Cablegate: The Jaff Tribe and the Role of Its Leadership

DE RUEHGB #2753/01 2310557
R 190557Z AUG 07






E.O. 12958: N/A

This is a Regional Reconstruction Team (RRT) Cable.

1. (U) SUMMARY: The largest tribe in Sulaimaniyah Province of Iraqi
Kurdistan is the Jaff Tribe. Its members are Kurdish and 95 percent
Sunni. Jaff tribe leaders act as arbiters partaking in consultative
relationships with the local community and government. The leaders
are widely integrated in society and exercise their influence as
professionals, officials in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG),
commanders of the armed forces, and business leaders. There are
currently approximately one and half million members in the Jaff
tribal emirate. END SUMMARY

Background and Tribal Structure

2. (U) On May 19 and August 1, IPAO Mergy met with General Ahmed
Muhammad Gharib, General Commander for Border Guards, Sulaimaniyah
Province, Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement. General Gharib is
one of 54 leaders of the Jaff tribe, the largest tribe in
Sulaimaniyah. The Jaff Tribe is considered a tribal emirate.

3. (U) Note: The Jaff tribal emirate is a union of several tribes,
clans (a group of families), and sects ruled by the Jaff elite (the
Begzadas) or emirs. Tribe members are bonded by a real or imagined
kinship with the leaders and their descendants. The last prominent
ranking Jaff tribe leader was Al-Amir Sardar Beg Jaff, first son of
Dawood Beg Jaff, who ruled over the Jwanrood clan of the Jaff tribal
emirate. Sardar Jaff was an Iranian Kurd, a civil servent trained
in law, and had collaborated with Mullah Mostafa Barzani and later
Jalal Talabani. Sardar Jaff died in 2005. Contemporary Jaff tribal
leaders are distinguished individuals of the various emirate units
who resolve conflicts, provide guidance, and promote the well-being
of the community. There is no ranking leader or strict hierarchy
among current Jaff leaders. However, some tribe members contest the
authority of certain leaders because they believe they are working
for the PUK not for the tribe. End Note.

4. (U) General Ahmed told IPAO that Jaff tribal emirate members are
95% Sunni and Kurdish with a small minority of Zoroastrians. He
said 60 percent of the one and half million Jaff members live in
Iran and 40 percent are in Iraq. In Iraq, they reside in the areas
of Sulaimaniyah, Diyala and Kirkuk. The small towns of Kalar and
Halabja in Sulaimaniyah Province are considered the provincial
center of the Jaff tribal leaders. In Iran, the Jaff tribe is
concentrated in the provinces of Karmansha and Sinna. Since the
first half of the Twentieth Century, the Jaff tribe has evolved and
moved from a nomadic life to a settled existence. The members
became more educated and migrated to northern Sulaimaniyah and urban
areas such as Erbil and Baghdad.

Tribal Leaders' Influence and Decision Making

5. (U) Jaff tribal leaders, General Ahmed explained, are
professional, officials in the KRG, members of the two dominant
political parties -- the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)--, and members of the armed
forces and big business. For instance, Judge Rizgar who oversaw the
trial of Saddam Hussein, is a Jaff tribe member. The General
explained that Jaff leaders work for the government, not for the
Jaff tribe. Although they have informal influence, he continued,
the leaders do not have a separate communication line to the KRG
political leadership. General Ahmed compared the current role of a
tribal leader to an arbiter engaged in a consultative relationship
with the local community and government entities.

6. (U) According to General Ahmed, Jaff leaders resolve social
issues first within the tribe or clan and then approach the local
government for confirmation. For instance, the leaders decide on
the level of compensation for the family of a murder victim.
General Ahmed affirmed that in the case of a dispute between the
Jaff leadership decision and the law, the latter would prevail. He
also mentioned the need to refer some cases to the KRG "Social
Office" which is open to all tribes for resolving social and
criminal problems. (Note: The "Social Office" is run out of the KRG
Presidential Office of Massoud Barzani. The large tribes, including
the Jaff tribe, have a representative there to present their

7. (U) General Ahmed contrasted decision making in the Kurdish Jaff
tribe with that in an Arab tribe. He said that Arab tribal leaders
are the sole decision makers and operate without a veto mechanism
whereas Jaff tribal leaders work in a leadership committee to reach
a decision.

Other Tribal Traits

BAGHDAD 00002753 002 OF 002

8. (U) The Jaff tribe members have no restrictions on marriage with
individuals outside the Jaff tribe as long as the families accept
the decision. General Ahmed said the Jaff tribe does not practice

9. (U) Other activities organized by Jaff tribal leaders include
sports events, festivals, the Jaff cultural center in Sulaimaniyah
city, and a magazine publication. (Note: Some Jaff tribe members
consider the cultural center a PUK controlled center used to keep in
check and monitor the Jaff tribe.)

10. (SBU) COMMENT: The Jaff tribe emirate members do not form a
separate political party but are widely integrated in Iraqi
Kurdistan and have influence in their roles as professionals, PUK or
KDP party members, military commanders, and business leaders. Its
leaders have roles as arbiters, advisors, modernizers, and
protectors of a cultural heritage rather than an oppositional force
in Iraqi Kurdish politics. As the centralized regional government
developed, tribes, and especially their leaders, reacted by
promoting collaboration. They carved out a mediatory role of the
traditional community within the government framework and the
two-party (KDP and PUK) system.

© Scoop Media

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