UNCLAS MUSCAT 001482
STATE FOR NEA/ARPI, NEA/PPD, NEA/P, IIP/G/NEA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO SOCI MU
SUBJECT: OMAN ONLINE: STORMS, WEAPONS, ALIENS, AND DIPLOMATS
Summary: The Omani Internet message board "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, this popular site nevertheless offers a worthwhile
window into the hot topics and unvarnished views of the day.
This edition of Oman Online contains the following topics:
-- Hurricane Season
-- A Call To Condemn Israel Before The IAEA
-- Illegal Aliens In The Sultanate
-- Oman's New Ambassador To The United States
First Katrina, Then Rita
Â¶2. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, al-Sablah participants
expressed concern about the impact of Hurricane Rita. "What is
going to happen to the poor Americans who cannot evacuate? Is
the government going to help them this time?" asked one member.
Others dwelt on the `causes' of the storm: "These disasters are
taking place in America because God is punishing them for their
tyrannical policies that have killed many innocent people around
Â¶3. Of the 43 respondents (out of 1,870 hits), a majority focused
on the consequences for the Omani economy and environment. One
contributor worried, "Will the value of the dollar - and hence
the value of the Omani currency - be affected by this new
hurricane?" Another questioned, "Did the Sultanate take the
necessary precautions to adequately protect our coastline? Do we
even have the right mechanisms to predict sea earthquakes?"
Nukes In The Negev
Â¶4. In a topic that generated 1,593 hits and 29 responses, one
author raised the issue of the Omani government calling on the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to condemn Israel for
possessing weapons of mass destruction. Roughly 70% of the
respondents appeared puzzled by the action: "It is strange that
Oman is moving away from its `isolation and silence' policy on
this issue," wrote one observer. Another said, "It is well known
that Oman has had secret relations with Israel for years now. so
how can the government condemn the Israelis?" Offered yet
another, "This is simply media propaganda by the Omani government
to show that it still matters in the international community. If
we were really serious about WMD, we should be condemning Iran,
which is closer to us." The remaining 30% hailed the
government's action, saying "This might be the beginning of a
real foreign policy, where we show our relevance to Arab regional
Â¶5. The subject of illegal aliens was also raised in al-Sablah.
The author commented, "I have seen a large number of Pakistanis
in Omani cities these days, and my friends tell me that they have
seen these aliens hiding in souks and farms around the country."
830 forum members viewed the topic, with 24 responses - most of
which called for increased patrols by the Royal Oman Police
(ROP). "The police need to step up their patrols of our beaches
and coastlines, otherwise there will be no end to the illegal
aliens coming to look for work," declared one respondent.
Another observed, "Perhaps our economy can absorb these workers
when the oil revenues are high. But what happens when the price
of oil goes down? Will the government be able to track down all
the illegal workers?"
Â¶6. A recent royal decree appointing the first female Omani
ambassador to the United States prompted 2,095 hits and 55
responses, and promises to generate even more discussion among al-
Sablah members over the coming days and weeks. Most postings
were congratulatory towards the new ambassador (Hunaina al-
Mughairi), but a few contributors criticized the appointment:
"This new ambassador is just a cover. The government is trying
to camouflage the very real suffering of other Omani women, who
still have few rights in this country."