UNCLAS MUSCAT 000368
STATE FOR NEA/ARPI (TROBERTS), NEA/PPD (CWHITTLESEY), NEA/P
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO SOCI MU
SUBJECT: OMAN ONLINE: U.S. BEHIND ARRESTS; HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT
Â¶1. Summary: The Omani Internet chat rooms "Al-Sablah" and "Al-
Majarra" are the liveliest and most comprehensive Arabic-language
fora 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, these popular sites nevertheless offer a
worthwhile window into the hot topics and unvarnished views of
the day. This edition of Oman Online contains the following
-- U.S. Behind Arrests in Oman
-- U.S. Human Rights Report
Blaming the U.S.
Â¶2. Al-Sablah subscribers have been speculating about whether the
United States is involved in the arrest of detainees accused of
plotting to harm Oman's national security. Most participants
rejected this notion. One subscriber wrote, "You overestimate
the capabilities of American intelligence services. If they were
as good as people think they are, they would have prevented the
September 11 attacks." A small number of subscribers gave
credence to the idea. "The CIA is gathering information about
Muslim activists in Arab countries and some nations will do
anything to appease them. I am certain this is the case here."
Another participant suggested that visits by the American
Ambassador to cultural institutions could have intelligence aims.
"It's strange that the U.S. Ambassador should suddenly visit
insignificant cultural institutions. Could his visits be tied to
this issue?" Al-Majarra also discussed possible American
involvement in the arrests. The vast majority of its subscribers
opined that the U.S. is involved in the arrests. One Al-Majarra
participant wrote, "Of course America is involved, the U.S.
interferes with everything in this country."
Â¶3. An Al-Sablah subscriber posted a link to the web page of the
State Department's Human Rights Report stating, "Washington is
criticizing Oman's human rights practices because of the
government's decision to ban journalists." One participant
stated, "It's strange that the U.S. should criticize Oman, one of
its strongest allies, on an issue that only involves a few
individuals." Another subscriber commented, "The U.S. does not
care what the governments of its allies think or how they react
to its statements. America learned long ago that Arab countries
will not stand up to it."