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Cable en el que se describe el tablero geopolítico de Irak y sus vecinos (II)

El embajador de EE UU Christopher Hill identifica los intereses de Irán, Siria y Arabia Saudí respecto a Irak

ID: 226620
Date: 2009-09-24 03:22:00
Origin: 09BAGHDAD2562
Source: Embassy Baghdad
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Destination: VZCZCXRO2991
DE RUEHGB #2562/01 2670322
O 240322Z SEP 09



E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/18/2019

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher R. Hill, for reasons 1.4 b and d.

1. (U) This is the first of two cables reviewing Iraq's
relations with key neighboring states, including Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and Turkey, in the wake of the August 19
bombings. Part II reviews Iraq's relations with Syria, in
the wake of the August 19 bombings.

2. (C) Summary: Iraq's relations with its neighbors
represent a critical element in its efforts to maintain
security and stability and normalize its position in the Gulf
and the broader region. While Iraq made substantial progress
in 2008-09 on these fronts, there remained unfinished
business, especially in terms of relations with Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, and Syria. The August 19 bombings -- targeting the
MFA, and by extension Iraq's improving relations with its
neighbors -- represent a serious setback to that progress and
have alarmed senior Iraqi officials that Iraqi Sunni Arab
neighbors in particular now view those earlier gains as
"reversible." Iraq views relations with Saudi Arabia as
among its most challenging, given Riyadh's money, deeply
ingrained anti-Shia attitudes, and suspicions that a Shia-led
Iraq will inevitably further Iranian regional influence.
Iraqi contacts assess that the Saudi goal (and that of most
other Sunni Arab states, to vary degrees) is to enhance Sunni
influence, dilute Shia dominance and promote the formation of
a weak and fractured Iraqi government. Coincidentally,
Iranian efforts are driven by a clear determination to see a
sectarian, Shia-dominated government that is weak,
disenfranchised from its Arab neighbors, detached from the
U.S. security apparatus and strategically dependent on Iran.
Neither of these objectives is in the U.S. interest. In the
longer term, we will need to flesh out ideas for a post-GCC
security architecture that includes Iraq more fully, develops
ways to contain Iranian regional influence, and shapes the
special position Iraq will likely occupy in the Gulf in ways
that further our interests and those of our Gulf partners.
End Summary.

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3. (C) Iraqi officials view relations with Saudi Arabia as
among their most problematic, although they are usually
careful with U.S. officials to avoid overly harsh criticism,
given our close relations with the Saudis. Iraqi officials
note that periodic anti-Shia outbursts from Saudi religious
figures are often allowed to circulate without sanction or
disavowal from the Saudi leadership. This reality reinforces
the Iraqi view that the Saudi state religion of Wahabbi Sunni
Islam condones religious incitement against Shia. The
suspicion is that these anti-Shia attitudes color Saudi views
of a Shia-led Iraq. The Saudis have traditionally viewed
Iraq as a Sunni-dominated bulwark against the spread of
Shiism and Iranian political influence. In the wake of
bombings in predominantly Shia areas across the country in
June 2009 that killed dozens, PM Maliki pointed publicly to
one such statement, made by a Saudi imam in May, and noted,
"We have observed that many governments have been
suspiciously silent on the fatwa provoking the killing of

