Reference ID: 06RIYADH6339
Created: 2006-08-08 13:44
Released: 2011-08-30 01:44
Origin: Embassy Riyadh
DE RUEHRH #6339 2201344
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081344Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY RIYADH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0439
INFO RUEHJI/AMCONSUL JEDDAH 7551
C O N F I D E N T I A L RIYADH 006339
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/08/2016
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PINR, ECON, ETRD, SA, LE
SUBJECT: SAUDI CONSERVATIVES CALL FOR BOYCOTT ON US
PRODUCTS IN RESPONSE TO LEBANON CRISIS
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Michael Gfoeller for reasons 1.4
(b) and (d).
1. (C) SUMMARY: Beginning July 31, two prominent
conservative websites posted articles calling for a boycott
on U.S. consumer goods and services, ranging from fast-food
franchises to shampoo brands, to begin on August 4. There
was already an ongoing cellular telephone text messaging
campaign. The potential effectiveness of the boycott has
been widely debated on the websites. This call for a boycott
is the first in Saudi Arabia on U.S. products since the 2003
Iraq invasion, and follows a 2005 successful boycott on
Danish products. The Saudi economy is too dependent on U.S.
consumer goods for the boycott to be popular amongst the
Saudi populace, but its initiation may suggest the Saudi
public's increasing displeasure with the U.S.'s foreign
policy towards the Lebanon crisis. END SUMMARY.
2. (U) On July 31, the conservative website "Islam Online"
posted an article reporting an SMS cell phone text messaging
campaign calling for the boycott of U.S. products to protest
perceived U.S. inaction on the Lebanon crisis. The SMS texts
used emotional rhetoric to support their campaign. One of
the messages stated, "with every Riyal (with which) you
purchase American products there is a bullet in the heart of
a Lebanese and a Palestinian." In the article, Saleh
Al-Rubai'an, Professor of Journalism at the Call and Media
College, King Saud University, commented that the boycott
will be an "effective weapon that forces nations to take the
Islamic states into consideration." Also, the boycott
campaign urged people to support their local economy, by
buying Saudi products and effectively boycotting American
goods and services.
3. (U) The conservative Al-Sahat website also posted this
article, which generated a robust online debate about the
effectiveness of an anti-U.S. U.S. boycott. One of these
postings stated, "One would get good credit from God if one
boycotted American and Israeli products as these nations are
killing Muslims, and it is one way of supporting our Muslim
brothers." Another posting commented that boycotting
American products had proved difficult in the past and
suggested pursuing a boycott of the U.S. dollar in favor of
the Yen or Euro.
4. (SBU) On August 4, al-Sahat posted a list of specific
U.S. goods and establishments to boycott including: Nesquick,
Coca Cola, NIKE Sportswear, Lays Potato Products, Pampers,
Proctor & Gamble products, Pert Plus, Head and Shoulders,
Pantene, Starbucks Coffee, Pizza Hut, Baskin Robbins,
Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's, Hardees and Burger King.
PolOff and EconOff visited several restaurants on the list as
well as supermarkets that stock the listed American products.
All the establishments were fully stocked with the items
recommended to be boycotted. Indeed, many stores were having
front aisle sales on these items. There were no leaflets
posted on the bulletin boards at the entrance of the stores,
and there were no indications that the boycott was affecting
business. In one Baskin Robbins, the store clerk stated that
business had been normal. (Note: the stores and restaurants
visited by Emboffs were not located in neighborhoods known to
be extremely conservative, where customers would be more
likely to be influenced by calls for a boycott. End Note).
5. (C) COMMENT: The boycott campaign on U.S. goods and
establishments seems unlikely to be successful for both
economic and political reasons. Economically, such a boycott
would hurt Saudi businesses, since U.S. consumer outlets and
franchises in the Kingdom rely on the local Saudi economy and
market for raw materials and supplies. In political terms,
this boycott is in contrast to the recent boycott on Danish
products, since this one remains to date in the domain of the
Saudi conservatives and not the mainstream populace.
Additionally, the current Saudi mood on the Lebanon crisis
remains divided. Nevertheless, this campaign reflects the
continuing trend of the Saudi public's growing displeasure
with U.S. foreign policy in the region. END COMMENT.