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Cablegate: Nonviolent Iraqi Opposition Figures Air Familiar

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

101429Z Aug 04

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 AMMAN 006726

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EINV PREL JO IZ
SUBJECT: NONVIOLENT IRAQI OPPOSITION FIGURES AIR FAMILIAR
GRIEVANCES AT AMMAN MEETING WITH U.S. BUSINESSMEN


1. SUMMARY: A two-day meeting held in Amman in late July
offered an opportunity for prominent, nonviolent members of
the Iraqi opposition to the coalition forces (CF) and Iraqi
interim government (IIG) to meet with prominent, but
predominantly non-official, Americans. The meeting produced
a few concrete proposals that the USG may be able to act on,
and provided a sense of positive momentum and goodwill among
the Iraqi participants that may already be paying dividends.
END SUMMARY.

2. The July 19-20 meeting was made up, on the Iraqi side, of
a wide range of opposition figures - tribal sheikhs, former
generals and directors general of ministries in the previous
regime, university professors, businessmen, and other
prominent citizens from places ranging from Mosul to
Nassiriya. However, it was an entirely Arab, and
predominantly Sunni, group, and people from Al-Anbar province
and with roots there made up the majority of the group. The
group was assembled by a Western-educated mid-40s sheikh and
businessman named Talal Al-Gaood, originally from Western
Iraq but living and with business interests in Jordan.

3. The U.S. participation had, at its core, four private U.S.
businessmen. Other U.S. guests included SECDEFREPEUR Evan
Galbraith, the American provost of the European College of
Liberal Arts - Berlin, two visiting OPIC officials, and three
officers representing the First Marine Expeditionary Force
(1MEF). Also present was Tadashi Maeda, a Deputy DG of the
Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

4. Under the direction of Al-Gaood, attendees of the meeting
formed into four committees, focusing on political, security,
tribal, and economic issues, to present to the U.S. delegates
their grievances and advice on how to proceed.

--------------------
POLITICAL COMPLAINTS
--------------------

5. The political committee, composed of professors,
ex-generals, and other notables, opened the conference with a
wide range of complaints about perceived mistakes and
breaches of faith made by the former CPA and the current
American advisors and supporters of the Iraqi interim
government (IIG). Committee members, with strong support
from the audience, worried that the USG planned to weaken the
unity of Iraq and said that the upcoming National Assembly
was undemocratically chosen and unfairly weighted in favor of
the members of the former Iraqi Governing Council (IGC).
They denounced the supposed excesses of the occupation and
the waste caused by de-Baathification, and they accused the
USG of profiting from Iraq,s institutional collapse
following the U.S. entry to Baghdad and questioned its true
willingness to withdraw from Iraq if asked.

6. The Americans on the panel, in response to the criticism
of the National Assembly selection process, suggested that
Anbar province look into conducting its own province-wide
election to choose its National Assembly representatives.
Members of the political committee and of the audience felt
that this plan was unworkable.

-----------------
SECURITY CONCERNS
-----------------

7. The security committee, composed primarily of former
generals in the Iraqi army, denounced the decision by the CPA
to dissolve the former Iraqi army, criticized the level of
professionalism of the New Iraqi Army (NIA) that is being
built as a replacement, and called for the old army to be
reconstituted under Iraqi command as soon as possible. They
expressed their concern that promotion in the NIA depended
more on officers, and NCOs, performance in NIA training
than it did on military experience. They also pointed out
that many NIA officers, who they claimed were eligible for
such a post because they had been dismissed by Saddam, were
dismissed for reasons of incompetence rather than disloyalty.
Conversely, not all officers who had remained in the old
army were strong Saddam loyalists. The committee expressed
its opinion that the NIA soldiers and officers were primarily
loyal to their religion, party, or ethnicity, rather than to
Iraq, and noted its visceral dislike of NIA uniforms and
doctrine, which they judged to be too much like that of the
U.S. Army.

8. A committee member accused the U.S. of deliberately
inciting criminal activity while diminishing the ability of
the police to respond. The committee complained that Iraqi
police were undermanned and underequipped, and that
de-Baathification had left them deprived of their best and
most experienced members. The Iraqi police forces had also
received very little ammunition.

9. One Kirkuk-based sheikh on the committee presented his
views on the unfolding security situation in Kirkuk, to
general approbation from the audience. He accused the KDP
and PUK of attempting ethnic cleansing, harassing Arabs and
kidnapping all those who hindered their work, while
simultaneously falsely recording Kurdish babies born
elsewhere as having Kirkuk as birthplace. He called for a
return in Kirkuk to the status quo ante bellum.

