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Cablegate: Rebuild Iraq 2008 Conference - Less Than Meets the Eye

VZCZCXRO0982
RR RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHAM #1565 1431512
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221512Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY AMMAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2694
INFO RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 5989
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 0598
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 3665
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 3891
RUEHKU/AMEMBASSY KUWAIT 0893
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 1958
RUEHRBA/REO BASRAH 0004
RUEHIHL/REO HILLAH 0002
RUEHKUK/REO KIRKUK 0007
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

UNCLAS AMMAN 001565

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/I, NEA/ELA, EEB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EINV ETRD JO IZ
SUBJECT: Rebuild Iraq 2008 Conference - Less Than Meets the Eye

REF: Wilson-Stephenson email exchanges

1. (SBU) Summary and comment: Project Rebuild Iraq 2008 (not to be
confused with the similarly named look-alike tradeshow, IRAQ BUILD
2008, which took place in Amman in April 2008) has in previous years
been a major event among those interested in development in Iraq.
While seemingly professional and well-run with many exhibitors
present from all over the world, this year's event devolved into
little more than a trade show for technical and construction
industries to show off their wares. There was an effort to make it
a "conference," but little policy or development planning substance
was observed. It also became a forum for critique of the Iraqi and
Jordanian governments. In the sole conference session, Anbar
provincial officials criticized the Iraqi central government for
excessive regulations and barriers to trade, and then targeted the
Jordanian government for its visa entry procedures, saying they
obstructed trade flow. End summary and comment.

2. (U) The 5th annual Project Rebuild Iraq 2008 "conference" opening
session occurred May 5-8, 2008, in Amman. The apparently
well-organized event, held in three pavilion exhibition halls at the
Amman Exhibition Park, advertised over 300 exhibitors from the
Middle East, Europe, Asia, and the United States. Note: Post
forwarded the glossy guidebook to NEA-I. End note. Formerly one
event, the Project Rebuild Iraq trade show has now split, due to
internal disputes within the original show's organizer, into two
different events with similar names: Iraq Build and Project Rebuild
Iraq. The original trade show had U.S. Department of Commerce
certification in 2007, but lost it for 2008 due to various reasons
(note: FCS representatives did, however, visit some of the U.S.
companies that were exhibiting).

3. (SBU) EconOffs attended the conference's opening session on the
evening of May 6th, which attracted a paltry audience of 40-50
people. The keynote topic was "The Role of the Iraqi Business
Community in Jordan in the [Iraq] Reconstruction efforts." A
subsequent session set for May 7th was eventually canceled. Several
presenters did not arrive from Iraq in time and the Mosul
delegation, despite postponements, failed to deliver its scheduled
presentation.

4. (SBU) Sheikh Walid Al-Araak, leader of the Al-Arrak tribe and
Deputy Secretary General of the Iraq Awakening Council of Anbar, and
Othman Al-Rawi, Anbar's Governor for Financial Affairs, headed the
Anbar delegation to the event. Sheikh Al-Araak commented that the
Awakening Councils were willing to provide security and workers for
new investors, stating that the Awakening Councils were now no
longer militias, but rather political movements.

5. (SBU) During this first session Al-Rawi criticized the Government
of Jordan's entry policy, particularly the new visa procedures that
went into effect on May 1, calling them "inconvenient" to businesses
in Anbar and responsible for the halt in the flow of goods and
services. He commented on the investment potential in hydrocarbons,
stating that local experts believed that Anbar's Akkaz gas field had
"massive" reserves. Al-Rawi complained that the Government of Iraq
(GOI) was not responsive to initiatives to explore oil and gas
reserves in Anbar, and if approved, the draft Hydrocarbon Law would
work against such initiatives. He further reported that
centralization of the GOI's bureaucracy also posed an obstacle to
investment, stating that he had to meet with Iraqi Deputy Prime
Minister Barham Salih each month in order to obtain approvals for
his business activities.

Visit Amman's Classified Website at:
http://www.state.gov.sgov.gov/p/nea/amman/

HALE

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