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Cablegate: Tactical Alliance Between Sunnis and Shi'a In

VZCZCXRO0071
PP RUEHDE RUEHDIR
DE RUEHMK #1046 3231355
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191355Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7427
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 001046

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE PASS TO USTR

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/19/2017
TAGS: PGOV KDEM KISL BA
SUBJECT: TACTICAL ALLIANCE BETWEEN SUNNIS AND SHI'A IN
BAHRAINI PARLIAMENT

REF: 2006 MANAMA 1728

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

1.(C) Summary: Initial efforts to forge a tactical alliance between the Shi'a Wifaq party and one of the Sunni groupings in parliament collapsed when the agreement leaked. Unless Wifaq can develop more competence at coalition-building, it will find this session of parliament just as frustrating as the last one. End Summary.

2.(U) On October 30, the Deputy Chairman of the Shi'a Al-Wifaq parliamentary bloc, Khalil Al Marzooq, signed an agreement with the Deputy Chairman of the Sunni Al-Asala bloc, Ibrahim Bu Sandal. The agreement, which promptly leaked (see para 4), stated, "The two blocs will support each other in the use of parliamentary tools (investigation committees, hearings, and extraordinary sessions). They also agree not to block each other's" legislative initiatives. Wifaq is the largest bloc in the 40-seat lower house but with 17 members is just short of a majority.

3.(U) The agreement sought to facilitate the two blocs' investigations of cabinet ministers. Al-Asala has sought to investigate Minister of Industry and Commerce Hassan Al-Fakhro, for alleged financial improprieties. Al-Wifaq has pressed for an investigation into the role of Ahmed Atiyatallah Al-Khalifa, the Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs, over alleged election-rigging in the so-called Bandargate episode (reftel).

4.(C) Al-Wifaq MP Jassim Hussain told PolOff that the Wifaq-Asala agreement was intended to broadly cover all aspects of parliamentary business. He stated that Al-Asala first approached Al-Wifaq seeking cooperation. Al-Wifaq's leadership within the parliament countered, suggesting a mutual agreement not to impede one another. According to Hussain, Al-Asala wanted a verbal agreement, but al-Wifaq insisted upon a written agreement, then leaked the document to the media. He explained that Al-Wifaq believed that, by going public with the agreement, Al-Asala would be pressured to honor its terms. Instead, Al-Asala quickly backpedaled, asserting that the agreement was limited in scope and duration. Hussain explained that Al-Wifaq sought to align itself with Al-Asala because it shares more common interests with Al-Asala than either of the other two blocs in parliament: Al-Mustaqbal, a small grouping of secular Sunnis close to the Prime Minister, and Al-Minbar, the Muslim Brotherhood party. Indeed, Al-Wifaq and Al-Asala have previously lined up against Al-Minbar on the issue of questioning ministers, adopting the position that parlimentarians should exercise oversight in open committee sessions, while Al-Minbar argued for closed sessions.

5.(C) Interestingly, Nizar Al-Qari, a member of Al-Wifaq's internal Shura Council, told PolOff that Al-Marzooq did not consult the party's Shura Council before signing the agreement.

6.(C) Comment: Al-Wifaq's underwhelming performance during the previous legislative session bolstered those Shi'a who argue that extra-parliamentary opposition is the only way to address their grievances. The other political societies in the parliament, including Al-Asala, criticized Al-Wifaq for not cooperating with them toward shared objectives during the last session. This agreement, regardless of its scope, indicates that Al-Wifaq is actively seeking to build tactical parliamentary alliances. However, attempting to hold Al-Asala's feet to the fire by making the agreement public seems to have backfired in the end, and reflects the endemic lack of trust between the parliamentary blocs and across sectarian lines. Unless Wifaq does better at building alliances, it faces another frustrating session of parliament. End Comment. ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ******** ERELI

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