2007-03-29 09:38:00
Embassy Kuwait
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DE RUEHKU #0450/01 0880938
P 290938Z MAR 07
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 KUWAIT 000450 




E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/29/2022

Classified By: Ambassador Richard LeBaron for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 KUWAIT 000450




E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/29/2022

Classified By: Ambassador Richard LeBaron for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (S/NF) Summary: Kuwait's Ambassador to Iran, Majid
Al-Thufiri, who claims good access to senior Iranian
officials, shared his impression of Iran's views towards the
U.S., regional policies, and domestic political and economic
situation in a March 28 meeting with the Ambassador. His key
points were: finding a way to approach the U.S. is Iran's top
priority and this pervades the leadership's thinking on
nearly every other issue. Iran views Iraq as an opportunity
to approach, not confront the U.S. Iran's desire to see Iraq
succeed is an important shared objective that could serve as
the basis for dialogue, but the Iranians want assurances on
the continued survival of their regime. U.S. pressure on
Iran is having an impact and forcing the regime to reconsider
its policies. Criticism of the regime, and even Khamenei, is
reaching unprecedented levels. Iranians are "very
frustrated" with Ahmadinejad's failed economic policies and
Iran's increasing isolation in the international community.
Public statements by Iranian officials are "completely
different" than their private views and are motivated
primarily by domestic considerations. Iran is looking for a
face-saving way to resolve tensions over its nuclear program
and will ultimately back down rather than risk a
confrontation that could threaten the regime's survival. End

2. (S/NF) On March 28, the Ambassador met for more than an
hour with Majid Al-Thufiri, Kuwait's Ambassador to Iran since
September 2001. Al-Thufiri, who speaks English, Arabic, and
Farsi, is a experienced diplomat and a sharp, insightful
observer of Iranian affairs. He claimed to have "good
access" at the senior-most levels of Iranian government,
including with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Al-Thufiri said
he had gained the Iranians' trust and was often asked by
Iranian officials for advice, which he gave openly and
bluntly. He admitted, however, that it was "not easy to work
with the Iranians" because they "lack a clear-cut vision" and
often "hide their real intentions."

"Approaching" U.S. Iran's Top Priority

3. (S/NF) Al-Thufiri claimed that "the top priority of
Iran's foreign policy is the question of how to approach the
United States." "I have seen this in numerous meetings on
every level," he said. Al-Thufiri believed the environment
in Iran was more favorable to dialogue now than before,
noting that Ahmadinejad had broken "taboos" by writing
letters to President Bush and the Iranians had "worked very
hard to meet you in Iraq." He claimed Iranians were
"shocked" when the U.S. halted attempts to begin a dialogue
with Iran last year and noted that Iranian officials had been
"so proud of themselves that they were going to meet with the
Americans," something that they took as confirmation of their
regional importance. Al-Thufiri believed the Iranians viewed
Iraq as an opportunity to approach rather than confront the
U.S. and saw their desire to "see Iraq succeed" as a common
ground upon which dialogue could be built. He claimed that
despite their contradictory and belligerent public
statements, the Iranians were carefully studying the P5 1
proposal and asking questions about how they could agree to
it, something Al-Thufiri took as "a good indication that they
are looking for a way out (on the nuclear issue) that will
allow them to save face."

4. (S/NF) According to Al-Thufiri, the three "pillars" of
Iran's foreign policy are: 1) ensuring regime survival, 2)
achieving recognition of its role as a regional power, and 3)
maintaining its "distance" from the superpowers, primarily
the United States. He said the Iranians were "very
pragmatic" and carefully avoided taking actions against the
U.S. that could provoke a regime-threatening confrontation.
But Iran values its influence in the region and uses this
influence to elicit concessions from the international
community and recognition of its role as a regional power.
Al-Thufiri said Iran's main desire was for assurances that
there would be no attempts to overthrow the regime. "Give
the Iranians a hint of these assurances and they will be very
grateful and act in a different way," he argued.

