C O N F I D E N T I A L RIYADH 000118 SIPDIS LONDON PASS TO SECRETARY'S PARTY NEA FOR ARP E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/27/2020 TAGS: PREL MNUC PTER PGOV KGHG SENV ETRD SA IR SUBJECT: SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTRY PRESSING CHINA TO STOP IRANIAN PROLIFERATION, CONCERNED ABOUT TSA REGULATIONS Classified By: Ambassador James B. Smith, reasons 1.4 (b and d). ¶1. (C) Summary: Saudi Foreign Ministry officials told visiting NEA A/S Feltman that they are convinced Iran intends to develop a nuclear weapon, and that the Saudi Foreign Minister pressed his counterpart hard for greater Chinese engagement on this threat during the Chinese FM's visit earlier in January. While no explicit deal was discussed, Saudi Arabia made it clear it was willing to address Chinese concerns on energy security and trade in exchange for effective Chinese support to prevent Iranian proliferation. Saudi Arabia is also concerned about Iran's unhelpful role in Yemen. While generally very pleased with the state of bilateral relations, Saudi officials strenuously - and under instruction - complained about the continued negative effect of the recent Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) regulations that call for extra security screening for Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Foreign Minister will raise these concerns with the Secretary in London on January 27. They noted that the Saudi public is increasingly upset by this, and does not understand why they were put in the same group with Cuba, which has prompted some Saudis to question how special their relationship with the United States really is. A/S Feltman urged Saudi Arabia to associate itself with the Copenhagen Accord by January 31. The MFA reported that Saudi Arabia donated $50 million for Haitian relief efforts on January 25. End Summary.
Iranian Nuclear Ambitions: - - - - - - - - - - - - - ¶2. (C) Visiting NEA A/S Feltman discussed a wide range of issues with Deputy Saudi Foreign Minister Dr. Prince Torki Al-Saud Al-Kabir on January 26. Prince Torki said Saudi Arabia is convinced that Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons, and reported that Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal pressed the Chinese Foreign Minister on this issue on his January 17 visit. Saud Al-Faisal told the Chinese that, for Saudi Arabia, this is a critical security issue. Iran,s getting nuclear weapons will open the door to the rest of the Middle East pursuing nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia would prefer that the Middle East remain a nuclear free zone. When the Chinese Foreign Minister replied that China will not accept Iran's development of nuclear weapons, Saud Al-Faisal told him that China will have to work more closely with the rest of the world and the UN Security Council to prevent this from happening. ¶3. (C) Prince Torki agreed that it was not helpful that the Chinese sent a low-level delegation to the most recent 5 1 talks. He also agreed it was unfortunate the delegation did not agree it was time now to increase pressure on Iran. Al-Kabir also noted that time was not in the UN Security Council's favor, but in Iran's. Prince Torki said that Saudi Arabia was convinced the time was ripe to push China on this issue. It would be important to demonstrate that the assurances FM Al-Faisal got were not just from the Foreign Minister, but represented the thinking of the whole government. He said that Saudi Arabia repeated these points to the Chinese Middle East special envoy, who visited a week later. Saudi Arabia has also raised these concerns with Russia, "which is closer to the U.S. and Saudi positions," and with the Deputy French Foreign Minister three weeks ago. Prince Torki also agreed to work with Lebanon's UN Mission, now on the Security Council, where it is sure to confront the issue of Iranian proliferation. ¶4. (C) Prince Torki said that China never directly raised the issue of its concerns about securing sufficient oil supplies, particularly in the event of a cutoff of Iranian supplies. However, Saudi Arabia fully understands China's concerns, and in that context, is pleased that the Chinese Foreign Minister had &successful8 talks with Saudi Aramco and trade officials about specific commercial and energy issues. Prince Torki noted that Saudi Arabia has become one of China's largest energy suppliers, and has invested billions of dollars in refineries in China. Trade has grown from $140 million a decade ago to $75 billion now, with prospects for further increases. Prince Torki concluded by noting that Saudi Arabia knows what concerns China, and is willing to take actions to address those concerns, but must have Chinese cooperation in stopping Iran,s development of nuclear weapons as a quid pro quo. Saudi Arabia is encouraging other Gulf countries to meet with China to explore similar cooperation, although it expects these countries will seek the same exchange. Yemen: - - - - ¶5. (C) Prince Torki explained that Saudi Arabia also believes that Iran is playing an unhelpful role in Yemen. Dismissing the need for specific evidence, he said it was hard to explain how the Houthis, as a