4. (C) For now the Saudis are using their money and media
power (al-Arabiyya, al-Sharqiya satellite channels, and other
various media they control or influence) to support Sunni
political aspirations, exert influence over Sunni tribal
groups, and undercut the Shia-led Islamic Supreme Council of
Iraq (ISCI) and Iraqi National Alliance (INA). NSC advisor
QIraq (ISCI) and Iraqi National Alliance (INA). NSC advisor
Safa al-Sheikh told us recently that Saudi influence in Iraq
was significant, perhaps more significant than Iran's at the
moment, given the financial and media assets at its disposal,
and given Iran's recent internal distractions. He described
the Saudi "media message" as having shifted a few years ago
from one that was hostile to the GOI and sympathetic to the
insurgency, to one that focused now more on an anti-ISCI
message. According to PM Advisor Sadiq al-Rikabi, the Saudis
are opposed to a strong Shia-led INA. Al-Sheikh also
assessed that the Saudis would try to curb ISCI and INA and
throw support to Sunni groups to counter Iranian influence,
steps that could end up indirectly supporting Maliki, if he
continues to pursue a cross-sectarian coalition in the
elections. These contacts assess that the Saudi goal (and to
varying degrees most other Sunni states) is to enhance Sunni
influence, dilute Shia dominance, and promote the formation
of a weak and more fractured Iraqi government. (COMMENT:
Coincidentally, Iran also sees as in its interest a weak
Iraqi government, albeit one with Shia firmly in control.)

5. (C) Some observers see a more malign Saudi influence. A
recent Iraqi press article quoted anonymous Iraqi
intelligence sources assessing that Saudi Arabia was leading
a Gulf effort to destabilize the Maliki government and was

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financing "the current al Qaida offensive in Iraq." The
article also quoted MP Haidar al-Abadi, a Maliki political
ally, insisting that Gulf Arab neighbors wanted to
destabilize Iraq. A few of our more senior contacts hint at
similar malign intentions "by some neighbors," making clear
without being explicit that they are referring to Saudi

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6. (C) Although Kuwait re-opened its Embassy and sent an
ambassador in 2008, bilateral relations remain hostage to
Chapter VII concerns. While the Kuwaitis have indicated some
willingness to reduce significantly the amount of
compensation Iraq is paying under UNSCR 687, they have
insisted in return on GOI re-affirmation in its entirety of
UNSCR 833, entailing acceptance of the land borders and
maritime boundary between the two countries. The latter in
particular is highly problematic for the Iraqi leadership,
especially in an election year, according to senior contacts.
At present, Iraq has unimpeded navigational access from the
Gulf to the port of Um Qasr, but some two-thirds of the deep
water channel of the Khor Abdullah now lies -- as a result of
the 833 demarcation -- in Kuwaiti territorial waters. Some
observers, such as Da'wa Party MP Sami al-Askari, have
expressed concern to us that after U.S. forces withdraw
fully, Kuwait will try to control Iraq's access to the sea,
"and that border demarcation will allow it." In his view,
"No Iraqi leader could ever formally recognize the maritime
border." Even PM Maliki believes this. Despite these
difficulties, the Iraqi and Kuwaiti sides have made
significant progress cooperating in the past six months on
Kuwaiti missing persons and property. NSC advisor al-Sheikh
believes that the Chapter VII issues with Kuwait will
eventually be resolved and that "we do not consider Kuwait a
problem country" like some of the other neighbors.
Nevertheless, the border issue is an acute friction point and
could, in the view of Maliki, become grounds for
confrontation between the two.


7. (C) Iranian influence in Iraq remains pervasive, as
Tehran manipulates a range of levers to mold Iraq's
political, religious, social, and economic landscape.
Overall, however, the GOI views its relations with Iran in a
special category, posing risks that are manageable and not
viewed as existential threats to the state. Obviously many
Sunni contacts -- and many of our allies in the region -- see
the situation in far starker terms and fear that Iraq could
fall into Iran's political orbit and rendered unable to speak
or act independently, once U.S. troops draw down. Iranian
efforts are driven by a clear determination to see a
sectarian, Shia-dominated government that is weak,
disenfranchised from its Arab neighbors, detached from the
U.S. security apparatus and strategically dependent on Iran.

8. (C) While significantly weaker than the Saudis and others
on media, the Iranians fund political parties and key
individuals (as other neighboring countries do), according to
a range of well-informed Iraqi contacts. Shia contacts like
PM advisor Rikabi and NSC advisor al-Sheikh, as well as
others such as (Kurdish) FM Zebari, do not dismiss the
significant Iranian influence but instead argue that it:

-- is best countered by Iraqi Shia political actors, who know
how to deal with Iran;

-- is not aimed, unlike that of some Sunni Arab neighbors, at
fomenting terrorism that would destabilize the government;
Qfomenting terrorism that would destabilize the government;

-- will naturally create nationalistic Iraqi resistance to it
(both Shia and more broadly), if other outsiders do not
intervene to stoke Sunni-Shia sectarian tension; and

-- has been frozen in place to some extent in the past few
months by the political turmoil inside Iran.

