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Cablegate: Basrah Media Reporting Trip - "Tell Them That Our Door Is

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
SUBJECT: Basrah Media Reporting Trip - "Tell them that our door is
open for business."

1. (U) Summary. On May 18-21 PA Abu Dhabi conducted a media-
reporting trip for Abu Dhabi TV, Arabic Language daily Al-Ittihad and
monthly Gulf Defense Magazine to Basrah, Iraq to highlight Basrah
political and economic stability and UK/Iraqi joint military training
activities. The group met with and interviewed the Governor of
Basrah, Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Basrah City Council,
members of the Basrah Chamber of Commerce and the British Consul
General. The group also traveled to Umm Qasr, participated in a
joint UK/Iraqi naval training exercise and interviewed the commander
of Iraqi naval forces in Umm Qasr. USAID hosted a representational
event for the group with local Iraqi journalists, USAID staff and
local development professionals. The journalists were accompanied by
the APAO and Information Specialist from the Public Affairs Office in
Abu Dhabi. During the trip, PA Abu Dhabi worked with program
partners in Basrah and Bahrain to plan future media reporting trips
for UAE and regional Arab media. PA Abu Dhabi is currently planning
a follow on trip for Al-Arabiya June 19-22. End Summary.

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Immediate Results

2. (U) Abu Dhabi TV produced 2 news pieces based on the reporting
trip, the first of which aired May 22 and the second of which aired
May 24. Post anticipates that Al-Ittihad will publish 2-3 print
media pieces and that Gulf Defense Magazine will have a feature
length article in its next publication. The Abu Dhabi TV May 22
story is available at the link below: 20Resources/Abu%20Dhabi%

--------------------------------------------- -----
The Logistical Pipeline into Basrah for Arab Media
--------------------------------------------- -----

3. (U) The program was developed and implemented as a six-way
partnership between the Public Affairs Office in Abu Dhabi, the
Public Affairs Office for Navy Central Command in Bahrain, the
British Forces Media Operations Group of the Multi-National Division
Southeast (MND SE/UK) at the Basrah airport, the British Consulate,
the Regional Embassy Office in Basrah, and USAID in Basrah. For the
May 18-21 program, PA Abu Dhabi recruited the participating media and
escorted them on the trip. PAO NAVCENT provided the air
transportation from Dubai to Bahrain and served as overall
coordination point for the program. The Media Ops group with MND
SE/UK provided accommodations, arranged for the air transport from
Bahrain to Basrah and arranged the May 20 program to Umm Qasr
(including force protection and transport). The British Consulate
arranged the May 19 program in Basrah (including force protection and
transport). REO Basrah and USAID hosted the May 20 representational
event at the USAID facility at the Basrah Airport.

--------------------------------------------- ---------------
Journalists Interview Basrah Government and Business Leaders
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

4. (U) On May 19, media and political officer for the British
Consulate Karen McLuskie programmed the journalists for a full day of
meetings with leading Basrah government and business leaders. They
were the first non-Iraqi Arab media to interview each of these
individuals. The group first met with Mrs. Isra' Al-Sa'ad, the
Deputy City Council Chairman for Basrah, a Shia woman who had
recently won re-election based on her record of creditability. She
provided the group with a tour of the new city council facilities and
discussed reconstruction and economic development issues. The group
then met with Mr. Mohammed Sa'doun Al-Ebadi, the Chairman of the City
Council, who highlighted the high level of security in Basrah. He
criticized western and Arab media outlets for grouping Basrah with
other regions in Iraq when highlighting security concerns in the
country. He indicated that these false concerns were keeping media
organizations from coming to Basrah and focusing on its many
accomplishments. The group then met with Mr. Mohammed Al-Wai'li, the
Governor of Basrah, who stated that Basrah now has 13,000 police
officers, most of them trained by the British and Czech Police. He
said that the city government is continuing to work with coalition
partners in developing basic infrastructure and that great progress
had been made since the end of the war, but that the lack of funds
from donor nations was limiting their work. He is currently focusing
on increasing foreign direct investment into Basrah and opening
greater trade links between Basrah and other countries in the region.
When asked what message he wanted the group to take back to the
outside world he said, "Tell them that our door is open for

5. (U) The group interviewed members of the Basrah Chamber of
Commerce, including Mr. Dhaher Adbul-Majeed, Director, and Mr. Aziz
Al-Ramadhan, Deputy Director of the Chamber, as well as Mr. Zuhair
Kubba, a prominent local businessmen in Basrah. The director stated
that the economy during Saddam's regime had not focused on investment
and trade with other countries. He said that the impact of the new
free market economy is changing the way that Iraqis think about their
role in society. In the past, Iraqis in were just told what to do.
Now they must take initiative, which is creating opportunities for
those motivated and capable, and challenges for those who are not.

6. (U) During the discussion, local businessman Mr. Zuhair Kubba
painted a very bright economic picture of Basrah, highlighting the
safety and security of the Basrah region as a selling point for
potential investors. He indicated that UAE investors are very active
in southern Iraq. He said that investors in Abu Dhabi and Dubai were
planning on building a seaport in Al-Fao, modeled after Jebel Ali and
that investment in Basrah-based banks from other Gulf-region
countries had tripled in the last two years.

7. (U) The group finished the day with interviews with Mr. Stuart
Innes, British Consul General of Basrah, and Mr. Taha Al-Tamimi,
Chief of the Political Section at the Consulate, who discussed
British and coalition policy in southern Iraq and highlighted on-
going political and economic development, as well reconstruction
projects. The journalists also visited Al-Khora park, a UK
Department for International Development (DFID)-funded project that
has renovated the historic park for the community. They interviewed
Mr. Abdul-Hafiz Al-Atti, a prominent local businessman who works
closely with the British consulate on reconstruction and development
projects in Basrah.

8. (U) On May 20, the journalists traveled down to an Iraqi Naval
Base in Umm Qasr to participate in a joint UK/Iraqi naval training
exercise and maritime security operations. The group accompanied the
Iraqi Navy on a patrol of the Shat Al-Arab, the waterway in between
Iraq and Iran, where the Iraqis demonstrated skills learned from the
British Royal Navy. The group interviewed Lt. Wasam, the spokesman
for the Iraqi Navy at Umm Qasr and met with Captain Adel, commander
of the Iraqi Navy at Umm Qasr. They both indicated that their
efforts are primarily focused on gasoline smuggling interdiction

--------------------------------------------- -----------------------
Future Programming - Menu of Opportunities in Basrah and Al Arabiya
--------------------------------------------- -----------------------

9. (U) During the trip, PA Abu Dhabi worked to develop a network of
contacts to facilitate further placement of Arab media into Basrah.
They are also developing a "menu" of media opportunities that
interested news organizations can use to custom design a program that
focuses on their areas of interest. PA Abu Dhabi is planning to
conduct a follow on media reporting trip for Al-Arabiya June 19-22.
Additional trips for other UAE-based media organizations are planned
further out in the summer.

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