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Cablegate: Basrah Preparations for the Revival of the Public

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 KUWAIT 002489

SIPDIS

STATE ALSO PASS USAID/W
STATE PLEASE REPEAT TO IO COLLECTIVE
STATE FOR PRM/ANE, EUR/SE, NEA/NGA, IO AND SA/PAB
NSC FOR EABRAMS, SMCCORMICK, STAHIR-KHELI, JDWORKEN
USAID FOR USAID/A, DCHA/AA, DCHA/RMT, DCHA/FFP
USAID FOR DCHA/OTI, DCHA/DG, ANE/AA
USAID FOR DCHA/OFDA:WGARVELINK, BMCCONNELL, KFARNSWORTH
USAID FOR ANE/AA:WCHAMBERLIN
ROME FOR FODAG
GENEVA FOR RMA AND NKYLOH
DOHA FOR MSHIRLEY
ANKARA FOR AMB WRPEARSON, ECON AJSIROTIC AND DART
AMMAN FOR USAID AND DART

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF IZ WFP
SUBJECT: BASRAH PREPARATIONS FOR THE REVIVAL OF THE PUBLIC
DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. The Central MOT in Baghdad announced the first
nationwide public food distribution since the military
action against the regime of Saddam Hussein, would begin in
June. The commodities and size of the June ration are
publicized. There is concern that the ration is missing
three commodities and that the quantity of beans is quite
low. Expectations regarding the items in the ration are
rumored to be high with the fall of the former regime.
There is still no word about the Coalition Provisional
Authority payments to each governorate MOT office of USD
50,000. WFP is in need of additional warehouse space in
Basrah, but has decided to train the stevedores in better
stacking methods as finding additional warehouse space is
difficult. Problems with security in the central warehouse
complex in Basrah continue. Coalition forces are training
the MOT guard force, but are not convinced this is the
answer to the problem. Food agents for Az Zubayr pick up
their food rations from the Basrah central warehouse complex
on 1 June. MOT offices receive safes and furniture from the
DART. Commencement of repair of the grain silo in Basrah is
still a week away. End Summary.

-------------------------
PDS JUNE RATION ANNOUNCED
-------------------------

2. At the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA)/British
Coalition public distribution system (PDS) working group
meeting on 29 May, the U.N. World Food Program (WFP)
presented the Central Ministry of Trade's (MOT) proposed
ration for the month of June. The adult ration, for the
entire country, is as follows: 9 kilograms (kg) of flour, 3
kg of rice, 0.25 kg of beans, 1 kg of vegetable oil, 2 kg of
sugar, 0.20 kg of tea, 0.25 kg of soap, and 0.50 kg of
detergent. The infant ration consists of 8 tins (3.6 kg) of
infant formula, 0.50 kg of detergent, and a soap bar. The
cost for a single adult or infant ration is 250 Iraqi Dinars
for June, the same price as pre-war.

3. The proposed beans ration of 0.25 kg per person is one-
sixth of what WFP had outlined in its Emergency Operation
(EMOP), which calls for a monthly ration of 1.5 kg beans.
Supplies of beans are on the way, but unfortunately the
shipping schedules are behind. In addition, the announced
June ration is missing weaning cereal, dried whole milk, and
salt because of insufficient quantities in the country.
These items are normally part of the ration.

4. CPA and British Coalition forces in the lower south have
expressed their concern about being bound by decisions made
by the MOT in Baghdad, claiming that the former regime
continually overlooked the south, and thus the needs are
greater in the south. They are also concerned that the
perpetuation of centralized MOT control in Baghdad risks
undermining current efforts of CPA and British Coalition
forces to meet needs effectively in their area of
responsibility. WFP agreed that the presumed disconnect
between Baghdad and the southern governorates was one that
needed to be addressed. WFP proposed that CPA, WFP, and the
DART request a Baghdad meeting with WFP/Baghdad, CPA/Main,
and MOT/Baghdad to raise the issues of representation,
participation, and delegation of authority.

5. To announce the nationwide 1 June revival of the PDS,
the following is being repeated in Arabic on "Bayna Al-
Nahrain" radio station, run by the Coalition Forces: "Dear
Citizens of Iraq: The World Food Program will start its
food distributions to all Iraqis on June 01, 2003. The food
will be delivered to all Ministry of Trade authorized food
agents in your areas. In order to ensure a smooth food
distribution, you will need to contact your food
distribution agent and present your food ration cards just
like before. Your cooperation is highly appreciated." The
Civil Military Operations Center (CMOC) wrote the copy for
this announcement.

6. Rumors are circulating that the June ration is going to
be composed of items never intended to be part of the
distribution. There are counterfeit lists circulating in
different regions through sales in the local markets. These
fraudulent lists include additional food items, as well as
small appliances and tableware. The DART has seen the lists
in the markets of Basrah, Al Hillah, Samawah, and Arbil. It
seems that entrepreneurs are creating false lists, sometimes
in the form of ration cards, and selling them as the genuine
article. Iraqis may be prone to believe the validity of the
lists because expectations about the ration are rumored to
be high in a post-Saddam era. This points to the need for
the Central MOT to publicize widely the actual ration. As
of 1 June, the MOT in Basrah had not received the Central
MOT's official notice about the June ration through official
MOT channels from Baghdad, although WFP had shared it with
the MOT. The DART reports that other governorate MOT
offices have also not received the official word.

