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05MANAMA1889 2005-12-23 09:46:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manama
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					C O N F I D E N T I A L  MANAMA 001889 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/21/2015

Classified by Ambassador William T. Monroe for reasons 1.4
(b) and (d).


1. (C) Centcom Commander General Abizaid December 21 met
separately with Crown Prince Salman and Defense Minister
Shaikh Khalifa and discussed the situation in Iraq, Iranian
influence in Iraq, Al Qaida, Afghanistan, and the bilateral
military relationship. Regarding Iraq, both the CP and
DefMin expressed concerns about Abdul Aziz Al Hakim becoming
prime minister and instituting a pro-Iran "theocracy."
However, the GOB supports the Iraqi government and the
political process and will take part in a February Arab
League meeting in Baghdad. The CP emphasized Arabs' worries
that the U.S. and Iran will strike a "grand bargain" that
would allow for international inspection of Iran's nuclear
program in exchange for Iranian freedom of movement in Iraq.
Abizaid assured him that so long as Iran poses a threat to
our friends, we would not work with Iran in this way. The CP
noted that the Al Qaida attack in Jordan had been a bad move,
turning Arabs further away from the terror organization. The
CP said the U.S.-Bahrain military relationship was working
very well, with close coordination on force protection and
counter-terrorism issues. The CP raised the issue of the
return of Navy dependents. End Summary.


Concern About Al Hakim as Prime Minister


2. (C) In separate meetings December 21, Centcom Commander
General Abizaid discussed Iraq, Iran, Al Qaida, Afghanistan,
and the U.S.-Bahrain military relationship with Crown Prince
Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and Defense Minister General
Shaikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa. In response to
Abizaid's briefing on the elections in Iraq, the Crown Prince
said that the main concern of Iraq's Sunnis is that they not
be ruled by a Shia theocracy. The prospect of Abdul Aziz Al
Hakim becoming prime minister is not comforting. Shaikh
Khalifa echoed this sentiment, saying that Iraqis who are
pro-Iran should not be in power because they would have
loyalty to a religious leader rather than to the political
system. Shaikh Khalifa offered that Al Hakim is the
politician most likely to be named prime minister, followed
by current PM Ibrahim Al Jaafari and former PM Iyad Allawi.
Abizaid said that many Iraqi Shia look to Iran for help, but
they are Arabs first. He suggested that current Vice
President Adel Abdul Mahdi has a good chance of becoming
prime minister. The CP emphasized that the GOB supports the
Iraqi government and has participated in conferences in Cairo
and Jeddah backing the political process. Bahrain will take
part in an Arab League meeting in Baghdad in February.

3. (C) The CP commented that he had heard reports of Iranian
infiltration of the Iraqi Interior Ministry. Abizaid said
this was true in the south; the Ministry of Interior recruits
its personnel locally, and the staff bring their local issues
with them into the security forces. The army has a different
recruitment system and is in better shape. The U.S. will
focus on improving the police forces during 2006.


Worries About U.S.-Iran "Grand Bargain"


4. (C) The Crown Prince said that many Bahrainis and others
in the region are concerned that the U.S. will negotiate a
grand bargain with Iran that would allow for inspection of
Iran's nuclear program in exchange for Iranian freedom of
movement in Iraq. The Arabs are concerned they could be the
losers in such a deal. Abizaid replied that Iran will not be
permitted to play a devious role in Iraq. It is not like the
old days, and the Iranians know there are limits to the games
they can play. Speaking as a military man, Abizaid said, so
long as Iran poses a threat to our friends, we would not work
with Iran in this way.

5. (C) Crown Prince Salman said that both Sunnis and Shias
are obliged to give alms equal to 20 percent of their annual
profit to a religious leader. It would be interesting to
track the flows of alms in Iraq to understand who controls
the funds and who benefits. Usually clerics use the money to
build local networks by helping people with daily expenses -
for example, for new appliances and tuition. Abizaid said he
understood this practice occurs but he has not heard that
Sistani uses alms in such a political way. Sistani plays a
helpful role in stabilizing the country; he is not being
pulled by the Iranians and he generally does not interfere in


6. (C) Turning to the domestic situation in Iran, the CP
said that new President Ahmadi-Nejad is "a loose cannon."
Some say he is frustrating the senior levels of the Iranian
system and is harming the vested interests of members of the
establishment, such as Rafsanjani. Ahmadi-Nejad sees himself
as a reformer, but he is inexperienced, overconfident, and
arrogant. Abizaid commented that Ahmadi-Nejad could misread
the situation and make a serious miscalculation. The good
news is that U.S. military power in the region is sufficient
to deter Iran.


Al Qaida Support Down


7. (C) The Crown Prince said that Al Qaida operations come
and go in waves. The Jordan attack was a bad move, turning
more Arabs against the terror group. Al Qaida thought it
would have easy victories, but this did not happen. It
thought it could sow instability in Saudi Arabia, but this
did not happen. The "recruiting drive" that started on 9/11
has now ended. Abizaid stated that the organization remains
very dangerous, but on a tactical level only. It does not
have the ability to take a country, like it did before.
Because of Zarqawi, its ideological appeal is down. The CP
said that if Al Qaida renounced violence, it would look like
many other Islamist parties in the region. He worries about
existing Islamist parties tilting toward violence.

8. (C) Abizaid praised the performance of the Bahraini
special forces unit that was deployed to Afghanistan. The
Crown Prince said he was proud of them. He noted there had
been a spike in violence in the south during the past year
and wondered if the Taliban were planning a spring offensive.
The Defense Minister commented that President Karzai is a
strong leader and is doing well. Abizaid said President
Musharraf was doing a good job going after Al Qaida on
Pakistani territory but he was not clamping down on the
Taliban hiding inside Pakistan. Pakistan's intelligence
services could be more active in this area.


Strong Bilateral Military Relationship


9. (C) In response to Abizaid's question, the Crown Prince
said that the U.S.-Bahrain military relationship is going
very well. Bahrain is working closely with the Navy base on
any force protection and counter-terrorism issues. The Crown
Prince raised the issue of the return of U.S. Navy depedents.
Gen. Abizaid said that the issue is being looked at.