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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09DHAHRAN258 2009-10-14 07:45:00 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Consulate Dhahran
Cable title:  

NAJRAN'S NEW GOVERNOR OFF TO GOOD START BUT CHALLENGED BY

Tags:   PGOV KIRF PHUM SA YM 
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VZCZCXRO9396
PP RUEHDE RUEHDIR
DE RUEHDH #0258/01 2870745
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 140745Z OCT 09
FM AMCONSUL DHAHRAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0298
INFO RUEHZM/GCC C COLLECTIVE
RUEHYN/AMEMBASSY SANAA PRIORITY 0004
RUEHDH/AMCONSUL DHAHRAN 0392
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAHRAN 000258 

NOFORN
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/ARP JOSHUA HARRIS AND JEREMY BERNDT

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/14/2019
TAGS: PGOV KIRF PHUM SA YM
SUBJECT: NAJRAN'S NEW GOVERNOR OFF TO GOOD START BUT CHALLENGED BY
NORTHERN YEMEN CONFLICT

REF: RIYADH 482

DHAHRAN 00000258 001.2 OF 002


CLASSIFIED BY: Joseph A. Kenny, Consul General, EXEC, DOS.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
SUMMARY

-------





1. (C) The new governor of Najran province on the border with
Yemen is viewed as being a serious, business-oriented leader
looking to downplay the sectarian differences between the
officially recognized Sunni interpretation of Islam and that of
the province's majority Ismaili (specifically Sulaimani Bohra
branch) residents. However, the intensifying conflict in
Northern Yemen has had some spillover effects into the region,
including wounded Huthis being treated in Najrani hospitals,
Yemeni citizens begging in the streets, and the sounds of
firearms and explosions in the distance. END SUMMARY.



NEW GOVERNOR OF NAJRAN



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







2. (C) On March 27 King Abdullah appointed his son Prince Mishal
bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz as the new governor of Najran
province (see reftel for more info on the appointment). The
population of Najran according to a 2004 census is about 420,000
with Saudi citizens making up approximately 350,000 of the
total. The vast majority of the residents belong to the
Sulaimani Bohra branch of Ismaili Shiism. The last governor was
relieved of his duties in large part due to his inability to
quell the discontent among the Ismailis in Najran. With rising
violence across the border in Yemen as well as increasing
tensions between the Yemeni and Saudi governments, a secure and
stable Najran is all the more critical to the Kingdom.



INFLUENTIAL ISMAILI BUSINESSMAN

IS CLOSE TO NAJRAN GOVERNOR



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







3. (C/NF) In an October 7 meeting with the Consul General and
PolOffs, Ali Borman al-Yami (protect), an influential Ismaili
businessman originally from Najran, described his close
relationship with the new governor and the prince's priorities
for the province. Al-Yami has direct access to the governor and
is collaborating with him in the establishment of a Najran-based
holding company. (NOTE: Al-Yami is a well-established contact
of the Consulate living in the Eastern Province and a successful
businessman in the region. His credibility as a well-connected
source was bolstered when he accurately predicted that Prince
Mishal bin Abdullah would become the governor of Najran several
months before the announcement. END NOTE.)



THE GOVERNOR FOCUSES ON BUSINESS COMMUNITY,

DOWNPLAYS SECTARIAN DIFFERENCES



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







4. (C/NF) Al-Yami (protect) described Prince Mishal as an
improvement over his predecessor, Prince Mishal bin Saud bin
Abdulaziz, who ruled during a time of rapid deterioration in the
relationship between the majority Ismaili residents and the
provincial authorities. Al-Yami said that the current governor
has downplayed controversial sectarian rhetoric or policies
going as far as praying alongside Ismailis at his mosque.
Instead he has focused his efforts on areas of common interest,
namely fostering business growth in the province. According to
al-Yami, this has made the governor popular in Najran and he is
generally well-respected among the Ismailis. The Governor
spearheaded festive celebrations on the occasion of Saudi
National Day (September 23) that included musical performances.
When challenged by the Mutawaeen, he suggested that they take a
holiday away from Najran! According to Al-Yami, the Governor is
improving the quality of life for the Najran people, building

DHAHRAN 00000258 002.2 OF 002


the infrastructure, including hospitals, a sports center, etc.





5. (C/NF) According to al-Yami (protect) 90 percent of Najran's
Saudi population follows the Sulaimani Bohra sub-sect of
Ismailism. (NOTE: Historically, the Sulaimani Bohra branch of
Ismailism broke off into their own sub-sect in the sixteenth
century. The Sulaimani reside largely in northern Yemen and
bordering areas of Saudi Arabia, specifically Najran. Al-Yami
made a point of distinguishing his people as Sulaimani (not
Ismaili), indicating a hint of disdain for being referred to as
the latter. END NOTE.) Al-Yami noted that traditional Ismaili
mosques are tolerated in Najran and that Ismailis generally are
allowed to practice their faith as they see fit, especially
since the current governor took power.



BONDS BETWEEN YEMEN AND NAJRAN ARE DEEP



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







6. (C/NF) Aside from the religious ties among the Sulaimanis
living on both sides of the Najrani, Saudi-Yemeni border,
al-Yami described deep tribal links between southern Saudi
provinces of Najran and Jizan and northern Yemen. For example,
Saudi tribal leaders have the authority to grant temporary
"visas" without MFA or MOI approval to Yemenis based on requests
from Yemeni tribal leaders. He also said that tribal leaders on
both sides of the border regularly meet and discuss tribal
matters. Cross-border commercial ties are also strong with
special coins used as currency among merchants within Najran as
well as in Yemen.



CONFLICT IN YEMEN FELT IN NAJRAN



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







7. (C/NF) When asked about the impact that the Yemeni conflict
is having in Najran, al-Yami said that injured Huthis were being
treated in Najrani hospitals. He also said that people in
Najran and Jizan have at times heard the sound of gunfire and
explosives in the distance. However, he was adamant that the
violence would not spill over into any Saudi population centers,
stating that there was a "red line" which could not be crossed,
though he did not provide any further details on the subject.
He concluded his comments on the subject by declaring that Yemen
will eventually divide since the north is so much different from
the south. He alluded to the fact that the south was much more
orderly and business oriented.



COMMENT



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







8. (C/NF) Though al-Yami represents merely one perspective on
recent events in Najran, he provides a particularly
well-informed, objective snapshot of the province. It appears
that the governor has made substantial progress in making amends
with the Ismaili population, which will allow him to focus on
securing Najran from potentially destabilizing effects of the
Yemeni conflict. Nevertheless, the deeply rooted links between
Yemen and Najran will ensure that this sparsely populated
southern province remains a critical junction between KSA and
Yemen.
KENNY