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Cablegate: Uk Defense Secretary Says Basrah to Transfer By

VZCZCXRO5841
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #1498/01 1241420
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 041420Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1019
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHBC/REO BASRAH PRIORITY 2198

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 001498

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/03/2017
TAGS: PREL PINR PNAT PINS MARR MOPS IZ
SUBJECT: UK DEFENSE SECRETARY SAYS BASRAH TO TRANSFER BY
AUGUST

BAGHDAD 00001498 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Daniel V. Speckhard for reasons 1.4 (b
) and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: On April 30, UK Secretary of State for
Defense Des Browne told the Ambassador that August is a key
month for UK forces in Basrah. If all goes as HMG plans,
Multi National Division-Southeast will transition Basrah to
provincial Iraqi control (PIC) and hand the Basrah Palace
keys over to a GOI-entity, preferably the 10th Division
Commander. Browne said the plan takes into account USG
palace evacuation and security requirements. The Ambassador
cautioned that the transition should neither make a mockery
of the PIC process nor leave the Palace open for a JAM
takeover and/or looting. Browne said Basrah, despite its
troubling instability, was on the path to meeting PIC
conditions by August. He argued that keeping UK forces at
their current strength beyond August was not feasible given
British military commitments to the NATO mission in
Afghanistan. He also stressed that keeping UK forces in
Basrah would not solve Iraq's grim political situation.
Browne and the Ambassador agreed Maliki and his government
must immediately make demonstrable progress on national
reconciliation. They said that the window of opportunity for
Iraqi political leaders was closing as ethno-sectarian views
within Iraq were hardening, Sunni government leaders were
losing all faith in the process, and D.C.'s patience was
waning. END SUMMARY.


UK's Basrah transition plan
---------------------------

2. (C) On April 30, UK Secretary of State for Defense Des
Browne told the Ambassador that HMG intended to transfer
Basrah to provincial Iraqi control (PIC) by August, adding
that London intended to also transfer control of the Basrah
Palace to the GOI at the same time. Browne gave assurances
that UK forces would continue providing security to USG
personnel in the Palace until they completed their move to
the Basrah Air Station. He cautioned, however, that
providing support after early August would become
increasingly difficult due to London's military commitments
to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. He said the UK force
buildup plan for Afghanistan hinged on the August transition.
The Ambassador stressed that for a successful and legitimate
transition, the Coalition must ensure that Basrah first meets
the conditions for transferring security to provincial Iraqi
control, as defined by the Joint Committee for the Transfer
of Security Responsibility. He also said that Iraqi
authorities needed to be sufficiently capable to guard Basrah
Palace against a JAM takeover and/or looting spectacle.
Browne was confident that Basrah was on track to meet the PIC
conditions by August, adding that the UK was working closely
with the GOI to find a tenant for the palace that could
properly protect it. Browne said they are strongly
recommending to the GOI that the Palace be turned over to the
Iraqi Army's 10th Division.

According to Browne: Tale of Woe with Few Glimmers of Hope
--------------------------------------------- -------------

3. (C) Browne described the Basrah situation as depressing
and incomprehensible. He doubted a continued large UK force
presence could change the situation. The violence against UK
forces and innocent citizens is increasingly 'chilling' and
the political system is nonexistent. He questioned how
Basrah became one of the most unstable areas of Iraq when it
does not suffer from the two major threats to Iraq: Al Qaeda
and sectarian divisions. The Ambassador said he was hopeful
that Prime Minister Maliki would carry out his recent pledge
to restore security to Basrah, but recognized that this was
only part of a larger political solution that was needed to
bring Basrah stability. Browne said he was hopeful that
Najaf's marjaiyah would apply pressure to provincial
political leaders to correct the situation. The Ambassador
and Browne surmised that SCIRI/Badr Corps might be the only
force capable of cleaning up the province. Browne expressed
a bit of optimism, pointing to a few successes in Basrah,
such as the thriving Umm Qasr port and the professionalism
and growing competency of the navy and army in the area.
Nonetheless, he reiterated his argument that Basrah's complex
political problems could not be solved militarily, and
certainly not by the UK's forces. He lamented that Basrah in
August might be 'as good as it gets' for some time.

Reconciliation
--------------


BAGHDAD 00001498 002.2 OF 002


4. (C) Browne said he thought the window of opportunity for
reconciliation was closing, particularly given the
environment of terrorism and the flaws and weaknesses in the
Maliki government. The Ambassador said he was concerned with
what appeared to be a hardening of sectarian views among
Iraqi leaders, as well the diminishing loss of whatever faith
Sunni leaders such as Vice President Hashimi may have had in
the Shia-dominated government. He acknowledged that Iraqis
were on a slower timeline than the Coalition. Nevertheless,
he said that he remained optimistic and was encouraged by a
few recent developments, such as Anbaris joining the Iraqi
Security Forces to fight Al Qaeda and the recognition by
Tawafaq and other prominent Sunni leaders that Al Qaeda is
their real enemy. The Ambassador said that in his
conversations with the PM on the subject, Maliki comes across
as supportive of reconciliation. Browne agreed that he had
witnessed some of Maliki's "Mandela moments." However,
Browne said he was not entirely convinced that Maliki does
not see all Sunnis as Bath'ists or Al Qaeda collaborators.
The Ambassador said Maliki may revert to this thinking when
there are spectacular attacks on Shia, but otherwise Maliki
seems to judge Sunnis as individuals. Both the Ambassador
and Browne agreed that it was critical that they continue
pressing Maliki to move forward with reconciliation,
stressing to him that he should act while he and his Shia
government are in such a strong position and have maximum
Coalition support.
SPECKHARD

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