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Cablegate: Prt Anbar: Sunni Endowment to Support Elections From The

VZCZCXRO0890
RR RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #2784 2881414
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151414Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5107
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BAGHDAD 002784

SIPDIS
REF: BAGHDAD 2606
BAGHDAD 2014

E.O. 12958: DECL:
TAGS: PTER PGOV ASEC PREL EAID KJUS KCRM KDEM IZ
SUBJECT: PRT ANBAR: SUNNI ENDOWMENT TO SUPPORT ELECTIONS FROM THE
PULPIT

(U) Classified by:

1. (U) This is a PRT Anbar (Ramadi) cable.

2. (U) SUMMARY: Sheikh Riyad Ziad al-Zobayee, a religious sheikh and
deputy head of the Sunni Endowment in Anbar, briefed PRT on the
Endowment's current and future activities in support of the
electoral process. Among several efforts by the Endowment, Sheikh
Riyad has written a program of sermons on the religious duty of
Muslims to participate in the elections, which he plans to
disseminate for use in November. Riyad is committed to using
mosques to encourage peaceful participation in the electoral
process.

ANBARIS WILL VOTE, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN
-------------------------------------
3. (U) The PRT Team Leader, POLOFF, and MNF-W G9 Engagement Officer
met with Sheikh Riyad on October 10, in order to hear the Sunni
Endowment's perspective on the current political situation and seek
the Endowment's assistance in encouraging Anbaris to vote. Sheikh
Riyad stated that he believed that at least 70-75 percent of Anbaris
would vote in the next election because they had learned a harsh
lesson from boycotting the last national election. To encourage
Anbaris to get out and vote, Sheikh Riyad said that he had given
over twenty sermons on the importance of voting, women's
participation in the political process and the cost of not having
adequate representation in the government. Riyad emphasized that
women's full participation will be key to ensuring Sunni success at
the polls. Noting that the Quran contains several passages that can
be construed to make participation in elections a religious duty,
Riyad told PRToffs that he was looking to use some of these in a
program of sermons that, after receiving the approval of the
provincial governor, would be disseminated to all Anbari mosques for
recitation from the pulpit.

IHEC NEEDS TO BE REFORMED
-------------------------
4. (U) Sheikh Riyad asserted that the Independent High Electoral
Commission (IHEC) is not representative enough of the Iraqi body
politic; it needs to include more Sunnis and political parties that
have real influence (REF A).. He lamented the selfishness of Iraqi
politicians in general, and IHEC officials specifically, and
criticized IHEC's handling of the provincial elections earlier this
year; he stated that voting information was disseminated at the last
minute before elections and that much of the voter education
material was useless to the many Anbaris who are illiterate.
Moreover, because many party leaders support the closed list system,
voters don't know who the candidates will ultimately be. Riyad
offered several ideas to address these complaints, among them
mandating that party heads show their pictures next to individual
candidates, so that voters know for whom they are voting. He went
on to say that the Endowment is expressly apolitical, but conceded
that the head of the Endowment, Sheik Ahmed Abdel Ghafour
al-Sammaraie, joined a political party in order to work toward
keeping religion out of national government.

"WE CAN BRAINWASH THEM BACK"
----------------------------
6. (U) Riyad also related several other efforts by the Endowment to
moderate the religious messages in mosques and disseminate teachings
that counter Al-Qaeda-inspired violent jihad ideology. Riyad stated
that these insurgents have brainwashed many into espousing violent
jihad, but he wants to "brainwash them back" into understanding that
jihad can be the struggle to build their community, to build a
school, and to do good. Riyad indicated that he would soon submit a
training program to the governor that covers the subject of
Qtraining program to the governor that covers the subject of
reeducating those who have been taught an extremist ideology.

COMMENT
-------
7. (U) Religious leaders continue to play a significant and often
helpful role in influencing the body politic in Iraq, as witnessed
by Ayatollah Sistani's campaign to encourage open lists in the
election law and voter participation amongst all communities (ref
B). The Sunni Endowment appears to be a valuable partner in our
efforts to educate and promote a peaceful and open election. For
its efforts to counter extremist ideology, Anbar Governor Qasim has
charged the Endowment with certifying the religious credentials and
sermons of every imam in the province. Those who do not meet the
Governor's standards are subject to arrest. Although the Endowment
claims to be apolitical, its efforts, particularly with women's
rights issues, appear to be motivated by the desire to increase
Sunni voter turnout and representation in the national government.
The PRT and MNF-W maintain a good relationship with the
organization, as does the Sahwa movement, the provincial government,
and other influential leaders in the province.

HILL

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