Viewing cable 05MUSCAT1871

05MUSCAT18712005-12-15 17:35:00 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 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: 
-- "Suicide" Vs. "Martyrdom" 
-- The Existence of American Troops in Oman 
-- Alleged Corruption of Minister of Crafts Industries 
-- Strike in Salalah Port 
End summary. 
Suicide Vs. Martyrdom 
¶2. Participants in al-Sablah noted how Oman's daily youth- 
oriented "Al-Shabibah" newspaper described the attackers of the 
Israeli town of Netanya as "suicide bombers" rather than 
"martyrs."  Of the 859 participants who viewed this topic, 59 
responded to it.  The topic then turned to a discussion of the 
bombing itself; roughly 60 percent opposed the Netanya attack. 
Some described it as "a crime to give the Israelis an excuse to 
continue swallowing more territories and their revenge attacks 
against innocents." Others saw the attack as un-Islamic, and 
challenged Muslims who defend it to bring "one Quranic verse or 
legitimate proof from Islamic teaching showing that killing 
innocents is legal."  Still others urged the tactic of peaceful 
resistance, which they saw as underlying the success of the first 
Palestinian Intifadha. 
Baseless Charges 
¶3. The question of American bases in Oman generated 2,354 hits 
and 39 responses.  Al-Sablah members were divided in their 
opinion. Many did not strongly oppose the American military 
presence in the Sultanate.  They cited an assessment from the 
Congressional Research Service that "No American troops exist 
post 9/11 in Oman except for a few facilities and equipment." 
Many users also agreed that "Americans are using Omani facilities 
only as part of bilateral agreements."  They added that "The 
Omani government has signed a treaty with America limiting the 
American military to the use of Omani facilities and equipment, 
only 24 bases, and thus Americans in this condition are using 
Omani bases rather than their own." 
¶4. Others, however, strongly opposed any American military 
presence in Oman, noting that "American bases existed during the 
war against Afghanistan and Iraq or at least they used Omani 
bases to attack Iraq."  They asked, "Why should our country 
provide any logistical support to attack another country?"  One 
member stated that "the [Omani] government does not take into 
consideration what its people want, it only obeys mamma America." 
All In The Family 
¶5. The alleged corruption of female Omani minister Shaykhah Aisha 
bint Khalfan al-Siyabiya, in charge of craft industries, 
generated 7,779 hits.  The 178 responders castigated the minister 
"for hiring and giving her in-laws priority in all the benefits 
she gets from her position."  Responders discussed the minister's 
latest scandal, in which she allegedly contracted with one of her 
relatives to offer a course in how to make the traditional Omani 
ceremonial dagger, the "khanjar," at a cost of 2000 Omani riyals 
(approximately $5200) to each student in a class of twenty. 
¶6. This topic in turn led to complaints about how the minister's 
husband has benefited from his wife's position.  One response 
asked how her husband advanced from a BMW salesman to a high 
level official in the Royal Diwan in less than one year.  Some 
responders complained that Sultan Qaboos himself appointed her 
husband to that position per her request.  An overwhelming number 
of participants complained that such behavior is ruining the 
whole political system; one member stated, "This is against human 
rights because if human rights existed in this country...she 
would have not been appointed to that position in the first 
Strike One 
¶7. Al-Sablah's report of a strike in Salalah's port generated 
10,558 hits and 203 responses.  According to al-Sablah, "an Omani 
employee (Salim Al-Ma'ashani, head of the marketing department) 
punched an expatriate who was at first assumed to be an American, 
but who was in fact South African.  The expatriate provoked the 
Omani employee by firing him and then demanding that he leave the 
premises.  Other Omani employees upon hearing the incident 
supported Al-Ma'ashani, since he is a popular figure in the 
company who always fights for their rights." 
¶8. Other respondents chimed in.  "The Omani employees called for 
a strike, and the port's activities were at a standstill and in 
confusion for almost 72 hours, forcing 24 ships to divert to 
other destinations."  The striking Omani workers demanded the 
termination of the expatriate, not only for disrespecting Al- 
Ma'ashani and insulting him but also for insulting all Omanis. 
Some al-Sablah users claimed that the expatriate demeaned Omanis, 
saying, "You people don't understand anything." 
¶9. According to al-Sablah, the strike ended following a long 
meeting between five representatives of the Omani workers and the 
regional sheikhs of Dhofar, the Deputy Governor of Dhofar, and 
several high-ranking ministry officials. One al-Sablah response 
reported that the Omani employees resumed their duties on the 
condition that Al-Ma'ashani be reinstated and that the company 
management respect their grievances.