Cablegate: Limited Demonstrations in South Against Fuel Price

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

B. B) HILLAH 381

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Governorate officials in several southern
provinces reacted very negatively to the fuel price increases
of December 18. While the price increases appear to be
accepted in the northern provinces, minor demonstrations,
especially by taxi and truck drivers, were reported in the
southern regional cities of Iraq. We have no reports of
major protests in Baghdad. END SUMMARY

2. (SBU) The GOI initiated fuel price increases across Iraq
on December 18 (Ref A). On December 18 and 19,
demonstrations were reported in several governorates
according to the Ministry of Finance. None of the
demonstrations were violent. The size of the demonstrations
ranged from 20 to 600 people, primarily taxi and truck
drivers who are most directly affected by the price

3. (SBU) On December 19, Dr. Muhammed Al-Aboudi, the
Director General for Distribution for the Ministry of Oil
(MOO) appeared on Iraqi television to explain the reasons for
the price increases. He reportedly was used as the ministry
spokesman reportedly because the Minister of Oil and other
more senior members did not want to be associated with the
price increase during political discussions involved in the
formation of the new government after national elections
December 15. Minister of Oil Bahr Ulom has publicly
distanced himself from the price increases, and the
newspapers quote him as saying he would resign if the prices
were not rolled back. We do not know if the reports are true.


4. (SBU) Small demonstrations on December 19 in multiple
cities saw crowds numbering in the hundreds, but not
thousands. In Maysan province, approximately 100 people
demonstrated peacefully in front of the Pink Palace in the
center of Amara, resulting in the move of the PRDC meeting to
Camp Abu Naji, according to British embassy sources. Several
hundred people demonstrated in the Basrah Al-Qarmah
neighborhood as shown on Al-Arabiya television station in
Basrah, with the police reportedly breaking up that
demonstration. Elsewhere in Basrah, MNF-I PJCC reported three
small demonstrations, one with about 50 people, and the other
two with 75-100 people. All demonstrations ended peacefully.


5. (SBU) In northern Iraq, no demonstrations have been
reported, though there is some dissatisfaction reported. A
Kirkuk Provincial Council member complained publicly about
the price increases. In Tikrit a demonstration was rumored,
but may not have occurred according to the State Department
representative on the ground. Dr Radhwan, Director of
Finance at the MOO, told us, "the Northern portion of Iraq
has accepted the new price increases, but one or two
provinces in the South were complaining about the price
increase for gasoline". He also stated that the Prime
Minister and Oil Minister might be talking about reducing the
fuel price for gasoline. Radhwan hopes they will stay firm on
the new prices, but just in case, he will have a proposal to
reduce the price of gasoline to a price acceptable to the IMF.

6. (SBU) The GOI, as reported to us by multiple sources from
the Prime Minister's office, will brief five people from each
governorate on Wednesday, December 21 on the price increases.
The three governors in Al Muthanna, Karbala, and Al
Qadisiyah Provinces reportedly are reacting strongly against
the price increases, according to MNF-I reporting. Two of
the governors made threats to the local Ministry of Oil
officials and ordered that the prices be reduced. The
Ministry of Oil officials reportedly stood firm, stating they
would only take directions from the Ministry of Oil.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Embassy understands that the GOI may have
some small room for maneuver in the matter of price hikes.
Apparently, the price increase for regular gasoline was
slightly above the minimum mandated by the IMF. Hence, we
would expect any "conciliatory" move to meet street protests
to be for that fuel. To date, however, demonstrations do not
appear significant enough to push the government to change
the present course. END COMMENT

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