Cablegate: Dart Western Iraq Update

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. DART Field Team West participated in the daily
Governorate Support Team meeting in Al Hillah on 25 May and
offered updates of its governorate-level engagements,
including support to rehabilitate a human-rights
organization's new offices, the facilitation of Babil food
distribution, coordination with and support of NGOs, refugee-
return preparation, vulnerable-population oversight, and
donations support. The DART later participated in a public
distribution system meeting between WFP and the Ministry of
Trade, and spoke to the governorate's labor and social
affairs directors about vulnerable groups in Babil.

2. The DART visited Karbala on 26 May and found vibrant
markets and crowded streets, but also heard reports of a
destroyed sewage system, insecurity, the lack of sufficient
power supply, and a scarcity of drugs and equipment in the
city's hospitals. The DART attended Karbala's "city
council" meeting, visited with WFP and MOT local staffs,
talked to doctors at a hospital, and met with the newly
created Human Rights Society. End Summary


3. The DART met with U.N. World Food Program (WFP) and
Ministry of Trade (MOT) representatives in Al Hillah on 25
May to discuss the June ration distribution, bringing up
several issues requiring follow-up action. WFP and MOT are
reorganizing the food stocks at the main food warehouse in
Al Hillah and will conduct a stock inventory over the next
few days to determine actual stocks on hand and shortages.
WFP said that wheat flour, rice, sugar, tea, and soap are in
stock, but that it was unsure of the extent of shortages of
vegetable oil, pulses and other commodities.

4. MOT expressed interest in the DART's proposal to involve
MOT security personnel in the ongoing security training
program offered by Coalition civil-military officials. MOT
will provide civil-military personnel with the names,
positions, and locations of MOT security personnel working
at the warehouse and the silo. The DART will monitor to
ensure this group is included in the training.

5. The MOT mentioned a new bureaucratic procedure that
complicated the procurement of spare parts for silo
equipment. According to the Al Hillah silo manager, the Al
Hillah governor had changed the MOT's procedures and has
insisted that MOT request the governor's approval of spare
part expenditures. MOT said this procedure added at least
five days to the procurement time for spare parts,
potentially creating a large bottleneck at the silo if a
breakdown occurred during a convoy delivery. DART will
raise the issue with the Office of Reconstruction and
Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) and civil-military officials
to determine its validity and, if necessary, to develop a
course of corrective action.

6. The MOT mentioned that under the former public
distribution system, certain silo and warehouse employees
were paid 1,000 dinar of additional pay for working on
holidays, weekends, or during surge periods when large
shipments arrived and longer hours were required. An MOT
silo manager said this amount had not been included in the
new MOT budget lists. DART will raise this issue with ORHA
and civil-military officials.


7. Residents of Al Hillah would welcome returning refugees
who fled in 1991, according to the labor director of Al
Hillah's Ministry of Labor and Social Services. However, he
does not expect refugee returns soon because of insecurity
and uncertainty in Iraq. "They will be shocked to see the
hard circumstances when they return," he said. The labor
director also said that the greatest labor problems in Al
Hillah were electricity shortages, insecurity, and organized
labor disruptions. He said the main employers in Al Hillah
were mills, garment and plastics factories, a biscuit
factory, car repair shops, and electrical utilities, and
that all were experiencing low productivity. Employees will
soon receive their first post-war salaries, and all have
been given their USD 20 emergency payment.

8. The director of social services oversees Al Hillah's two
orphanages (one for boys, one for girls), the houses for the
deaf and mentally handicapped, a kindergarten, and services
for 3,700 poor families comprised of widows, the elderly, or
the blind. He said the former regime gave these families
their last quarterly payment of 15,000 to 22,500 dinars in
December. The Director is not sure when the Coalition will
offer them their next "salaries." His social workers have
not been able to identify additional vulnerable families
after the war because they have been consumed with salary
issues. The 3,700 families and the institutionalized
residents traditionally received food through the public
distribution system, but he did not know when they would
receive their next rations. The non-governmental
organization (NGO) Enfants du Monde delivered food to all of
the city's institutional residents four days ago.

9. The Director gave three recommendations to improve
services to vulnerable residents of Al Hillah: 1)
immediately give the 3,700 poor families their "salaries;"
2) install air-conditioning in the city's institutions; and
3) provide bus service to social service workers and the
handicapped. He also said the threat of insecurity
continued to deter girls from returning to institutions,
including the girls orphanage that lies empty.

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10. In this 120-bed hospital, approximately 120 to 150
women visit the outpatient department daily and 50 enter the
inpatient department. Twenty-eight doctors work at this
hospital, which had been converted from a social club before
sanctions were imposed. According to the two doctors with
whom the DART spoke, the main problems for women in Karbala
include anemia, malnutrition, and complications with

11. During and immediately after the war, many women
suffered from premature labor and preclampsia, and of the 10
to 15 children born per day, two to three have congenital
anomalies. This hospital seems to face many similar
problems to those encountered in other hospitals in the
region. Many patients cannot pay hospital fees, there is a
lack of essential drugs (no drugs have been received by the
Ministry of Health (MOH) storehouse since before the war),
and a scarcity of equipment (oxygen, masks, disposable
gloves, catheters, etc.).

