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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03SANAA309
2003-02-14 21:15:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Sanaa
Cable title:  

SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT SHEIKH AL AHMAR TALKS

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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SANAA 000309 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/30/2013
TAGS: PGOV KDEM YM DOMESTIC POLITICS DEMOCRATIC REFORM
SUBJECT: SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT SHEIKH AL AHMAR TALKS
DEMOCRACY AND DEVELOPMENT WITH AMBASSADOR


Classified By: Ambassador Edmund J. Hull for Reasons 1.5 (b,d)



1. (C) Summary: Within the scope of ongoing post meetings
with senior political figures in the run-up to the April
parliamentary elections, the Ambassador called on Speaker of
Parliament (and leader of the Islamist-oriented Islah Party)
Sheikh Abdullah Hussein al-Ahmar at his home on January 30.
In a brief, cordial and low-key meeting, conversation
centered around democratic development, the upcoming
elections and U.S. development assistance. Although often
intensely anti-American in his public rhetoric, the Sheikh on
this occasion assiduously avoided contentious subjects such
as Iraq, the Palestinian issue, U.S.-Yemen counterterrorism
cooperation or the arrest of Islah party Shura Council member
al-Moayed in Germany. End Summary.



2. (C) Along with Ambassador Hull and Sheikh al-Ahmar, the
1/30 meeting included Hamid al-Ahmar (son of Sheikh Abdullah,
Member of Parliament and prominent businessman) and
Abduleqawe al-Qaisi, Director of the Office of the Speaker,
as well as DCM and Acting Pol/Econ Chief (notetaker).
Discussion took place entirely in Arabic.



--------------------------


Democracy


--------------------------





3. (C) Sheikh al-Ahmar expressed concerns about the ROYG
and ruling General People's Congress (GPC) using the
advantages of incumbency, particularly the media, to
influence the outcome of the April elections and marginalize
the opposition. He said the GPC planned to take "all" the
seats. and made a point of contrasting Western democracies
and their often close races with leaders in the Middle East
and their desire to get all the votes possible. The sheikh
laughed and acknowledged reference to Saddam's 100 percent
victory as a typical example, but did not take this opening
for any further discussion of Iraq. Al-Ahmar expressed
concern about possible violence in the April elections, and
the Ambassador agreed that all must be done to prevent it.
The Ambassador made a point about the importance of ensuring
enough women candidates in the election, and the Sheikh
agreed and said that women candidates are taking part.



--------------------------


Development


--------------------------





4. (C) The Sheikh was receptive and positive in response to
the Ambassador's briefing of USG development activities and
the return of USAID. He noted that health and education
programs in deprived rural areas were especially important.
Al-Ahmar added that he believed military assistance was not
really important and that it should play a secondary role in
U.S. relations with Yemen and other countries in the region.
The Sheikh complained that none of the countries in the
region had external enemies to arm against, but still
emphasized military build-up rather than development simply
in order to repress their own people.



5. (C) The Sheikh said that he and President Saleh would go
on the Hajj together.



6. (C) Comment: It is striking that Sheikh al-Ahmar
avoided even passing reference to any contentious issue in
this latest meeting with Ambassador Hull. While he is
renowned for the venomous anti-U.S. quality of his public
remarks, he made no mention of Palestine, Iraq or the arrest
of Sheikh al-Moayed in Germany. When hewing to the high
road, as on this occasion, al-Ahmar strikes a convincing pose
as an advocate of democracy and government accountability.
Unfortunately the high road is seldom his chosen route. His
party's public announcement, several days after this meeting,
that Islah would field no female candidates and opposed the
inclusion of women candidates in the parliamentary elections
-- his contrary remarks to the Ambassador notwithstanding --
was an all-too-typical example of his tendency to play to the
lowest, most exploitative common denominator of Islamic
rectitude in order to stir and sustain the fervor of his
constituents.


MISENHEIMER