Cablegate: Prt Maysan: Maysan's Tribal Landscape

DE RUEHGB #0297/01 0321349
P 011349Z FEB 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) The material in this cable is sensitive but
unclassified. Please protect accordingly.


2. (U) This is a PRT Maysan reporting cable.

3. (SBU) Summary: Maysan,s tribal landscape is primarily
made up of five tribal confederations and over thirty tribal
organizations. The Bani Lam, the Albu Muhammad, and the
az-Zairaj are the most prominent tribal confederations and
each provincial region features a number of notable tribal
organizations. End Summary.

Tribal Structure

4. (SBU) Maysan,s tribal landscape is primarily made up of
five tribal confederations (qabeela) and over thirty tribal
organizations ('ashira). The most basic unit of Iraqi tribal
structure is the extended family (khams or bayt). A number
of extended families can form a clan (fakhdh) and a group of
clans can form a tribal organization. Finally, a group of
tribal organizations can form a confederation.

Tribal authority

5. (SBU) The authority of tribal leaders, called shaykhs
(plural shuyukh) historically stemmed both from personal
influence and largesse as well as from nobility and lineage.
In theory, especially among Shi'a tribes, leadership is
confined to one lineage. In practice, though, authority
often turns out to be a function of the success of a leader
in defending the tribal patrimony and resolving and managing
conflict. The heart of the tribal system is theoretically a
fairly democratic process of consultation in the tribal
council and, in some cases, the ability of members to
challenge the shaykh. Likewise, tribal confederations by
their very nature are voluntary alignments from which each
tribe is free to secede at will. Historically, tribal
alliances were not hard and fast, but the tribal system
supplied the people with a needed identity and sense of
security and a blueprint for the resolution of conflicts.
Finally, the tribal system in much of the Shi,a Arab south
is somewhat different from that of the Sunni Arab
center-north, in that southern tribes are reportedly more
fragmented: the tribal shaykh often shares leadership with
sayyids (descendents of the Prophet ) plural: sadah) and the
ulama (learned religious leaderhip).

The Confederations

6. (SBU) The Bani Lam, Albu Muhammad, and az-Zairaj are the
most significant confederations. The Bani Lam is a pastoral
confederation that migrated from the lower Tigris into
Persian territory (now Iran). The Iranian province of Ilam
to the northeast of Maysan shares the name of the founder of
the Iraqi section of the tribe. The Albu Muhammad reportedly
descend from the Zubayd Azza tribe (located north of
Baghdad in provinces like Diyala) and is made up of both
settled cultivators (fallah) and the Ma,dan. The az-Zairaj
traditionally cultivated rice along the branches of the
Tigris in the southwestern corner of the province.

Areas of influence

7. (SBU) The Maysan confederations are the Bani Lam, the
Albu Muhammad, the az-Zairaj, the al-Muntafiq, and the Ka'ab.
Historically, the Bani Lam,s area of influence stretched
from northern Maysan to al- Amara and covers the following
regions: Ali al-Gharbi and al- Amara. The Albu Muhammad
are influential south of al- Amara in the following regions:
al- Amara, al-Majjar al-Kabeer (MAK), Qal,at Salih, and
al-Kahla. Al- Amara was established during the Ottoman
period at the boundary between the Bani Lam and the Albu
Muhammad. The az-Zairaj groupings are primarily found in the
al-Maymona region and the al-Muntafiq (mostly in Dhi Qar) and
Ka'ab (mostly in Iran) reach into the southwestern and
southeastern corners of the provinces respectively.

Notable tribes

8. (SBU) Each of the major Maysan confederations consists of
several tribal organizations. In the Ali al-Gharbi region,
the as-Suwaid reside along the border with Iran. The
as-Sa'adi tribe also reside along the border near the at-Teeb
border crossing. The Albu Darraj, the al-Bahadil, the
al-Gharrawi, the al-Mussawi, and the at-Tameem reside in the
al- Amara region. The al-Ba'azun, the al-Issa, and the
ash-Shaghanba are in al-Maymona. The al-Fartus and the Albu

BAGHDAD 00000297 002 OF 002

'Ali are located in al-Majjar al-Kabeer (MAK). The
al-Faraijat and the Albu Bakhait straddle MAK and Qal,at
Salih. In addition to these two cross-regional sub-tribes,
in Qal,at Salih there are the Bani Malik, the at-Turaba, the
al-Aanza, the ash-Shamus, the al-Hedrea, the Albu Ghanam, and
the an-Nawafil. These final two tribes in addition to the
Albu Bukhait make up what is known as the Shadda or a region
in southeastern Maysan that traditionally contained a &large
and unruly8 portion of the Albu Muhammad. Finally, al-Kahla
is home to the remainder of the as-Sudan. This is not an
exhaustive list of the sub-tribes present in each region, but
represents some of the more significant tribes. Moreover,
many of these tribes can be found in other regions of the
province, particularly in the urban centers of al- Amara and

9. (SBU) Comment: Maysan is a relatively opaque province,
but PRT efforts continue to shed light on the overall social
and political environment in the province. In discussions
regarding the social and political structure of Maysan,
tribal affiliation has taken a backseat to religio-political
association, but tribes maintain an important place in Maysan
society and may prove to wield significant social, if not
political, influence. The PRT will continue to develop a
more comprehensive understanding of Maysan,s tribes in order
to facilitate broader engagement with the people of Maysan.

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