|Wikileaks:||View 02AMMAN3978 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||PREL PINS ETRD EFIN JO|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
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 04 AMMAN 003978 SIPDIS NOFORN TREASURY FOR A/S QUARLES, DAS RADELET NSC FOR GARY EDSON, CLAY LOWERY STATE FOR U/S LARSON, A/S WAYNE, A/S BURNS E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/17/2017 TAGS: PREL, PINS, ETRD, EFIN, JO SUBJECT: FORMER JORDANIAN PM TOUR D'HORIZON REF: A) AMMAN 3517 (NOTAL) B) AMMAN 794 C) AMMAN 0687 Classified By: AMBASSADOR EDWARD W. GNEHM, REASONS 1.5 (b) and (d) 1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: In a wide-ranging tour-d'horizon with the Ambassador, former PM and FM Abdulkarim Kabariti candidly weighed in on a variety of issues, foreign and domestic. Kabariti is known for his strong views on domestic politics and the GOJ's relationship with Iraq. Kabariti's comments need to be read in perspective. He is a former government official, very much on the outs. His insights are nonetheless invaluable and jibe with much of what we hear on the street about the GOJ and the King's relationship to his country and his government. END SUMMARY 2. (S/NF) Ambassador paid a courtesy call on former PM and FM Abdulkarim Kabariti July 17. Currently CEO and President of the Jordan Kuwait Bank, Kabariti served as PM from 1996-7 and FM from 1995-6. He has also served as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Jordanian House of Representatives, First Deputy Speaker in the Upper House of the Parliament, Chief of the Royal Court, and, most recently, Senator. ---- MEPP ---- 3. (S/NF) Kabariti said it was "a miracle" that Jordan seemed to be insulated from the effects of recent actions on the West Bank/Gaza. He credited the security measures and precautions taken by the King, the direct result being that emotions were not allowed "to build up". He added that it helped, too, that "everyone is happy making a living, enabling them to send money back to Palestine". He agreed that the GOJ's strategy worked much better than even the government expected. 4. (S/NF) Kabariti wondered aloud, however, if after U.S. midterm elections there might be greater U.S. involvement in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian issue. He said that an improvement in the situation in the Occupied Territories would help "more than anything else" gain wider support for American interests in the region and the GOJ as well. He said that perhaps some "disengagement with Sharon" after the elections would "demonstrate an interest in the Palestinian people, in their problems." He said any uproar following an American attack on Iraq would not be as much about Iraq as it would be anti-American, a demonstration of sympathy with Palestine. Kabariti also said that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah should somehow be publicly rewarded for his role in the peace process. He said that, again, after the election, there should be a plan that gives hope, and some demonstration that C.P.Abdullah's initiative has "at least been taken seriously". ---- IRAQ ---- 5. (S/NF) Kabariti noted that PM Abul Ragheb was "giving a dangerous impression" with his repeated public denials that American forces were present in Jordan and that Jordan would not be used to support American action in Iraq. He said that once the U.S. does strike Iraq, one of two things will have to happen: either the Abul Ragheb government will have to go and a new one take its place, or the PM will be forced to say "political realities" forced a complete change in policy. Kabariti said he was "extremely worried" that because the difference between the PM's public stand and reality was so different, public opinion would be that much more difficult to manage. 6. (S/NF) Kabariti related the PM's comments to Jordan's relationship with Gulf countries. He said this current position on Iraq is troubling some of Jordan's friends. By way of example, he said senior Kuwaitis were "pissed off", and had asked him directly if the PM was being bribed. Kabariti said he defended the PM and told his Kuwaiti interlocutors that this was all part of "a domestic political campaign to deal with the present political situation". But he said the strategy was "sure to backfire". ----------------------- OIL AND THE PM'S LEGACY ----------------------- 7. (S/NF) A clearly troubled Kabariti added that "we've succumbed to the allure of business with Iraq". He pointed out that the PM's son had many Iraqi business ties and that "it all looked very bad". Responding to Ambassador's query regarding illegal diversion of Iraqi oil (REF A), Kabariti said the motive was "money, that's it". Calling the scheme "a sheer bribe", he said it was "a domestic money laundering scheme" and that Zaid Juma of the Royal Court was aware of it. He said part of the money goes to the military, but most of the money goes to "the bosses". Kabariti said that "the whole thing was packaged with the blessing of the Court and the King". He said that "the GOJ has never been so possessed by intricacies and details" as it is by this sort of business, and that, as a result, the government was in danger of gaining a regional reputation as "a cheap bunch of decision makers". 8. (S/NF) Kabariti recalled the day PM Abul Ragheb was asked to form the government. He said that he advised Ragheb that "once PM, there was no way to go but down" and that he would need "luck, will, and devotion" to hold the job. He told Abul Ragheb "to think about the day you are asked to resign and what your legacy will be. Will it be as a reformer?" Kabariti mused that rather than being "a strong man of the Gulf", the PM was more "the strong oil man of Iraq", and five years from now would be "perceived as an agent of Saddam, being paid off by Saddam". Kabariti said that this is apparently the legacy Abul Ragheb wants, as he has made himself "a hostage" to his pro-Iraqi comments and connections. ----------------- DOMESTIC POLITICS ----------------- 9. (S/NF) Kabariti said the king needed to be more vocal in molding public opinion in advance of a possible strike in Iraq. He said the king could frame the argument in such a way that focused on Saddam's regime, rather than the Iraqi people", that "so many good things cannot be realized by the Iraqis" due to Saddam, and that "crimes against humanity, not the Iraqi people, would be the target of any coalition action. Kabariti said the King's upcoming trip to Washington would be a good time for him to get a "very clear message" on how to "prepare the people for what's going to come". Noting that the King was not taking the PM to Washington, and that this was a new policy, Kabariti said Abul Ragheb was told to "be more like the Egyptian PM and focus on domestic affairs". The King would handle international affairs. He said Abul Ragheb clearly did not like this development, and that he had become "edgy and afraid" as a result. 