Cablegate: Initial Call On the New Iraqi Minister Of

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


REF: A) STATE 30930
C) Department/Baghdad O/I (06/02/2005)

1.(SBU) SUMMMARY: Iraqi Minister of Communications, Dr.
Jowan Masum, told us May 30she is anxious to get a date
from the CEO of the National Communications and Media
Commission (NCMC) for a joint press conference between the
Ministry of Communications and the NCMC. She requested
assistance in resolving the closing of an internal access
road to the MOC building. She also requested assistance
with the Project Contracting Office to expedite the
contract award for the construction of a new post office.
Masum announced that she had accepted the International
Telecommunication Union's invitation for Iraq to host a
2009 technology conference and of her intent to resolve
Iraq's ITU membership dues arrearages. She noted that all
previous MOC unlicensed Wireless Local Loop (WLL) projects
are halted until the licensing issues with the NCMC are
resolved. Masum stated that MCI offered to "gift" their
system to the MOC. Masum noted the difficulty of
transitioning current employees in the state owned landline
system to the private sector because of job security
concerns. Masum suggested that the new mobile licensees
would be limited to entities comprised of 10 percent or
less government ownership. Masum stated her intent to sign
all the infrastructure initiatives left by the previous
Minister, but that funding them was difficult as the
previous Minister returned all the MOC funds to the
Ministry of Finance. Masum also stated her intent to
restructure the state owned telephone company into
wholesale and retail entities. END SUMMARY

2.(U) IRMO Deputy Director and Director of Operations MG
Heine, IRMO Senior Consultant for Communications, and
ECONOFF met with the new Iraqi Minister of Communications,
Dr. Jowan Masum, on May 30, 2005.


3.(SBU) Masum said she was anxious to get a date from
Siyamend Othman, CEO of the Iraqi National Communications
and Media Commission (NCMC), for a joint press conference
between MOC and NCMC. She informed us that the press
conference would serve as the formal and public transfer of
all spectrum and licensing responsibilities and equipment,
from the MOC to the NCMC. In addition, she stated that she
received several complaints on Iraqna service and that the
press conference would definitively establish that the NCMC
has sole authority over mobile carriers. Masum showed us a
poster she printed up for the press conference. We offered
our assistance in helping with the press conference and
extended the offer from the US Embassy Public Affairs
Section to conduct media training to prepare for the press


4.(SBU) Masum stated that her immediate priority is to
award a contract for the construction of a new post office,
the first in Iraq for many years that will be built from
the ground up. It is modeled after a US post office.
Masum, who previously worked at PCO as an Operations
Manager, said she had heard that PCO is eliminating the
'quick procurement' option that allowed projects costing
under $1 Million to bypass the usual RFP process. She is
concerned that the RFP process will take months and that in
the interim she will lose the land. She stated that the
contractor for the project has been identified and is ready
to start. She requested our assistance in expediting the


5.(SBU) Masum informed us that the International
Telecommunication Union (ITU) asked Iraq to hold the 2009
ITU technology conference. Masum stated that she accepted
the offer and would like to hold the conference at the
Mamoon switch site, the rebuilding of which is currently
out for bid and scheduled to be completed in 2 years. She
explained that Mamoon is a Baghdad landmark that has been
used by Iraqis for many years as a recreation site and that
its needle tower can be seen for miles around. She also
noted that a large park once surrounded the Mamoon building
and stated her intent to bring back the park and connect it
by footpath to another park nearby. She plans to ensure
that the rebuilding plans facilitate the hosting of the ITU


6. (SBU) Masum said she is ready to make the initial
payment of a proposed 5-year payment plan to the ITU in
order to begin the process of curing an 18-year lapse by
Iraq in paying its dues (REF A). The first payment will
reinstate Iraq's membership in the ITU and begin the
process in seeking forbearance of approximately $600,000 in
accrued interest (about one-third of GOI's indebtedness of
$1,962,982.60 Swiss francs as of October 29,2004).
She stated that she has the funds to make the first payment
and would do so upon receipt of the Repayment Agreement
from ECONOFF. We offered our assistance in providing her
with the Repayment Agreement and facilitating contact with
the ITU. NOTE: Subsequent to this meeting, we provided
Masum with the information from REF C, and she has begun
follow-up with the ITU. END NOTE.


