Search

 

Cablegate: Vp Abdel Mehdi to Codel Voinovich: Patience, Please

VZCZCXRO9511
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #2838/01 2361638
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 241638Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2988
INFO RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC//NSC// PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 002838

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/23/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINS KDEM IZ
SUBJECT: VP ABDEL MEHDI TO CODEL VOINOVICH: PATIENCE, PLEASE

Classified By: Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: Vice President Adel Abdel Mehdi told CODEL
Voinovich (Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), Sen. Lamar Alexander
(R-TN), Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA))
August 20 that an improved security environment and a change
in the Sunni "mood" indicate that Iraq is making slow but
significant progress. In reply to repeated questions about
the Iraqi Government's inability to effect political
reconciliation, Abdel Mehdi conceded limited progress but
cited recent senior-level agreement on the broad outlines of
de-Ba'athification, amnesty, and detainee release, as well as
major private sector investment in mobile telephone
infrastructure as grounds for optimism. The VP stated that
Iraq has a "Sunni problem" that requires a "Shi'a solution"
through Shi'a accommodation of Sunni fears and frustrations
resulting from a loss of political dominance, and that he and
President Talibani are working together to develop trust
between Prime Minister al-Maliki and Vice President
al-Hashemi. He said he shared USG concerns about malign
Iranian influence in Iraq, stating that the Iran-linked Mahdi
Army (JAM) was "probably" behind the recent assassinations of
two southern provincial governors. He claimed that JAM's
spiritual leader Muqtada al-Sadr has "only 3 percent" of the
influence wielded by supreme Shi'a prelate Ali al-Sistani
among Iraq's majority Shi'a population. A recurring meeting
theme was expression of Senatorial impatience with GOI
political progress met with Abdel Mehdi's plea for greater
patience: Senator Voinovich closed the meeting by imploring
the GOI to come through with a "dramatic" political
achievement to ensure status quo USG support, while Abdel
Mehdi asked the USG to not "throw away your past sacrifices"
through a precipitate change in policy. End Summary.

Sunni Problem, Shi'a Solution
-----------------------------

2. (C) In a 45-minute meeting with CODEL Voinovich, Vice
President Abdel Mehdi stated that the last few months had
seen a "shift in Iraq's situation" that went to the "root" of
its core problem: Sunni fears and frustrations, "whether
valid or not valid," caused by a loss of political dominance.
He cited the willingness of Sunni leaders in Anbar province,
"where all the trouble started," to battle al-Qaeda as
evidence of that shift, and attributed a change in Sunni
"mood" to "exhaustion" and a realization by Sunni leaders
that they had run out of options. Using Northern Ireland as
an analogy, he averred that insurgencies end when insurgents,
even if not thoroughly defeated, realize they can not achieve
their aims through violent means. Abdel Mehdi said he
detected a changed mood among Iraqis in general, stating that
"in 2003 we were totally optimistic and in 2006 we were
totally pessimistic, now we are exhausted and more
realistic." The 59 year-old Shi'a politician stated that
Iraq's "Sunni problem" requires a "Shi'a solution" through
greater Shi'a understanding and accommodation of Sunni fears
"even though the fears might not be just" but provided no
details beyond "good governance" and better education.

3. (C) Abdel Mehdi said that while he and President Talibani
were working hard to overcome mutual mistrust between Sunni
VP al-Hashemi and PM Maliki, the concept of power sharing had
limits "because there can only be two or three top
positions." He identified lack of trust as a real problem
among Iraqi politicians, but not within ordinary Iraqi
society. As a measure of Iraq's growing political maturity,
he pointed to the contrast between the GOI's inability to
restrain retaliatory sectarian violence after the February
2006 bombing of Samara's al-Askari Mosque, and the GOI's far
more competent handling of the aftermath of a repeat bombing
of the mosque several months ago that resulted in relatively
little sectarian mayhem. He also pointed to private sector
investment of USD 1.25 billion in Iraq's mobile telephone
industry as evidence that Iraq is moving forward, as it
indicates investor confidence in Iraq's future. VP Senior
Advisor Fareed Yasseen chimed in that while the western media
never tires of stories about Iraq's problems, it pays scant
attention to Iraqi successes such as the stability of the
Iraqi Dinar, which he claimed has appreciated against the
U.S. dollar due to prudent GOI fiscal and budgetary policy.