10. The committee and the audience voiced their discontent
with the inadequacy of reparations paid to families who had
had members killed or injured or had had property damaged in
the course of coalition operations. They expressed their
frustration with allegedly baseless coalition actions such as
the exile of Ramadi-based Sheikh Abdulrazzak Al Kherbith
(phonetic) from Al-Anbar by the 1MEF at the instigation of
the supposedly corrupt Anbar provincial governor. (According
to 1MEF LNO, the desicion was made and enforced by the
governor without 1MEF involvement.) Finally, they expressed
their satisfaction that the USG was finally reacting against
Iranian infiltration.

--------------
TRIBAL DEMANDS
--------------

11. The tribal committee, composed entirely of tribal sheikhs
from central and western Iraqi tribes, proposed a ten-point
program including coalition recognition of the tribal nature
of Iraqi society, the end of de-Baathification and
reinstitution of the old Iraqi army and Interior Ministry
personnel, a referendum on the form of government (monarchy
vs. republic) that Iraq should have in the future, and an
eventual full U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. In return for these
concessions and an allocation of one fifth of all Iraqi
government revenues to the primary tribal sheikhs, these
sheikhs would undertake to help restore security.

---------------
ECONOMIC ADVICE
---------------

12. The economic committee, composed primarily of economic
policymakers within the GOI under the previous regime, had as
its primary concern the privatization of Iraq,s industrial
sector. The committee opposed rapid privatization of Iraq,s
state-owned enterprises (SOEs), for several reasons. Members
noted the lack of a proper regulatory and security
environment for private enterprise, and expressed their fears
that many of the 200,000 employees of SOEs would lose their
jobs.

13. More revealing concerns included the worry that the lack
of Iraqis with capital sufficient to invest in buying SOEs
would allow foreign investors - or, even worse, members of
the IIG and their associates - to buy the companies at
fire-sale rates. Closely related to this latter concern was
an ill-defined proposal by the committee that a law be passed
providing for full transparency on all dealings of the
government, so that IIG members would remain "politicians,
not businessmen." Committee members, with agreement from the
audience, excoriated the undemocratic manner in which Bremer
had made decisions on the economy and the supposed negative
effects of, among other things, his unilateral lifting of
tariffs, but left the impression that their primary worry was
that the IIG would follow Bremer,s example - and use their
economic decision-making powers to enrich themselves.

14. The committee did not oppose all privatization. Instead,
it took a more nuanced approach, calling for a phased
privatization to follow the return of prices to more rational
levels. Committee members noted the artificially low prices
of oil products in comparison with other commodities such as
water, and implied that no privatization could happen while
such distortions remained in the economy. The committee also
put forward an scheme in which foreign investors would be
allowed to invest in privatized companies by putting money in
Iraqi banks, which would be allowed to purchase shares in
such companies.

15. The committee showed some flexibility regarding the oil
and gas sector. While they noted that foreign ownership of
oil rights was "a red line for Iraqis," they admitted that
proper oil and gas exploration and exploitation could not be
done with the resources available to Iraqis. The committee
proposed that the downstream oil sector be opened to foreign
companies, and that foreign companies be given contracts
(supposedly like those arranged with Saddam by French and
Russian companies before the war) in which they could earn
back invested capital with a fixed, pre-arranged profit,
before turning over their rights to Iraq.

16. Other complaints by the conference participants - mostly
from outside the committee - included predictable indignation
over the relative lack of contracts and subcontracts awarded
to their own businesses and those of their friends,
allegations that neighbors were taking more than their fair
share of Iraq,s water, and worries about lack of supplies
for the agriculture sector. Participants also complained
that the U.S.-led campaign to get Iraq,s creditors to write
down Iraqi debt was actually increasing it, as the U.S.
allegedly took inflated claims by foreign countries at face
value and tried to negotiate down from those levels; Iraqis
should be in charge of these negotiations instead, they said.

17. Aftermath: In response to some of the concerns expressed
at the conference and at side meetings, 1MEF has decided to
form a Tiger Team to address problems brought to it in the
future by the Iraqis of Al-Anbar province. On the Iraqi
side, there is substantial interest in follow-up meetings,
and a committee has been formed, with permanent
responsibility for advocacy of the views expressed by the
Iraqi side of the meeting and for interfacing with 1MEF. A
July 27-29 Al-Anbar business conference held in Amman,
sponsored primarily by 1MEF and organized by the
Jordan-American Business Association, drew a large contingent
of Iraqis from Al-Anbar province, many of whom had made
initial contact with the 1MEF through the July 19-20 meetings.

18. Baghdad minimize considered.
HALE

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