Cablegate: Guarding Ndi's Flank


DE RUEHMK #0011/01 0101124
P 101124Z JAN 10

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAMA 000011



E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/10/2020

REF: A. 06 MANAMA 836
B. 06 MANAMA 1866
C. 09 MANAMA 712
D. 09 MANAMA 610 E. 01/10/2010 ERELI-WITTES EMAIL Classified By: Ambassador Adam Ereli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1.(C) Summary: With the onset of an election year, post has affirmed its support for National Democratic Institute (NDI) programming in Bahrain to the new leadership of the Bahrain Institute for Political Development (BIPD). The new BIPD chairman, a confidant of King Hamad, was responsive to Ambassador's call to nip in the bud any GOB hesitation regarding NDI activities, so as to avoid a repeat of the 2006 imbroglio surrounding NDI's former country director (refs A and B). Post judges NDI's MEPI-funded work in Bahrain to be critical to broadening political participation in Bahrain and strongly supports renewed MEPI funding for NDI programs in the kingdom. End summary. NEW BIPD LEADERSHIP -------------------

2.(SBU) Ambassador met January 7 with new BIPD chairman Nabeel bin Yaqoob Al-Hamer and new executive director Isa Ahmed Al-Khayat, who were appointed to their jobs by the King in the wake of corruption allegations concerning previous BIPD management (ref C). Al-Hamer, a former minister who is the King's media advisor and a close confidant, said he viewed BIPD's mission as "establishing good politicians" and promoting better understanding between the people and politicians. He said he planned for BIPD to embark on programs to enhance youth and women's participation in political life. Al-Hamer noted that all the members of the new board of trustees -- except for Mai Al-Otaibi, a MEPI grantee -- had no prior dealings with BIPD. He warmly welcomed cooperation and coordination between BIPD and the embassy, as well as USG development programs.

3.(C) Al Hamar indicated concern that NDI's programs disproportionately benefitted the opposition. Ambassador stressed that NDI's activities benefit municipal council members and parliamentarians of all political stripes, and that NDI is very much willing to work with any elected official or political society that requests technical assistance. (Note: some in the political elite believe that the former country director, who was kicked out of Bahrain in mid-2006, was too closely aligned with the mainstream Shia political society, Al-Wifaq; this association continues to harm NDI's reputation in some quarters. End note). Ambassador stressed that NDI's footprint in Bahrain is light, and that assistance is largely provided by a respected American NDI employee based in Dubai, who manages programs in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. MESSAGE: USG SUPPORTS NDI -------------------------

4.(C) Ambassador stressed the USG's strong support for MEPI-funded NDI programming in Bahrain, stating that it played an important role in supporting Bahrain's political development. He welcomed BIPD's support for NDI and said the Embassy looked forward to NDI working with parties from across the political spectrum in preparation for the fall 2010 parliamentary elections. Ambassador urged the BIPD leadership to alert the Embassy immediately if they, or any GOB officials, had any concerns about NDI or its activities. Al-Hamer was receptive and committed to remain in contact with emboffs. (Note: the GOB designated BIPD to be NDI's point of contact in 2006; BIPD and NDI agreed to a "statement of principles" in July 2007, which the BIPD board renewed in September 2009. End note). COMMENT -------

5.(C) More so than his predecessor, Lulwa Awadhi (ref D), Al-Hamer promises to be a cooperative partner for emboffs and, we judge, will support NDI programming so long as it does not disproportionately benefit Al-Wifaq and other opposition political societies. He is somewhat favorably disposed towards the U.S. -- all four of his children study in Boston or Austin, TX -- and his wife, Afnan Al-Zayani, is a MEPI grantee. Al-Hamer's chief focus will remain his job as the King's media advisor; he will likely leave BIPD strategy and operations to other members of the new board of trustees and to Al-Khayat and his senior staff. Emboffs will engage with Al-Khayat and board members such as Al-Otaibi, and will remain alert for any signs of BIPD or GOB discomfort with NDI in an effort to avoid any repetition of the controversy NDI encountered in 2006.

6.(C) Post notes that MEPI funding for NDI programming in Bahrain is running out, and strongly supports renewed MEPI funding for NDI activities in the lead up to parliamentary and municipal council elections in the fall (ref E). End comment. ERELI

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