Viewing cable 05MUSCAT1643

05MUSCAT16432005-11-01 13:57:00 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 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: 
-- Corruption Scandal Involving The National Electric Company 
-- Comments By Iran's President 
-- Arab Rulers As Puppets 
-- Opening Of An Omani Consulate In Melbourne 
-- Alleged Demonstration By Physically Disabled In Saham 
End summary. 
A Current Affair 
¶2. With a record number of hits (16,832) and responses (174), the 
conviction and sentencing of 31 individuals involved in a 
bribery/corruption scandal at the National Electricity Company 
was a major topic of discussion among al-Sablah members.  The 
story was all the more sensational given the high level of some 
of the defendants, including a former undersecretary at the 
Ministry of Electricity and Water and Oman's former ambassador to 
the United Kingdom.  Most al-Sablah respondents hailed the trial, 
with one calling it "a victory for transparency."  Others took 
the opportunity to vent against official corruption:  "These 
sentences will set a precedent that will force others to think 
twice before exploiting their positions."  Added another 
contributor, "This unfortunately is not the only breach of trust 
that has occurred in our beloved country, but we hope that 
government officials will learn from the mistakes of the 
¶3. The issue of how the crimes were actually discovered -- by an 
international auditing firm rather than a local entity -- touched 
off another round of comments.  "The State Financial Audit 
Authority proved its ineffectiveness, and we had to rely on 
outsiders to expose the mess," criticized one author.  Another 
wrote, "An international auditing company can find examples of 
fraud and cheating from thousands of miles away, but our own 
agencies can't detect it?  How embarrassing."  Still others 
worried about the broader implications of the sentencing:  "Was 
our Ambassador to the UK honest when he was representing Oman in 
London?  Or was he working to get better deals for British 
Cartography, Iranian-Style 
¶4. Recent inflammatory comments by Iran's president received 
broad support among al-Sablah's readers.  Out of 1,200 hits and 
48 responses, most participants agreed with President 
Ahmedinejad's call to "wipe Israel off the map."  "I wish I were 
an Iranian," commented one author, "because none of the Arab 
leaders would dare to say what the Iranian president did." 
Continued another, "God bless Iran's president for vocalizing 
what we all are thinking.  If only Arab leaders were so bold." 
One respondent, however, urged caution, saying "The Iranian 
president may be betting on the losing horse in this instance." 
Made in America 
¶5. One forum member aired his opinions about Washington's 
ostensible control over Arab leaders:  "There is a new trend in 
American policy now, to try and identify future Arab leaders in 
order to influence them.  In the past, America simply used bribes 
or other means to put Arab leaders in its pocket, but now they 
are looking more and more at young people." 
¶6. 237 individuals viewed the topic, and 17 responded - mostly 
agreeing with the author.  "Arab leaders are always trying to 
please their American masters, as we have seen," claimed one 
respondent.  Another wrote, "It seems the Bush administration is 
fed up with simply giving orders to Arab leaders, and now wants 
to `educate' and `prepare' our rulers for us."  Still another 
observed, "The problem for the Americans is that the Arab 
educational system does not create puppets.  Therefore, the 
Americans are trying to influence the upbringing of future 
leaders, in an effort to make them traitors to their own 
The Sultanate In Sydney 
¶7. The news that Sultan Qaboos issued a royal decree establishing 
an Omani consulate in Melbourne, Australia was welcomed by al- 
Sablah readers (with 124 hits and 7 responses).  One participant 
noted, "In view of the increasing number of Omani students who 
are choosing to attend universities in Australia and New Zealand, 
opening this consulate is a good idea."  Remarked another, "For a 
long time, Omani students in Australia and even Malaysia needed 
to rely on Oman's embassy in London for services and formalities. 
This new consulate will certainly make it easier for students." 
Stirrings In Saham? 
¶8. In a posting that received 287 hits but virtually no 
responses, one forum member reported on an alleged demonstration 
by physically disabled Omanis in Saham (near the city of Sohar, 
northwest of Muscat).  This reporter claimed to see "a group of 
disabled persons, mostly men, gathering on their wheelchairs near 
the Royal Camp in Saham, demanding to meet the Sultan.  They were 
asking for more job opportunities for the handicapped in both the 
public and private sectors.  A security officer in charge of the 
site denied them access to His Majesty."