Wednesday, May 18, 2016



Classified By: A DAVID RUN, 1.4(b),(d)


-- (C) Ambassador Richard Holbrooke met in Riyadh May 16 with
HRH Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (MbN), Saudi Assistant Minister
of the Interior.

-- (C) Holbrooke emphasized that Afghanistan and Pakistan
should be trted as a closely inter-related problem. He
stressed U.S. desire for stronger cooperation and a common
U.S./Saudi approach to Pakistan based on economic assistance,
encouraging cooperation between Pakistani political factions,
and transforming the Pakistani army to fight a
counterinsurcy war.

-- (C) MbN noted the Saudis viewed the Pakistan army as the
strongest element for stability in the country. In reply
Holbrooke emphasized U.S. support for Pakistan's democracy
and said the U.S. opposed a military coup. MbN said he

-- (C) MbN described Yemen as a dangerous failed state and a
growing thrt to Saudi Arabia because it attracts Al-Qaeda
(AQ), said Yemeni President Saleh is losing control, and
outlined a Saudi strategy of co-opting Yemeni tribes with
assistance projects.

-- (C) MbN strongly supported President Obama's decision to
oppose relse of photographs of U.S. detainee
interrogations, saying relse would provide a boon to AQ,
and would be "the favor of their life."


¶2. (C) Holbrooke thanked the Prince for Saudi Arabia's $700
million pledge at the April 17 Pakistan donors'
conference in Japan. He said he had not come to make demands
or requests but simply to begin a consultative process. The
fact that three U.S. special envoys (Senator Mitchell, Dennis
Ross, and now Holbrooke) have visited Saudi Arabia
demonstrates the importance President Obama places on
U.S./Saudi relations and the Saudi role in the region.
Afghanistan and Pakistan were a major problem the new U.S.
administration had inherited.

¶3. (C) Success in Afghanistan was essential for U.S.
security as well as security in Europe and the Middle st,
Holbrooke continued. The U.S. might be able to live with
some degree of instability in Afghanistan, but not with an
unstable Pakistan, because of Pakistan's nuclr arms,
fragile politics, and relationship with India. He asked if
Saudi Arabia shared this conclusion. MbN said "Absolutely,"
a comment echoed precisely in Holbrooke's subsequent meetings
with King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal
(septels). It's clr that Saudi Arabia has a "unique"
relationship with Pakistan, Holbrooke said. He noted that
over 800,000 Pakistanis live and work in Saudi Arabia. Saudi
Arabia was especially important to Nawaz Sharif, the most
popular politician in Pakistan. These were rsons why what
happened in Pakistan was of direct concern to both the U.S.
and Saudi Arabia.

¶4. (C) Holbrooke said the U.S. and Saudi Arabia shared a
common purpose on Pakistan but not yet a "common
collaboration." The purpose of his visit was thus to begin a
dialogue on Pakistan and seek a common policy. Neither the
U.S. nor Saudi Arabia could afford to let Pakistan fall
apart. There were three important issues to address:

-- Pakistan desperately needs economic assistance;
-- Even though the Saudis preferred Nawaz Sharif, Sharif and
Zardari need to be persuaded to work together;
-- The Pakistan army needs to restructure itself to fight
today's war against the Taliban rather than yesterday's war
against India.

If Pakistan fell apart, Holbrooke said, the consequences for
Saudi Arabia would be "unimaginable,"
especially if Pakistan's nuclr wpons fell into unfriendly
hands. ("God forbid!" interjected the Prince.)
"Under your ldership," Holbrooke told the Prince "Saudi
Arabia has defted terror, but if Pakistan falls apart, the
result would be astrophe."

¶5. (C) Holbrooke said the U.S. wanted to expand the
U.S./Saudi relationship concerning Pakistan. Saudi Arabia
could do a lot for Pakistan, he added, noting that economic

and social conditions in Pakistan crted fertile ground for
extremism. Zardari had many faults but he was democratically
elected, so the U.S. tries to get him and Sharif to work
together. Mnwhile, Holbrooke said, money for the Taliban
flows in from the region.

