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Cablegate: Bahraini Street Violence: Shi'a Political

VZCZCXRO0304
PP RUEHDE RUEHDIR
DE RUEHMK #1118/01 3611345
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 271345Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7506
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHBVAKS/COMUSNAVCENT PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAMA 001118

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/27/2017
TAGS: PGOV ASEC PHUM KISL BA
SUBJECT: BAHRAINI STREET VIOLENCE: SHI'A POLITICAL
LEADERSHIP ACTS TO CALM TENSIONS; CALLS ON GOB TO ADDRESS SHI'A CONCERNS

REF: A. MANAMA 1105
B. MANAMA 1109
C. MANAMA 1110
D. MANAMA 1112
E. MANAMA 1113

Classified By: Ambassador Adam Ereli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1.(C) Summary: Violent street protests in several Shi'a neighborhoods have subsided, thanks in large part to close coordination between the Ministry of Interior and the Shi'a Al-Wifaq party. However, Al-Wifaq cautioned the government that it must act quickly to address core Shi'a concerns on naturalization of Sunnis, unemployment, and housing in order to deny the more radical Al-Haq the opportunity to further exploit Shi'a grievances. End summary. -------------------- Ministry of Interior --------------------

2.(C) DCM and RSO met with Ministry of Interior's Chief of Public Security Major General Abdul Latif Al-Zayani December 24 to discuss the previous week's unrest (reftels). Al-Zayani laid the blame squarely at the feet of the unregistered Al-Haq Movement and 300-400 agitators. He believed that Hassan Musheima, Abdul Hadi Al-Khawaja, and Abduljalil Singeis exercised loose control over Al-Haq cadres, and that Haq activists closer to street level provided direct guidance and encouragement for young Shi'a to launch the violent clashes that started December 17. (Note: Musheima is a Shi'a cleric who founded the Al-Haq Movement in 2005 after parting ways with the leadership of Al-Wifaq over its decision to participate in parliamentary elections. Al-Khawaja is the president of the dissolved Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Bahraini authorities have long accused him of links to extremists. Singeis is an academic and co-founder of Al-Haq who many consider to be the group's most vocal advocate of confrontation wit h the government. End note.)

3.(C) Al-Zayani praised Al-Wifaq for acting "responsibly" during the clashes. The party's leadership intervened with the family of the man killed on December 17 and persuaded them to permit an autopsy. The autopsy results helped refute rumors that the man had died at the hands of police. Al-Zayani was also grateful for Wifaq Chairman Ali Salman's Friday sermon in the Diraz mosque December 21 calling for restraint (ref C).

4.(C) Referring to the December 20 clash in Jidd Hafs (ref E), Al-Zayani said that police had managed to round up "90 percent" of the trouble makers, including many of those allegedly involved in the attack on the police officer. He affirmed that police moved in only after a number of individuals began destroying property, including attempting to damage a cell tower. Al-Zayani believed that the rioters targeted police with the intention of obtaining firearms and other weapons. DCM asked him about reports that as many as 30 had been arrested; Zayani replied "it is not half that." ----------------------------- Parliament and Prime Minister -----------------------------

5.(C) Meanwhile, members of parliament roundly condemned the riots. Sunni and Shi'a members in the lower house displayed an uncharacteristic solidarity in passing a resolution condemning the violence. The Shura Council passed a resolution rejecting the use of violence and expressing regret that many youths had been manipulated for political aims. The Prime Minister also used his weekly majlis to denounce the violence. In a private meeting with the Ambassador on December 24, the PM spoke at length about Shi'a disloyalty and commented that the recent unrest only confirmed his skepticism about political liberalization. ---------------------- The View from Al-Wifaq ----------------------

6.(C) Saeed Al-Majed, advisor to Al-Wifaq leader Ali Salman, told Pol/Econ Chief on December 27 that Al-Wifaq remained in close contact with the Interior Minister and General Al-Zayani. Al-Majed confirmed Al-Wifaq's role in helping ease tensions in several Shi'a villages, and thereby contain the worst of the clashes to a small area. He said Salman's MANAMA 00001118 002 OF 002 message to the Minister was that the government must take steps to address Shi'a concerns like the naturalization of Sunnis, unemployment, and housing; otherwise the root cause of the demonstrations will remain, and Al-Wifaq "will not be able to help next time." Salman also told the Minister that Al-Wifaq stands with the government in prosecuting "anyone who committed a crime," but reminded him that Al-Wifaq would work within parliament to hold the government accountable for any missteps. Al-Majed expressed hope that the worst had passed and added that "the street is with us (Al-Wifaq)." ------- Comment -------

7.(C) The unrest in several Shi'a neighborhoods that marked the national and Eid holidays appears to have subsided in large part due to the efforts of the mainstream Shi'a political movement, Al-Wifaq. By affirming early in the crisis its commitment to working for change within the law, and coordinating closely with the Ministry of Interior, Al-Wifaq played the role of a loyal opposition. However, Al-Wifaq can only do so much to contain the more hotheaded elements in Shi'a slums. More sporadic clashes are likely the next time there are holidays.

8.(C) While the Ministry of Interior and Al-Wifaq seem to agree that criminal acts which occurred during the clashes must be prosecuted, we believe that political controversy will surround the upcoming prosecutions of rioters. Al-Haq and its allies in the Bahrain Center for Human Rights are already spinning their version of events on the internet and have labeled the detainees as "political prisoners." ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ******** ERELI

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