2007-02-27 11:58:00
Embassy Manama
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DE RUEHMK #0184/01 0581158
O 271158Z FEB 07
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 MANAMA 000184 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/25/2017

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

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 MANAMA 000184



E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/25/2017

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

1. (C) Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and
Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa will both
visit Washington in early March. Shaikh Khalid will arrive
first for meetings beginning on March 1 and he plans to
remain in the Washington area for more than a week until the
end of the Crown Prince's visit. Shaikh Salman will be in
Washington March 7-10 after first going to Chicago with a
trade delegation organized by the American Chamber of
Commerce in Bahrain. The Crown Prince last visited
Washington in March 2006, and he participated in events on
the margins of the UN General Assembly opening in September
2006 in New York. Shaikh Khalid also attended the opening of
the UNGA in 2006 and is a participant in GCC 2 meetings.

2. (C) Shaikh Salman and Shaikh Khalid will both be looking
to strengthen the bilateral relationship during a period of
escalating regional tensions. Bahrain has clearly and
publicly aligned itself with the United States in the
international community's face-off with Iran, and the
Bahrainis will want confirmation that we recognize the steps
it has taken and reassurance that we will support Bahrain and
consult closely as the situation develops further. Bahrain
generally supports our Iraq policy and recently hosted Abdul
Aziz Al Hakim in Manama while he was on a regional tour and
we understand former Prime Minister Al Allawi hopes to visit
in mid-March. The Bahrainis have engaged cautiously with the
Iraqi government and are worried that sectarian violence
could lead to heightened tensions inside Bahrain. The CP
will lead the Bahraini delegation in a meeting of the Gulf
Security Dialogue (GSD) on March 8. The Bahraini government
expects the GSD process to lead to a further strengthening in
mil-mil cooperation, including financial and material support.


3. (C) What we want from the visits:

-- Close coordination on Iran policy and development of
strategies that go beyond sanctions contained in UNSCR 1737.

-- Public expression of support for the goals of U.S. policy
in Iraq and a commitment for pro-active Bahraini engagement
with Iraq's leadership.

-- Continued cooperation on regional maritime operations,
including in Coalition Task Forces in and around the Gulf.

-- Enhanced commitment to political reform, including through
serious engagement with the newly elected lower house of
parliament Council of Representatives.

Issues of Interest to Bahrain

4. (C) Shaikh Salman and Shaikh Khalid will want to hear
from us on:

-- Reaffirmation of the Navy's long-term commitment to
Bahrain and U.S. interest in protecting Bahrain.

-- Recognition of Bahrain's public and private steps to align
with and support the United States, including participating
in the Proliferation Security Initiative, joining the
Coalition Task Forces (CTF),and deploying a special forces
contingent to Afghanistan.

-- Strategies to harden Bahrain's defenses and contain Iran
while avoiding a military confrontation.

-- Briefing on the way ahead in Iraq, with emphasis on the
Iraqi government's responsibilities and ways the GCC can
engage and assist.

-- Next steps in U.S./Quartet consultations with Israel and
the Palestinians and methods to address the plight of
Palestinian civilians.

Key Issues to Raise

MANAMA 00000184 002 OF 004

5. (C) We suggest Washington interlocutors consider raising
the following points:

-- Recognize the long history of mil-mil cooperation with
Bahrain, most notably through hosting NAVCENT. Reaffirm the
commitment of the U.S. Navy to Bahrain.

-- Praise Bahrain's support for OEF, OIF, and U.S. policy on
Iran and Iraq, and for enhancing its strategic commitment to
the United States.

-- Pledge continued close engagement with Bahrain on regional
challenges through the GCC 2 and GSD initiatives, and discuss
the way forward.

-- Emphasize the importance of continued political reform and
participation. Propose USG support for Bahrain's
democratization process, including by reactivating
programming by the MEPI-funded National Democratic Institute

-- Hail the implementation of the U.S.-Bahrain free trade
agreement and almost 50 percent growth in bilateral trade in
2006, and welcome the Crown Prince's personal support for
expanded commercial relations through his participation in
the AmCham trade mission to Chicago.