4. (C) In reply to repeated questions and expressions of
American exasperation over the Iraqi Government's inability
to achieve political reconciliation, Abdel Mehdi conceded
limited progress but cited recent agreement Iraq's top
leaders on the broad outlines of de-Ba'athification, amnesty,
and detainee release. On several occasions he cautioned that
political reconciliation and Iraq's "radical" transformation
from dictatorship to democracy will take time: to drive home

BAGHDAD 00002838 002 OF 002


his point, he half-jokingly surmised that there may be some
people in Tennessee, the home state of Senators Alexander and
Corker, who have yet to be reconciled to the outcome of the
American Civil War. He insisted that the Iraqi Government
should not be held responsible for all of Iraq's problems,
citing al-Qaeda as "an international problem" and complaining
of support by Iraq's neighbors for malign internal elements.
For example, he listed Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt
as sources of support or foreign fighters for internal Iraqi
violence, and stated that visiting French Foreign Minister
Kouchner told him France had detained 42 fighters who were
headed to Iraq. He also stated that the Iraqi Government was
fearful that its efforts could "backfire" if it acted too
hastily. Abdel Mehdi opined that Iraq's enemies believe the
Iraqi and American governments are "nervous and want to force
us into making mistakes." A recurring meeting theme was
expression of Senatorial impatience met with Abdel Mehdi's
plea for greater patience: Senator Voinovich stated the GOI
badly needs a "dramatic" political achievement to ensure
status quo USG support, while Abdel Mehdi asked the USG to
not "throw away your past sacrifices" through a precipitate
change in policy.

Iran, al-Sadr, al-Sistani
-------------------------

5. (C) Abdel Mehdi said he shares American concerns regarding
Iranian activity in Iraq, adding that the recent
assassinations of two provincial governors from Iraq's
southern Shi'a belt (both of whom were affiliated with Abdel
Mehdi's ISCI/Badr political movement) were "probably"
perpetrated by the Mahdi Army (JAM). He stated that Iran was
exploiting some Iraqi Shi'a elements, but declined to express
an opinion on the extent of Iranian influence over Muqtada
al-Sadr, JAM's spiritual leader. Recounting an anecdote
about recent mortar attacks on Baghdad's International Zone
(where Abdel Mehdi lives and works), he stated that an
Iranian official told him Iran had pressured al-Sadr
followers to cease such attacks: Abdel Mehdi said with a
chuckle that the official's statement unwittingly revealed
Iranian complicity in the attacks. He claimed that al-Sadr
has "only 3 percent" of the influence and public prestige
held by Iraq's supreme Shi'a prelate Ali al-Sistani among
Iraq's majority Shi'a population, and he hailed al-Sistani's
efforts to counsel Shi'a calm and peace in the wake of
repeated provocative violence by Sunnis. Senator Voinovich
asked him to pass a message of thanks to al-Sistani.

6. (U) CODEL Voinovich did not have an opportunity to review
this message.

CROCKER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

UN: As COVID Deaths Pass Two Million Worldwide, Guterres Warns Against Self-Defeating ‘Vaccinationalism'

With more than two million lives now lost worldwide to COVID-19, the UN Secretary-General appealed on Friday for countries to work together and help each other to end the pandemic and save lives. In a video statement , Secretary-General António Guterres ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Washington Riot And The Georgia Results

Hong Kong and Washington DC. On the same morning, the tyrants in power in Beijing and their counterpart in the White House have shown how they refuse to accept the legitimacy of any different points of view, and the prospect of losing power… More>>

UN: Guterres To Seek Second Five-year Term
António Guterres will be seeking a second five-year term as UN Secretary-General, which would begin in January 2022.... More>>


UN Rights Office: Iran Execution Of Child Offender Breaks International Law

The execution of an Iranian man for a crime allegedly committed when he was 16 years old has been condemned by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) and raised concerns over violations of his right to a fair trial. In a statement released on Thursday, ... More>>