Cablegate: Codel Tauscher August 26 Meetings with Senior
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SUBJECT: CODEL TAUSCHER AUGUST 26 MEETINGS WITH SENIOR
This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please handle
1. (SBU) Congresswoman Tauscher and accompanying CODEL
members/staff met separately during their August 25-26 visit
to Baghdad with Kurdish Regional President Barzani, Vice
President Abdulmehdi, and National Security Advisor Al
Rubaie. In each meeting, Representatives Tauscher (D-CA),
Moran (D-VA), and Porter (R-NV) pressed for details on the
status of Iraq's leadership talks, expectations for political
progress, and the future of U.S. engagement with Iraq.
Barzani assured Kurdish commitment to the national
constitution and principles of national unity and political
reconciliation, but directed blame toward Sunnis and Shia for
continued insurrection. Barzani lauded Kurdistan's progress
and stability and clarified his view on the issue of a
national flag. Kurds should receive "between 25-30 percent"
of national oil revenues based on current demographics. Vice
President Abdulmehdi highlighted Iraqi achievements in the
economic and political spheres, counseling U.S. patience in
light of the ongoing war on terror. He warned against a
precipitate U.S. withdrawal, arguing this would embolden
terrorists and eventually bring the U.S. back to Iraq.
Rubaie told the CODEL that the GOI remains in its infancy,
calling for American patience with Iraq's nation building
experiment. Rubaie (as did Abdulmehdi) welcomed Rep.
Tauscher's call for a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and
predicted that internal debate on the topic would commence
next month. End summary.
2. (U) Joining Representatives Tauscher, Moran, and Porter
were Armed Services Committee staff members Michael Casey and
Stephanie Sanok, along with Embassy Legislative Affairs
Officer and Political Officer (notetaker).
Kurdistan President Barzani Lauds Achievements
3. (SBU) During their 50-minute August 26 meeting at the
residential compound of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani,
Kurdish Regional President Masoud Barzani thanked the U.S.
for its assistance in liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein.
Noting the complexity of the Iraq conflict, Barzani warned
that the war on terror in Iraq remained incomplete, hampered
by continuing sectarian fratricide. Failing to defeat terror
in Iraq, he cautioned, would threaten peace and stability in
the region, and far beyond. Acknowledging domestic
responsibility for resolution of Iraq's political troubles,
Barzani said "if we're not serious about solving our own
problems, you can't do it for us." The cost of freedom has
been high, he noted, recounting that Saddam's regime
destroyed 4,500 Kurdish villages, and murdered over 8
thousand Kurds - including 37 of Barzani's own family
members, three of them brothers.
4. (SBU) The Kurds fought alongside the U.S. to liberate
Iraq, Barzani asserted, and opted not to "seek revenge" on
our previous oppressors. Instead, he said, the Kurds
developed their economy and social institutions. Now, Iraq's
Kurdish region is a haven from the Shia/Sunni feuding further
south. Such feuding, he lamented, has "opened the door for
interference by regional powers." Alluding to ongoing
political talks among Iraq's five most senior political
leaders (septel), Barzani cast blame toward the "other
parties" for failure to assure more meaningful progress. We
Kurds, he added, "won't go back on our commitments, but don't
want to be burned by the fire caused by others." Barzani
invited U.S. Congress Members to visit Kurdistan to witness
the development and stability of the north.
5. (SBU) Asked by Rep. Moran about the dispensation of
Iraqis moved by Saddam Hussein to Kurdistan and charges of
ongoing "ethnic cleansing" in these areas, Barzani said the
allegations were "untrue and unfounded," and pledged fealty
to Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution. When there is talk
of "normalization" there, he continued, we talk of those who
were brought there and are willing to go ("Shia, not Sunni -
willing to go if compensated"). Kurdistan today is a refuge
from the sectarian violence further south, he added. Asked
what percent of national oil revenues should accrue to the
Kurdish region, Barzani said "17-18 percent was not enough."
If based upon an "accurate census," Kurdistan should receive
"25-30 percent" of national oil revenues.
6. (SBU) Responding to a question on the respective flags of
Iraq and the Kurdish region, Barzani said that the flag (one
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with three stars) currently flown in Baghdad violated Iraq's
constitution. The stars, he said, based upon a 1986 law (Law
33), represented the principles of the now-banned Baath
Party. Since Parliament refused, he said, to clarify for him
the meaning of the three stars, "we will not fly it."
Barzani closed with a historical overview, noting how "Turks,
Arabs, and Persians all tried, but failed, to divide and
annihilate us." Pointing to Kurdish commitment to the
guarantees of autonomy in Iraq's constitution, he stated "our
existence will not be denied."
VP Abdelmehdi Warns of Precipitate Withdrawal
7. (SBU) During the CODEL's 40-minute meeting with Deputy
President Adil Abdelmehdi, Members admonished the Iraqi
political leadership for limited progress on political
reconciliation and its failure to assume more responsibility
for Iraqi security. Abdelmehdi sought to direct attention to
what he characterized as successes within the economic realm,
cautioning that Iraq's political sphere required time and
(U.S.) patience in which to mature. A precipitate USG
withdraw would be considered a "childish" waste of resources
and vision, and would be considered a victory for extremists
8. (SBU) Asked whether the Prime Minister could effectively
lead the country, Abdelmehdi suggested that the PM's staff
had failed to provide the "vision" that Maliki himself
lacked. Still, Maliki retained the "confidence" of the
Council of Representatives and would likely remain in power,
at least for another month or so, he said. Abdelmehdi
responded favorably to Rep. Tauscher's suggestion that a
Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) be negotiated in order to
remove the problem of "occupation" by U.S. troops. He said
the GOI had proposed such an agreement in 2003 to Ambassador
Bremer, but the idea was rejected by then SecDef Rumsfeld.
National Security Advisor Rubaie
9. (SBU) Rubaie opened by thanking the American people for
their sacrifices for the people of Iraq. Rep. Tauscher
stressed the importance for GOI leaders to achieve progress
on the political front quickly. Responding to Rep. Porter's
comment regarding strong American public sentiment for
withdrawal from Iraq, Rubaie raised Anbar and Diyala
Provinces, suggesting that Al Qaida in Iraq would likely
reclaim control of those areas were U.S. troops to depart.
Rep. Tauscher was pleased to hear from Rubaie that the GOI
will begin discussions on terms of a Status of Forces
Agreement (SOFA) beginning in late September; he estimated
that a bilateral agreement could be finalized "next year."
To Rep. Moran's inquiry regarding Sunni/Shia ratio for
detainees in Iraqi detention centers, Rubaie estimated an
even split. Summing up his views on the status of Iraq's
political process, Rubaie said that Iraqis are struggling to
identify themselves after 35 years of tyranny and in the wake
of the Samarra bombing and other acts of terrorism.
10. (U) CODEL Tauscher did not have the opportunity to clear
on this message.