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Cablegate: Useb 149: Kirkuk's Arab Villages Adjust To

R 241840Z JUL 04
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0361
INFO SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS BAGHDAD 000246

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREF IZ
SUBJECT: USEB 149: KIRKUK'S ARAB VILLAGES ADJUST TO
TRANSITION; IMPRESSIONS ON THE ROAD TO RASHAD

1. SUMMARY. The Arab villages west and south of Kirkuk are
mostly poor and underdeveloped. Thanks to extensive work
by the Coalition Provisional Authority, USAID and U.S.
military forces in the area, the USG has developed
excellent working relationships with local tribal and
political leaders. A visit by Kirkuk Embassy Regional
Office PolOffs on July 15 to two of these villages -
Rashad and Yaychi - shows how villagers are adjusting to
life after transition. END SUMMARY.

----------------------
U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE
----------------------

2. Changes in Rashad and Yaychi since the handover of
sovereignty have been significant. Violence has decreased,
IED attacks against U.S. military convoys are at a post-
liberation low, and local authorities take particular pride
in keeping their villages crime free. Gaines Mills, the
nearest military forward operating base to both Rashad and
Yaychi, houses a unit from the Second Brigade Combat Team
of the 25th Infantry Division based at Kirkuk Air Base.
The base sits in a huge open field 30 kilometers west of
Kirkuk. The only other FOB in the area - McHenry -- is 70
kilometers away and covers the villages of Hawija, Riyad
and areas further west. In all, the two FOBs cover
hundreds of villages, conducting patrols and engaging with
local leaders on a regular basis. Officers from the U.S.
Embassy's Regional Office in Kirkuk accompany them when
time permits. They visited the towns on July 15.

------
RASHAD
------

3. It took PolOffs 55 minutes to drive from Kirkuk to
Rashad, 45 kilometers to the southwest. Along the paved
road, shacks sold ice, wheat and produce. Lamb carcasses
hung from hooks in the 110 degree heat of the morning.
Along the way, a short bridge crossing an aqueduct flowed
with water. After the bridge, hints of greenery appeared,
sunflowers and flocks of sheep and goats dotted the
landscape. Agriculture and livestock form the area's
economic backbone.

4. Rashad Township consists of 66 villages, some with as
few as three households, some with hundreds, covering a
large area of Kirkuk Province that stretches south to the
border with Salah al-Din. The main road from Kirkuk to
Tikrit bisects the region. Unpaved roads lead to some
villages, while others have no vehicle access at all.

5. A collection of mud and brick structures two minutes off
the road make up Rashad, the main town in a district of
20,000 people. The majority of the population is Arab,
mostly from the Al-Ubaidi tribe, one of the oldest and
largest in Iraq. The houses in the town blend into the
surrounding brown terrain -- except for three new, white
structures: the police station, the city council building,
and the communications center. Coalition funds built all
three.

6. Except for three policemen standing guard outside the
new station, Rashad's streets were empty when PolOffs
arrived. The police chief's office was spacious and air
conditioned but plain. His desk was bare except for the
desk set, an Iraqi flag and a telephone on one corner. The
telephone only recently started working -- the first to
work in the township since the liberation.

7. Ten men buzzed about inside the office. Four wore
traditional garb: headscarves and robes. Two wore business
attire. The rest wore crisp, new police uniforms, all
provided by CPA. The men in traditional garb were shaikhs,
including Shaikh Louis, the mayor of Rashad.

-------------------------
U.S. ASSISTANCE TO RASHAD
-------------------------

8. The U.S. military has provided USD 400,000 in assistance
to Rashad since liberation, drawn from the Commander's
Emergency Relief Program (CERP). The money paid for police
checkpoints, new schools, bridges, water trucks and the
communications center.

9. Shaikh Louis pointed out that the village's needs remain
great: water, electricity, roads and a new hospital.
Residents cannot safely consume the local well water, and
the six water trucks that CPA bought for USD 20,000 cannot
deliver to all the villages. If the Coalition were to pave
more roads, Shaikh Louis said, water delivery would be
easier. Electrical service is erratic, and the mayor said
Rashad needs additional electrical lines. To get medical
aid, citizens must be taken to Kirkuk. There are two local
doctors, but they are ill-equipped. The police chief said
that when one of his men is shot, there is no way to
provide emergency treatment short of driving to Kirkuk.

----------
CEREMONIES
----------

10. At the city council building, the mayor and the local
U.S. military commander raised the Iraqi flag over the
building in a symbolic display of the handover from CPA
authority to local governance. Speeches followed, with
town council members and civil servants braving the intense
midday heat to attend. Two U.S. government-funded members
of the Kirkuk press recorded the event.

11. The big event on July 7, when PolOffs visited, was the
opening of the new communications center. The center has
the capacity for 500 telephone lines, where none existed in
the town since the war. Before the opening, residents of
Rashad had to drive to Kirkuk to make a phone call.

