Cablegate: President Saleh to a/S Bloomfield "No New Manpads"

Published: Thu 2 Sep 2004 11:11 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 SANAA 002346
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/01/2014
Classified By: Ambassador Thomas C. Krajeski; reasons 1.4 (b), (d).
1. (C) Summary. Assistant Secretary of State for Political
Military Affairs Lincoln P. Bloomfield Jr. discussed proposed
U.S. MANPADS buyback and destruction initiative with Yemeni
President Ali Abdullah Saleh on September 1. Saleh not only
agreed to move forward with the modalities of the buyback,
but pledged to A/S that the ROYG would not seek to buy any
new systems. Despite Saleh's attempt to extract more money
out of the buyback offer, Post expects/hopes to conclude an
agreement in the next two weeks. A/S Bloomfield's August 31
meeting with Minister of Interior al-Alimi, Chief of Military
Staff al Qassemi, and National Security Bureau Saleh covered
septel. End Summary.
Saleh -- "We Have to Get Them Off the Market"
2. (C) A/S Lincoln P. Bloomfield Jr. and Ambassador met
with Yemeni President Saleh on September 1 to discuss the
proposed U.S. MANPADS buyback initiative. Saleh welcomed A/S
Bloomfield's visit and the MANPADS initiative, describing it
as part of continuing U.S. - Yemeni joint security efforts in
the Arabian Gulf and the Middle East. A/S Bloomfield thanked
the President for his country's cooperation and partnership
in the GWOT, emphasizing that MANPADS in particular pose a
grave threat to U.S. and Yemeni global security interests
should they fall into terrorist hands. Saleh readily agreed,
adding "these weapons in the hands of al Qa'ida or Jihadists
threaten Yemen's security forces. We have to get them off
the market."
3. (C) A/S Bloomfield outlined the MANPADS buyback
initiative, explaining it was a very specific proposal to
purchase and destroy systems collected by the ROYG. In
addition to compensation for each system, U.S. technical
training and assistance would be provided to ensure the
safety of MANPADS collection and transportation, and to
conduct destruction. A/S Bloomfield stressed that there was
a 90-day window in which to buy and destroy current ROYG
illicit stocks, and that while the program did not have a
time limit -- the funding was, indeed, finite.
4. (S) Saleh told A/S Bloomfield that the ROYG was
currently in possession of 1435 MANPADS including 500 he had
recently collected from "private people" just prior to his
departure to London for an official visit on September 25.
The President made clear that these systems would be offered
up for sale and destruction according to the proposed
initiative, adding that he estimated there were another 150 -
200 still in private hands which the ROYG is targeted for
collection. (Note: On August 31 A/S Bloomfield viewed 79
recovered MANPADS stored in a MOD facility. The 1435 appear
to be some combination of these 79, plus the other 1029
emboffs observed in the same facility in 2003, and a number
of other illicit systems we were unaware had been collected.
We will seek clarification on these numbers from NSB Deputy
Director Ammar Saleh. End Note.)
5. (C) President Saleh assured A/S he was serious about
cutting off the possibility of MANPADS leakage from official
stocks. He said he had given the order to collect all
systems from the Yemeni Armed Forces in the field and return
them to storage immediately. A/S commended the President's
actions to get "these dangerous missiles out of dangerous
hands," emphasizing that Yemeni MANPADS must remain under the
lock and key of the authorities. "Actually," Saleh
responded, "we don't need them."
Saleh Promises No New MANPADS...
6. (C) Saleh pledged to A/S Bloomfield that Yemen's
national defense did not require MANPADS; to the contrary,
the current crisis in Sa'da proves "it was a big mistake" to
allow such weapons to fall into the hands of our enemies
where they can be used against our own forces. "I assure
you," said the President, "there will be no new deals, we
will not trade in them." Bloomfield responded, "you have
made a very important statement, that MANPADS are more useful
to terrorists than to your military."
7. (S) A/S told Saleh he is engaged in ongoing discussions
with source country governments in Eastern Europe to stop
exporting MANPADS, but that we have indications arms dealers
claiming to represent Yemen continue to shop in these markets
for advanced MANPADS. Saleh advised, "You cannot prevent
(North) Korea, China, Ukraine, Russia, or Belarus from
producing or selling weapons. I do not believe you will be
successful." "Although," he continued, "maybe you can
convince them to sell through official government contracts
and not through brokers." A/S Bloomfield agreed that
controlling weapons production was not easy, but explained
that arms firms in nations working with the U.S. to limit
production of MANPADS report that Yemen remains a potential
client. "No," replied Saleh, we do not need them."
8. (S) A/S Bloomfield asked the President "if our friends
in Eastern Europe tell me they have a contract with Yemen,
may I tell them 'no, you do not'"?. Saleh replied. "yes,
tell them the contract is canceled -- stop it -- no one has a
deal to sell such weapons to Yemen unless they talk to me."