----------------------------------
WHERE ARE THE USD 50,000 PAYMENTS?
----------------------------------

7. CPA Lower South reported that after two official
requests for information, there is still no word from
CPA/Main about the USD 50,000 payments to the governorate-
level MOT offices. (Note: The DART reports that no
notification has been made as to start date of the payments
in other governorates either. End Note.)

-----------------------------------
NEED FOR ADDITIONAL WAREHOUSE SPACE
-----------------------------------
8. WFP reported several days ago that the central warehouse
facilities in Basrah were full, with 13 trucks waiting to
offload. British Coalition forces indicated that they were
in the process of drawing down their presence in the
warehouse, but would not be able to vacate the space in time
to meet the immediate need for additional space. In
response, the MOT manager offered alternative warehousing at
the Basrah port.

9. However, after examining the port storage facilities,
WFP decided to instead send the Basrah overflow of
commodities to a warehouse in Az Zubayr (20 minutes away).
At the same time, WFP logistics is going to train the
stevedores in off-loading practices, teaching them to stack
the bags more tightly and higher. WFP feels this action
will ultimately increase the tonnage amounts stored in the
central warehouse.

------------------
MOT SECURITY FORCE
------------------

10. British Coalition forces reported that half of a 96-man
MOT guard force has been trained to protect the MOT complex.
The other half is to be trained this week. Guards are
working, but the British forces report there is a shortage
of weapons. British forces are awaiting a shipment of
confiscated arms, modified to prevent automatic firing that
will be distributed as they arrive. (Note: The British are
concerned that the MOT guards who are being trained are "not
young enough" for the job. End Note.)

11. A number of holding cells have been repaired at the
central warehouse gate and are manned by newly trained
Basrah police. More than 80 looters were captured at the
warehouse facility last week. Three looters who escaped
capture are reported to have drowned in nearby canals as
they fled the warehouse during a Coalition raid on 26 May.

12. In addition, the MOT reported on 31 May that 80 looters
(WFP thinks the number was closer to 20) entered the
warehouse compound on the night of 30 May. The British
forces indicate that it is losing confidence in the MOT
guard force, suspecting that the majority of the guards come
from the same area (near the warehouse complex) as the
looters themselves. As Basrah MOT guards remain unarmed and
hesitant to interfere with looters, the need for a dedicated
Coalition security force has become critical until the
issues with the MOT guard force are sorted out. The British
forces reported on 31 May that it had been tasked to provide
additional security at the central warehouse complex during
the June PDS distribution period.

-------------------------------------
FOOD AGENTS COLLECT RATIONS ON 1 JUNE
-------------------------------------

13. The DART visited the central warehouse complex in
Basrah on 31 May to observe preparations for the arrival of
Az Zubayr food agents on 1 June, as Az Zubayr is the first
district in Basrah governorate to receive the June rations.
The visit coincided with elections for the selection of a
Chief of Security by the MOT guard force. DART staff will
be posted at the central warehouse on 1 June to observe the
food agents receiving their rations. The DART will also
monitor the activity in the MOT office and the Ration
Registration Center (RRC), as those who may have been
excluded from the PDS prior to the war or new townspeople
arrive to re-register for the PDS.

------------------------------------------
MOT WAREHOUSE/OFFICE EQUIPMENT AND REPAIRS
------------------------------------------

14. The MOT requested British Coalition assistance in
locating eight functioning forklifts, which MOT employees
insist were removed by British forces during the past two
weeks. WFP reported that the MOT now "repairs" forklifts
for their period of use only, removing necessary parts when
they are not in use to prevent the forklifts from being
"requisitioned" by military personnel. The British forces
have promised to try and locate the missing equipment. They
subsequently located two of the eight missing forklifts and
were to return them on 31 May.

15. On 30 May, the MOT expressed concern that there were no
safes at the warehouse facility, which is currently also
doubling as the RRC. Due to bank closures, food agents will
be turning over significant amounts of money to the MOT
prior to receiving their rations. Given the high level of
insecurity at the central warehouse complex, distributions
could not begin before a way to secure funds was
established. The DART contacted the International
Organization for Migration (IOM), its implementing partner
for the rehabilitation of the MOT, RRC, and warehouse
administrative center, and obtained assurances that five
safes would be procured and delivered by 31 May.

16. To follow up, the DART visited the central warehouse
complex on 31 May to check progress. The DART found that
British "Quip" and U.S. Department of Defense ODACHA-funded
rehabilitation of the warehouse administrative offices was
progressing well, and computers that were taken home by MOT
employees and stored in their homes were in the process of
being re-installed at the warehouse facility. Per above,
safes were being installed by IOM, and DART requested that
IOM make an additional procurement of chairs and printer
cartridges for the MOT offices.

17. On 31 May, the DART located the Coalition Civil Affairs
contracting officer for the DOD ODACHA-funded silo complex
rehabilitation project. He reported that work on the silo
is to begin within a week, but cautioned that parts
necessary for the repair of the grain elevator would have to
be ordered from the U.S. and would arrive in five to seven
days. The DART will visit the silo complex with the Civil
Affairs contracting officer later this week. (Note: With
the arrival of ships carrying bulk grain cargo into the Port
of Umm Qasr, the need for the silos to be cleaned and
repaired in Umm Qasr and Basrah is becoming more crucial by
the day. End Note.)

JONES

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