P 030830Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2546
INFO GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE S E C R E T ABU DHABI 000558
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/02/2019
SUBJECT: UAE SHAYKHS ON POTUS SPEECH, IMAGE OF AMERICA
REF: Abu Dhabi 0553
Classified by Ambassador Richard Olson, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C) SUMMARY: Two senior members of the Nahyan family were very
positive on the Cairo speech, and evinced high expectations. Shaykh
Saif (who appears to be an ascendant power in the family) expressed
appreciation for the President's bold decision to go forward with the
123 Agreement. END SUMMARY.
POTUS SPEECH IN CAIRO
2. (C) UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Shaykh
Saif bin Zayed Al-Nahyan told Ambassador that Emiratis were very much
looking forward to the President's speech in Cairo. Saif said the
choice of Cairo was a good one because it showed that the US was not
ignoring the most populous Arab nation. He also welcomed the
speech's backing by Al Azhar University. Saif concluded by saying
that President Obama's ability to articulate US outreach to the
Muslim world would go a long way toward undoing the damage caused by
previous usage of the of the word "crusade" in a positive context.
3. (C) UAE Foreign Minister Shaykh Abdullah bin Zayid Al-Nahyan (AbZ)
raised with Ambassador the subject of POTUS speech, saying that he
had his "fingers crossed." From the context of the conversation, it
was clear that this remark meant he expected the speech to advance
the prospects for peace between the Arabs and Israel.
SHAYKH SAIF ON OVERALL RELATIONS WITH US
4. (C) Saif told Ambassador that the UAEG had really appreciated
President Obama's decision to approve the 123 Agreement on Civil
Nuclear Cooperation and so notify Congress. The UAE understood that
the recent revelations of human rights problems (reftel) had put the
Administration in a difficult position. The President's decision was
therefore a courageous one, and one that showed that the US was a
true friend to the UAE.
5. (C) Commenting on the good health care his nephew was receiving
in the U.S. (Mayo Clinic), Saif said that humans need to benefit from
one another (NOTE: Our consular section opened this past weekend to
expedite visa issuance for Saif's nephew who was diagnosed with
leukemia.) Patients seeking health care in the U.S. were often
surprised at the existence of non-profit institutions delivering
quality care; many Emiratis "changed their minds about America" when
they realized this, he added. Moving beyond the erroneous images on
television, Emiratis who visit see Americans as "normal" people "like
us," he said, endorsing international travel as a means of broadening
perspectives -- with a reference to his own eye-opening visit to
6. (C) He said many of his key staff were U.S. educated, and
therefore their ideas sometimes clashed with his own U.K. schooling.
All benefit from the exchange, he suggested, noting that the frames
of reference gained from overseas experience between the ages of 18
and 25 are particularly impressionable -- and more valuable when Arab
students do not cluster in a few schools. He was pleased that in the
U.S. people simply ask where you are from, not whether you are an
American citizen or not. They look at everyone as "locals."
7. (S/NF) COMMENT: Having recently been elevated to Deputy Prime
Minister, Shaykh Saif is clearly an ascendant power within the Nahyan
family, and the UAEG. Within the UAEG the MOI is increasingly
assertive and somewhat independent. Within the family, Saif is the
most senior of the second largest block of brothers (after the Bani
Fatima), the five sons of Moza Al-Khaili. Since Zayid's marriage
with Moza was one of the old man's last, the younger brothers are
only now coming into prominence, and Shaykh Saif appears to be
playing the role of their patron (he presided over the recent wedding
of Shaykh Khaled, his full brother and youngest of Zayed's sons).
8. (S/NF) COMMENT CONTINUED: Given the opaque nature of cabinet
reshuffles, it is difficult to say definitively why Saif was
elevated, but it may have something to do with housecleaning after
the Shaykh Issa scandal. Under this hypothesis, since the Nahyan
family agreed to move against Issa, it was also be necessary to
remove other Shaykhs with personal problems from positions of
authority (former DPM Sultan bin Zayid had a tumultuous youth; Hamdan
bin Zayid is rumored to have had a drinking problem). And clearly,
any action legal against Issa required having the Minister of
Interior on board.
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