Issues Background Briefs

Dealing With Iran

6. (C) The Bahraini leadership is greatly concerned about
the threat posed by Iran and increased tensions between Iran
and the international community. Crown Prince Salman has
suggested several times that the U.S. and GCC countries hold
a significant military exercise in the Gulf, which would send
a strong signal to Iran. Bahrain hosted and participated in
Proliferation Security Initiative exercise Leading Edge in
October, and the boarding/interrogation portion took place
just outside its territorial waters. NAVCENT personnel were
impressed with the Bahraini Navy's professionalism and
aggressiveness during the exercise. Bahrain has been an
enthusiastic partner in the Gulf Security Dialogue and GCC 2

7. (C) Bahrain's relationship with Iran is complex. The
Bahraini leadership is united in its suspicion of Iranian
intentions regarding Bahrain and often sees an Iranian hand
in incidents involving Bahrain's Shia community, which
comprises some two-thirds of the country's citizens. They
are convinced Iran seeks to develop nuclear weapons and
assert its influence around the region. At the same time,
Bahrain faces the reality that it must live with its large
neighbor across the Gulf. Bahrain maintains "correct" but
not warm diplomatic relations with Iran, with Bahraini
leaders meeting with Iranian officials when they visit.
Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid visited Tehran February 24 and
met with President Ahmadi-Nejad and Foreign Minister Mottaki.
(We do not yet have a readout of his visit.) Bahraini
officials repeatedly assert their strong view that the
international community should engage in diplomacy to deal
with Iran, and not resort to a military solution. They
recognize, however, that a robust military posture can
facilitate diplomacy. Bahrain supports UNSCR 1737 but may be
wary of implementing additional sanctions that go beyond the
language of the resolution.

Next Steps on Iraq

8. (C) The GOBpublicly supports U.S. operations in Iraq,
but a King Hamad and Crown Prince Salman have told seveal
recent U.S. delegations, it believes Iraqi forces should be
moving to the front lines in place of coalition forces. This
would force Iraqis to take responsibility for their own
security and put the GOI into the position of requesting
assistance from its Arab neighbors, which the Bahrainis feel
it has not yet done in a meaningful way. Iraqi Shia leader
Abdul Aziz Al Hakim visited Bahrain February 8 while on a
regional tour and met with the King. Former Prime Minister

MANAMA 00000184 003 OF 004

Iyad Al Allawi has asked to visit Bahrain in mid-March. The
GOB's greatest concern related to Iraq is that sectarian
violence could spill over into Bahrain, which has a
Shia-majority population ruled by a Sunni-controlled
government. GOB officials will support long-term measures to
reduce sectarian violence while recognizing that the
near-term situation in Iraq is extremely difficult.


9. (S) Although physically distant from the
Israel-Palestinian conflict, the Bahraini government and
people remain highly concerned about the lack of forward
progress on peacemaking and the plight of the Palestinian
people. The GOB believes that progress on Israel-Palestinian
relations will improve regional receptivity for U.S.
policies. During Bahrain's term as (rotating) president of
the Arab League (AL) in the latter half of 2006, Bahrain took
an unprecedented foray into peace process diplomacy. Foreign
Minister Shaikh Khalid was asked to present the AL's views on
reviving Israel-Palestinian talks to the UN Security Council
during the opening of the UN General Assembly in September

2006. Israeli Foreign Minister Livni attended that
presentation and reportedly was pleased with Shaikh Khalid's
handling of the issue. Shaikh Khalid met with Livni on the
margins of the UNGA at that time and successfully established
a relationship with her. After the Secretary's meeting with
the GCC 2 on October 3 in Cairo, Shaikh Khalid made the first
visit by a Bahraini official to Ramallah to see Palestinian
President Abbas. Shaikh Khalid briefed Livni by telephone
after departing Ramallah.