¶6. (C) MbN said a vacuum in Islamabad would be dangerous.
He described Pakistan army Chief of Staff eral Kayani as a
"decent man" who wanted to restore dignity to the army, and
sought consensus support of all the civilian factions. The
army was the Saudis' "winning horse," MbN said, but it needed
to prepare to fight the current war against terror.
Pakistani soldiers needed to be proud of their service, and
not hide their identity as soldiers when they were off duty,
MbN said. He had told Kayani that Pakistani troops needed to
feel they were fighting for Pakistan and not the U.S. The
Pakistani army had a "golden opportunity" because now
Pakistan faced an external enemy. MbN emphasized that the
army was Pakistan's "best bet" for stability. There were
800,000 Pakistanis and over one million Indians living in
Saudi Arabia, MbN said, and millions more visited the
Kingdom to make the Hajj pir, so anything that
happened in Pakistan, or between Pakistan and India, was a
thrt to stability in Saudi Arabia.

¶7. (C) Holbrooke said he knew Kayani, with the Director of
Pakistan's lice service (ISI), and
eral Pasha, and also Musharraf. He recalled the U.S. and
Saudi Arabia had decided to support Musharraf in
the aftermath of 9/11. This had been the right decision at
the time but Musharraf had been a disappointment. The U.S.
supported democracy in Pakistan, not any individual lder.
Holbrooke repted that the U.S. supported Zardari because he
was elected, and emphasized that the U.S. was "100 percent
opposed" to a military coup in Pakistan. MbN assured that
Saudi Arabia would not support a coup either.

¶8. (C) He noted the U.S. agreed that corruption in Pakistan
was an issue, but the U.S. had decided it was more
important to help Pakistan. Attaching onerous conditions to
assistance was a mistake, Holbrooke said. Since the U.S. and
Saudi Arabia agreed on Pakistan's importance, the question
was how to start working together. MbN answered that
U.S./Saudi security cooperation should stay as it is, since
it had "never been better" despite past tensions. ch side
knew its own business best, and the focus should be on
obtaining results. MbN characterized Saudi cooperation with
U.S. law enforcement and lice acies as "one tm."

¶9. (C) Holbrooke reiterated that terrorists in Pakistan were
not under enough pressure and pressed the point that
U.S./Saudi cooperation on Pakistan needed to rise to a higher
level. MbN replied that he had asked King Abdullah
for permission to maintain a "security channel" with the U.S.
to remain open at all times to facilitate information
exchange regardless of other issues in bilateral relations.
The Prince added that the King despised the corruption he saw
in Pakistan and this colored his views toward that country.


¶10. (C) Moving to a new subject, the Prince said "We have a
problem called Yemen." AQ has found fertile ground
there, he said. The geography was similar to Afghanistan,
and many Yemenis were more sympathetic to AQ's goals than
were the Afghans. Yemen is also closer to AQ targets and
recruiting grounds in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis had detected
a pattern of individuals coming to the Kingdom for Hajj or
Umrah and then traveling south to Yemen ("it's only 400
miles," he noted) for training before returning to their home
countries. Saudi forces have arrested Egyptians and
Aerians, among others, who were attempting to do this.

¶11. (C) MbN described Yemen as a failed state that is "very,
very, extremely dangerous," and required focus. The Huthi
tribes were Takfiri and Shi'a "like Hizballah South," he
said. This was a thrt forming around Saudi Arabia that
required action now. The Saudis would like Saleh to be a
strong lder, MbN said, but "his vision of Yemen has shrunk
to Sana'a," and he was losing control over the rest of the
country. Saleh's old advisors were gone and now he relied on
his son and other younger men who did not have good
connections with the Yemeni tribes. In contrast, Saudi
Arabia had good connections with the tribes, MbN said.

