Cablegate: Diyala South: U.S. City Council Works with Iraqi

DE RUEHGB #2663 2331227
R 201227Z AUG 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

This is an ePRT Diyala South reporting cable.
1. (SBU) Summary: On August 10 the New Bedford, Massachusetts
City Council (Council) participated in a video
teleconferencing (VTC) event with Iraqi officials from the
local and district levels of Diyala Province. The Council
held a mock council meeting for the benefit of the Iraqis
followed by a lively question and answer session that only
ended because of time limitations. Iraqi officials came away
impressed by the relative power over budget and other
activities at the city level in the U.S. They also saw
firsthand how to run an effective and more efficient council
meeting. The Council was excited by the opportunity to work
with Iraqi local officials and offered to participate in
future VTC and other activities with their Iraqi
counterparts. End summary.
2. (SBU) Over the last eleven months ePRT Diyala South has
worked with local governments at the qadaa and nahiya
(district and subdistrict) levels to increase their
capability and capacity. While progress has at times been
uneven, all have shown gains and demonstrated a strong
interest in better organizing themselves to carry out their
responsibilities. In many instances the councils have
overcome strong sectarian divisions and terrorist
intimidation. The ePRT governance advisor for Khan Bani
Sa,ad believed that the councils had reached a point that
continued progress would be would be well served if they
could see a good example of a working council in action.
While on R&R in his hometown of New Bedford he secured the
cooperation and support of the city council and then made
arrangements with Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts and
the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment (2SCR) on FOB Warhorse to
host the VTC. The Iraqi response proved to be almost
overwhelming as the number of confirmations to attend
increased daily, well beyond our anticipation. In addition
to the attendance by representatives of both our qadaas,
Khalis and Baqubah, all of the qadaas, nahiyas were
3. (SBU) The New Bedford City Council organized a mock
council meeting for the VTC, using transcripts and agenda
items from real council meetings. Our Iraqi guests were
impressed with the orderliness of the meeting and the obvious
preparations that went into a meeting. They had the
opportunity to understand the role of sub-committees in
councils and the order in which issues are dealt with by the
council. Following the conclusion of the mock city council
meeting the floor was opened to questions from Iraqi council
members. Their questions focused on the budget process and
relative independence of the Council to control its own
affairs. They displayed obvious envy as the Council
described the budget process and how they obtained funding
from tax and license fees, as well as other sources. They
were especially interested in the control their American
colleagues had over projects, including a small municipal
airport. They listened attentively as Council members
described processes in place to facilitate communication with
their constituents.
4. (SBU) At one point an Iraqi television newswoman noted
that the New Bedford City Council had several women members,
including the Council President. She asked the Council what
they thought women had to contribute to the process. After a
pause the Council President discussed the importance of
elected officials reflecting the diversity of their
communities because all members of society had important
contributions to make in a democratic process. Finally,
after almost two hours we had to cut questioning because of
time constraints.
5. (SBU) Comment: The success of this event opens the door to
future VTC exchanges between Iraqi and U.S. officials at the
local and district levels. Many of the Iraqis were eager to
learn more and have expressed a strong desire to participate
in future events. The New Bedford City Council volunteered
that they would like to continue to assist the Iraqi
officials and ePRT in future events. We are already
discussing how future VTCs might have a more specific subject
matter focus. This was a great opportunity for Iraqis to see
how our democratic process works at the local level. The
independence of local government in the U.S. was an
eye-opener for the Iraqis and may serve as an inspiration for
them to take on greater responsibilities. As our friends of
2SCR said of the event, "it was a home run." End comment.

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