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Cablegate: Promoting Grass Roots Efforts to Stop the Violence

VZCZCXRO8841
RR RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHBC #0095 2861303
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131303Z OCT 07
FM REO BASRAH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0615
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0198
RUEPGAB/MNF-I C2X BAGHDAD IZ
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUEHBC/REO BASRAH 0649

UNCLAS BASRAH 000095

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT STATE FOR DRL, S/P, S/I, AND NEA/I

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER EAID KWMN IZ
SUBJECT: PROMOTING GRASS ROOTS EFFORTS TO STOP THE VIOLENCE

REF: (A) BASRAH 88 (B) BASRAH 41 (C) BASRAH 16

1. (SBU) Over the past two months, militia attacks against
Coalition personnel in Basrah have significantly subsided, but
the absence of anti-Coalition violence has not resulted in
tranquility for the citizens of Basrah. Shi'a militias and
criminal gangs continue to terrorize Basrawis through a campaign
of murder, intimidation, kidnappings, rape, and torture, in a
struggle for power in Iraq's most prosperous province. Various
accounts indicate the weekly murder rate could be as high as 40
to 50. Assassinations of or attacks against public officials,
prominent clerics, and women, who choose not to espouse strict
Muslim traditions, are commonplace. (See Ref. A.) In what was
once considered Iraq's open city, people are now afraid to
venture out at night.

2. (SBU) British soldiers no longer patrol the streets of
Basrah, and the impending drawdown of UK forces tempers
expectations for future counter-militia operations. Iraqi
Security Forces, under new and capable leadership, have made
some strides but reforming a police force that is rampant with
militia members is an arduous task, further compounded by
Iranian intervention. Within the last month, there have been
five attempts on the life of the police chief; several of his
senior officers have not fared so well.

3. (SBU) Militias and political parties are now referred to as
one and the same, a reflection of the transformation of
political interaction. In the scramble for power, increasing
the ranks is imperative, and nothing offers more promise to
disenfranchised young males than the opportunity to earn money
and wield power. Even for the educated, there are few
opportunities outside of the party/militia system, and those who
choose to remain independent are left vulnerable.

4. (SBU) As we contemplate the way forward, we must not resign
ourselves to a Basrah driven by force, fear, cronyism, and
foreign subversion. This is antithetical to our vision for
Iraq, and abandons in vain those who have relied on our promise
for a better future. How to address this problem remains our
major challenge. A direct confrontation with the militias is
now a task for the ISF, and one which they are not yet fully
prepared to undertake. Job-creation is also an important
component to the solution, and we should continue to encourage
the utilization of Iraqi revenues and the attraction of foreign
direct investment. We also must be careful to prevent any new
investments from being co-opted by the militias.

5. (SBU) Perhaps, the simplest solution lies with the people of
Basrah themselves. By most accounts, the vast majority of
Basrawis oppose the militias and detest Iranian meddling but
fear for their lives. There are however indications that people
are willing to take a stand against violence. In May, thousands
took to the streets in Basrah to protest against the militias.
(Ref. B) During a February conference, women leaders discussed
their counter-violence efforts (ref. C), and tribal leaders are
looking for ways to address the growing influence of militias.
We should harness this enmity for the malign actors and the
desire for a better Basrah by mobilizing the tribal and civic
leaders to stop the violence and take back their communities.

6 (SBU) One tried and tested method for tackling community
violence is CeaseFire. (www.ceasefirechicago.org) Created in
Chicago by Gary Slutkin, M.D., the CeaseFire premise is that
violence is an epidemic perpetrated by a small group of actors.
It unites community leaders and mobilizes their forces in
concert to stem the spread of the epidemic and force the bad
elements from their communities. It has been successful in
Chicago and is being implemented in several other U.S. cities.
The Office of Policy and Planning (S/P) has been consulting with
Dr. Slutkin on developing a CeaseFire program for Iraq.

7. (SBU) The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL)
may soon be awarding grants to organizations to promote
democracy and good governance in Iraq. The American Islamic
Congress, (AIC), which has an office in Basrah, intends to
submit a project proposal for Basrah based on the Ceasefire
model. REO Basrah would endorse such a proposal and could
provide additional support. We could link community leaders to
security officials who are committed to taking on the militias,
and provide them with quick response funds (QRF) for community
parks and centers. The people in Basrah have no wish to live in
fear of the excessive violence that has overtaken their
province. While they are best placed to reclaim their
communities, we should assist them in doing so.

BONO

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