A/S replied that Saleh's pledge not to acquire new MANPADS
should not be underestimated, as it would enhance Yemen's
reputation in Washington and the international community.
...In Exchange for One Million Dollars
9. (C) "Rest assured," Saleh continued, "Yemen will not
have such weapons anymore, but everything has a price. You
will have to million dollars for each strela!"
(Note: After an awkward silence, Saleh laughed, indicated he
was exaggerating, and promised the price would come down. In
fear some uncertainty remained, the Palace translator turned
to A/S saying, "I feel it is my duty to make sure you
understand this is a joke." End Note.) "How much are you
willing to pay?" pressed the President. A/S responded that
that the price for each MANPAD was fixed and not negotiable.
"Fixed, but well above what we believe to be the market
Al-Houthi - Lessons Learned
10. (S) Saleh told A/S that the recent events in Sa'da,
(where ROYG forces are embroiled in an increasingly bloody
fight against the well-equipped supporters of rebel Shi'ite
cleric al-Houthi) has proven that it was a "big mistake" to
allow these weapons to reach enemy hands. Saleh reported to
A/S that 250 soldiers had been killed and 1000-1500 injured
in addition to 300-350 rebels. (Note: Post believes the
number of ROYG casualties to be much higher. End Note.)
11. (S) A/S Bloomfield replied that the U.S. was aware of
the cost to Yemen of the recent fighting and that "this hurts
us too." A/S told Saleh that the Embassy is looking to see
how else we can help.
...And the Kitchen Sink
12. (S) As expected, Saleh raised extending the buyback to
include other types of weapons. He reported that the ROYG
has been buying back all types from the grey market since
9/11, including SA-2 and SA-3 surface-to-air missiles,
machine-guns, anti-tank missiles, mines, RPGs, and
explosives. "We have already paid 9 billion rials
(approximately 49 million USD) to keep these weapons out of
al Qa'ida hands," claimed the President we are ready to
destroy them. We hope you will not limit the program to
MANPADS." (Note: the ROYG claims it has collected 32 million
USD in assorted SW/LA and is seeking to recover this expense.
Although we doubt the claim of 32 million, we understand
from MOD and NSB contacts that the ROYG has yet to reimburse
the arms dealers it contracted to collect these weapons and
Minister of Defense Alaiwa is under considerable pressure to
make good on the deal. End Note.)
Inventory Control Assistance
14. (S) A/S emphasized that the program on the table is
urgent and specific; it targets several countries with large
numbers of these dangerous systems. He stressed that the
current proposal is for MANPADS only, and he is offering to
buy them for significantly more than market price. "We hope
that this important first step will be completed as soon as
possible," said A/S, adding, that he was prepared to explore
ways the U.S. can assist the ROYG in controlling its official
stocks such as providing inventory controls, computer
systems, stockpile security, and training. Saleh replied
that he looked forward to learning the details of this
Give Us Our Spare Parts
15. (C) Saleh complained to A/S of ongoing licensing
difficulties which had grounded F-5's, and Augusta
helicopters, and rendered M-60 Tanks and M109 artillery
inoperable. "We have made request after request," he said,
"Why doesn't the U.S. respond?" The President repeated a
common theme, telling A/S Bloomfield that he pays a high
political price in the region and internally for his CT
cooperation with the U.S. "Our cooperation" he said will be
commensurate with yours, "As much as you move, we will move."
16. (S) A/S Bloomfield responded that the USG appreciates its
cooperative relationship with Yemen in the GWOT, and pointed
out that, "as a demonstration of our trust, yesterday I gave
Military Chief of Staff Qassemi a C-130 licensing agreement."
"No, interrupted Saleh, "that is a transport plane. We need
our F-5 in Sa'da." A/S assured the President that he would
personally look at each Yemeni licensing request when he
returned to Washington and would make sure that they received
full consideration. (Note: When A/S Bloomfield handed the
C-130 license to Chief of Staff Qassemi on August 31, the
General said sarcastically "these few parts to a transport
plane represent the biggest step forward in our military to
military cooperation in years." End Note.)
Comment: "What, Won't Haggle?"
17. (S) All joking aside, Saleh appears serious in trying
to push up the price per system. It is hard to imagine a
shrewd operator like the President paying more than market
price for Strela 2's, approximately 2000 USD. It would be
true to style for Saleh to try to extract as much possible
from the USG in exchange for his security cooperation. On
the margins of the meeting, NSB Deputy Director, and Saleh's
nephew, Ammar Saleh recommended A/S Bloomfield send the
President a follow-up letter to our meeting listing other
benefits to Yemen that may result from the agreement, and
urging him not to break the deal over prices that cannot/will
not change. End Comment.
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