DMI and MNF-I on meeting times and dates. End comment.)
Abizaid and MbZ agreed to have quarterly exchanges of
information on this process, and on related intelligence
matters. But as he has told visitors before, MbZ said he
would prefer that the Coalition forces kill, rather than
capture, these fighters because he does not want them to
return to the UAE where he believes they are likely to stir
up trouble.



14. (S) MbZ expressed a strong desire to &toughen8 his
country,s special forces, 250 of whom are currently deployed
to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The current contingent
(the fourth deployed since October 2003) has been in
Afghanistan for three months and has not seen any action, he
said. He asked Abizaid to consider allowing the UAE force
closer to the Pak-Afghan border. Meanwhile, 35 members from
Bahrain,s Special Forces are training with UAE special
forces in Hatta (eastern UAE), with a goal to deploy to
Afghanistan in April, our interlocutors said.

15. (S) In his meeting with Hamad Thani, Abizaid thanked him
for the role UAE troops were playing in Afghanistan. Hamad
Thani said he sees a threefold purpose for the deployment.
It deters extremism, demonstrates a commitment to a common
cause, and provides a mechanism for UAE forces to gain
battlefield experience against possible future enemies.



16. (C) MbZ and Abizaid agreed that President Musharraf was
well in control of the situation in Pakistan. MbZ said that
he had given Musharraf advice, but that he was seized with
the fact that Baluchistan remained a &wild place.8 MbZ
recalled that during his hunting trip to Pakistan 10 days
ago, he had lost a falcon in Baluchistan. When MbZ attempted
to follow the bird,s path, his Pakistani security escorts
reportedly refused to go further, so MbZ and his Emirati
escorts went in alone to retrieve the falcon. MbZ said the
illicit drug trade contributes significantly to the
province,s hostile reputation, which in turn poses a major
challenge to Musharraf.

Meeting with New Armed Forces Chief of Staff


17. (C) Following on the previous evening,s dinner
conversation, Gen. Abizaid met separately with Lt. Gen. Hamad
Thani, who succeeded MbZ as the UAE Armed Forces, Chief of
Staff in November 2004. MbZ told Abizaid that he had turned
over &a number of issues8 to Hamad Thani, clearly
indicating to Abizaid that military authority had changed
hands. The February 15 meeting between Abizaid and Hamad
Thani was the first significant exchange between them. Hamad
Thani explained that his focus had been on getting his armed
forces &trained and ready8 to fight transnational
terrorism. So far, he said, &we have seen no imminent
threat,8 referring to the current UAE domestic situation.
He went on to state that the UAE has put in a lot of effort
to &guard8 the border )- both sea and land including
dedicating five battalions to this effort. He also talked
about an air surveillance balloon being used along the
UAE-Saudi border, and he described the construction of a
fence along approximately 1,200 kilometers of the border.

18. (C) Abizaid and Hamad Thani agreed to meet more
frequently, and Abizaid proposed a concept of quarterly staff
talks designed to improve awareness of regional security
issues. Hamad Thani said that, building on the Joint
Military Commission,s success in January 2005, the UAE could
host a joint counterterrorism planning meeting. Abizaid said
that was possible, but explained that his intent was to hold
staff-level (J2, J3 and J5) talks with CENTCOM,s UAE
counterparts to discuss routine operations. Such talks would
be in addition to J2 intelligence exchanges, the first of
which is likely to occur March 14-16 (DOVE PINE). Hamad
Thani concurred with Abizaid,s idea.



19. (C) We think it is significant that MbZ now believes that
the greatest potential threat to the UAE could come not/not
from long-time nemesis Iran, but from Saudi Arabia, should
the KSA regime be overthrown by Islamic extremists. MbZ,s
views about UAE nationals captured in Iraq revealed his lack
of tolerance for extremist elements in UAE society. He has
frequently told USG visitors that he would prefer that
Coalition forces kill extremists rather than capture them and
risk having them return to their respective countries where
they could stir up more trouble. Abizaid,s discussions with
MbZ and Hamad Thani also made clear that the Emiratis are
focusing increasingly on troop readiness in the UAE.

20. (C) Comment continued: Lt. Gen. Hamad Thani was more at
ease offering his own analysis of the region than we have
ever seen him. He seemed to have genuinely stepped into his
role as the UAE Armed Forces Chief of Staff ) in front of
his boss. His reasoning behind the UAE Special Forces,
deployment in Afghanistan indicates he has the correct
strategic picture of the region.