Cablegate: Some Potential New Leaders in Bahrain's Chief

DE RUEHMK #0336/01 1501513
P 291513Z MAY 08 ZUI SVC RUEHAD9405 1630957

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAMA 000336


E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/29/2018

MANAMA 00000336 001.2 OF 002 Classified By: DCM Christopher Henzel for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1.(U) The Al-Wifaq National Islamic Society will conduct internal leadership elections on May 31 (reftel). Wifaq is the leading political party among Bahrain's Shi'a majority. Wifaq Secretary General Sheikh Ali Salman does not appear to be in any danger of being ousted as leader of the party, but he has expressed frustration with the day-to-day grind of leading the Wifaq bloc in parliament's lower house, the Chamber of Representatives (COR). He might at some point step back from his role in the COR to devote himself to his role as SecGen. Wifaq's second tier in parliament includes several MPs who would likely vie for the chance to succeed him as the face of the party in parliament. Leading contenders are Khalil Ebrahim Al-Marzook, Abduljalil Khalil, Jawad Fairooz, and his brother Jalal. -------------- Khalil Al-Marzook --------------

2.(SBU) Khalil Ebrahim Al-Marzook, at 41 one of Wifaq's youngest and most active MPs, represents the Capital Governorate's 2nd district (Manama). He enjoys a close relationship with Ali Salman, and is popular with other Wifaq MPs and in the wider party. His outspoken personality and exceptional managerial skills have helped him become Wifaq's Deputy Chairman.

3.(SBU) Wifaq selected Al-Marzook to lead its successful campaign against the use of electronic voting in the 2006 parliamentary election because of his technology background. He obtained a bachelor's degree in computer science from King Fahd University in Saudi Arabia in 1990 and a master's degree in information technology from Sheffield University in the UK in 1998. In addition to his position as Deputy Chairman, he is also Chairman of the Legal Affairs and Legislation Committee. Well-spoken and always sharply dressed in Western suits, Al-Marzook often serves as the de facto spokesman for the party. During COR sessions, he can be seen coordinating strategy with, and calming down, other Wifaq MPs. Nizar Al-Qari, a member of Wifaq's governing council, told poloff that Salman has already let Al-Marzook begin running the bloc's meetings and crafting its strategy. ----------------- Abduljalil Khalil -----------------

4.(SBU) Abduljalil Khalil represents the Capital Governorate's 4th district, which includes the villages of Sanabis and Karzakan, where many anti-government protests - often violent ones - have taken place. Khalil graduated from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in 1985 and from the University of Heriot-Watt in the UK with a master's degree in building services administration in 1999. Like many leading Shi'a politicians of his age, Khalil, a founding member of Wifaq, served time in prison for opposition activities. He was pardoned in 2000 following the accession of Emir (now King) Hamad.

6.(SBU) Abduljalil Khalil's wife, Afaf Al-Jamri, a women's activist and writer, is sister to both the editor-in-chief of Al-Wasat newspaper Mansour Al-Jamri and MP Mohammed Jameel Al-Jamri. Khalil was very close to the Jamris' late father, leading cleric Sheikh Abdulameer Al-Jamri, and still works on behalf of the late Sheikh's foundation, which seeks to foster Sunni-Shi'a dialogue. The Shi'a Ulama Islamic Council, led by Sheikh Isa Qasim, places great trust in Khalil. While perhaps not as outspoken as Al-Marzook, Abduljalil Khalil is nonetheless recognized for his intelligence, management and administrative skills, and his oratory ability. As the longtime chairman of the Bahrain Society for University Students, Abduljalil maintains close associations with recent university graduates. ------------- Jawad Fairooz -------------

6.(SBU) Jawad Fairooz represents the 8th district of the Northern Governorate. As a founding member of Al-Wifaq, and one of its most active members, he served as the deputy chairman of the Northern Governorate Municipal Council before winning his parliamentary seat in 2006. He graduated from MANAMA 00000336 002 OF 002 the University of Texas, El Paso, with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1986 and has a diploma from the University of Bahrain in business administration. His technocratic experience benefits him in parliament, where he serves as chair of the Public Utilities and Environment Committee. His arguments are clear, effective, and evidence-based. He played a key role in the controversial quizzing of Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Ahmed bin Atiyattallah Al-Khalifa over discrepancies in the GOB's population calculations (reftel). ------------- Jalal Fairooz -------------

7.(SBU) Jawad's older brother, Jalal, also serves as an MP, however Jawad's influence is much greater than that of Jalal. Both have a great deal of exposure in the local media owing to their sometimes controversial statements. Jalal represents the 1st district of the Central Governorate. He obtained a bachelor's degree in engineering from the University of Texas at El Paso in 1986 and an MBA from Arabian Gulf University in 1991. His primary concerns are human rights and combating corruption. He serves as the head of Al-Wifaq's human rights and political freedoms committee, and also conducts research on behalf of Amnesty International. In parliament, he generally sits near Ali Salman, and provides him vocal and emotional support. ------- Comment -------

8.(C) All four of these potential leaders speak often and frankly with emboffs. Khalil Marzook and Abduljail Khalil are the most likely candidates to move up if Ali Salman creates space for them. Both are well-respected, savvy politicians. We believe that the Fairooz brothers would be less likely to emerge on top because they are "Ajmi," Shi'a from Bahraini families of Persian origin. Both are more comfortable speaking Farsi than Arabic. Putting either Jawad or Jalal forward as the public face of Al-Wifaq's parliamentary bloc would make it even more difficult for the party to work with the Sunni blocs that control the house, and make it easier for Wifaq's Sunni critics to depict it as a tool of Iran. ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ******** ERELI

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