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Cablegate: Support for Greater Middle East Initiative In

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.






E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Following U/S Grossman's visit to Bahrain on
3/3/04, Charg was invited by Al-Wasat Newspaper, to
participate in a discussion forum about the Greater
Middle East Initiative on 3/14/04. The forum was
attended by a cross section of Bahrainis representing
academia, business, media, and government.

2. (SBU) The majority of discussants were supportive
of the initiative praising its raising Arab public
concerns about problems such as tyranny, transparency,
education, and the role of women. An academic
remarked, "This is our agenda. The Americans only
wrote down what we have been talking about." The
initiative also encourages long awaited reform. A
Bahraini parliamentarian was adamant that the reform
that Arabs have hoped for decades has not come from
within. Instead, much of the Arab world finds itself
in a predicament far worse than decades ago.

3. (SBU) The group believed that the initiative will
continue to face opposition simply because it is a U.S.
initiative. They cited the Palestinian/Israeli issue
and the war on Iraq as reducing American credibility.
Some suggested that the Arab world should accept the
initiative and begin to implement it without the
cooperation of the U.S., thus increasing its
credibility. The Charg reminded participants that the
USG remains committed to the Road Map and the
establishment of a Palestinian state. He questioned
the wisdom of Arab peoples missing out on a real
opportunity for internal progress, via the initiative,
by solely focusing on the Palestinian/Israeli question.
He encouraged participants to focus on the development
of the Arab world.

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4. (SBU) An Islamist teacher and politician
participating in the round table pushed back hard
against the initiative, citing particularly the "My
Arabic Library" program. He suggested that the books
would propagate Christian values and brainwash Bahraini
children. The Charg asserted that the book program
and other initiatives would not impose any values but
encourage children to read and think. The Islamist
shot back a stern refusal "During the Cold War would
you have accepted children's books from Russia in your
public school classrooms?"

5. (SBU) Comment: The discussion forum at Al-Wasat
elicited more positive commentary than expected by
EmbOffs. Clearly there are educated Bahrainis who
welcome the initiative. Some of the participants
provided insight into the views of liberal Bahrainis
who may not be ideological allies of the U.S., but see
the initiative as serving the interests of both the
U.S. and the Arab world. Though not totally
representative of Bahraini society, they are opinion
shapers. Conservative Bahrainis question the motives
of the initiative and are not convinced that it serves
the interests of the Arab world. Increasingly
influential Bahraini Islamists, who believe implicitly
that the U.S. is out to undermine Islam and Arab
society, question the motives of the initiative and are
deeply skeptical that it serves the interests of the
Arab world.

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