5. (S/NF) Al-Thufiri believed U.S. pressure on Iran was
having an impact on its policies. He said the Iranians "took
(the deployment of a second aircraft carrier in the Gulf)
very seriously and are scared to death." Al-Thufiri believed
this sort of pressure was "very useful" and said any actions
that restrict their ability to project power in the region
"affect them very much." He said the unanimous adoption of
UNSCR 1747 sent a clear message to Iran that the

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international community was united against it and signaled
that its strategy was not working, something Al-Thufiri hoped
would cause Iran to change its policies. He claimed that
when UNSCR 1737 was passed, "those close to the leader began
exerting more pressure on him not to confront the
international community." Al-Thufiri predicted Iran would
back down before a full scale embargo was imposed, because
Iranian officials understood that while they could survive
stronger sanctions, eventually sanctions would have an impact
and this could affect people's confidence in the regime.
Commenting on Iranians' perceptions of the U.S., Al-Thufiri
said he "never saw a people love America like the Iranians.
It's unbelievable!"

Iran's Two Contradictory Faces

7. (S/NF) Iranian officials' public statements are "180
degrees different" from their private views and "have nothing
to do with their actual stance on issues," Al-Thufiri said.
He explained that these statements were primarily intended
for domestic consumption or were driven by disputes between
different factions within the Iranian government. "If you
understand their intentions, you will not be shocked (by
their public comments)," Al-Thufiri noted. As an example, he
claimed that in private Iranian officials were completely
opposed to U.S. troops leaving Iraq before the country was
stable and secure. Al-Thufiri acknowledged, however, that
Ahmadinejad was different and tended to believe more in what
he said. Ultimately, though, Ahmadinejad was responsible to
Khamenei and made controversial public statements when the
Supreme Leader allowed him to do so, Al-Thufiri argued,
noting that Ahmadinejad has been more subdued over the last
several months because Khamenei reigned him in.

8. (S/NF) Despite the sectarian nature of Iran's regime, it
acts based on calculations of power, not religion, Al-Thufiri
argued. Iranian officials "never talk to me on a sectarian
basis, but rather as a state." For example, Al-Thufiri
claimed Iran viewed Hizballah solely as a useful bargaining
chip. "Fundamentally, the Iranians are bazaaris," he
explained. "Everything has a value," including Hizballah.

Economic and Social Climate in Iran

9. (S/NF) Iran's economic problems and increasing isolation
from the international community were having a profound
affect on internal political dynamics in the country,
Al-Thufiri said. In particular, Ahmadinejad's failed
policies are generating considerable criticism from all
sides. He claimed that Ahmadinejad was "a pain in the neck
for everyone, including Khamenei." According to him, some
people had even asked Khamenei to remove Ahmadinejad from the
presidency, something Al-Thufiri believed the Supreme Leader
would not do this "because it would reveal to the
international community that Iran is having domestic
problems." Al-Thufiri said criticism of Ahmadinejad was
beginning to affect Khamenei as well. "Before, people would
talk (disparagingly) about the competency of the government,
but now they are questioning the (Supreme) Leader's
competency," he explained.

10. (S/NF) Al-Thufiri said this perception extended to the
highest levels of government, citing a private meeting with
former president Khatami in which Khatami characterized
Ahmadinejad as a "child" and asked "how (could) the Supreme
Leader allow him to do this." Al-Thufiri said he was also
hearing unprecedented criticism of Ahmadinejad and Khamenei
in private gatherings of Iranian business leaders,
ex-Ambassadors, parliamentarians, and even retired
politicians associated with the Supreme Leader. He claimed
the business community was "very frustrated" with both
leaders, and said he had never heard this level of criticism
before. One friend close to Khamenei told Al-Thufiri that he
still believed the Supreme Leader would resolve Iran's
problems peacefully, but noted that the Revolutionary Guard
and other security forces exerted a negative influence on the
country's leadership.

11. (S/NF) According to Al-Thufiri, "the impact of religion
in Iran is zero or below zero." He claimed Iranians, even
outside Tehran, "have nothing to do with religion" and noted
the strong public reactions to Ahmadinejad's attempts to
enforce stricter religious standards of conduct. There was a
pervasive, strong resentment in Iran towards the religious
establishment, he reported. As an example, Al-Thufiri
related a conversation he had had with the son of an
ayatollah. The young man asked Al-Thufiri if he drank and

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then told him, "I drink (alcohol). I never pray, I drink."
The young man, indicating his father, continued, "I hate this
man. He is the most opportunistic person I ever saw. He
uses religion to get whatever he wants." Expressing the
extent of his disillusionment, the young man concluded, "I
want to die as an infidel, not a Muslim."

