Viewing cable 05MUSCAT1051
Title: FONMIN ON REGIONAL ISSUES, STRIKES DOMESTIC CHORD

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05MUSCAT10512005-07-06 07:36:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MUSCAT 001051 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE PASS USTR (JBUNTIN) 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PTER SOCI KISL ETRD OPRC XF MU
SUBJECT: FONMIN ON REGIONAL ISSUES, STRIKES DOMESTIC CHORD 
 
 
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SUMMARY 
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¶1. (SBU) Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin 
Alawi gave a wide-ranging interview to a UAE-based newspaper 
in late-June that garnered an unusual reaction.  Speaking on 
foreign policy issues, the Minister defended USG support for 
Palestine and security efforts in Iraq, as well as U.S.-Oman 
negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement.  He gave an anodyne 
comment on Iran's elections, voiced concerns about "reform" 
in the Middle East, and reiterated Oman's support for 
developing countries.  Asked about the Sultan's recent 
pardon of 31 convicted Ibadhi extremists, however, the 
Minister dismissed as "media exaggerations" the government's 
charge that they sought to overthrow the government. 
Popular reactions seized upon the apparent discrepancy to 
further criticize the secret services' handling of the case, 
and heaped praise on the Minister for his wisdom.  End 
summary. 
 
¶2. (SBU) In an unusual move, Minister Responsible for 
Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi gave a full-page interview 
published in the June 26 edition of Dubai-based Arabic daily 
"Al Bayan."  Despite leading questions intended to evoke 
criticisms, the Minister's references to the U.S. were 
largely laudatory, though he voiced caution over calls for 
reform. 
 
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Iraq 
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¶3. (U) Responding to a question implying sole U.S. 
responsibility for insecurity in Iraq, YBA said the security 
situation in Iraq is everybody's responsibility, the allied 
forces and the Iraqis.  He added that the international 
military presence in Iraq is covered under a UN Security 
Council Resolution and that the U.S. realizes that.  He 
described the U.S. and Coalition aim as "transforming Iraq 
to a sovereign constitutional state, with an elected 
parliament; after achieving this, Iraq will be a fully 
legitimate and sovereign state." 
 
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Free Trade Agreement 
-------------------- 
 
¶4. (U) The Minister rejected the suggestion of disagreement 
among GCC members about engaging in bilateral FTA 
negotiations with the U.S.  He stressed that the U.S. did 
not impose its policies on the GCC countries, and assured 
that "FTA will not harm any party." 
 
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Middle East Peace 
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¶5. (U) Bin Alawi struck a positive tone on the peace 
process.  "There has been a significant positive change in 
the political arena in Palestine.  As a result, the American 
view to the Palestinian cause is now more positive.  In 
addition, the EU is holding talks with different Palestinian 
factions including Hamas."  In an apparent allusion to 
groups such as Hamas, YBA opined that the "view towards what 
is seen now as terrorist groups could change in the future 
similar to what happened with the U.S. and the PLO." 
Regarding Lebanon and Syria, the Minister said that the 
death of Rafik Hariri was a great loss, but hopefully 
predicted that Lebanese political parties "will be able to 
work out their differences."  The Syrian government, he 
believes, is trying to move towards change, "but change 
requires the effort of the people of Syria, is not easy, and 
it will not happen overnight."  He added that rushing change 
is not practical. 
 
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Iranian Elections 
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¶6. (U) The Minister said, "Regardless of who is in power in 
Iran, there are common interests between the GCC and Iran, 
so it's important that we organize these interests.  (W)e 
are neighbors; relations have been generally stable despite 
minor disagreements." 
 
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"Reform" in the Middle East 
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¶7. (SBU) Reiterating one of his favorite talking points, Bin 
Alawi stated, "We do not use the word "reform" because in 
Arabic it is associated with corruption.  We use 
"development" and "modernization" (Arabic: tahdith and 
tatweer).  But this does not mean we are against the 
concept.  Using the word "reform" is a common language 
error, and it is not used in the Sultanate."  He added, "The 
West's insistence on imposing reform could lead to civil 
wars."  (Note: Illustrating the slant of the newspaper, this 
lone critical comment was used as the headline for the 
interview.  End note.) 
 
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Non-Aligned Movement 
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¶8. (U) YBA called the mid-June G-77 summit in Doha a 
success, noting that counties from the north and the south 
were able to exchange views and try to resolve differences. 
He also stated that, "As a part of GCC, Oman will contribute 
to the Economic Fund for the South proposed by the Emir (of 
Qatar)."  When asked why he did not attend the summit, he 
replied he was attending a wedding in Salalah.  (The MFA 
Under Secretary represented Oman.) 
 
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Remarks on Pardons Earns Popular Kudos 
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¶9. (SBU) Asked about the danger posed by the 31 alleged 
Ibadhi extremists sentenced in May for forming a secret 
organization and plotting to overthrow the government, the 
Minister said the Sultan's pardon in June of the convicts 
was the right thing to do, taking in to account the tolerant 
nature of the Omani culture.  Noting that members of the 
banned secret organization confessed their guilt, Bin Alawi 
reminded that pardons are an established government 
practice.  He also stated that popular sympathy for the 
convicted persons stemmed from the fact that "Oman is a 
tribal society."  Departing from Omani government statements 
during the arrest and trial of the accused, the Minister 
added, "The issue is not related at all to attempting to 
overthrow the government.  The media has exaggerated.  They 
were a group of Ibadhis with extreme views aiming to 
preserve their sect."  He added that the pardons do not mean 
that the former members of the organization can reconstitute 
it. 
 
¶10. (SBU) Denizens of the popular Omani Internet message 
board "Al Sablah" were quick to heap effusive praise on the 
Minister's comments regarding the pardons.  Contributors 
interpreted Bin Alawi's characterization of the secret 
organization as a sign of disagreement between senior 
political and security officials about the arrests.  The 
overwhelming majority of the respondents termed Bin Alawi's 
more innocuous characterization of the arrestees as the more 
accurate description of the secret organization. 
Participants renewed criticism of the Omani security 
services for their actions, anticipating personnel changes 
as a result.  Having earned popular good will with his 
comments on the pardons, responses largely praised his 
temperate comments on foreign policy issues as "diplomatic 
and wise."