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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09MUSCAT185 2009-03-16 14:17:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Muscat
Cable title:  

REGIONAL INTEGRATION OF IRAQ: OMAN

Tags:   PGOV PREL MU IZ 
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VZCZCXRO7488
RR RUEHDE
DE RUEHMS #0185/01 0751415
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 161417Z MAR 09 ZDS
FM AMEMBASSY MUSCAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0232
INFO GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0008
RUEHMS/AMEMBASSY MUSCAT
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MUSCAT 000185 

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/I AND NEA/ARP

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (FORMAT, ADDRESSEE)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019-03-16
TAGS: PGOV PREL MU IZ
SUBJECT: REGIONAL INTEGRATION OF IRAQ: OMAN

REF: A) STATE 21447; B) 08 MUSCAT 877

MUSCAT 00000185 001.3 OF 002


CLASSIFIED BY: L. Victor Hurtado, Charge d'Affaires, U.S. Department
of State, U.S. Embassy - Muscat; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

Summary
-------



1. (C) Oman maintains cordial, but limited
relations with the government of Iraq. Although
there are no divisive issues separating the two countries, neither
are there bilateral ties or common interests strong enough at this
time to prompt Muscat to seek to expand its relationship with
Baghdad. Oman does not begrudge Iraqi participation in the GCC plus
3, but is concerned that this forum may be perceived as primarily
anti-Iran. Developing business and commercial ties between Oman and
Iraq, coupled with continued improvements in Iraq's security
environment, afford the greatest opportunities for the strengthening
of Oman-Iraq relations, including the appointment of a resident Omani
ambassador in Baghdad. Oman also would likely back GCC efforts to
help Iraq resume its place in the regional and international
communities. For its part, the Iraqi government might consider
posting a defense attachC) at its embassy in Muscat to help develop a
military-to-military relationship. End Summary.

Status of Oman-Iraq Relations


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





2. (C) The Omani leadership has no grievances against, or major
issues with, the Iraqi government. Oman forgave early on Iraq's
limited foreign debt and supports its inclusion in Arab institutions,
as most recently evidenced by the participation of an Iraqi
parliamentary delegation in the Muscat-hosted Arab Parliamentary
Union (APU) conference in March 2009. Iraq maintains a small embassy
and a resident ambassador in Muscat, although Oman has declined to
re-open its embassy in Baghdad for security reasons. Sultan Qaboos
told the Ambassador in spring 2008 that he recognized that Oman and
other Arab states should "do more" to support the Iraqi government.
A senior Omani economic delegation consequently staged a three-day
visit to Baghdad from July 29 b" July 1, 2008; an Iraqi trade
delegation made a reciprocal visit to Oman in January 2009.



3. (C) While there are no major irritants in the Oman-Iraq
relationship, neither are there sufficiently strong ties or shared
interests to draw the two countries -- which have always been
somewhat distant in both geographic and political terms -- closer
together. [Note: Oman was distrustful of Iraqi Ba'athist regimes
given their support for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman
(PFLO) during and even after the Darfur rebellion in the 1970s. End
Note.] Omani officials remain concerned that extremist and sectarian
violence in Iraq could spill over into other states in the region,
but otherwise do not see the Sultanate as having a direct vested
interest in Iraq that would justify expanding its limited relations
with Baghdad. Also, some Omani officials continue to harbor doubts
about Prime Minister Maliki's ability to maintain effective control
of the country without U.S. military assistance and to achieve
reconciliation with Sunni leaders.

GCC Plus 3


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





4. (C) Oman values the opportunity for direct dialogue
with the Secretary afforded by its participation
in the GCC plus 3. Given its complicated relationship with its
neighbor to the north, however, Oman is very concerned that the GCC
plus 3 may be perceived primarily as an anti-Iran body. Moreover,
while the Omani government has no objection in principle to the
addition of Iraq to the group, officials in Muscat sometimes gripe
about inclusion of non-GCC countries that have differing political,
demographic and security concerns from the Gulf states (and which
dilute Omanbs voice in the forum).

Obstacles to Improving Oman-Iraq Relations


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





5. (C) Relatively weak bilateral ties as noted above, along with Oman's
traditional reluctance to become deeply involved in regional security
matters or political controversies, probably represent the greatest
barrier to a strengthening of relations between Oman and Iraq. The
lack of active Iraqi outreach to Oman, either through its embassy in
Muscat or in other channels, is also a factor. Content for the most
part to let other GCC countries take the lead on Iraq, Omani
officials see no valid reason to shake up the status quo in its
relations with Baghdad at this time. The government has so far
declined to make even the symbolic move of naming a non-resident
ambassador to Iraq, arguing that it won't pursue form over substance
by appointing an ambassador until that individual can safely live and
work in Baghdad. In this context, Oman would likely be open to
participating in a new regional cooperation forum, but would want it
to serve an identified and useful purpose that would set it apart
from existing dialogue mechanisms.

The Way Forward


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





6. (C) The best hope for strengthened Oman-Iraq
ties lies with developing commercial relations
between the two countries and continued improvements in the security
situation in Iraq. As more Omani companies establish business
interests in Iraq, and as more Arab countries post ambassadors and
beef up their diplomatic presence in an increasingly secure Iraqi
capital, the more likely Oman will be to name an ambassador to Iraq
and engage in senior-level consultations with Iraqi officials.
Embassy Muscat can help this process by facilitating communications

MUSCAT 00000185 002.2 OF 002


between Muscat and Baghdad, and by continuing to remind the Omani
government that the best way to prevent Iraq from becoming a Shi'a
dominated state under Iranian influence is for countries such as Oman
to do more to integrate Iraq into the broader region. For its part,
Iraq could consider posting a defense attachC) at its embassy in
Baghdad to help develop a military-to-military relationship with
Oman. This could also potentially lead to an invitation to Iraq to
become an observer in Omani military exercises (or GCC exercises in
Oman) open to foreign observers.