Cablegate: Embassy Holds Successful Conference for Goi

DE RUEHGB #2328/01 2081415
R 261415Z JUL 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: An Embassy-sponsored conference in July
brought together representatives from all three branches of
the Iraqi government to begin discussing ways to improve the
legislative process. The conference was an Iraqi-led event
with minimal facilitation by the Embassy, and the Iraqi
participants responded to this approach by taking ownership
of the meeting and coming up with concrete initial steps to
try to make the legislative process more efficient and to
strengthen the oversight functions of the legislature. The
success of this event demonstrates that holding such events
inside Iraq and encouraging the Iraqis to run them is the way
to go in order to help build Iraqis, capacity to run their
own country. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) The Political Section,s Office of Constitutional
and Legislative Affairs (CLA) held the first in a series of
planned symposia on the Iraqi constitutional and legislative
system July 8-11 in Erbil. The conference brought together
49 senior representatives from all three branches of the
Iraqi government to begin discussing and resolving issues
concerning the legislative and constitutional process. One
major goal was to start a discussion about the way the
various institutions of the GOI "legislative stream" ) those
government bodies such as the Council of Representatives
(CoR), the Council of Ministers, the Presidency Council, the
Prime Minister,s Office, and others which are involved in
drafting and approving legislation ) can better coordinate
and work together to develop and pass legislation more
efficiently. The conference was designed to be an Iraqi-led
event with minimal facilitation by CLA, an approach that
worked very well in getting the Iraqis engaged and taking
charge of the conference and discussions.

3. (SBU) The legislative, executive, and judicial branches of
the GOI were all well-represented at the conference. Present
for the legislative branch were CoR Deputy Speakers Sheik
Khalid Attiya and Arif Tayfur, along with Legal Committee
Chairman Baha Al-Araji (Sadrist bloc) and Deputy Chairman
Saleem Al Jabbouri (Tawafuq) and over a dozen other CoR
members and senior staff. Representing the executive branch
were senior legal advisors from the Council of Ministers'
Secretariat and the Presidency Council; and for the judicial
branch there were judges from the Iraqi Higher Judicial
Council, the Federal Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeals.
An Iraqi Bar Association representative and Baghdad
University professors also participated. The one notable
absentee was Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and
acting Minister of Justice Dr. Safa Al Safi, who refused to
attend. His absence was publicly noted and criticized by
many of the participants. As acting Justice Minister, Dr.
Safi also prohibited members of the State Shura Council from
attending this event.

4. (SBU) Sheik Attiya seized the initiative and took charge
of the meeting, starting off with a large group discussion of
major issues and then breaking participants out into smaller
group sessions to try to actually solve specific problems in
legislative drafting, unforeseen vetoes by the Presidency
Council and executive oversight. Judge Amir Al Shimaree,
Director of the Legal Office at the Presidency Council,
commented that "This is the first time ever in Iraq that
Iraqi legal government officials, represented by the three
branches (of government), have met to discuss an important
issue, which is drafting legislation and the stages of the
legislative process."

5. (SBU) The discussions and negotiations resulted in a
memorandum agreed to by all parties present and which was to
be submitted to the highest ranking officials in each branch,
after submission to the CoR. The memorandum calls for 1)
establishing a coordinating committee among the three
branches to ensure promptness in executing legislation from
inception to publication on the Gazette; 2) enactment of a
new law to regulate ministries, especially the Ministry of
State for Parliamentary Affairs; and 3) activation of Article
101 of the Constitution to create a State Council and until
that occurs, supporting the Shura Council in its drafting
role. The discussions also resulted in the outlining of six
different goals to help end institutional frictions, smooth
the flow of legislation and enhance the ability of the
legislature to perform executive oversight. The participants
agreed to hold further meetings between the branches in order
to continue trying to improve the legislative process and
start discussions about resolving differences over
interpretation of the constitution.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: Two of the principal issues facing the CoR
are failure to coordinate between the branches so that there
are no surprises and failure to perform legislative oversight
over the executive branch. The CoR has only been in
existence since 2006 and so has not had time to establish

BAGHDAD 00002328 002 OF 002

traditions or develop formal and informal relationships with
the other branches of government. The purpose of this
conference was to get representatives of all three branches
into one room at one time to help them establish their own
relationships. This did in fact occur, with, for example,
Judge Amir of the Presidency Council meeting with CoR Deputy
Speaker Sheik Attiya in a relaxed setting where the two could
come to agreement. And the result of these Iraqi-led
interactions was a strong memorandum laying out an action
plan that got support from all the top-level officials at the
meeting. We believe a large part of this success was due to
holding the meeting in Iraq and having the Iraqis take the
leadership roles, i.e. creating an environment that allowed
and encouraged the Iraqis to take ownership of the meeting
and its conclusions. Some recent Iraq-related meetings have
suffered from lack of buy-in from top Iraqi officials and a
consequent lack of concrete follow-up plans. The success of
this event demonstrates that holding such events inside Iraq
and encouraging Iraqis to run them is the way to go in order
to help build Iraqis, capacity to run their own country.


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