poor tribal group, managed to get so much money so quickly to obtain the heavy armaments that they have been using absent the help of some outside group. It is also hard, he argued, to explain the striking similarities with techniques that have been used by pro-Iranian groups in Iraq. Saudi Arabia is convinced that Iran is providing money for poor tribesmen to fight, as well as payments to their families, and is facilitating contact with Somalia and Al Qaeda. Prince Torki said the Saudi Defense Forces have been impressed how well the Houthis have fought, displaying advanced training. (Note: in a separate meeting, Ministry of Interior officials echoed many of these assessments in greater detail, septel. End Note). ¶6. (C) Prince Torki was unequivocal in stating that Saudi Arabia has no intention of becoming part of the current conflict between the central government and the Houthis. Saudi Arabia felt it had to respond, however, after Houthi forces crossed its border. He said that it made little sense for the Houthis to have attacked Saudi Arabia, especially since the SAG had warned them previously not to. He concluded that Iran was trying to test Saudi reactions. Yemen does not need U.S. troops, but does need equipment, training and information, as well as assistance to meet its long-term development challenges. He also said that Saudi Arabia is very concerned about Al Qaeda's continued presence in Yemen, as it will exploit any opportunity to attack Saudi Arabia and the United States. Bilateral Relations: - - - - - - - - - - - ¶7. (C). Prince Torki agreed that our bilateral relations are quite strong in general. He singled out counter-terrorism as an example of the strength of cooperation, noting that Saudi Arabia enjoys a unique level of cooperation on security with the United States. Prince Torki confirmed that Saudi Arabia had contributed $50 million to the Haiti relief effort on January 25, which is the largest contribution to date of any Middle Eastern country. He also welcomed greater U.S. engagement in multilateral and international organizations. Climate Change: - - - - - - - - 8.(SBU) A/S Feltman noted the importance that the President places on Climate Change, and the Copenhagen Accord. Given that Minister of Petroleum Al-Naimi was involved in crafting the final agreement, A/S Feltman noted the United States is counting on Saudi Arabia to associate itself with the accord by January 31. Prince Torki said that Saudi Arabia was very pleased the United States was more actively engaged in this issue, and said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports trying to address this issue. He noted that the MFA will have to consult with other involved ministries, such as the Ministry of Petroleum, and promised to respond before January ¶31. Concern over TSA Regulations: - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ¶9. (SBU) Prince Torki noted he had been instructed to raise Saudi Arabia's significant concern about the TSA regulations which had included Saudi Arabia in a limited group of countries for additional airport screening. Prince Torki said that this issue had caused a lot of difficulties and embarrassment for Saudi Arabia, to the degree that Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal will raise this with the Secretary in London on January 27. Prince Torki said that Saudi Arabia was not upset about the regulation itself, as it recognized the U.S. right and obligation to protect its citizens. The issue, rather, was inclusion on the list with the likes of Cuba, which causes Saudi Arabia's friends and enemies to question how strong its bilateral relationship with the United States really is. Prince Torki said it is very hard to explain to the Saudi public why they are included on this list, despite not being the origin of the December 25 flight, while other countries that have had recent terrorist incidents on planes, like the UK, Egypt and Turkey, are not. Prince Torki said that Saudi Arabia had been shocked to be included on the list. He noted that Saudi Arabia had been told these provisions would only be temporary, and said Saudi Arabia would like to know how and when they will be amended, implying that the longer they remained in effect without any public explanation from the USG, the more it was likely to prompt the Saudi Government to re-evaluate areas of cooperation, including counter-terrorism cooperation. A/S Feltman promised to convey the spirit and strength of the message, and invited any specific Saudi suggestions to address the security gap regarding nonmetallic explosives exploited in the December 25 incident. Middle East Peace: - - - - - - - - - ¶10. (C) In response to a question, A/S Feltman explained that the United States believes that we need to get the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, which will be the best way to compel Israel to follow through on its public statements and to overcome Palestinian skepticism. A/S Feltman noted that the United States had referred to the 1967 lines with swaps as a way of helping encourage the Palestinians to return to the table. Prince Torki welcomed this overview. (U) This cable has been cleared by A/S Feltman. SMITH