Cablegate: Diyala Prt: Bring Back the Ba'athists? It Could Work

DE RUEHGB #3728/01 3170850
R 130850Z NOV 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) This is a Diyala PRT reporting cable.

2. (SBU) Summary: Several senior provincial executives in Diyala
Province, both Sunni and Shia, believe that controlled conditions
allowing former Ba'ath party members to return to public life would
accelerate the stalled reconciliation process and eliminate a major
source of division in Iraqi politics. Despite differing backgrounds
and perspectives, all government officials who discussed this were
remarkably homogenous in their belief that Coalition Provisional
Authority (CPA) Order #1 - De-Ba'athification of Iraqi Society - had
effectively decapitated the public sector and was to blame for the
largely dysfunctional technical administration in Diyala today.
They proposed that former Ba'athists be allowed to return to public
life once they are screened and vetted and are able to produce
convincing evidence that they have no 'bloody hands." End Summary.

Similar Perspectives
3. (SBU) PRTOffs interviewed four senior executives who work at the
Governance Center (GC) on their general views regarding
De-Ba'athification. The officials interviewed asked to remain
anonymous. For background purposes, three are elected officials,
one is an appointee, two are Sunni, and two are Shia. All were
interviewed individually and encouraged to provide their most frank
assessment on several topics. Their responses to the various
interview topics were remarkably similar. Interview topics included
the Ba'ath party under Saddam, the future of a Ba'ath party, CPA
Order Number 1, and De-Ba'athification. Each respondent provided
multiple anecdotes to support their viewpoints.

The Ba'ath Party Under Saddam And The Future
4. (SBU) All respondents indicated that the Ba'ath Party under
Saddam Hussein was Ba'athist in name only, and had been merely
created to champion Saddam's priorities and tighten Saddam's grip on
power. Party membership and some degree of participation were
critical to achieving upward mobility in society. Advancement
within the party was largely limited to Sunni members of specific
tribes. Refusal to join the party guaranteed downward mobility or
worse. All those interviewed said they were discriminated against
as a result of not joining the party, and one indicated he had been
denied an opportunity for advanced education because he was not a
Ba'athist, despite being in the top five percent of his class. He
added that Ba'athist students with lower qualifications were allowed
to attend advanced schooling, solely based on party affiliation.
All agreed that the Ba'ath party under Saddam had no relation to the
ideology of the original Ba'athist Pan-Arab, secular ideology that
still exists in other Arab countries. Respondents were ambivalent
about the formation of a Ba'ath party in Iraq today provided it
maintained no ideological relationship with Saddam. One explained
that a new Ba'ath party, if formed, would be dead on arrival based
on name association alone.

CPA Order Number 1
5. (SBU) Each government official maintained that CPA Order Number
1 was a disaster that continues to impact Iraq four years later.
The order, which was implemented in May 2003, removed all Iraqis
with Ba'athist affiliation from public life and government
employment. Each official described the order as decapitating the
nation and as Iraq's greatest tragedy. One official said that
removing three layers of officials from government ministries and
local offices inevitably left the least educated and qualified to
fill official positions. Another senior official asked rhetorically
whether there was any other result that could have come from
removing the head, his deputy, the deputy, the deputy's assistant,
and the senior administrative staff from every single office
requiring technical expertise. The officials made clear that they
were speaking exclusively of Ba'athists with no involvement in
criminal activities, but had achieved a degree of personal education
and competence by virtue of their membership in the Ba'ath party. A
senior official in the provincial government told PRTOffs that it
was widely acknowledged in Diyala that most, if not all, of the
individuals appointed by the central government to be Directors
General (DG) of various ministries are incompetent and are directly
responsible for the current dysfunctional provincial government.

De-Ba'athification - The Time Has Come
6. (SBU) We asked the government officials if and under what
conditions they thought individual Ba'athists could return to public
life or be rehabilitated. The responses were striking in their
uniformity. All suggested that if individuals' records were
examined and it was determined they had committed no serious
criminal actions, they should be allowed to return to public life.
A phrase we heard repeatedly was the need to ensure the former
Ba'athists had no "bloody hands". The government officials stressed
that from a humanitarian view, screening and vetting former
Ba'athists makes sense. Additionally, they also strongly argued
that excluding Ba'athists, as is current policy, does nothing to

BAGHDAD 00003728 002 OF 002

mitigate Ba'athist influence in society. They said it merely
relegates former Ba'athists to sponsoring sub-rosa activities,
frequently from outside the country, in an attempt to return to some
form of political participation.

Return To Society, Not Return To Power
7. (SBU) One executive felt that a return of the best educated,
most experienced administrators would greatly enhance the ongoing
reconciliation process, not as individuals coming into the ranks of
power, but as skilled facilitators of an improved quality of life
work for the average person. Diyala executives feel that the
average citizen longs for a technical level of leadership that can
take care of business and has less concern for the ideological,
religious, or other divisive issues that prevent the delivery of
essential services.

8. (U) In Diyala, it seems clear rehabilitating Ba'athists and
getting the province back in working order is a prime consideration
of the leadership. Despite the fact that none of these executives
would have risen to their current positions had Ba'athists been
participating in the government process, it is remarkable that they
speak with one voice, Sunni and Shia, when they say that they feel
the time is right to screen, vet, and restore to public life those
former Ba'athists with no blood on their hands. End Comment.


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