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Cablegate: Visit of Special Envoy Sada Cumber to Bahrain

VZCZCXRO4955
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHLH RUEHPW RUEHROV
DE RUEHMK #0288/01 1251250
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 041250Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7838
INFO RUCNISL/ISLAMIC CONFERENCE COLLECTIVE
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0917
RHBVAKS/COMUSNAVCENT
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAMA 000288

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

PARIS FOR STEVE ENGELKEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/04/2018
TAGS: PREL SCUL UNESCO KV SA BA
SUBJECT: VISIT OF SPECIAL ENVOY SADA CUMBER TO BAHRAIN

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires, a.i. Christopher Henzel for reasons 1 .4 (b) and (d).

1.(C) Summary: Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Sada Cumber paid a one-day visit to Bahrain to brief government officials on his outreach to the Muslim world. He discussed efforts to engage with the OIC, a UNESCO anti-radicalization conference, and Kosovo. He also engaged prominent Bahrainis in a discussion of the state of the Muslim "ummah," visited a world-renowned collection of Quranic manuscripts, and met with local press. The visit was well-received and post hopes the Special Envoy will return. End summary.

2.(C) On April 27, Special Envoy Sada Cumber met with MFA 5cQejcretary for International Cooperation Ahmed Haddad. He briefed Haddad on the draft Memorandum of Understanding proposing cooperation between the U.S. and the OIC in science and technology, education, and women's empowerment. Cumber noted that he had recently met with OIC Secretary General Ihsanoglu, who suggested beginning with science and technology because of perceived sensitivities within the OIC membership on women's empowerment. Haddad briefly reviewed the draft MOU and said he was pleased to see the U.S. engaging so actively with the Muslim world. He remarked upon the comparatively strong role of women in Bahraini society and noted that the draft MOU was "the right way to start" working with the OIC.

3.(C) Special Envoy Cumber told Haddad that the first phase of U.S.-OIC cooperation would involve placing digital libraries in the ten poorest OIC member countries. This project would be relatively easy to implement quickly, and the Special Envoy was working with the U.S. private sector to raise the necessary funds for equipment and travel. He had already negotiated zero fee access to the tens of thousands of volumes that would make up the digital library's collection. 4 (C) Special Envoy Cumber also briefly discussed preparations for the UNESCO "Youth at the Crossroads" conference scheduled for June 15-17 in Bahrain. Haddad said that the MFA would be meeting later in the week to make a number of decisions on logistics, including a final decision on the venue. He noted that Bahrain hoped to provide input to UNESCO on some of the planned sessions, but did not express any serious concerns or indicate any GOB opposition to the general theme and structure of the event. 5 (C) Turning to Kosovo, Cumber encouraged Bahrain to recognize Kosovo's independence. He related a meeting with Saudi FM Saud Al-Faisal the previous day in which Prince Saud said that Saudi Arabia would recognize Kosovo within a few weeks. Haddad noted that the issue had been a bitter one during the recent OIC summit and opined that "the Muslim countries will ultimately recognize Kosovo."

6.(U) The Ambassador hosted a spirited lunch during which the Special Envoy engaged in a lively and wide-ranging discussion with several prominent Bahrainis, including the editors-in chief of Al-Wasat and Akhbar al-Khaleej newspapers, the Acting Director of Bahrain TV, and the Undersecretary for Islamic Affairs. Special Envoy Cumber spoke eloquently about the President's desire to reach out to the Muslim world and engage in a dialogue that will promote mutual understanding, noting the confluence of Quranic and traditional American values on justice and the rule of law. The guests debated the current state of the "ummah" and the role Muslims from the West might play in moderating extremist and sectarian tendencies. The group, itself a reflection of Bahrain's Sunni-Shi'a makeup, reacted particularly well to Cumber's message of cross-confessional unity as embodied in the "shahada," the statement of faith common to all Muslims.

7.(U) Special Envoy Cumber concluded his one-day visit with a tour of the Beit al-Quran and its collection of rare Quranic manuscripts, followed by a roundtable with local press. Coverage the next day in both Arabic and English press emphasized Cumber's role in reaching out to the Muslim world and the importance of promoting mutual understanding.

8.(SBU) Comment: The Special Envoy's message of one "shahada" resonates strongly with Bahrainis. Sectarianism is never far from the surface in any political debate given the legacy of discrimination against the majority Shi'a population by a Sunni-dominated government. Growing sectarian tensions have contributed to low-level street violence and the near paralysis of the parliament. Post MANAMA 00000288 002 OF 002 strongly encourages Special Envoy Cumber to return to Bahrain to continue his outreach and promote sectarian unity.

9.(U) Special Envoy Sada Cumber has cleared this message. ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ******** HENZEL

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