The Cable

The 2010 Manama Security Dialogue: full coverage on The Cable

DOHA, Qatar—Senior political and military leaders from around the world are flocking to Manama, Bahrain, Friday for what will be this year's largest and most star-studded meeting on regional security policy, the 2010 Manama Security Dialogue, hosted by the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Institute for International and Strategic Studies.

The U.S. delegation, one of the largest at the conference, is being led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is giving the opening address Friday evening. Other U.S. government delegates include Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro, Assistant Secretary for Defense International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow, U.S. Central Command head Gen. James Mattis, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner, Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Daniel Feldman, and U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain Adam Ereli.

Among the non-government delegates attending the conference is none other than your humble Cable guy, who is filing this story from a layover in Doha, Qatar, which just happens to be on the country that was just awarded the privilege of hosting the 2022 World Cup. We'll be reporting throughout the conference.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki will give a speech Dec. 4, only two days before Iran will meet the "P5+1" countries -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States -- in Geneva for the first multilateral discussions about Iran's nuclear program in over a year.

"Last year, in response to a question, Mottaki presented what was known as the ‘Kish Island option' for the Tehran Research Reactor fuel swap," Andrew Parasiliti, executive director of IISS's U.S. office, told The Cable. "This idea didn't get far, but at the time, it signaled the fuel-swap was not dead in Tehran." Mottaki's proposal, which the Iranians had first made privately to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, was to transfer the first 400 kilograms of low-enriched uranium to Kish, an Iranian resort island in the Persian Gulf, in exchange for 40-50 kilograms of fuel enriched to 20 percent.

"The presence of both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Mottaki, as well as ministerial delegations from the Gulf and worldwide, could provide an unusual opportunity for the US, Iran, Iraq, and the GCC states to present new initiatives for a Gulf regional security agenda," Parasiliti wrote Wednesday in an op-ed in the National.

Dozens of Arab leaders will also have their first chance to talk face to face with American diplomats about the WikiLeaks diplomatic cable disclosures, which have so far included embarrassing anecdotes about several governments who will be in Manama, including representatives from Kuwait, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

Another focus of the event will be the future of Iraq. Iraq's Speaker of Parliament Osama Al-Nujaifi was among the latest additions to the list of speakers. The keynote address on Dec. 4 will be given by King Abdullah II of Jordan.

And never count out General Mattis when it comes to the ability to make news. At last year's dialogue, his predecessor Gen. David Petraeus stirred the pot when he stated that the United Arab Emirates' air force had the ability to take out Iran's air force in a head-to-head matchup.

"All of these issues will be discussed in ministerial plenary panels as well as in off-the-record sessions," Parasiliti said.

The Cable

Senior official: 'This has been a bad week for American diplomacy'

The State Department is settling in for a rough period, putting forth a longer-term strategy for dealing with the damage done by the ongoing WikiLeaks disclosures and starting the repair work on hundreds of relationships. The timing of the diplomatic embarrassment comes just as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is traveling around the globe.

"This has been a bad week for American diplomacy," a senior administration official lamented on a Wednesday evening conference call about the WikiLeaks crisis. In response to what the official called "significant damage" to American diplomatic effort abroad, the State Department has reached out to 186 countries on the issue, "basically every country that takes our calls," the official said.

The official emphasized that if there's any American leader with the skills to handle such a crisis, it's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her stints as first lady and senator, her personal reputation, and her close relationships have given her the experience and skills needed to do what's necessary to start putting the pieces back together, the official said.

Meanwhile, Clinton was in Kazakhstan Wednesday for the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. In remarks alongside Kazakh Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev, Clinton commented on her damage-control activities.

"I anticipate that there will be a lot of questions that people have every right and reason to ask, and we stand ready to discuss them at any time with our counterparts around the world," she said.

Clinton's biggest damage-control effort is coming Friday, when she travels to Bahrain to deliver the opening address at the Manama Security Dialogue, put on by the Institute for International and Strategic Studies. There she could come face to face with leaders of several countries portrayed harshly in the cables, including Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and many more.  Your humble Cable guy will be in Manama covering the event. (More on that later).

Back in Washington, the senior administration official said that the State Department had severed its computers from the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet) in the wake of the disclosures as part of an overall government review of information-security procedures. SIPRNet is the interagency network for sharing classified information between Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon.

In what some might see as intramural sniping, this senior official argued that the State Department's policies had actually been "vindicated" by the WikiLeaks crisis because department personnel have always been prevented from downloading secret materials from the State Department's classified networks, except in specific and very limited circumstances.

The 250,000 stolen diplomatic cables given to WikiLeaks are widely thought to have come from Pfc. Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst with the 10th Mountain Division who allegedly downloaded the documents from a SIPRNet terminal in Iraq. People familiar with the U.S. government's response tell us that at least in some circumstances, the State Department's systems were disconnected from the Defense Department systems even before the WikiLeaks cables starting seeping out Nov. 28. For example, the U.S. embassies in Afghanistan and Pakistan moved to separate themselves from the rest of the secret government network about a week prior, two senior level sources confirms.

Foreign leaders have downplayed the revelations in the cables, but the senior official admitted that the WikiLeaks crisis has caused "significant damage" to American diplomatic efforts abroad and that the damage-control effort will play out over a long period of time.

"We're going to have to do a lot of work to rebuild people's trust," the official said.