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Cablegate: More Shi'a Street Politics

VZCZCXRO9680
PP RUEHDE RUEHDIR
DE RUEHMK #0140 0690925
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 090925Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7646
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 MANAMA 000140

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/09/2018
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ASEC BA
SUBJECT: MORE SHI'A STREET POLITICS

REF: A. MANAMA 118
B. 06 MANAMA 1728

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

1.(C) Summary: Street skirmishes, inspired by Shi'a activists of the Haq movement continued over the past week in several Shi'a villages as youths protested against the republication of the Danish cartoons and in support of the December rioting defendants (reftel). A journalist was injured. The street violence contrasted with the large, orderly rally staged by the Al-Wifaq party. End summary.

2.(U) Haq Movement activists staged unlicensed rallies on February 27 and 29 over the republication of the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Youths moving in packs of one and two dozen threw Molotov cocktails at police vehicles and attempted to set fire to an electrical substation during an unlicensed rally in Sitra February 29. A Bahrain Tribune reporter was injured by a rock aimed at police while covering a demonstration in Sanabis on February 27. In both cases, police kept their distance until the youths set fire to dumpsters and tires, when they dispersed the rioters with tear gas. Two young men were arrested in the Sitra incident. On March 1, Shi'a youths beat two Pakistani men in Jid Hafs; the youths apparently mistook the pair for undercover policemen. Also on March 1, about 50 youths, some carrying Haq Movement banners, torched dumpsters and burned tires in a Sanabis street. When police intervened, the youths responded with stones and torched a police vehicle.

3.(U) While Haq activists succeeded in generating several reports in international media, on February 29 the Shi'a Al-Wifaq political society attracted approximately 10,000 to a well-disciplined rally that was not reported outside Bahrain. Wifaq convened the rally to provide guidance to its base on how to react to the Sunni speaker of parliament's veto of MPs' efforts to compel the testimony of Cabinet Affairs Minister Ahmed bin Attiyatallah Al-Khalifa. (Note: Bin Attiyatallah was the central figure of the Bandargate scandal (ref B). End note.) The speaker's move might well have sparked broader violence, but coordination between Al-Wifaq leadership, Wifaq cadres, and the Interior Ministry helped to keep the situation under control.

4.(C) Comment: Al-Wifaq's disciplined mobilization of thousands demonstrates both its popular appeal and its assessment that it has more to gain in the reforming political system than on the streets. Al-Wifaq official Saeed Al-Majed told poloff March 2 that Wifaq's leadership was determined to continue pressing for the testimony of Attiyatallah, but that it was equally determined to avoid escalating sectarian tensions. Wifaq had no intention of pulling out of the political process, he said. While Wifaq can keep its supporters in line, groups like the Haq Movement are either unable or unwilling to do so. Low-level street violence is thus likely to persist, but large-scale action that might threaten stability is unlikely as long as Wifaq remains willing and able to control its numerous followers. ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ******** ERELI

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