12. Security continues to be a problem. Thieves tried to
steal three of the hospital's cars in the last few days.
Other problems include a shortage of electrical power with
only three to four hours of electricity per day, causing the
hospital to be dependent on a backup generator. The
hospital has received small-scale assistance from the
Coalition(repainting of the lobby), and has not met with any
international organizations thus far.

13. Of note, one of the women doctors explained that there
had been two patients in the last week who had reportedly
been raped. No specifics were shared. According to the
doctor, rape was very rare in the past. She worries that
the security situation of women and girls around town will
worsen before it improves.


14. The Human Rights Society in Karbala is comprised of 60
male members, including volunteers. The group was formed
from members of the Lawyers' Union after the fall of the
former regime. The society is using the old youth
association building until they find a more permanent place
for its headquarters, which may turn out to be the Lawyers'
Union building. It does not have office equipment and is
using a borrowed computer to conduct daily business.
The staff's work includes demining, mass graves follow-up,
locating missing soldiers, and recording war damages for
future compensation. The Society reported that more than
500 homes were destroyed in Karbala during the war, with 200
people injured.
15. The society is using local television and is beginning
a newsletter to educate the local community about its work.
According to two of the members, there are 29 mass graves in
the surrounding area. Of those, five have been unearthed.
However, as a consequence of Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Husseini
Al-Sistani's (a revered Shia religious leader) decree
requesting that these graves not be disturbed, the remaining
graves have been left untouched in the hope that
international forensics teams can begin work on them. The
society members are attempting to secure these sites
themselves but are seeking more guidance and assistance on
this issue.


16. A need for greater security in Karbala was emphasized
time and again at Monday's "City Council" meeting attended
by 12 councilors, the governor, the DART, and eight military
officials. The military officials included the Karbala
"military governor," and the heads of the governorate
support team (GST) and the civil-military operations center
(CMOC), who responded to councilors' pleas for assistance
and information. In addition to insecurity, officials noted
scarcities of gas, liquid propane gas (LPG), and

17. The Religion Councilor proposed a livelihoods plan to
employ individuals to remove trash from the streets and
communities. He complained about abysmal conditions at the
police station's jail, calling it "unsuitable for an
animal." The CMOC representatives responded by saying the
police received USD 15,000 on 26 May to begin the jail's
rehabilitation. The Religion Councilor also pointedly asked
the CMOC representatives why he was being investigated by
the Coalition. "I made it clear to them," he said, "that I
don't lean toward violence." The military governor assured
him his case would likely be resolved soon, and that a
political vetting process was necessary.

18. The meeting of the councilors, all men, lasted two
hours and was held in a large meeting room. During the
meeting, a Karbala television reporter arrived and
videotaped portions of the proceedings.

19. Starting on 26 May, the Karbala CMOC opened a permanent
office in the city hall. The CMOC is responsible for
coordinating the agriculture and fuel sectors, as well as
for interacting with NGOs. The GST, jointly run by the
Marines and Army, covers all other sectors, including
health, water and sanitation, and justice. The GST said the
sewage plant was destroyed during the war when 750,000
liters of diesel fuel were deliberately pumped into the
system. It remains down, as does one of the city's two
electrical grids. The CMOC director said he was aware of
NGO activities by Save the Children, the International
Rescue Committee, and another agency that had done water
interventions at the city's hospitals.

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20. The DART visited WFP/Karbala on 26 May to discuss
issues related to the 1 June distributions. WFP stated that
as of 26 May, the Karbala main food warehouse was short of
vegetable oil, pulses, adult milk, salt, and weaning cereal.
WFP/Karbala reported that WFP international staff announced
that a delayed distribution start date of around 7 June
might be necessary to allow for additional commodities to
arrive to complete the ration. (Note: The recently
announced ration by the central MOT does not include adult
milk, salt, or weaning cereal due to nationwide shortages.
End Note.)

21. According to WFP/Karbala, the MOT ration/registration
Center, the Grain Board, the Monitoring Office, and the Food
Store are all operational and ready for an early June
distribution. A second report of unexploded ordnance (UXO)
discovered at the food warehouse has been filed with the
CMOC, and military officials said the UXO would be assessed
shortly. WFP claimed that this UXO did not pose a threat to
present stocks, workers, or distributions.

22. Security drive-bys and visits by CMOC personnel have
increased noticeably. While security could still be
improved, WFP felt that the increased presence was making a
positive impact on the security in the area. WFP/Karbala
reported no problems with the grain silo or mills.
In Al Hillah, WFP confirmed the possibility of a delayed
start date for June distribution. Both governorates are
awaiting instructions from WFP management. DART continues to
work with CMOC/Al Hillah to reduce gate searches at the main
food warehouse and to allow WFP employees and vehicle access
to the facility without searches.

23. Neither WFP/Karbala nor WFP/Al Hillah had noticed
assistance from Save the Children or the Norwegian Refugee
Council, the WFP partners in these two governorates.
WFP/Karbala said the Salvation Army expressed interest in
meeting with WFP representatives to discuss assisting them
with supplemental food distributions for orphanages,
hospitals, and other institutions for the vulnerable. Team
West will monitor this possible activity.


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