Viewing cable 10DOHA70, SENATOR KERRY'S MEETING WITH QATAR'S AMIR
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|10DOHA70||2010-02-23 10:10||2010-11-28 18:06||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Doha|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L DOHA 000070 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/13/2020 TAGS: PREL KWBG KPAL IR QA SUBJECT: SENATOR KERRY'S MEETING WITH QATAR'S AMIR Classified By: Ambassador Joseph E. LeBaron, for reasons 1.4 (b, d). -------------- (C) KEY POINTS -------------- -- The Amir of Qatar urged the U.S. in his February 14 meeting with Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to do everything in its power to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Amir said the best way to begin is by moving first on the Syrian track. -- In Qatar's view, now is the time to reach out to Damascus. The Syrian Government can help Arab extremists make tough choices, but only if the U.S., whose involvement is essential, demonstrates to Syria early on a willingness to address the return of the Golan Heights and supports Turkey's mediation efforts between Israel and Syria. -- According to the Amir, Hamas will accept the 1967 border with Israel, but will not say it publicly so as to lose popular Palestinian support. -- The Egyptians' goal, according to the Amir, is to stay in the game and maintain their relationship with the U.S., which is built around brokering regional peace, for as long as possible. -- The Amir recommended that the U.S. and Qatar establish a small bilateral committee to discuss how to advance regional peace. Qatar can help move Hamas, because Qatar does not "play in their internal politics." That does not mean Qatar shares Hamas' ideology, stressed the Amir. -- On Iran, the Amir said President Ahmadinejad is strong because he is uncorrupted. The Amir also advised the U.S. to continue ts efforts to open a dialogue with the Iranian ladership. End Key Points. ¶1. (C) Senator Joh Kerry (D-MA), the Chairman of the Senate Foreig Relations Committee(SFRC), joined by Ambassador,P/E Chief, and SFRC staff member Dr. Jonah Blank met February 14 with the Amir of Qatar, Hamad bn Khalifa Al Thani. The meeting took place at Waba Palace, the residence of the Amir, and the Amir began the meeting by pointing out that the comfortable chairs on which the U.S. party was seated were made in Syria. ------------------------------ IMPORTANCE OF THE SYRIAN TRACK ------------------------------ ¶2. (C) This opening led Senator Kerry to remark that he had held great discussions with Syria's President, Bashar Al-Asad, when he met him in Damascus some months ago. The Amir said President Asad is committed to "big change," but Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri's death and complications resulting from Syria's alleged involvement in it had brought about "complications" for Asad. The Amir added that "Bashar is still young and can grow." ¶3. (C) Senator Kerry said he took away from his visit to Damascus that Asad wants change. The Amir added that the Syrian President also wants peace with Israel and that the arrival of a U.S. Ambassador in Damascus would help in this regard. Senator Kerry said he had wanted a U.S. Ambassador in Syria a year ago, but agreed that the naming of an Ambassador is a positive development. ¶4. (C) The Amir cautioned that the Syrians will not accept everything the U.S. proposes, stressing that the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights continues and that the return of this land to Syria is paramount for Damascus. The Amir observed that the "Syrians have lost confidence in the U.S. and that the Israelis now have the upper hand in the region because of the support of the United States." The Israeli leaders need to represent the people of Israel, who themselves do not trust Arabs. The Amir said this is understandable and "we can't blame them" because the Israelis have been "under threat" for a long time. ¶5. (C) What has changed, continued the Amir, is that Arabs "for sure" now want two states -- Israel and Palestine. When you consider that many in the region perceive that Hizballah drove Israel out of Lebanon and Hamas kicked them (at least initially) out "of the small piece of land called Gaza," it is actually surprising that the Israelis still want peace. The region, however, is still "far away" from peace, concluded the Amir. ¶6. (C) Senator Kerry responded that in his long experience with the region, it was not unusual for people to take positions adverse to their own interests. Yasser Arafat went from living as a terrorist in Tunisia to signing an agreement with Israel on the White House lawn. The transformation of Arafat is an example of how actors in the region need to take risks if we are to move forward in advancing regional peace. Turning the conversation back to Syria, Chairman Kerry pointed