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Cablegate: Chalabi's Provision of Services Committee - March 18

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PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #0875/01 0831234
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231234Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6387
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREL IZ REL UK
SUBJECT: Chalabi's Provision of Services Committee - March 18


1. SUMMARY: Dr. Chalabi's March 18 Provision of Services Committee
meeting focused primarily on potable water theft around Baghdad,
with Dr. Chalabi stressing the importance of prosecuting those
responsible. Additional discussion centered on problems with ground
transportation in the country, and resultant long term trade
prospects for Iraq. Participants included representatives from the
Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works (MMPW), Ministry of
Trade (MoT), Ministry of Transportation (MoTrans), the Baghdad Water
Authority (BWA) - a division of the Amanat, Baghdad Provincial
Council, and US Embassy staff, including ITAO Water. END SUMMARY.


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Pre-Meeting Topic: Overtime for Doctors Approved
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2. Prior to execution of the meeting's agenda, Dr. Chalabi noted
that funding was approved for doctors' overtime.

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Importance of NGO's Gives Way to Trade Discussion
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3. Dr. Chalabi began the meeting by citing a recent online Red
Crescent report claiming that Iraq is one of the worst in the
(Islamic) world on health issues, particularly on the issue of
potable water. Dr. Chalabi used this repot to underscore not only
the importance of NGO's within Iraq, but also to highlight the
existence of outside analyses regarding Iraq's potable water
problems.

4. While the majority of the meeting pertained to potable water
issues, a significant amount of time was devoted to ground
transportation, relating specifically to trade. After Dr. Chalabi
noted that Iraq "is the worst in the world when it comes to
contracting issues," a representative from the MoT began by noting
that the vast majority (90%) of grain and sugar imports arrive via
the sea, due to problems with Iraq's ground transportation
infrastructure (i.e. roads, support, etc.). Such a heavy reliance
on sea traffic is problematic due to a number of factors including
poor onload/offload capacity at Umm Qasr port, corruption issues, as
well as damage to ships from the existent wreckage in the port area.
As a result, the Government of Iraq (GoI) has had to pay numerous
fines to shipping companies and contractors, which could be
partially alleviated by an increase in road transportation of
goods.

5. A representative from MoT summarized the various inadequacies of
Iraq's ground transportation infrastructure. According to him, Iraq
has the necessary trucks to support better transportation of goods;
however the country's roads are not in adequate condition to support
heavy traffic. As a result, international corporations have begun
raising prices on ground shipments, similar to the situation at the
ports. Dr. Chalabi noted that the GoI needs to allocate additional
money to improve and maintain Iraqi roadways.

6. While the topic of ground transportation was secondary to that
of potable water, continued emphasis on the delivery of water via
tankers, fuel trucks, and now trade issues, adequate maintenance of
Iraqi roadways seems likely to resurface.

7. The MoT representative made additional mention of shipment
delays for trucks coming from Basra, which he attributed to issues
with the Ministries of Interior, Defense, and the Police. A brief
discussion ensued as to whether the trucks possessed the proper
documentation, as well as corruption issues with reviewing truck
contents. As such, the MoT representative requested that Dr.
Chalabi draft a memo to have the trucks released. Dr. Chalabi then
directed the BOC to designate a staff officer from the Ministry of
Defense who could ensure passage of the trucks.

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Potable Water: Availability and Violations
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8. Discussion on potable water distribution began with Dr. Chalabi
outlining the seriousness of water scarcity in Baghdad, particularly
in the Sha'ab area. Various solutions were discussed including the
use of the Karkh Water Treatment Plant for additional water, as well
as the procurement of trucks (Note: A BWA representative cited a
survey indicating a need for up to 60 tanker trucks. End Note).
Brief discussion focused on leasing trucks for this purpose, which
gave way to an outline of the greater inefficiencies within the
water distribution network.

9. The focus on water "violations," which generally involved
civilian taps on water distribution lines, seemed to dominate the
remainder of the meeting. Dr. Chalabi noted that 50% (no citation
provided) of water is lost due to such "violations." These
"violations" involve a person with technical knowledge of water
distribution placing a pipe on an air valve, thus creating a bypass
on the line. In doing so, local sheikhs and farmers are able to
siphon potable water for their lands and local communities.

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10. Dr. Chalabi stressed the importance of prosecuting those
responsible for these taps. He then directed the BWA to attain
military assistance from the BOC to further assist in this endeavor.
Dr. Chalabi emphasized that these individuals must be detained and
channeled through the judicial system so that future offenders might
be deterred.

11. Dr. Falahi, among others, noted that while enforcing the rule
of law in this case is important, inevitably farmers need to
preserve their livelihoods, hence the reason for the Amanat's
inaction in prosecuting these individuals to this point. Further
discussion on this will ensue at the Committee's upcoming site
survey of the pipelines.

12. While the table seemed to agree on the need for combating theft
of potable water, it was unclear as to who would take responsibility
for enforcement. Several officials acknowledged a lack of trust in
the police, preferring instead that that responsibility be entrusted
to the Iraqi Army: "The Army will protect infrastructure, and not
fight wars!" Brief mention was made of using the Army Corps of
Engineers to patrol distribution lines in search of violators, as
USACE engineers represent a neutral party in this case (i.e. not
Iraqi Army or Police).

13. In addition to theft by local citizens, the MMPW representative
indicated that water facilities which previously served communities
south of Baghdad have since been taken over by U.S. forces. Dr.
Allen and BG Milano will both provide updates on the status of this
issue, as well as ongoing projects to potentially alleviate scarcity
issues, next week.

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Formal Signature on Overtime
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14. Prior to the meeting's conclusion, Dr. Chalabi signed the memo
in support of overtime payment for doctors, after separate approvals
were issued by the Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Finance.


Crocker

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