Jeddah Governor Prince Mishaal Bin Majid’s Assessments Of Yemen, Israeli-palestinian Conflict, Iran

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¶1. (C) Summary. In December 29 introductory meeting with
Ambassador, Prince Mishaal bin Majid bin Abdulaziz, Governor
of Jeddah (ref A), warned that Yemen could become like
Somalia in the absence of development projects funded by the
GCC, U.S., and Europe. Skeptical that Israel wants peace
given ongoing settlement construction, Mishaal urged the
United States to take decisive action to resolve the
long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he said
damages America’s standing and increases Iranian influence in
the Middle East. The Jeddah governor expressed satisfaction
with Hajj 2009 — which succeeded despite H1N1, Iranian
threats, global recession, and flash floods — and predicted
5 million Hajj visitors in Saudi Arabia by 2025, including
increasing numbers of pilgrims from the states of the former
Soviet Union. Mishaal agreed to look into two American
Citizen Services cass. End summary.


¶2. (C)Prince Mishaal bin Majid bin Abdulaziz, Governor of
Jeddah since 1998, began the December 29 meetingwith
Ambassador by raising security issues in th Middle East,
focusing on areas of Afrca and Asia that are “dangerous” for
Saudi Arabia, particularly Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, and
Somalia. Invoking the Ottoman Turks’ occupation of Yemen and
Egypt, Prince Mishaal said the geography and people of Yemen
are both formidable, “very tough.” Saudi Arabia wants to
help Yemen, not fight in it. The Yemenis are “good,
hard-working people,” but if things remain the same they will
continue to fight, Mishaal predicted. Yemenis are not
united; each tribe is different, and there are Sunnis and
Zaidis. Yemeni President Abdullah Saleh is not doing well in
Mishaal’s opinion. The GCC, U.S., and Europe need to build up
Yemen by investing in the economy, constructing schools,
educating Yemenis, and providing technology. Asked how this
might be done, Mishaal replied that an international
reconstruction plan should be written for Yemen. Saudi
Arabia will no longer write a blank check, as in the past.
While Saudi Arabia can help with roads, and everyone should
share in building Yemen, Yemen has the potential “to become a
heaven or a hell.” Mishaal insisted that “if we don’t work
hard, the Iranians will take full advantage, as they have in
Somalia.” Explaining his bleak assessment, Mishaal remarked,
“I say what I feel. I’m not a diplomat.”


¶3. (C) Turning to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Prince Mishaal
argued that “only the U.S. can fix it” by “becoming a judge
rather than a partner” in the peace process. “We have had no
solutions in the 1940,s, ’50,s, and ’60,s and the problem
just keeps getting bigger.” Pressing a medical metaphor,
Mishaal continued: “Sometimes when you go to the doctor, he
not only gives you medicine but tells you that he must cut
something off that you can live without, but you live. But
if you don’t make the decision, then one day you may die of
the disease.” Mishaal went on to say that absence of a
solution will produce hardship for everyone: “We don’t hate
America — especially the American people — but when it
comes to the Middle East everyone changes his position.”
America he said is associated in the popular mind with
Israel, and failure to solve the core issue has the result of
“giving our enemy the tools to fight us. Iran is playing
with Hamas.” Mishaal said he was not sure what is going on
with the Iranian opposition, but hoped it has the effect of
waking Iran up. “Iran,” he said, “wants to be only power
controlling the area. If it reaches that point they will
destroy everyone.” The Ambassador spoke to Special Envoy
Mitchell’s efforts on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Mishaal’s assessment was skeptical: “There is no hope for the
moment. Yesterday Israel said it would build more houses,
and the United States wants me to believe Israel wants peace.”


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¶4. (U) Accepting congratulations on the success of Hajj 2009,
Prince Mishaal commented that there were four problems this
year: the economy, rain, Iran and H1N1. SAG really felt that
it must succeed in this Hajj — “Thank God we did.” This
year SAG implemented a new model for Hajj, with 100,000
troops accompanying pilgrims from site to site. Although it
was very hard to manage, the troops behaved in a professional
manner. “It will be even better next year,” he asserted. The
Kingdom has a good structure in place and has learned to
handle the pilgrimage challenge well. Observing that a
number of countries once part of the Soviet Union did not
send pilgrims before but are starting to do so now, Mishaal
predicted the country will be managing 5 million Hajj
pilgrims in 15 years. Expressing pride in what he described
as Saudi Arabia’s “1400 years of service to the Islamic
world,” the Governor noted that the Saudi Government never
makes money from the Hajj, but instead spends three times
what individual pilgrims pay (est. $6,000 per Hajji) — per


¶5. (U) Alluding to the November 25 flash floods that
displaced thousands of Jeddawis, Prince Mishaal said the
flood crisis posed an unprecedented challenge in Jeddah. He
praised the many volunteers that came out to help victims and
promised the crisis “will change the face of Jeddah.” In two
to three months, he predicted, possibly after conclusion of
the work of the investigation committee which he co-chairs
with Mecca Governor Prince Khaled Al Faisal (ref B), “there
will be many changes.”


¶6. (U) Ambassador raised two American Citizen Service cases
and secured the Jeddah Governor’s promise to look into them.
On the case of Mr. Bandele Hinton, detained since
mid-November (ref C), Mishaal said the matter would not go to
court and indicated that Mr. Hinton should be deported in the
near future. He seemed less familiar with the year-long exit
request of Mr. Floyd Young, but invited the Consulate to send
him a letter on the subject (which has been done).


¶7. (C) Prince Mishaal expounded at greater length on
international issues (Arab-Israeli and Yemen) than we have
seen before, offering bleak and skeptical overall
assessments. Previous meetings over the past year had drawn
him out mainly on internal Jeddah matters. Though plainly
speaking his (“undiplomatic”) mind on political questions,
Mishaal maintained his usual informal, friendly, engaging
manner throughout the meeting. End comment.

¶8. (U) Ambassador Smith has cleared this message.