The Cable

The Briefing Skipper: Afghanistan, Kerry-Lugar, Goldstone, Tatarstan

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department's daily presser so you don't have to. Here are the highlights of today and yesterday's briefings by spokesman Ian Kelly:

  • The Afghanistan Electoral Complain Commission has begun sorting through the complaints of election fraud, which will go on for an undetermined time, after which the Independent Elections Commission will weigh in and, well, you get the picture (Don't hold your breath). "It's important that we allow the ECC and IEC the time they need to eliminate the fraud that they have discovered," said Kelly, "The publication of those final and certified results will tell us whether there's a need for a second round."
  • The Taliban are not a domestic indigenous group that can be tolerated, somehow less dangerous than al-Qaeda, Kelly said, adding they do pose a treat to the United States and its allies. "I think what we're fighting there is this whole idea of destruction and mass murder in the name of religious extremism. And I would put them all in the same category. They're using the same tactics."
  • Kelly rejected the idea that the State Department failed to do the spade work to make sure the Kerry-Lugar Pakistan aid package would be well received in Pakistan, after severe criticism emerged from Islamabad. "I think what we're seeing is a debate and a diversity of opinion in the Pakistani parliament. We welcome this kind of debate," he said.
  • Middle East Envoy George Mitchell was in Israel today and met with President Shimon Peres and with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Tomorrow he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
  • The U.N. Goldstone Report is "not on the agenda" of the now moved-up October 14 Security Council meeting, but "we have to assume" that Libya is going to bring it up, Kelly said. "it would be impossible to prevent it from being raised, impossible, because any member can raise whatever subject they want," he added..
  • Undersecretary of State William Burns met today in Washington with Prince Nayef, Saudi undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior, who's in charge of combating terrorism.
  • The second Russian city that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit next week is... Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan!

The Cable

UAE prince accused of aiding Iran, assaulting hotel staff

As the United States gets closer to finalizing a nuclear-cooperation deal with the United Arab Emirates, one man is emerging as the poster child for critics who fear that the UAE could just become a better conduit for smuggling sensitive technology to Iran if the agreement goes through.

Saud al-Qasimi is the crown prince in control of the UAE port of Ras al-Khaimah, the site of the upcoming America's Cup race. Increasingly, it has also become the preferred distribution point for Iranian smugglers wishing to avoid the more closely watched ports in Dubai, George Webb, the head of the Canada Border Services Agency's Counter Proliferation Section, told Canada's National Post:

While nominally in the U.A.E., the port is controlled by Iran and is situated just across the Gulf from Bandar Abbas, an Iranian city with a naval base and an airport capable of landing large transport planes.

"Ras al-Khaimah is actually leased by the Iranian government, staffed by Iranian customs," Mr. Webb said, as he examined a classified satellite photo of the port.

"We found out about it about six months ago and this is just a little hop, skip and a jump over to a significant airstrip. So if they boat it over, it goes in the plane, it's in Tehran real quick."

He said his officers had been finding materials in Canada that were destined for Ras al-Khaimah but customs inspectors are now on the lookout. "All of our people in those ports are aware, so as soon as they see it, it's hauled aside for examination and follow up."

The region's former ruler, Khalid al-Qasimi, wrote in a letter sent to U.S. lawmakers last week that "The supportive posture [RAK] takes toward the Islamic Republic of Iran is undermining the policies of the United States."

And as if his reputation wasn't bad enough, it was revealed yesterday that Saud al-Qasimi was arrested for sexually assaulting a housekeeper in his hotel near the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota in 2005. The Smoking Gun reports:

While Sheikh Saud has lauded his emirate's selection at the site for the February 2010 America's Cup as a "great moment for us," critics have raised safety concerns due to Ras al-Khaimah's proximity to Iran and the activities of al-Qaeda terrorists in the region. The American team participating in the race is backed by software billionaire Larry Ellison, co-founder and chief executive of Oracle Corporation, who has launched a court challenge seeking to have the yacht race moved to Spain."