9. (C) According to al-Sheikh, Iraq and Iran have "very
special, very frank talks" in which Iraq's Shia-led
government is able to push back effectively against Iranian
influence on some fronts. Observers generally credit the
Iranians with playing a more sophisticated game than the
Syrians, as they try to shape the political process to their
liking. These contacts acknowledge that Iran is providing
some form of covert support to armed groups like the Promise
Day Brigades and other small groups, but maintain they have
stopped support for the big militias. It should be noted
that some contacts demonstrate discomfort when asked about
Iranian influence and show an alacrity for moving on to other

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neighbors in the region.

10. (C) Relations with Turkey are relatively positive.
Turkey intervened diplomatically to attempt to mediate the
post-August 19 crisis with the Syrians, and unlike the
Iranian effort, seems to have gotten some traction with the
parties. The effort has been well-received here, even if
concrete progress has been limited. The Iraqis and Turks
have established a Strategic Commission that meets
periodically at the ministerial level, paving the way for
head of state visits marking significant economic
cooperation. PM Erdogan is expected in Baghdad in October,
following up on the ministerial in mid-September in Ankara.
Bilateral trade is currently at $7 billion annually, and the
two countries hope it will expand significantly in the coming
decade. Moreover, Turkey has worked to improve its relations
with the KRG, and they have significantly increased their
diplomatic and commercial presence in the Kurdish areas.
However, the Turks also have been active on the Iraqi
political front, funding groups like the Mosul-based Sunni
Al-Hudba movement, in an effort to offset Kurd influence in
areas outside Kurdistan.

11. (C) It is the water issue that threatens to complicate
an improving Iraq-Turkey relationship. According to DFM
Labid Abbawi, Iraq needs a flow of 700 cubic meters of water
for its needs but could get back with a minimum of 500.
However, Turkey was only allowing a flow of about 230 cubic
meters (with an uptick in August and September beyond that
level). A recent visit to Turkey by the Iraqi Minister of
Water was not very productive, he noted.


12. (C) It will help Iraq's efforts to maintain stability
and security, and to continue moving forward in normalization
with neighbors, if we and the P-5 can provide the requisite
support for the appointment by the UN of a senior official
(someone other than SRSG head Melkert, who already has a full
plate with UNAMI) to look into the August 19 bombings. We
should also weigh in with key neighbors to urge a redoubling
of efforts in normalizing relations with Iraq, keeping up the
pressure on Egypt and Saudi Arabia in particular to return
their Ambassadors. We should also caution Iraq's Arab
neighbors against efforts to inflame Shia-Sunni anxieties
through their support for Sunni parties and by Shia-critical
media attacks. Regarding Kuwait, we will need to work for
steady progress on Chapter VII where possible, focusing on
Oil-for-Food and WMD resolutions 1546 and 707, initially,
with a push after elections to make progress on the
Kuwait-related resolutions.

13. (C) In the longer term, we will need to flesh out
ideas for a post-GCC security architecture that includes Iraq
more fully, develops ways to contain Iranian regional
influence, and shapes the special position Iraq will likely
occupy in the Gulf in ways that further our interests and
those of our Gulf partners. The challenge for us is to
convince Iraq neighbors, particularly the Sunni Arab
governments, that relations with a new Iraq are not a
zero-sum game, where if Iraq wins, they lose. We still have
work to do to convince them that a strong, stable, democratic
(and inevitably Shia-led) Iraq is the best guarantee that
Iraq will be able to shake Iranian manipulation and see its
future bound up with that of the West and its moderate Arab