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Cablegate: Iesc Meeting April 4

VZCZCXRO5238
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #1074/01 0981446
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 071446Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6712
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 001074

SIPDIS

SBU
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PINR PINS IZ
SUBJECT: IESC MEETING APRIL 4

1. (SBU) Summary. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki chaired the
Iraq Executive Steering Committee (IESC) in support of
Operation Fardh al-Qanoon (FAQ) April 4. Discussion focused
on the provision of essential services and humanitarian aid
to areas affected by the recent violence and featured a
lengthy interchange between Ministry of Health officials and
Baghdad Operations Commander General Abud on the need for
better coordination to permit the secure but timely travel of
ambulances through checkpoints manned by Iraqi Security
Forces and Coalition units. Several of the assembled GOI
officials expressed concern about the way the recent crisis
was being portrayed in the media, and suggested that the GOI
must put more effort into its public relations campaign. The
Prime Minister said that many news outlets are highlighting
the humanitarian suffering in areas where ISF forces are
fighting, without paying due attention to the root cause of
that violence -- the actions of outlaw militia groups. The
enemies of the GOI are warping the public's perception of the
conflict and creating sympathy for the wrong parties, he
said. Recently released from five days of captivity at the
hands of militia kidnappers, Fardh al-Qanoon Spokesman
Tahseen Sheikhly pledged to redouble his efforts to get the
Government's message out to the people. End summary.

--------------------------------------------- ------
Maintaining services requires coordination with ISF
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. (SBU) Prime Minister Maliki welcomed the packed house of
attendees and declared that the meeting would address the
critical services and humanitarian needs of Baghdad's
neighborhoods. National Security Adviser (NSA) Rubaie
outlined the meeting's major agenda topics of health,
electricity and food supply.

3. (SBU) The Ministry of Health was represented by a
contingent of officials that included the Health Minister and
the Directors General (DGs) for the western and eastern
(Karkh and Rusafa) halves of Baghdad. The Minister stated
that despite the overall unpreparedness of his ministry to
cope with such an emergency, he felt proud to be an Iraqi as
he witnessed the hard work performed by his doctors, nurses
and other workers and as Baghdad received support and
supplies from neighboring provinces. He specifically cited
Salah ad Din and Ninewa as provinces providing aid to
hospitals coping with patients injured during the fighting in
Baghdad and Basra.

4. (SBU) Each DG provided an overview of the health-related
concerns in his sector, describing numbers of patients
admitted, operations performed, and deaths recorded. Each DG
highlighted examples of problems faced when ambulances,
health supply trucks, and even when they themselves
personally tried to get through checkpoints manned by ISF or
Coalition units. A lengthy discussion on this topic between
these DGs, General Abud and the other GOI participants
ensued. PM Maliki stressed that effective coordination
between the ministries and the BOC be maintained so that
ministry vehicles were not prevented from restoring services
or delivering supplies.

5. (SBU) Mayor of Baghdad City Saber al-Essawi chimed in that
he expected all Amanat vehicles to be inspected vigorously at
ISF checkpoints, and asked for no special favors for
municipal workers. He stated that the Amanat has been
'infiltrated' and militia groups have access to many
municipal vehicles that could be used to transport arms,
munitions, supplies and personnel for nefarious purposes. He
launched into a spirited criticism of the outlaw militia
groups currently wreaking havoc in Baghdad and urged the
Prime Minister to maintain the toughest possible line on
these criminals. Iraq is at a crossroads, he said, and these
militias must be eliminated or the government will surely
fall. The Minister of Health, possibly inferring from the
Mayor's comments the suggestion that Sadrist-affiliated
ministry officials within his organization were just looking
for an easy way to bypass checkpoints, took a moment to
announce his certainty that his ministry had not/not been
'infiltrated' in such a manner.

--------------------------------------------- -----------
Food and electricity supply affected, but not critically
--------------------------------------------- -----------


5. (SBU) The Minister of Electricity reported that work to
maintain the flow of power across Baghdad continues apace;
the recent crisis has made that work more difficult, but the
overall electricity supply to Baghdad has not been
dramatically affected. Sniper attacks against his workers in
Sadr City and other hot neighborhoods are preventing repairs.


BAGHDAD 00001074 002 OF 002

6. (SBU) The Deputy Minister of Trade reported that the
distribution of food supplies to citizens in needy areas is
hindered by security problems in Basra, where ships at the Um
Qasr port still need to be unloaded, and in Sadr City, where
trucks have been prevented from picking up supplies at
several warehouses. Humanitarian assistance provided by
other international organizations, such as the Red Cross and
Red Crescent, was noted.

-------------------------------------
Issues for future meetings identified
-------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Former Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi reported
on the activities of his Services Committee, stating that he
and several other GOI officials paid visits to services
facilities in Sadr City and elsewhere in Baghdad over the
past week. He emphasized the importance of such visits and
urged his fellow GOI officials to do more to engage the local
citizens of Baghdad during this time of crisis.

8. (SBU) Chalabi raised the issue of Baghdad's potable water
supply, stating that the GOI must determine how they were
going to ensure an adequate supply throughout the summer.
The topic has been addressed by his Services Committee a
number of times, but needs to be raised in the IESC forum, he
said. Mayor Saber agreed that the issue was serious and said
that approximately 55% of Baghdad's potable water supply is
lost due to illegal siphoning.

9. (SBU) Provincial Council Chairman Mueen al-Khademy
stressed employment as a critical issue for the IESC to look
into. He said that one of the root causes of the current
conflict was unemployment, as young men often turn to militia
groups when they do not have a steady job to keep them
occupied.

---------------------------------
Losing the public relations war?
---------------------------------

10. (SBU) Prime Minister Maliki expressed displeasure at
media outlets, referring to several satellite channels, which
seem to be serving as mouthpieces for the criminals at war
with the government. Stories airing the grievances of these
gangs and showing the hardships imposed on Iraq's citizens by
the recent fighting seem to be laying the blame on the GOI
and not where it rightly should rest -- upon the outlaws who
are sabotaging national infrastructure and causing the
shortages in food, electricity and other services. PM Maliki
likened the current media situation to the way Saddam was
able to convince the Iraqi people to blame the UN and the
Western nations for the hardships of the Oil-For-Food program
when, in fact, he was the one truly responsible.

11. (SBU) Fardh al-Qanoon Spokesman Tahseen Sheikhly
commented that a great deal of media attention has been paid
to the plight of citizens in Sadr City, but he wanted to
offer the following anecdote about his recent kidnapping:
During his nearly 5 days of being held by militia gunmen at
locations in and around in Sadr City, he noted that the
electricity remained on for all but two hours and he observed
his captors drinking a regular supply of tap water with no
ill effects or complaints.
BUTENIS

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