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Cablegate: Prt Salah Ad Din: Encouraging Signs of Sunna-Shia

VZCZCXRO1631
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #2244 2011658
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191658Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8385
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BAGHDAD 002244

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM IZ
SUBJECT: PRT SALAH AD DIN: ENCOURAGING SIGNS OF SUNNA-SHIA
RECONCILIATION

1. (U) This is a PRT Salah ad Din cable.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Deputy Governor of Salah ad Din says
he had a very good meeting with the Prime Minister July 16,
resulting in a promise of more money for the province and the
prospect of an office of provincial affairs within the Prime
Ministry. The Deputy Governor has previously indicated to
the PRT that PM Maliki's willingness to take on Shiite armed
groups opened the door to rapprochement with Sunni Arabs who
were previously very suspicious of him. We see encouraging
signs of grassroots efforts at Sunna-Shia reconciliation,
aided by improved security in Samarra: Salah ad Din tribal
leaders visited Karbala, Shia pilgrims from Najaf visited
Samarra, and Salah ad Din expects visits by leaders from
Najaf, Karbala and Amara in the near future. END SUMMARY.

3. (SBU) Salah ad Din Deputy Governor Abdullah Hussein
al-Jubara al-Juboori (Abu Khaled) told PRT Team Leader July
17 that he had had a very good meeting with PM Maliki the
previous day. He said the Prime Minister had promised to
allocate more money to the province - perhaps doubling its
original 2008 allocation of 176 billion Iraqi Dinars. Abu
Khaled made clear his pleasure at the state of relations with
the Prime Minister. From what he has told the PRT
previously, the turning point was the PM's willingness to
take on armed Shia groups earlier this year: that opened the
door to rapprochement with Sunni Arabs (like Abu Khaled) who
were previously very suspicious of him.

4. (SBU) Since then, and thanks in part to the much
improved security situation in Samarra (a Sunni town in Salah
ad Din that has a major Shia shrine twice devastated by
terrorist bombings in 2006-07), we have seen encouraging
signs of efforts at reconciliation between Sunna and Shia:
tribal leaders from Salah ad Din were invited to (heavily
Shia) Karbala; Sunni Vice President Hashemi visited Samarra,
then ISCI leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim did likewise; thousands
of Shia pilgrims from Najaf followed suit; and Salah ad Din
is expecting visits in the near future by leaders from Najaf
and Karbala as well as from Amara.

5. (SBU) Abu Khaled happily informed PRT Team Leader that
an office of provincial affairs will be created in the Prime
Minister's Office. As he understood it, there would be
roughly one coordinator for every two provinces. This, he
felt, would facilitate communications to the point where "we
won't need to go to Baghdad any more." (COMMENT: A
well-connected local who was listening in observed
good-naturedly: "We won't need the PRT any more." To which
the Team Leader replied: "That's the whole idea." END
COMMENT.)

6. (SBU) COMMENT: There is an unmistakable air of optimism
in the provincial leadership of Salah ad Din these days,
which is all the more striking considering that this, Saddam
Hussein's home province, has been one of the biggest losers
in the change of regime. Six months ago, the Deputy Governor
was refusing to go to Baghdad for fear of being arrested or
killed. The PRT facilitated some trips to the capital for
meetings with national leaders in the intervening months;
this time, the Deputy Governor traveled without any American
involvement. The PRT will continue to report on the progress
of reconciliation between sects and between the province and
the national government.
CROCKER

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