Viewing cable 04MUSCAT2142

04MUSCAT21422004-12-08 13:35:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Muscat
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. Summary:  The Omani Internet chat room "Sablat al-Arab" -- or 
simply "Al-Sablah" -- is the liveliest and most comprehensive 
Arabic-language forum for political and social discourse in the 
country, touching on issues and personalities rarely addressed in 
the conventional media.  While not totally free, nor wholly 
reflective of Omani public opinion, Al-Sablah nevertheless offers 
a worthwhile window into the hot topics and unvarnished views of 
the day.  This edition of Oman Online contains the following 
--- Cheney Stopover In Oman 
--- Visas Post September 11th 
--- Increase in Cooking Gas Prices 
--- Growing Unemployment in Oman 
End summary. 
Cheney Stopover Frustrates Some 
¶2. Upon reading a posting of Vice President Cheney's presence in 
Oman, one Al-Sablah member reacted angrily stating: "We do not 
welcome this criminal and liar into our country, why is he here?" 
Some members speculated on the reason for his landing in Oman and 
stated: "Perhaps he is coming to clarify the policies of the Bush 
Administration for the GCC countries." Other members suggested: 
"He is traveling as a businessman to check on Halliburton's 
contracts in Oman.  That's why there was no formal announcement 
of his arrival." Some participants were frustrated that they were 
not able to protest the Vice President's stopover in Oman, 
saying: "Usually, when U.S. officials visit European or Western 
countries, people demonstrate against American policies. 
However, these officials come to Oman, entertain themselves, and 
have fun on our beaches without even a word of protest from us! 
We should do more to express our views to these officials in the 
Getting A Visa Post September 11th 
¶3. An Al-Sablah member living in a remote region of Oman posed 
the following questions: "I have a question for everyone who has 
applied for a U.S. student or tourist visa since September 11, 
2001: how long does it take to receive a visa, and how can I be 
sure to get one?"  Some forum members -- who had never been to 
the United States -- wrote back, "We heard that things got 
complicated after September 11, and that it can take months to 
obtain a visa.  If you are a student, and you fail to register at 
a U.S. port of entry, you might face deportation and could 
potentially be prohibited from entering the U.S. or ever 
obtaining a visa again."  However, many responses portrayed the 
visa process in a positive light.  One recent visa applicant 
noted, "I got the visa after only two hours in the Embassy, and 
it is valid for five years.  My friend also got a visa, and she 
was able to bring her infant to the interview which made it more 
convenient for her to come to the Embassy."  The same writer went 
on to describe the visa process in more detail:  "There is no 
guaranteed strategy for receiving a visa, because the decision 
depends on the judgment of the interviewing officer, who must 
determine the eligibility of the applicant."  Another contributor 
advised, "Being prepared with all your documents can save you a 
lot of time and frustration when dealing with U.S. airport 
Cooking Gas Prices And Tempers Are Going Up 
¶4. The increase in the cost of cooking gas in Oman is another hot 
topic in Al-Sablah, with one member asking: "Who is responsible 
for these price increases. As far as I know, Oman is one of the 
countries that has a gas reserve?" Other members commented that: 
"The increase is hurting a lot of people and the regular people 
are the only ones who suffer from these price increases." Some 
participants emphatically demanded an explanation by the 
government on this issue, and one Al-Sablah member attempted to 
provide an answer by saying: "The reason for the increase is that 
the main refinery is undergoing maintenance and has temporarily 
closed down, so the production of gas is taking place in another 
refinery which may be more expensive to operate." Other 
frustrated participants rejected this explanation and said: "This 
is another trick to abuse the citizens and an attempt to take 
more of our money and we won't tolerate it." Some members even 
went so far as to call for a demonstration in front of the 
Sultan's palace and wrote: "If he knows what is going on, then we 
will urge him to do something about it, and if he does not know 
what is going on, then we will inform him." 
Growing Unemployment, Growing Concerns 
¶5. Earlier this year the Diwan announced the creation of 700 new 
government jobs, and a subsequent application and interview 
process. Recently, a local Omani newspaper announced that the 
Diwan was ready to interview the first of three batches of 15,000 
eligible applicants for these positions. This announcement 
sparked a discussion on the unemployment situation in Oman.  One 
Al-Sablah member stated: "According to some official sources 
there are more than 75,000 jobseekers in Oman, of which only 
45,000 will be interviewed by the Diwan for a meager 700 
positions. This certainly indicates that there is growing 
unemployment in Oman." Another member added saying: "The 
unemployment rate in Oman is steadily growing but instead of 
doing something about it the government only tries to hide it." 
Another member concluded saying: "The Omani Chamber of Commerce 
should take more responsibility for the growing unemployment 
rate, because it has failed to implement a successful economic 
plan in this country."