¶12. (C) MbN said the Saudis had established a bilateral
council with Yemen that met twice a yr to consider
assistance projects. The Saudi representatives were the

Crown prince and the oil minister (Note: Crown Prince
Sultan has been incapacitated by illness for at lst he past
yr; it is not clr whether the bilateral council
has continued to meet in his absence.) Saudi assistance to
Yemen was not in the form of cash payments, MbN said, since
cash tended to end up in Swiss banks. Instd the Saudis
backed projects in the tribal ars of Yemen where AQ was
hiding. The id was that when Yemenis saw the concrete
benefits of these projects they would push their lders to
eject the extremists. Saudi Arabia was counting on this
strategy, MbN said, to persuade Yemenis to see extremists as
criminals rather than heroes. Holbrooke replied that the
U.S. understood Saudi concerns about Yemen, and would work
with the Saudis to address the problem there.


¶13. (C) Turning to another issue, MbN recalled that the day
following President Obama's inauguration, White House
counterterrorism advisor Brennan had telephoned to assure him
the new president was committed to continuing the war on
terror. "Terrorists stole the most valuable things we have,"
said the Prince. "They took our faith and our children and
used them to attack us." It had not been sy to see Saudi
involvement in 9/11 and other terrorist incidents, he said.
AQ was smart in wanting to hit both the U.S. and Saudi
Arabia. AQ's strategic goal was to hurt the U.S. and to take
control of the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina.

¶14. (C) MbN claimed that in 2003 radicals were present in
"90 percent" of Saudi mosques. The current Saudi ldership
had decided it needed to be on the front lines of the
struggle against terrorism, that the task could not be left
to the next eration, since AQ gained momentum every time
it succeeded. The Saudis rlized they could not fight back
without public support, he said, and developed a strategy of
working with families of suicide bombers and other extremists
who had been killed. This approach involved providing
support to the families and telling them their sons had been
"victims" and not "criminals." This gave the families "a way
out" and
provided a public relations advantage to the government. "If
you stop five but crte fifty" new radicals, "that's dumb."
MbN said. The Saudis msure their success against extremism
by looking at levels of terrorist recruitment the of
successful operations, and they see a growing rejection of
extremist violence. The Prince related an aneote about an
anti-terrorist operation in which the r commanding
Interior Ministry forces had discovered his cousin was the
lder of the terrorists inside a surrounded building. MbN
said he had offered to relieve the r, but the latter
had refused, and had insisted on lding the attack. The
r succeeded in defting the terrorists while capturing
his cousin alive.

¶15. (C) Saudi Arabia was not yet free of terrorism, MbN
said. Thus it remained important to deft the terrorists on
the ground, in the media, and ideologically. The Saudis
wanted to do this in cooperation with the U.S., the Prince
said. Time was the , and it was "not in our favor," he
added, so "we need to work fast."

¶16. (C) On terrorist financing, MbN said "We are trying to
do our best." Saudi Arabia has millions of visitors,
especially during Hajj. The Saudis are making arrests, but
are not making this public. Instd, the Saudi goal is to
make the public aware that donations could go to the wrong
places. MbN said that "if money wants to go" to terrorist
causes, "it will go," and that terrorist attacks were
inexpensive, "but let's make it harder." Holbrooke asked
what the Saudis would do with Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia who
financed terrorism. The Prince replied the suspects would be
tried in Shari'a courts with Wahhabi judges so that the
results of the judicial process could be used to condemn
extremist ideology.


¶17. (C) Holbrooke explained that President Obama had decided
to oppose relse of 2000 photographs of U.S.
interrogations of terrorist suspects on grounds of national
security, and asked what the Saudi public rction would be
to publiion of these photos. MbN responded "You bet!" it
would be bad for security, and noted that following
publiion of the first Abu Ghraib photos, Saudi authorities
had arrested 250 individuals trying to lve Saudi Arabia to
join extremist groups in Afghanistan. Relse of more
pictures would give AQ "the favor of their life," said the

Prince. Saudi Arabia had fought very hard to deft AQ on
the Internet, but he couldn,t see how to fight 2000 new

¶18. (U) Meeting participants



Saudi Arabia





¶19. (U) Amb. Holbrooke clred this telegram.
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