Riyadh wikileaks

C O N F I D E N T I A L RIYADH 000118 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/27/2020 
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: 
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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. 
- - - - 
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: 
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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: 
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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 
Concern over TSA Regulations: 
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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.