PP RUEHDE RUEHDIR
DE RUEHAD #0145 0410359
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 100359Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI
TO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2113
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1038
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 0083
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC//J-5//
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL UNCLAS ABU DHABI 000145
E.O. 12958: DECL: N/A
SUBJECT: UAE PLANS BIG SPLASH TO OPEN FRENCH NAVAL PRESENCE
Sensitive but unclassified; please protect accordingly.
1. (SBU) Summary: The UAE leadership will send a loud message with
the May opening of a French naval facility in Abu Dhabi, amplified by
the presence of headliners like French President Sarkozy. Adding a
new military presence to the strategic equation reasserts the UAE's
welcome to Western partners. Sarkozy's calendar apparently
determined the date of the event, and his visit is likely to address
nuclear, economic, and cultural cooperation as well. An associated
conference may bring other big names to the party. End summary.
2. (SBU) Locally based think tank INEGMA (Institute for Near East
and Gulf Military Analysis) may have assumed it had a small
ceremonial project to arrange when it was charged with planning the
May 25, 2009 opening of a new (250-man initially) French naval
presence in Abu Dhabi, but the group learned that the UAE leadership
seeks a large event to send a clear message: Abu Dhabi is
diversifying its military cooperation with Western powers as part of
an overall security strategy. Three primary audiences for this
message may be UAE nationals across the seven Emirates (who should
expect more Western presence even as the nation struggles to define
its national identity in the midst of an 80% foreign population), the
larger Gulf (including Iran), and the USG (not the sole "defender").
The UAE continues to value Western military capabilities and sees
advantages in diversification. (Note: The UAE already hosts the US
and a handful of other contingents of various sizes. End note.)
3. (SBU) Underscoring the centrality of messaging, the UAEG (or more
specifically, Abu Dhabi) set the date of this event based on the
availability of French President Sarkozy, not on completion or
operation of the naval facilities. With Sarkozy's calendar
clarified, the UAE declared that the base would be "ready" on time.
With 600-plus attendees to include French dignitaries, NATO brass
(perhaps the SecGen), and representatives of other regional and
European nations, the stage is set for pomp and ceremony.
4. (SBU) Of course, Sarkozy usually visits with more than one
message, so beyond base openings there will likely be movement on
nuclear cooperation and other economic ties. (Note: May fits the
rough time frame the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation will be
receiving final bids on a $30 billion plus nuclear technology tender,
which French firm Areva is actively pursuing. End note.) Sarkozy
will also reportedly use the trip to break ground on the new Louvre
planned for Saadiyat Island, which the French Embassy is proud to
assert has not been impacted by the economic downturn. (Note: The
military presence, Louvre, and nuclear plans are all initiatives of
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. End note.)
5. (SBU) INEGMA is also preparing a conference on "Enhancing
Maritime Security through Broader Cooperation" as a drawing card for
many of the traveling dignitaries, to feature Sarkozy as a keynote
speaker, joined potentially by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop
Scheffer and perhaps inviting the CENTCOM Commander.
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