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Viewing cable 08MANAMA235, SCENESETTER FOR CNO VISIT TO BAHRAIN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANAMA235 2008-04-10 13:01 2011-02-18 21:09 SECRET Embassy Manama
VZCZCXRO8786
PP RUEHDE RUEHDIR
DE RUEHMK #0235/01 1011354
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 101354Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7764
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JCS WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHDC PRIORITY
RHBVAKS/COMUSNAVCENT  PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 MANAMA 000235 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FOR THE CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS FROM AMBASSADOR ERELI 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/10/2018 
TAGS: PREL MARR MASS IR BA
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR CNO VISIT TO BAHRAIN 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Adam Ereli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) -------- Overview --------

1.(S) Admiral Roughhead, Embassy Manama is delighted to welcome you to Bahrain. This is as good a bilateral relationship as we have anywhere: Bahrain,s leaders share our strategic vision for the region and they identify their national interest as tied to ours.

2.(S) Your visit comes on the heels of a very successful visit by King Hamad to Washington. You will find the leadership focused on missile defense, coastal radar upgrades, and the return of Navy dependents. Multilateral air and maritime defense initiatives have been a subject of steady follow-up with the Bahrainis since Secretary Gates, meetings with regional Chiefs of Staff on the margins of the Manama Dialogue in December 2007.

3.(S) On the political side, the Bahraini leadership will be outspoken in its condemnation of Iranian actions and behavior and will probe you on our plans for dealing with this threat. On April 21, Bahrain will host a meeting of GCC plus 2 Foreign Ministers, which will include Secretary Rice. During the King,s visit, the U.S. and Bahrain signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Nuclear Cooperation, the first of its kind in the Gulf. Internally, political conditions in Bahrain remain tense and unsettled. ---------------------------------------- Missile Defense and Regional Cooperation ----------------------------------------

4.(S) The top security priority for Bahrain,s leadership is missile defense. King Hamad told Secretary Gates on March 26 that Bahrain has assessed the need for three Patriot firing units to cover the island. He said that that he hoped the U.S. would provide one, while Bahrain would buy or lease the other two. A Patriot firing unit will temporarily deploy to Bahrain in May as part of the annual GCC military exercise, Eagle Resolve. OSD is examining a number of options for providing a longer-term solution, including re-deployment to the region of some of the Patriot units currently based in the United States as well as the periodic deployment of SM-2 and SM-3 equipped AEGIS cruisers.

5.(S) The most significant deliverable to come out of the SecDef,s December meetings in Manama with Chiefs of Staff from the GCC and Jordan is the recognition that effective regional air and maritime defense requires multilateral cooperation. On that basis, OSD has launched a number of initiatives to develop multilateral capabilities. In February, NAVCENT hosted a Maritime Infrastructure Symposium which was attended by representatives from the GCC and some NATO countries. On 22-23 June, Air Force Chief of Staff Mosley will bring together in Bahrain Air Chiefs from the GCC plus Jordan to develop a way-ahead for shared early warning and regional, mutual air defense. The Air Chiefs from the GCC Jordan and Egypt will be invited to participate. ------------------------------------- Coastal Defense and Maritime Security -------------------------------------

6.(S) The Government of Bahrain is very concerned about its vulnerability to maritime threats ranging from piracy, to drug trafficking, to terrorism. Enhancing coastal defense and maritime security is a priority second only to missile defense. The Ministry of Interior (MoI) has embarked on an ambitious program to enhance the counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics capabilities of its Coast Guard Special Units. We have seen considerable commitment and improvement.

