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Viewing cable 09MANAMA439, BAHRAINI BLOGS REACT NEGATIVELY TO CROWN PRINCE'SEDITORIAL; ELITES SKEPTICAL REF: MANAMA 435 Classified By: Ambassador Adam Ereli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANAMA439 2009-07-22 14:02 2011-02-18 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manama
VZCZCXRO3617
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHMK #0439/01 2031438
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 221438Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8823
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RHBVAKS/COMUSNAVCENT  PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAMA 000439 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR NEA AND SPECIAL ENVOY MITCHELL 
NSC FOR SHAPIRO 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/22/2019 
TAGS: PREL KMDR IS BA
SUBJECT: BAHRAINI BLOGS REACT NEGATIVELY TO CROWN PRINCE'SEDITORIAL; ELITES SKEPTICAL REF: MANAMA 435 Classified By: Ambassador Adam Ereli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1.(U) Summary: The July 17 op-ed by Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa in the Washington Post has struck a nerve with the public in Bahrain. Reactions among contacts and in the blogs have been generally negative, although commentary in the print media has been more nuanced. Attention here is now focused on the upcoming visit by Special Envoy George Mitchell, and Bahrainis are speculating on how the Obama administration will help implement the Crown Prince's vision. End summary.

2.(U) On July 20, both Sunni and Shia blogs were replete with negative reactions to Sheikh Salman's editorial, which they read as calling for normalization with Israel. Multaqa Al-Bahrain, a Shia blog, reminded the Crown Prince that he needs to win the trust of his own people before trying to win over the Israeli people. The blog also contained an editorial in Al-Quds Al-Arabi by Abdel Bari Atwan asserting that the Crown Prince should focus more on managing Bahrain's internal dissent before tackling more difficult regional problems.

3.(U) The Sunni blog Muntadayat Kingdom of Bahrain posted dozens of negative comments, some of which were accompanied by photos from Gaza of dead and maimed Palestinian children. One Bahraini commented that he hoped the photos would "awaken the conscience of the Crown Prince and force him to reconsider his initiative." Another posting, however, stated that "as long as normalization is with the people of Israel and not the political leadership (of Israel), it is acceptable."

ΒΆ4. (U) Reaction in the print media has been more nuanced. (Taking on the palace is not something the press here does lightly.) Local Arabic daily Al-Ayam published an editorial by Mariam Al-Sheroogi stating that Arab people need to engage through the media and take advantage of Sheikh Salman's initiative for the benefit of future generations in Bahrain and the Palestinian people. Other local dailies have stopped short of criticizing the Crown Prince and instead have focused (negatively) on Secretary Clinton's calls for normalization. On July 22, the Bahraini press reported that U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell will visit next week in order to, according to diplomatic sources, "express Mitchell's thanks to Sheikh Salman" and gauge Arab countries' acceptance of the initiative.

5.(C) Pro-government papers derided Abdul-Bari al Atwan for casting suspicion on the Crown Prince's motives and labeled him "a trumpet" of criticism. Bahrain's King Hamad, in a meeting with the Ambassador and Assistant Secretary of Defense Vershbow on July 22, noted that much of the funding for Atwan's paper came from Qatar. He viewed the editorial as a Qatari-sponsored attack on Bahrain. Not only was it unwarranted and not befitting of a GCC partner, but also, he noted with a wry smile, Qatar itself had significant and ongoing contacts with past and present governments of Israel.

6.(U) Bahrain's major political parties, including the Shia opposition society Al Wefaq, have thus far remained silent. National Democratic Action Society (Wa'ad) (which has no elected members in Parliament) published an article in opposition newspaper Al-Wasat saying that the conflict with Israel could not be "resolved with a public relations campaign" and that the "society disagrees with the approach mentioned in the (Crown Prince's) editorial." Shia Islamic political society, Amal, regretted that Arab normalization with Israel would be spearheaded by Bahrain.

7.(C) Many Bahrainis have stated privately that the Crown Prince's piece in the Post piece is not representative of Bahraini public opinion. A diverse group of businessmen, intellectuals and former government officials from all Bahraini sectarian communities and political tendencies was quite vocal in telling the Ambassador that they disagreed with the Crown Prince They focused exclusively on a long list of Israeli offenses (settlements, arrests, attacks against civilian populations) and said that under these circumstances, reaching out to Israel was unacceptable. MANAMA 00000439 002 OF 002 Chairman of the liberal daily Al-Ayam, Najib Al Hamer, said the Crown Prince took a risk in publishing the op-ed and criticized the Israeli press for not publishing news of the editorial or reacting to it.

8.(C) The Embassy understands that Haaretz wants to interview a GOB official about the Crown Prince's op-ed. Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa told the Ambassador on July 16 (reftel) that he expected the article would generate such requests and that he was ready to respond positively.

9.(C) Comment: Energized, and perhaps emboldened, by his recent discussions with the President, Vice President, Secretary, and others in Washington, Sheikh Salman has taken a bold step and placed himself ahead of public opinion. Bahraini elites have so far mustered only muted praise for the Crown Prince's willingness to lead, and the people with whom post has spoken are viscerally opposed. The Bahraini public, regional audiences and Arab leaders will be watching Manama carefully to see what steps come next. Over the last two weeks, King Hamad, the Crown Prince and the Foreign Minister have each told us that they believe strongly in this initiative and that they will continue to lead, regardless of public opinion. They should not, however, have to bear this burden alone. It would be better for us and for them if the spotlight could be shared with others. ERELI