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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
04SANAA2346 2004-09-02 11:11 2010-12-03 21:09 SECRET Embassy Sanaa
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.