Democratic Reform

10. (SBU) Bahrain in November/December 2006 conducted its
second set of parliamentary and municipal elections since the
adoption of the 2002 constitution. Some 70 percent of
registered voters and all registered political societies
participated in the elections, with oppositionists winning 18
of 40 seats in the elected lower house Council of
Representatives (COR). Thirty-two of the 40 seats are held by
Islamists (Sunni and Shia) and membership is marked by a
stark Sunni-Shia divide. One woman, Lateefa Al Qaoud, ran
unopposed and is Bahrain's first female elected member of
parliament. An NGO election monitoring committee released
its findings earlier this month and, while the report does
not clearly acknowledge that the elections were free and
fair, it states that the committee did not uncover tangible
evidence of the government rigging election outcomes.

11. (C) In the run-up to the elections, in May 2006, the
government forced the MEPI-funded NDI project director out of
the country. Government officials complained privately that
the director was too close to oppositionists. With an
overwhelming majority of COR members, and almost all members
of municipal councils, being new to their positions, there is
a great need for the type of technical assistance and
expertise offered by NDI. Conditions may be favorable for a
renewed approach to the GOB for the resumption, even if
limited, of NDI programming in Bahrain.

Guantanamo Detainees

12. (C) Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid has come under
pressure from parliament "to do something" about the
remaining two Bahraini detainees at Guantanamo. He is likely
to raise the issue in a call at the Pentagon.

Military Relations

13. (SBU) The U.S. Navy has worked closely with Bahrain for
more than 50 years. When the U.S. Fifth Fleet was
re-commissioned in 1995, Bahrain took the then-controversial
step of being the first Gulf state to provide host government
support for regionally "home-ported" U.S. Navy forces, and
Bahrain remains the only country in the region which hosts a
permanent component command headquarters. NAVCENT directs
naval operations in the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and Gulf

MANAMA 00000184 004 OF 004

of Aden in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi
Freedom, CJTF Horn of Africa, as well as Maritime
Interception Operations to enable freedom of navigation and
prevent oil smuggling, piracy and various other operations in
support of the Global War on Terrorism.

14. (C) Bahrain's relatively stable and secure political
environment allows deployed U.S. Navy ships to stop,
replenish supplies, and provide crews much needed onshore
rest and recreation opportunities. Bahrain is currently one
of the U.S. Navy's busiest overseas ports. In direct support
of OEF and OIF, Bahrain in 2003 deployed 1,500 troops, a tank
battalion task force, and its frigate the RNBS Sabha to
defend Kuwait. Bahrain also flew combat air patrols over
Kuwait and Bahrain and continues to keep F-16s on 24-7 strip
alert. A special operations unit embedded in a UAE
contingent deployed to Afghanistan in 2005. Bahrain assigned
three shore-based naval officers to work in the command post
for maritime task force CTF-150, which covers the Strait of
Hormuz to the Sea of Aden. For CTF-152, which covers central
Gulf waters, Bahrain has provided one frigate and two
corvettes to participate in coalition operations. Bahrain is
the only GCC country to participate in the CTFs.

Military Assistance

15. (C) Bahrain has the smallest economy in the GCC and is
quickly depleting a very limited petroleum reserve. We have
had active FMF and IMET programs in Bahrain for several years
but the FMF program in particular has declined precipitously
in recent years, from $90 million in 2003 to a budgeted $15
million for FY 2007. We are working closely with the
Bahrainis to upgrade their early warning and air defense
radar systems, an initiative that has been promoted in the
Gulf Security Dialogue. Future programs include the sale of
nine Blackhawk helicopters to the Bahraini Air Force ($200
million) and six Bell helicopters to the Ministry of Interior
(approximately $70 million). A proposal to provide two MK-V
Fast Patrol Boats to the Bahraini Navy through
counter-terrorism (1206) funding is awaiting signature by the
Secretaries of State and Defense. Announcing final approval

of this effort during the visit of the CP to the Pentagon
would make a significant statement about the U.S.'s
commitment to Bahrain and the role it plays in the War on

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