10. (S/NF) Kabariti agreed with the Ambassador that the relationship between Washington and Amman was "improved from years past" and that this was largely due to the respect the Bush Administration had for the King, and the ability of both the King and the Queen to connect with the American people. But he added that the King "feels much more at ease on a foreign platform than the domestic one" and said that they were both "very insecure" in Jordan. He added that this insecurity leads to bringing "low caliber people" into the government, because "no one, not the King, not the PM, wants to be upstaged". He said the King had not yet "developed his father's ability to trust his advisors", and that "he does not like politics at all". As a result, he said, the King's advisors are afraid to tell him anything. (Note: Kabariti also said the King "loves to axe people" in terms of removing them from the government. He said the King believes it portrays the image of "a firm, determined, strong-minded man". End note) 11. (S/NF) Kabariti suggested that "the King needs more time" to learn how to govern, and said that all Abdullah wanted, before the passing of King Hussein, was to be head of the Army--"That was his long-term dream; he has never been groomed to be King". But he said that "the Queen adds to his insecurity as she does not trust any one." He added that "she is the last one to whisper in his ear" on most matters. --------- ELECTIONS --------- 12. (S/NF) In response to the Ambassador's question on possible timing of Parliamentary elections, Kabariti said he thought they would not take place before May or June of 2003. Surprisingly, he said that such timing "was okay". Although he was convinced that the King could "manage" elections if they were held in autumn as has been widely speculated, the King could move the date back without much political damage. Kabariti said the King was not afraid of the results of the poll; rather, the Court "wanted to rule without accountability to Parliament". Pointing to his own experience as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the House of Representatives, Kabariti said "one can always make deals in politics, even with the Muslim Brotherhood", whose support he gained to pass the Peace Agreement with Israel in 1994. 13. (S/NF) Returning to his earlier theme, he said the King "should learn how to strike deals and build an instinct to trust on political terms". He said that with or without elections, the government has to "bring the internal political situation along". Kabariti forcefully stated that "vision without leadership is fatal; leadership without vision even more fatal". He said the King must take political issues on, even if "he is not willing to suffer" through the business of politics. ------- ECONOMY ------- 14. (SBU) Kabariti opined the economy was "doing very well". He said he thought the growth over the last five years had been "phenomenal" given the tensions in the region. He endorsed the Ambassador's comment that it was imperative that more people in the Kingdom feel the benefits of economic growth, but restated his earlier supposition that had it not been for the current economic situation, Jordan would not be able to "handle" the Palestinian issue. Kabariti warmly thanked Ambassador for American aid and support. He said that the growth in exports to the U.S. should be a sign to Jordanians that opening up to American interests has "very obvious benefits". --------------- BANKING SCANDAL --------------- 15. (S/NF) Seconding the Ambassador's observation that the banking system rode out the recent loan scandal (REF C), Kabariti said that alleged perpetrator Majed al-Shemaileh chose the banks that he dealt with very carefully. He said that Shemaileh "picked older banks, managed by decision-makers who were easily bribed", and avoided "professional" banks whose loan criteria would not have permitted such activity. He agreed that the Central Bank did "very well", but that more accountability in the system was clearly needed "if we are to survive" another such problem. He said that money lost by the banks in the scandal, said to be about $12 million, should be absorbed by the banks in two to three years. 16. (S/NF) Kabariti noted the case of former head of Jordanian Intelligence (GID) Samih al-Batikhi, whose assets were seized during the course of the investigation and who was alleged by press reports to have been part of the scandal (REF B), allegations that have not yet been publicly put to rest. He said he reminded the King that Batikhi had been instrumental in safeguarding both his father's regime, as well as his own. He said that if Batikhi wanted money, there were many other ways he could have got it; he could have had $15 million from Kuwait, $50 million from Saddam, or even $10 million from the Libyans. Kabariti said in the course of trying to organize the Court finances during his tenure as Chief of the Royal Court (from March 1999 to January 2000), he discovered the King was "hiding some of Court's funds with Batikhi". Kabariti said he reminded the King of this during a "very frank discussion". Kabariti said that after he saw what happened to Batikhi, he would never return to politics. ----------------------------------- WE WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU IN THE COLD ----------------------------------- 17. (S/NF) At the conclusion of the discussion, Kabariti returned to the subject of Iraq. He said that, given his trade and oil dealings with Iraq, the PM will never be able to give a forceful message to the Jordanians explaining the need for regime change. He said he was aware of American assurances to Jordan that "we will never leave you in the cold" should some interruption of Iraqi oil shipments take place. He said the message to Jordan from the U.S. should be "Don't tell me about $250 million (the value of Iraqi oil exports to Jordan). We gave you $500 million!" Kabariti added that the recent Paris Club agreement would not have been secured without the help of the USG, implying that getting this story out would help as well. ------- COMMENT ------- 18. (S/NF) A passionate, patriotic man with strong opinions, Kabariti is well known to the Embassy. His extensive service in government, under both the late King Hussein and King Abdullah, gives him a unique and informed perspective on a wide range of international, regional, and domestic issues. Gnehm
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