Viewing cable 05MUSCAT244
Title: IRI FINALLY BREAKS DOWN THE DOOR TO OMANI

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05MUSCAT2442005-02-13 13:14:00 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 000244 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
STATE FOR NEA/PI, NEA/ARPI 
ABU DHABI FOR MEPI (HWECHSEL) 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV KMPI PREL EAID MU
SUBJECT: IRI FINALLY BREAKS DOWN THE DOOR TO OMANI 
PARLIAMENT 
 
 
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Summary 
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¶1. (SBU) The International Republican Institute finally 
succeeded this month in carrying out a training program for 
elected Omani parliamentarians that the Majlis' President had 
vowed for five years would never be permitted.  Twelve 
deputies and a senior staffer participated in a 3-day 
workshop on critical reading of legislation, and came away 
insisting on further courses.  Finally having undergone a 
change of heart, the Majlis President at the end asked IRI 
why the workshop lasted only a few days.  After investing 
five years' of effort in winning over Oman's elected 
quasi-parliament, IRI now faces the task of winning over MEPI 
funds to continue its work.  The Embassy strongly endorses 
IRI's continued presence in Oman.  End summary. 
 
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Winning the Trial 
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¶2. (SBU) International Republican Institute (IRI) Middle East 
Program Officer Omar Alvi briefed Pol/Econ Chief on February 
9 about a ground-breaking training program February 5-7 
conducted at the Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council) that, 
for the first time in IRI's five years of work with the 
Majlis, included elected deputies as opposed to only staff. 
The "workshop" on reading draft legislation grew out of a 
similar program IRI conduced in 2004 with Majlis staffers 
that so impressed Majlis Secretary General Abdul Qadir 
al-Dhahab that he asked that it be extended to members as a 
special trial. 
 
¶3. (SBU) The twelve participants in the 3-day, 9-hour event 
(called a "workshop" to avoid offending the members with the 
term "training") included Majlis Vice President Ishaq 
al-Siyabi, the chairpersons of four Majlis committees (and 
two deputy chairpersons), and the director of the Secretary 
General's office.  One of the Majlis' two female members was 
among those taking part. 
 
¶4. (SBU) Despite initial worries over how the members would 
respond to an Egyptian trainer (Mahmoud Sabrah), and constant 
interruptions on Day 1 from members' cell phones, the 
audience eventually warmed enthusiastically to the subject 
matter and ended the workshop insisting on more such 
opportunities.  Female deputy Rahila al-Riyami, who chairs 
the Education and Culture Committee, forcefully insisted that 
cell phones be turned off early on Day 2, from which point 
members began in earnest to engage on the subject matter.  By 
Day 3, Alvi reported that the members' discussions grew 
positively "risky" in the amount of frank criticism they 
expressed toward the Majlis' circumscribed legislative role 
and the government's dismissive attitude towards it. 
 
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Majlis Asking for More 
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¶5. (SBU) Sabrah used two pieces of legislation previously 
passed by the Majlis (one on the medical profession and the 
other on consumer protection) as his case studies in critical 
reading.  By the end of the course, Vice President al-Siyabi 
asked in mock outrage how he and his colleagues could have 
approved such flawed bills once the course had helped them 
recognize gaps and contradictions in the government-drafted 
laws.  The members asked IRI in their feedback for further 
in-depth study on critical reading of legislation, as well as 
a broader array of other legislative courses.  Vice President 
al-Siyabi told Alvi that he would recommend a continuation of 
the IRI training to Majlis President Sheikh Abdullah 
al-Qatabi, but urged IRI to raise it with the President as 
well in light of the President's infamous opposition to 
member "training".  When meeting with Sheikh Abdullah for 
their out-brief, the Majlis President asked why the IRI 
training had only lasted three days, indicating that his 
opposition had finally been overcome.  (Note: IRI 
diplomatically kept mum on the fact that the Majlis Secretary 
General had restricted them to 3 days for this initial trial, 
primarily on the basis of his fear of offending Sheikh 
Abdullah.  End note.) 
 
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Comment 
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¶6. (SBU) While this 3-day IRI course may sound modest by 
standards elsewhere, it is positively ground-breaking in the 
Omani context.  Majlis President Sheikh Abdullah al-Qatabi is 
famously sensitive to outside "interference" in his Council, 
and quick to take offense at perceived slights.  As recently 
as 2004, Qatabi had told us that it was wholly inappropriate 
for elected members of the Majlis to undergo "training," 
saying that any interaction with the USG would have to be on 
a peer basis with fellow parliamentarians.  The UK Embassy 
has dealt with similar restrictions, although the Brits have 
had better luck enlisting its MP's in exchanges with their 
counterparts in the Majlis.  But just as IRI has finally 
crossed this rubicon, its existing funding is running out. 
Without MEPI approval of its new project proposal, IRI's 
first program with Majlis deputies could well be its last, 
and any successor NGO seeking to fill the void will likely 
face years of work to win anew the Majlis' confidence.  The 
Embassy would hate to see IRI's careful cultivation of the 
Majlis al-Shura go to waste and strongly endorses continued 
MEPI funding for IRI efforts in training the Majlis al-Shura.. 
BALTIMORE