--------------------
THE KURDISH QUESTION
--------------------

12. Few Kurds live in the surrounding area, but animosity
toward them is strong. Two policemen had been shot and
wounded in Rashad the night before PolOffs' visit, one
fatally. Describing the incident the police chief said it
was surely the work of "outsiders," meaning Kurdish
infiltrators.

13. There were also complaints about ministry offices in
Kirkuk, many now dominated by Kurds. For example, Rashad's
leaders complained that the Department of Water, which is
run by Kurds, has stopped up the water pipes that Arab
farmers depend on to water their crops. The mayor and
others listed additional grievances: Kurds are taking Arab
land and the Kirkuk police chief is biased against Arabs.
When asked to provide proof, a shaikh left the room and
returned with a DVD. On the television screen, the Kirkuk
chief of police was shown making what looks like a stump
speech: "Kirkuk is not just a part of Kurdistan. Kirkuk is
the heart of Kurdistan." He repeated the phrase twice.
Rashad's political elite said they believe their case is
open and shut.

------
YAYCHI
------

14. Yaychi is 60 kilometers northeast of Rashad and
resembles its sister town in some ways: the brown hut-like
houses; power lines running in all directions; and a few
new buildings that stand apart. In some ways, the two are
distinct. In Yaychi, the schools are painted with splashes
of color, children play outside and people are on the
streets even in the 120 degree midday heat.

-------------------------
U.S. ASSISTANCE TO YAYCHI
-------------------------

15. Where the police chief's office in Rashad was stark,
the mayor's office was steeped with paperwork and pictures
of himself with U.S. military personnel. After greeting
PolOffs, Yaychi's Mayor Abdul Kareem broke into a serenade
of thanks for all the projects the U.S. has brought his
people. Yaychi has received USD 250,000 worth of U.S.
military aid from CERP funds. A man brought forward a two-
and-a-half meter tall, one meter wide board filled with
photos and descriptions of projects the town has completed
with these DFI funds: new schools, new mosques, a renovated
hospital, paved roads, new bridges, a police station, even
a veterinary hospital. He then handed certificates of
thanks to each military officer in the room and had his
photo taken handing them out.

16. The local Coalition military commander gave a short
speech that climaxed in the statement that these projects
were a "testimony of a government that cares about its
people." Mentioning the oil pipeline that runs through the
villages, he said that "attacks on the pipeline directly
hurt the people of this community." He also encouraged
Yaychi's people to turn in to proper authorities those who
would harm the township. Mayor Abdul Kareem responded with
the message that "our economy is improving....everyone has
benefited from liberation," ending with "Thank you for our
liberation."

----------
CEREMONIES
----------

17. The visit to Yaychi had the same purpose as the visit
to Rashad a ceremonial handover of sovereignty from CPA
to the local government and a flag-raising in front of the
city council building to mark the occasion. A small group
of people witnessed the ceremony and listened as local
dignitaries make speeches. Along with all the members of
the Yaychi town council, the police chief from Rashad came
as a visiting public figure. He said he plans to combine
the two localities' police forces under his command.

18. With one ceremony over, the group piled into new, CPA-
purchased police trucks for a two-minute drive to the
highlight of the day: the ribbon-cutting at a new
marketplace established with CERP funds. The marketplace
contained six cement stalls linked together on the
outskirts of town. The mayor and the U.S. military
commander surrounded themselves with locals and created a
ceremony for the ribbon cutting. "Tomorrow," the mayor
said aloud, "people selling food, drinks, clothing and
other goods will fill these stalls."

---------------------------
AGAIN, THE KURDISH QUESTION
---------------------------

19. Of the 38 villages in Yaychi, three are Kurdish and
another three Turkman, so residents rarely blame particular
"outsiders" for town problems. Still, during PolOffs'
visit, council members poured their problems on the
military commander and hinted at a Kurdish conspiracy. The
municipal departments in Kirkuk continued to ignore them,
and the council members pointed specifically to three
departments -- agriculture, water and municipalities -- all
Kurdish-controlled. The members said that they did not
feel a particular discrimination against Kurds, the people
of Yaychi only want the services they feel they are due.

20. The complaints continued. The mayor has to pay for his
own bodyguards. None of the department employees come from
Kirkuk to visit them or hear their requests. The local
Government receives complaints in Kurdish and feels
compelled to respond to the complaints, but has no Kurdish
translators. "Arabic is the language of the Koran. It
should be good enough for Yaychi," one council member
concluded.

--------------
OTHER VILLAGES
--------------

21. The Coalition has assisted many other villages in
Kirkuk besides Rashad and Yaychi. USAID, for example,
provided 13 km of paved road in the far southwest corner of
Kirkuk province near the village of al-Asfar. The project
cost USD 557,000 of which USAID contributed USD 429,000
drawn from appropriated funds under the Community Action
Program (CAP). The remainder came from local
contributions. Local government teams with AID contractor
RTI worked with the local council committees in training
them on preparing bid packages and making transparent
decisions.


Negroponte

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