Iran's Muddled Iraq Policy

12. (S/NF) Al-Thufiri argued that Iran had two contradictory
strategies in Iraq: one led by Iran's intelligence apparatus,
and the other by the Iranian government. For example, none
of the Iranian government officials he talked to could
rationalize Iran's support of Moqtada Al-Sadr and the Mahdi
Army, and some even admitted that this was a "mistake."
Al-Thufiri believed Iran was more coherent and consistent in
its support for the political process (which brought Iraq's
Shi'a into power) and opposition to any breakup of Iraq into
autonomous regions that could embolden Iran's own
ethnic/religious minorities. He said Iran was also very
careful not to be seen as supporting just one faction in
Iraq, because it believed Iraq would eventually re-emerge as
a strategic rival and wanted to ensure that it continued to
have good access. "And the only way to have good access is
to have good relations with everyone," he argued. Al-Thufiri
claimed the Iranians recognized that despite being Shi'a
Iraq's leadership was ultimately loyal to Iraq and noted that
former PM Ibrahim Al-Jaafari's first visit to Iran was
characterized by "major disagreements."

Kuwait/GCC-Iran Relations

13. (S/NF) Al-Thufiri said five years ago Kuwait adopted a
new strategy of "positive engagement" with Iran aimed at
supporting moderates within the regime and encouraging the
Iranian leadership to adopt more pragmatic, responsible
policies, a strategy that worked well under Khatami but
became more difficult after Ahmadinejad was elected
president. Kuwait's leadership told the Iranians that
developing nuclear weapons would be a "disaster" and could
provoke a regional arms race, and encouraged them to be more
cooperative and transparent with the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA). The Kuwaitis also warned Iran not to
underestimate the U.S.: despite the problems it faced in
Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon, the U.S. still had the
capability to inflict significant damage on Iran, and there
was little divergence of view in Washington about the threat
Iran could pose. Kuwait repeatedly urged Iran to demonstrate
that it was a responsible regional power and had the ability
to play a positive, stabilizing role in the region,
Al-Thufiri reported. "Sometimes they listen and sometimes
they act negatively, particularly in Lebanon," he said. He
said there was no movement on the bilateral continental shelf
dispute and reported that the Amir was unlikely to visit Iran
in the near future.

14. (S/NF) According to Al-Thufiri, two years ago Kuwait
conducted an assessment of how to limit Iran's rising power
in the region and concluded that 1) there should be more
engagement with Iran and 2) the Saudis should be convinced to
act as a stronger strategic balance to Iran. "We worked very
hard (to convince) the Saudis, and finally they agreed,"
Al-Thufiri said, noting that Saudi Arabia was now taking a
stronger stance against Iran and, as a result, the Iranians
were moderating their policies. He cited as specific
examples their clear commitment to not withdraw from the
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),and what he saw as their
willingness to find a peaceful solution to tensions over the
nuclear program. "Iran will not push this to the brink of
war, because they know they will lose and the regime will
vanish," he argued. "Iran also knows that if they go too
far, they could lose the generous (P5 1 incentive package).
And they know it is a generous offer." He believed the Saudi
policy of ignoring Ahmadinejad and dealing directly with
Khamenei was effective in emphasizing the Supreme Leader was
ultimately responsible for Iranian policy and signaling
disapproval of the president.

15. (S/NF) The Iranians tend to view everything through the
prism of the Iran/U.S. dynamic, including their relations
with other countries in the region, Al-Thufiri said. For a
long time the Iranians were convinced that Kuwait was part of
a U.S. "siege" on Iran and that Kuwait and other Gulf
countries' positions on bilateral issues were dictated by the
Americans. Al-Thufiri told the Iranians that this was not
the case, but stated bluntly that "we will not jeopardize our
relations with the U.S. for your interests." He said Iran

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had at times asked Kuwait to convey messages to the U.S., but
the Amir refused because Iran did not have a clear policy.
Al-Thufiri claimed that Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
countries had agreed that Iran must not be allowed to become
a nuclear power. He said he routinely encouraged GCC
counterparts to engage Iran more openly, explaining that "the
more open we are, the more relaxed Iran is."

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