7.(SBU) Masum stated that she met with the Minister Of
Defense and informed them that the military
telecommunications systems need to be on the military
spectrum band. She noted that LTG Petreaus was present at
the meeting.


8.(SBU) Masum said she has halted work on all current
Wireless Local Loop projects initiated by MOC, under the
previous Minister, until the licensing issue with the NCMC
is resolved. She noted that there were several projects at
various stages of completion and it is her intent to
license them before any work is resumed.


9.(SBU) Masum noted the difficulty in getting current ITPC
employees to accept jobs in the private sector because of
their concerns over job security and the loss of pensions
and benefits. She explained that employees want a letter
from the MOC before joining the private sector,
guaranteeing them a MOC position and a reinstitution of the
pension in the event private industry positions are
unsuccessful. She also noted that she was going to end the
current practice of guaranteeing jobs to graduates of the
College of Technology. She stated that if positions were
open, for which graduates were qualified, they would be
welcome at MOC, but otherwise they were to look to the
private sector for employment.


10.(SBU) Masum said that MCI informed her that they would
be "gifting" the MCI USG network to the ITPC, the
government owned landline telephone company, which operates
under MOC authority and direction. She further stated that
MCI invited her to Jordan at the end of June to begin
discussing the "concept of granting the system" to ITPC.


11.(SBU) Masum noted several times in the meeting that
interconnection and roaming among the mobile carriers and
the ITPC are essential for good service in Iraq. She
acknowledged that the NCMC had jurisdiction over the issue
and that the ITPC would be working closely with the NCMC.


12.(SBU) Masum raised the issue of whether the new mobile
license tenders would prohibit any entities that are
comprised of more than 10 percent government ownership,
from bidding in the upcoming mobile licensing tenders. She
stated that the current mobile licensees were restricted in
that manner and that it would be wise to continue the
practice. She noted that there was still some confusion
among carriers as to who had jurisdiction over the tender
process and she has been referring potential candidates to
the NCMC and the NCMC website.


13.(SBU) Masum said she plans to sign Tenders 13, 14, 21,
48 and 51, and that Tender 52 was final, with the award
going to Marconi. She noted that former Minister al-Hakim
returned all the money from the MOC budget to the Ministry
of Finance (MOF), forcing her to go to the MOF repeatedly
on a project-by-project basis to get funding. NOTE: This
is required by Iraq's budget law. END NOTE. She spoke at
some length on the international connectivity project,
which requires investing in a submarine fiber optic network
and of her involvement in determining the cable landing
sites. She will be leaving for the UAE in June to begin
negotiations on interconnection and tariffs.

14.(SBU) She questioned NCMC's CEO demand that there be a
revenue sharing mechanism with the NCMC on the submarine
fiber optic network. She stated her belief that it was
inappropriate for an independent agency to enter into
revenue sharing agreements, that all the work in the past
14 months on the project had been done by MOC, that the
market should dictate prices, and that revenue sharing by
governments would distort that pricing. She requested our
assistance in discussing this issue with Othman and, in
particular, the role of an independent regulator.


15.(SBU) Masum agreed with ECONOFF that a universal
service policy and program needed to be in place to
increase penetration in rural and high cost areas.


16.(SBU) Masum said she plans to restructure the ITPC into
wholesale and retail entities. She also stated that the
State Company for Internet Service (SCIS), created by the
former MOC Minister, would be dissolved and folded into the
wholesale entity as it housed and separated the most
experienced data personnel from the rest of the company.
We explained that the formation of SCIS was designed to
work with IRMO Office of Communications on the IRFF funded
Wireless Broadband project (WBB). She explained that the
current ITPC and SCIS data experts could take on the WBB
project, once those entities were combined. She stated she
would seek the required approval from the Ministry of
Planning for the ITPC restructuring. She asked for
assistance in determining the role and scope of the
"Italian Project," which is designed to provide similar
services to the WBB, and which is being directed by the
Ministry of Science and Technology.

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