out that Syria's facilitation of arms to Hizballah and its turning a blind eye to missile upgrades in Lebanon do not represent risk-taking in the promotion of peace. ¶7. (C) The Amir pointed out that any progress toward regional peace had come about due to American involvement. He implied that it would take U.S. intervention on the Syrian-Israeli track to address these issues and asked Senator Kerry what he would have Damascus do. ¶8. (C) The Chairman responded that President Asad needs to make a bolder move and take risks. He observed that if the Syrian President wants peace and economic development for his country, he needs to be more statesman-like, which would in turn help Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu engage him. ¶9. (C) The Amir agreed with Senator Kerry's assessment of Asad's aims and said he is ready for peace, but asked if the Israelis are ready. Would Israel accept to resume Turkey's mediation between Syria and Israel? Would the U.S. play a role in advancing the Syria track? ¶10. (C) If we can get Abu Mazen back to the negotiating table, we can engage on border issues -- including Israel's borders with Syria, advised Senator Kerry. Abu Mazen right now is not strong enough, though, to make necessary compromises with Israel because the Palestinian people have wanted him to stick to his guns on a settlement freeze and the Goldstone Report. The Chairman added that Netanyahu also needs to compromise and work the return of the Golan Heights into a formula for peace. ¶11. (C) The Amir encouraged the U.S. to work the Golan Heights issue first. He stressed that Syrians are very different from Iranians in "mentality," and said the Syrians turned to Iran for support only because they had nowhere else to go. Now is the time, the Amir told Senator Kerry, to reach out to Damascus. ------------------------- PARAMETERS FOR DISCUSSION ------------------------- ¶12. (C) Senator Kerry responded that the U.S. is prepared to play a strong role in bringing about peace in the region. President Obama, said the Chairman, understands that he personally must engage and do so strongly. The Senator told the Amir that in his speech to the U.S.-Islamic Forum the previous evening, the Senator had focused on former President Clinton's parameters for peace and the 2002 Arab League peace initiative. Now, said the Senator, is the time to put those back on the table and resume talking, with the U.S. acting as a legitimate agent of peace. Chairman Kerry told the Amir he is convinced that we can see great progress in the coming year by moving swiftly from proximity talks, to direct talks between the parties and ending with final status discussions. ¶13. (C) To be successful, continued Senator Kerry, we must begin by agreeing at the outset the amount of land each side (Israelis and Palestinians) will obtain in the end and use that understanding to draw the borders. If both sides make good compromises, we can address the settlement issues in the context of giving something up so that the borders, when drawn, contain the agreed-upon amounts of land for both sides. The Amir agreed with the Senator's assessment and complimented President Obama for being the first U.S. President to take on the Middle East conflict in the first year of his term. ¶14. (C) Continuing the presentation of his ideas on the parameters of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Senator Kerry noted that one of the biggest problems for Israel is the potential return of 5-6 million Palestinian refugees. The parties broached the return issue in discussions at Taba and agreed that the right of Palestinian return would be subject to later negotiation, pointed out the Chairman. If we can proceed from that point on the right of return, the Senator believes there is an "artful way" to frame the negotiations on borders, land swaps, and Jerusalem as a shared capital. ¶15. (C) Any negotiation has its limits, added Senator Kerry, and we know for the Palestinians that control of Al-Aqsa mosque and the establishment of some kind of capital for the Palestinians in East Jerusalem are not negotiable. For the Israelis, the Senator continued, Israel's character as a Jewish state is not open for negotiation. The non-militarization of an eventual Palestinian state and its borders can nonetheless be resolved through negotiation. ¶16. (C) The Amir underscored that Abu Mazen needs Arab support to make the above happen. Hamas "for sure," he said, will accept the 1967 border but will not say it publicly so as to lose popular Palestinian support. --------------------------- DEALING WITH THE EXTREMISTS --------------------------- ¶17. (C) Senator Kerry told the Amir he knew Qatar could help the U.S. but asked how we deal with those who advocate violence. The Amir said the short answer is to work the Syrian track, which means pushing for Israel's return of the Golan