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Cablegate: Kirkuk Ruling Coalition Against Baker-Hamilton Report

VZCZCXRO4879
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL
DE RUEHKUK #0174/01 3480955
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P R 140955Z DEC 06
FM REO KIRKUK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0788
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 0750
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUEHKUK/REO KIRKUK 0816

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KIRKUK 000174

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/I - KHOURY-KINCANNON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PBTS PINR IZ
SUBJECT: KIRKUK RULING COALITION AGAINST BAKER-HAMILTON REPORT

KIRKUK 00000174 001.2 OF 002


Sensitive but unclassified; please handle accordingly.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On October 10 key representatives of the
ruling PUK/KDP-dominated local government demarched the REO, and
on October 11 affiliated NGO's held a demonstration in front of
our gate, about the Iraq Study Group (ISG) Report. In the
PUK/KDP's view, the ISG report was biased in favor of Baghdad.
They strongly objected to any proposal to modify the
constitution, and changes to Iraqi Constitution Article 140 on
the final status of Kirkuk would cross a "red line." Many of
the representatives objected to characterization of Kirkuk as a
"powder keg," and others expressed affront that "outsiders,"
whether Baghdad-by-fiat, the UN -- or especially Iraq's
neighbors-- could hold sway in Kirkuk's final status
determination. Some also seized on the report's recommendation
for dialog with Baathists, arguing that they represented few, if
any, residents in Kirkuk while more broadly such a move could
only reward terrorism and encourage militarization by other
rejectionists. The underlying motive for the multi-day push was
to gauge any change in U.S. attitudes toward "Kurdistan." REO
Director affirmed that the ISG's recommendations would be taken
into consideration but do not represent U.S. policy. While the
speakers included Arabs and Turcoman, principal political
leaders of those groups in Kirkuk (most of whom favor delay of
Article 140 implementation in favor of a negotiated
power-sharing arrangement) have not yet publicly commented on
the ISG report. It is likely that they were the intended
audience for the noisy 300+ member PUK/KDP-sponsored
demonstration in front of the REO condemning the ISG report.
END SUMMARY.


KIRKUK LOCAL GOVERNMENT DECAMPS TO THE REO~
--------------------------------------------- --------------
---------------------

2. (U) On October 10, REO-Kirkuk entertained an ad hoc meeting
of the Kirkuk Provincial Council (PC), led by its Chairman,
Rizgar Ali Hamajan, who was accompanied by two locally-based
members of the national Article 140 Commission (which lays out
the mechanism for resolving the status of Kirkuk) and almost 30
PC members (all from the ruling PUK/KDP-dominated "Kirkuk
Brotherhood List" -KBL). Rizgar Ali stated his concerns about
the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group (ISG) Report, keying on
similar themes laid out by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and
Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani who have
dominated local media on the subject over the last few days.
Token representatives of all KBL stripes -- an Arab, a Turcoman,
a Christian and a woman - spoke during the REO meeting.

3. (SBU) In the view of the PUK/KDP representatives, the ISG
report was biased in favor of Baghdad and a centralized
government over the regions and federalism. Specifically, they
insisted that natural resource policies (read "Kurdistan"-based
oil reserves) were a partnership between the regions and the
central government. Rizgar Ali (and others) said they were
insulted by terms like "time bomb" and "powder keg" to describe
the situation in Kirkuk. Kirkuk was a multi-ethnic city, and
its problems were being addressed according to democratic means
that were laid out and protected by a constitution that enjoyed
national consensus. What would be explosive would be if
"someone" were to try to supplant the democratic process now in
motion, they said. A KDP representative went further in saying
that now Kurds were America's best allies, if the U.S. tried to
subvert Article 140, it risked becoming their "worst enemy."

4. (SBU) Rizgar Ali and the other speakers were careful to
stress the historically close ties between the local community
and the U.S. Most spoke at length about their own personal
cooperation. Rizgar Ali said he considered the REO and the PRT
"part of his own family." Speakers also agreed that the U.S.
troop presence was part of the equation for success as well.
For Rizgar Ali, that was why the ISG recommendations came as a
shock. Noting that none of the ISG team had visited the region,
Rizgar Ali asked point-blank who provided Messrs.Baker and
Hamilton the information by which they reached their
conclusions. Rizgar Ali insisted that he had never heard these
views from the State Department. Other speakers claimed that
the constitution itself was the product of direct American
involvement and coaching, so there was understandable confusion
as to why the U.S. might now want to distance itself from some
of its content.

5. (SBU) All were vehement that Article 140 be implemented as
written, without delay and without "outside interference." A
Turcoman representative speaking in Kurdish called Article 140
"a local solution to a local issue." Rizgar Ali warned that
interference with Article 140 implementation would be crossing a
"red line." Some also seized on the report's recommendation to

KIRKUK 00000174 002.2 OF 002


hold dialog with Baathists, arguing that Baathists represented
few, if any, people in Kirkuk. More broadly, they asserted,
such a move could only reward terrorism and encourage
militarization by other rejectionists. Rizgar Ali said the PC
would follow up with a written summary of their views.

~FOLLOWED BY A PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION OUTSIDE THE GATES
--------------------------------------------- --------------
-------------------------------------

6. (U) On October 11, a clearly-scripted demonstration of about
350 marchers made up of students and NGOs falling loosely under
the KBL banner (comment: we understand that buses were paid for
by the KDP) marched to the gates of the REO. REO Director
invited three representatives of the group (one from the PUK,
KDP, and a Turcoman) into the compound. Their views mirrored
those expressed by the PC. The group presented a letter
outlining their concerns addressed to President Bush, the U.S.
Congress and the ISG. The gathering, while noisy, was
well-behaved and followed closely the parameters worked out by
local security, which cordoned off streets and followed the
group at a discreet distance. The local police commander
escorted the demonstration leaders into the REO compound.

COMMENT
---------------

7. (SBU) This was only the second time Rizgar Ali ever came to
the REO (the first was in March of this year following a fatal
shooting incident involving REO contract security). While
individuals and small groups from the PC are regular guests
here, the presence of the KBL's "A" list amounted to a de facto
PC meeting. Similarly, public demonstrations at the REO gates
are uncommon. The underlying motive for the multi-day push was
to take measure of any changing attitudes of the U.S. toward
"Kurdistan." REO Director affirmed that the ISG's
recommendations would be taken into consideration but do not
represent U.S. policy. That we received both a local government
delegation and one from the demonstrators attests that we also
listen to the views expressed locally. For now, local media is
carrying that message. While some of the speakers included
Arabs and Turcoman, principal political leaders of those groups
here (most of whom favor delay of Article 140 implementation in
favor of a negotiated power-sharing arrangement) have not yet
publicly pronounced on the ISG report. It is likely that they,
not us, were the real audience for the noisy 300+ member
PUK/KDP-sponsored demonstration in front of the REO condemning
the ISG report.
SCOTT

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