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Cablegate: Reo Brings Basrah Leaders Together

VZCZCXRO1922
PP RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHBC #0018 0601546
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P R 011546Z MAR 07
FM REO BASRAH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0517
INFO RUEHBC/REO BASRAH 0537
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS BASRAH 000018

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

BAGHDAD FOR GALBRAITH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EINV IZ
SUBJECT: REO BRINGS BASRAH LEADERS TOGETHER

1. Summary and introduction: On February 28 REO Basrah's
director hosted a farewell luncheon for the outgoing UK Consul
General, Ros Marsden, with local prominent officials in
attendance. The luncheon was also intended to kick-start a
dialogue between Basrah's Governor; Basrah Provincial Council
(BPC) members; and tribal, business, and religious leaders as
Basrah moves ever closer to Provincial Iraqi Control (PIC). The
discussion focused on finding a local solution to the violence
which plagues the city. Although the guests were all in
agreement that the only way to get Basrah back on its feet was
to increase security and address unemployment, they disagreed on
the best mechanism to achieve this goal. Nevertheless, momentum
for such discussion has now been established and the
participants agreed to continue to work towards viable
solutions. The press was invited in at the conclusion of the
event to interview the participants. The REO is hopeful that
the exchange will not only improve the PIC process but encourage
local Iraqis to take greater control of their futures. End
summary.

2. The luncheon was attended by Basrah Governor Mohammed Al
Wa'eli, BPC Deputy Chairwoman Ezra Al-Saad, former BPC member
and leader of the Al-Kanaan tribe Sheikh Mansour Al-Kanaan,
moderate Shia imam Saeed Ali Al-Musawi, moderate Sunni cleric
Sheikh Khalid Al-Mulla, and Chairman of the Basrah Business
Center Abdul Hafidh Al-Aty. All share the vision of Basrah as
another Dubai, but agreed this is not possible until violence
abates, international investment increases, and unemployment
numbers come down. The deputy director opined that Basrah had
to stop looking to Dubai as the example and to instead make
Basrah the example to follow; an idea that seemed to resonate
with the crowd. Disagreement arose when the Governor stated
that with greater powers, he could clean up the corrupt police,
who he considered to be the root of the problem. Sheikh Mansour
countered that "we need to avoid listening to just one person"
when it came to creating a solution for securing Basrah.
Blaming the Coalition for Basrah's woes by mishandling the
creation of the security forces, Sheikh Mansour insisted that
since the Coalition created the problem, it needed to fix it.

3. The group also focused on the "lack" of reconstruction
projects. (Note. Over a billion dollars has been spent or
obligated for Basrah province but local perception is that the
Coalition has done nothing to improve their city. End note.)
Tying international investment and technical support for
projects to a reduced unemployment figure, Al-Aty advised that
the local Basrahwis could not "do it alone." There was
consensus that the UK troop reductions would help alleviate some
security concerns, but the participants also called for U.S. and
UK FDI to help Basrah rebuild its economy. Comment: With
increased dialogue and press attention on the topic, the
discussion may finally move to the point of solution. End
comment.

GASTALDO

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