Heights to Syria. The Amir said return of the Golan is important not just to Syria but also to Hizballah and Iran. The U.S. must bear in mind that Misha'al, a leader of Hamas based in Damascus, has drawn the conclusion that the Oslo accords were bad for Arafat. He lost the support of his own people and died living under Israeli siege. The Syrians can help Misha'al and others make tough choices, but only if the U.S. demonstrates to Syria early on a willingness to address the Golan. Senator Kerry responded that the U.S. would accept a legitimate discussion of the Golan Heights. ¶18. (C) What is more, said the Amir, the U.S. needs to support Turkey's mediation between Israel and Syria. It is important that the U.S. encourage Israel to understand that that resolving the status of the Golan Heights is very important to the United States. ¶19. (C) Senator Kerry asked the Amir if Hamas is under pressure given the circumstances in Gaza. The Amir answered by saying that Hamas needs Iranian support. He added that the biggest misconception in the region is that the Syrians, who host Hamas leaders in Damascus, go to Iran because they like the Iranians. This is wrong. Syria goes to those who will not shun them. ------------- ROLE OF EGYPT ------------- ¶20. (C) Returning to the pressure Hamas is facing, Senator Kerry observed that economic development in the West Bank is taking place, but not in Gaza. The Palestinian reconciliation that would make possible developmental assistance in Gaza has not happened. The Egyptians have not delivered, said Senator Kerry. ¶21. (C) The Amir said the Egyptians' goal is to stay in the game and maintain their relationship with the U.S., which is built around brokering Middle East peace, for as long as possible. According to the Amir, Fatah and Hamas agreed on a memorandum of understanding, but the Egyptians wanted it changed. The Amir remarked that he has a feeling he knows which capital (Cairo) is the source of reports that Gaza is under pressure. He said the economic pressure in Gaza on families is not what it was. He offered as an example that Qatar Charity recently offered a family in Gaza 500 USD, but the family declined the gift saying its members had enough to get by and suggested another family that was in more dire need of assistance. The Amir said the notion that a family would turn down money is new. ¶22. (C) The Amir told Senator Kerry that everyone knows "Egypt has a problem with the Muslim Brotherhood. Okay, we understand. But Egypt should not expect the world to take external actions that would help it internally." ¶23. (C) Asked his advice for President Obama, the Amir recommended the establishment of a small U.S.-Qatar committee to discuss how to proceed. Qatar is close to Hamas, emphasized the Amir, because "we don't play in their internal politics." That does not mean we share their ideology or do not disagree with them. "I can remember many arguments with them (Hamas) on the 1967 border with Israel." The Amir noted that he had mediated with Hamas previously at the U.S. request, namely when he urged Hamas at the previous Administration's request to participate in Palestinian elections. ¶24. (C) Returning to the leadership of Hamas, Senator Kerry asked the Amir for his insights into how the leadership, with leaders sitting in both Gaza and Syria, makes decisions. The Amir said the impression that Misha'al sits in Damascus and others take orders from him is wrong. Several key players within Hamas are involved in decisions. They have differences over policy, but "the bottom line is that they all want the Palestinians to take their rights from Israel." ---- IRAN ---- ¶25. (C) Senator Kerry observed that the international community is moving toward imposing additional economic sanctions on Iran. Understanding and respecting that Qatar needs to balance its relationships with regional powers, including Iran, the Chairman asked the Amir for his perspective on where we are going on Iran. ¶26. (C) The Amir answered by affirming that his first obligation is to defend the interests of Qatar. Due to the natural gas field Iran shares with Qatar, Qatar will not "provoke a fight" with Iran. He added that in the history of the two countries, "Iran has not bothered us." That said, the Amir noted that Iran is an important country in the Middle East. He faulted the U.S. for "making the mistake of speaking up for protesters" after the disputed Iranian presidential elections. ¶27. (C) The Iranian regime is strong, continued the Amir, because President Ahmadinejad is uncorrupted. "That is the secret to his success." Khatami is also not corrupted, but as a reformer he is in a weak position. Rafsanjani, on the other hand, is corrupt. ¶28. (C) Senator Kerry lamented that every communication the current Administration has attempted to the Government of Iran has gone back channel and been met with no