|06MANAMA1040||2006-06-13 12:23:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Manama|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAMA 001040
1. (C) Privately, all Bahrainis we have been in touch with,
whether Sunni or Shi'a, have expressed satisfaction with the
death of Al Zarqawi. Public reactions have broken down along
mostly sectarian lines. Shi'a Bahrainis, who represent some
70 percent of the country's citizens, expressed their
happiness by sending celebratory cell phone text messages to
friends and distributing sweets to neighbors and colleagues.
Although there was little said in Friday prayer sermons about
Al Zarqawi, perhaps because of the proximity between the
announcement of his death and the sermons, there were some
messages from Shi'a clerics in mosques and ma'atams (Shi'a
community centers) thanking God for ending his life.
Newspaper columns were more mixed, with some critical
articles from Sunni columnists who support the Iraqi
insurgency. End Summary.
Satisfaction the Terrorist is Gone
2. (C) All Bahrainis we spoke with have reacted with varying
degrees of satisfaction to the death of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi.
Shi'as have been jubilant and most Sunnis are pleased that a
man widely viewed as a terrorist and criminal who hijacked
their sect is gone. There is a small fringe segment of the
Sunni population sympathetic to Al Qaida, but they have been
silent on Al Zarqawi's death thus far. Government officials
have privately expressed their appreciation for the U.S.
strike on Al Zarqawi but the GOB has not commented officially
on the matter.
3. (C) Public reaction to the news has largely broken down
along sectarian lines. Shi'as, who comprise some 70 percent
of the country's citizens, have expressed their happiness.
Some Sunni columnists who support the Iraqi insurgency have
written articles critical of the U.S. attack on Al Zarqawi
but refrain from praising him, focusing instead on their
support for the insurgency. Both the Arabic and English
press carried factual news stories of the event and
Iraqi/coalition press conferences.
4. (C) Several Embassy staff received congratulatory phone
calls and text messages on June 8 as the news began to
spread. Poloff heard anecdotes of residents of Shi'a
villages distributing sweets and congratulating one another
that Al Zarqawi was dead. There were also reports of retail
store owners offering candy, tea and coffee to their
customers, and colleagues in workplaces as diverse as
national phone company Batelco and local public schools
sharing sweets together.
5. (C) Central Municipal Council member Redha Humaidan
(Shi'a) told Emboff, "Since Al Zarqawi was responsible for
the killing of hundreds of Iraqi civilians and the
destruction of mosques and community centers, his death will
decrease the suffering of Iraqis. We hope that stability in
Iraq will enable Iraq's elected parliament to speed up
political and economic progress. We also hope that his death
encourages other Iraqis supporting Al Zarqawi's ideology to
stop conducting terrorist acts and to join the political
6. (C) Leading Shi'a opposition society Al Wifaq Shura
(Consultative) council member Nizar Al Qari told Poloff that
50-100 residents of Sitra, a Shi'a area, held a gathering in
the street similar to a "zeffah," an event held for grooms
prior to a wedding. The residents gathered in a circle and
chanted slogans praising Al Zarqawi's death. Al Qari also
said that several mosques distributed candy to worshippers.
In one of the mosques, a secondary imam who speaks between
prayer times said, "We thank God that the enemy of the
"marjaie" (referring to Ayatollah Sistani) is now dead."
Focus on Damage Done to Islam
7. (C) A Shi'a source close to the Embassy told of a June 8
gathering at a ma'atam at which a cleric said that the
violent death of Al Zarqawi illustrates what happens to those
MANAMA 00001040 002 OF 002
who advocate violence and terrorism. Al Zarqawi gave a false
and damaging view of Islam and Muslims. The cleric
reportedly said that even though Al Zarqawi was responsible
for the deaths of a large number of Shi'a Iraqis, his words
and actions should be even more insulting and offensive to
Sunnis since he considered himself to be their representative.
8. (C) Another Shi'a contact told us, "Al Zarqawi was a
criminal who misrepresented Islam. We support the unity of
Iraq and think Al Zarqawi's death will lead to greater unity.
We look forward to the destruction of all terrorists, not
only in Iraq, but in the whole region. I have spoken to many
Sunni and Shi'a in Bahrain and all expressed their
satisfaction over the death of Al Zarqawi." He added that he
saw and heard prominent Shi'a cleric Abdulla Al Ghuraifi
congratulating people attending prayers June 8 before he
spoke at the gathering.
Columnists Speak Out
9. (U) Comments from editorials varied in their reactions to
Al Zarqawi's demise. Ahmed Al Boosta in liberal Al Waqt and
Qassem Hussain in the independent Al Wasat praised the
killing of Al Zarqawi. They criticized Ba'athists in Bahrain
who live in a world of conspiracy theories who spread claim
that Al Zarqawi never existed or that he was ony a creation
of American propaganda.
10. PanArabist Akhbar Al Khaleej's columnists used the
ubject of Al Zarqawi's death as a springboard to pomote
their support for the Iraqi insurgency. Abulla Al Ayoobi
wrote that the U.S. can take credt for the killing of Al
Zarqawi, but the real winer is the genuine Iraqi resistance,
whose reputtion had been sullied by Al Zarqawi's
indiscrimiate crimes against Iraqi civilians. "Al Zarqawi's
actions are clearly terrorism, having no other purpose than
to shed blood." Sayed Zahra argued that "it is not heroic to
launch air strikes on a house. The U.S. feels that the
killing of Al Zarqawi will be the straw that will save it
from drowning in the Iraqi quagmire. His killing will lead
to more air strikes and the killing of more innocent
11. (U) Hafedh Al Shaikh, also from Akhbar Al Khaleej, warns
the U.S. and its "Shi'a allies in Iraq" not to celebrate too
much because Al Zarqawi's death only marks the end of one
chapter in the book on the Iraqi resistance. He claims that
Al Zarqawi's ideology is to blame for alienating the Shi'a
and a large portion of the Sunnis in Iraq. "Now the nail and
hammer are in the hands of the Shi'a and the government to
try to bridge the sectarian gap created by those who believe
the takfeeri ideology. But this won't happen unless the
Shi'a abandon their loyalty and alliance with the Safawis
(Iranians), who hold beliefs similar to the takfeeris and who
dominate the Ministry of Interior and the death squads."
12. (C) Our Bahraini contacts have expressed universal
support for Al Zarqawi's demise. While there is a fringe
element among Bahrain's Sunni society that is sympathetic to
Al Qaida, this group has been silent on Al Zarqawi's death.
Even the most outspoken partisans of the Iraqi insurgency,
the pan-Arabists and unreconstructed Ba'athists at Akhbar Al
Khaleej, refrain from supporting Al Zarqawi, focusing instead
on the insurgency. More responsible members of Bahraini
society are likely breathing a sigh of relief that Al Zarqawi
has been removed from the scene. His incitement of sectarian
tensions in Iraq echoed within Bahraini society, albeit in a
diminished way. As Bahraini leaders try to deal with their
own local issues with sectarian overtones - elections,
employment, housing, education - they are no doubt hoping the
spillover effect from Iraq becomes less intense.
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