7.(S) For this reason, the Embassy strongly supports a NAVCENT-initiated Section 1206 funded proposal to upgrade Bahrain,s Coastal Surveillance Radar. If approved, this proposal would significantly improve Bahrain,s maritime security capability and send a strong message of support to the government at a time of steep reductions in FMF and IMET funding. Under this proposal the Bahrain Navy will receive new equipment that will augment the system already owned by the Bahrain Coast Guard. The picture will be shared with the Bahrain Coast Guard, Bahrain Military Intelligence, and the U.S. Navy. The radar picture can potentially be shared with MANAMA 00000235 002 OF 003 other countries in the region. ------------------ Royal Bahrain Navy ------------------

8.(S) On March 4, Bahrain's navy took command of Combined Task Force (CTF) 152, the coalition maritime force that patrols the central and southern Arabian Gulf. It is the first time a Gulf state has commanded a coalition military operation. The Royal Bahrain Navy has been struggling to keep its frigate, Sabha (Jack Williams), sea worthy. Low budgets and a lack of a professional NCO Corps have allowed relatively minor problems to hamper readiness. NAVCENT has provided extensive support in order to maintain the Sabha,s operability, but it is overdue for DSRA. NAVSEA will conduct a ship check in June 2008 to determine what repairs are required.

9.(S) The RBN will receive 6 Boston Whaler Boats in July 2008. These boats were procured through section 1206 authority. Two Mk-V Fast Patrol Boats will be procured through section 1206 and will be delivered in 2009. -------------------- U.S. Navy Dependents --------------------

10.(S) Secretary Gates told the King during their meeting in Washington in March that Navy dependents would begin returning as soon as this month and that families could begin returning as early as this summer. The Crown Prince is a strong advocate for the people-to-people contacts fostered by having Navy families in Bahrain. He views this as important to maintaining domestic support for his strategy of alignment with the U.S. The Crown Prince is, himself, a graduate of the DoD Bahrain School, and his son will graduate from the school at the end of the academic year. -------------------------------------- Regional Security - GCC plus 2 and GSD --------------------------------------

11.(S) King Hamad and Crown Prince Salman are playing a leading role in strengthening security cooperation among GCC states and with the United States. Bahrain pushed to host the GCC plus 2 (Egypt, Jordan) Foreign Ministers. It is scheduled to take place in Manama on April 21, with Secretary Rice representing the United States. The goal of this gathering, in the words of Bahrain,s Foreign Minister, is to show the region, and Iran, that there is "an alliance that will not stand by and watch countries fall to Iran one by one."

12.(C) The Foreign Minister has also agreed to invite Iraqi FM Zebari in an effort to reach out to Al-Maliki,s government. In addition, the FM confirmed during the King,s Washington visit that Bahrain would soon return its ambassador to Baghdad.

13.(C) The Crown Prince chaired the November 2007 iteration of the Gulf Security Dialogue here in Manama. We anticipate that he will lead Bahrain,s delegation for the proposed GSD talks this coming June. He strongly supports GSD and has advocated taking a more strategic approach to the discussions. ------------------- Nuclear Cooperation -------------------

14.(S) In nuclear energy, as with regional security, Bahrain is leading by example and demonstrating to others in the Gulf how to be on the right side of an issue. On March 26, the U.S. and Bahrain signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Nuclear Energy Cooperation, as well as a statement of support for the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. Bahrain is also seeking an invitation to participate in the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. Bahrain,s example provided a marked counterpoint to Iran,s ilicit pursuit of nuclear technology. -------------- Internal Issues ---------------

15.C) Internally, conditions in Bahrain continue to smmer. Small but violent bands of Shi'a underclas youth, MANAMA 00000235 003 OF 003 frustrated with persistent discrimination and what they perceive as too gradual a pace of reform, clash with police nearly every week. The Sunni minority, which rules the country and controls all security forces, has generally acted with restraint, but as last December's riots showed, an accidental death or other mistake can lead to larger confrontations. The opposition Shi'a Wifaq party, the largest in parliament, has acted responsibly to quiet Shi'a hot-heads, but more radical elements continue to provoke violence in the hope of exploiting it for political gain. The most recent and disturbing escalation of violence occurred the evening of April 9, when a policeman was killed in the Shi,a village of Kazarkhan by youths who threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, igniting his vehicle.

16.(S) There are also extremists among the Sunni minority. In January, a court sentenced three local Sunnis to time served (six months), after finding them guilty of conspiring with Al-Qaeda operatives outside Bahrain to commit acts of terror in the country. While the sentence was disappointing to us and to the leadership of Bahrain's security establishment, their conviction represented a first, successful test of the 2006 counterterorrism law. Bahraini security appears to be keeping a close watch on the convicts and their sympathizers. ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ******** ERELI