response. There have been non-U.S. initiatives, too. Again, no success. The Chairman observed that the Iranians are scared to talk. The Supreme Ayatollah had met with Russian President Putin, but seems not inclined to meet with other political leaders. Our instinct is that we need to find a way to talk to him. ¶29. (C) Your instinct is right, replied the Amir. The U.S. needs to talk directly with senior Iranian officials. The Amir then asked, "What if I talk to the Iranian President. What would you have me say?" ¶30. (C) Senator Kerry responded, "The U.S. seeks serious discussion and sought to create a new foundation for a relationship based on Iran's non-confrontational compliance with IAEA requirements and other mutual interests." Those interests include dealing with drug-running, the Taliban, and illicit trade. The Chairman told the Amir he feared that Iran still thinks it is dealing with the 1953 America that tried to overthrow the Iranian government. ¶31. (C) The Amir responded that you cannot blame them for having that attitude, and Senator Kerry agreed, adding that the U.S. has a very different posture in the post-Cold War world of today. Iran has ambitions; I know this from other regional leaders, said the Senator. These are the first words that come out of their mouths. ¶32. (C) Iran wants to be a "big power," agreed the Amir, but what sort? He reminded Senator Kerry the U.S. should not forget that Iranians are Persian and the U.S. needs to approach them in that framework. ¶33. (C) Senator Kerry stressed that the U.S. "would love to have that dialogue." The U.S. respects Iranian civilization -- talent, art, culture, etc. It is crazy to continue on this collision course. The region needs schools and jobs, emphasized the Chairman, not another war. The Amir agreed that "demographics are a big worry." Not just for the countries in the region but for the U.S. too. ¶34. (C) Many scientific and technological transformations are underway, noted the Senator, "but Iran misinterprets the road to being a great power and the degree to which the international community is concerned about Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons." We are at a "fork in the road," and Iran must choose between confrontation or building partnerships. If the latter, we can open up new opportunities for cooperation in the sciences, technology, education, robotics, energy and other ongoing transformations. ¶35. (C) Going back to the speech he had delivered in Doha the previous evening, Senator Kerry told the Amir that 17 former U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense had come out in favor of eliminating nuclear weapons. Every stop closer to realizing that goal is a sign of progress, but "no one believes Iranian nukes get us closer to that goal." ¶36. (C) Senator Kerry reported that leaders of regional Arab countries tell me they want nuclear weapons if the Iranians have them. The Amir responded that he did not believe they were serious, but are saying this to put additional pressure on Iran. ¶37. (C) The Chairman noted that the disputed Iranian presidential elections may have derailed U.S. efforts to have serious dialogue with Tehran. The Amir agreed, offering that the Israelis are also using Iran's quest for nuclear weapons as a diversion from settling matters with the Palestinians. The historical backdrop of Arab-Persian relations does not help, the Amir added. -------------- FINAL THOUGHTS -------------- ¶38. (C) The Amir advised the U.S. to continue trying to open a dialogue with the Iranian leadership. He also told Senator Kerry the U.S. needs to tell the Israelis they are causing the U.S. to lose the hearts and minds of Muslims. There was a time, such as during the Suez Canal crisis, when the Arabs loved the Americans and disliked the British and French, he said. ¶39. (C) Senator Kerry asked the Amir how the U.S. goes about changing its reputation. The Amir said first and foremost the U.S. must do everything in its power to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the best way to begin is by moving first on the Syrian track. ¶40. (C) The Chairman of the SFRC said he expects a genuine effort by the President this year on an agreement and expressed his hope that Iranian issues would not complicate matters. The Amir agreed, adding that China likes the distraction for the U.S. as its forces fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. ¶41. (C) Senator Kerry concurred, noting that China is lending the U.S. money and expanding its influence at U.S. expense. He added that he ran against President George W. Bush saying the war with Iraq was the wrong war in the wrong place and time. ¶42. (C) The Amir closed the meeting by offering that based on 30 years of experience with the Iranians, they will give you 100 words. Trust only one of the 100. ¶43. (U) CODEL Kerry has cleared this message. Lebaron