Search

 

Cablegate: Regional Embassy Office Hillah Closes; Babil Governor Fills

VZCZCXYZ0002
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHGB #3312/01 3570326
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 230326Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 5857

UNCLAS BAGHDAD 003312

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT PLS PASS USAID

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SOCI
SUBJECT: REGIONAL EMBASSY OFFICE HILLAH CLOSES; BABIL GOVERNOR FILLS
SECURITY VOID

REF: BAGHDAD 3273

1. (SBU) Summary and Comment: The Regional Embassy Office (REO)
Hillah handed over its facility in a former hotel building to
representatives of the Ministries of Interior and Tourism on
December 15 (reftel). The GOI representatives appeared to
disregard the PRT's briefing on security, operations, and the
inventory of assets. Amidst reports of disorder and possible
unauthorized removal of the former REO's equipment, Babil Governor
Salman al-Zarqani arrived, and ordered his personal security forces
to secure the premises. The Governor expressed frustration to
PRTOffs that that Baghdad did not coordinate the handover with him.
Despite his frustration the Governor convinced the Council of
Ministers to cede control of the facility to the provincial
government. The PRT believes that a valuable opportunity to
increase the economic value of the property by training Iraqi
technical personnel in the proper operation of equipment left behind
has been lost. End Summary.

GOVERNOR ZARQANI AFFRONTED BY TURNOVER PROCESS

2. PRTOffs December 12 briefed Governor al-Zarqani about the
handover of the REO facility to GOI control. After the brief, the
Governor expressed reservations about the property's security
post-turnover and lamented that the PRT was not going to be present.
He appreciated the PRT's information and said that he had been told
nothing by any central Ministry. He intimated that the provincial
government's exclusion from the turnover ceremony was a personal
affront. (Note: The Governor has repeatedly complained to PRT about
the USG's focus on Baghdad, to the detriment of supporting the
authority of provincial governments. End note.)

GOI SENT NO TECHNICAL PERSONNEL ON ADVANCE TEAM

3. According to U.S. military personnel from MND-S detailed to
provide security for the turnover, an advance team from the
Ministries of Interior and Tourism arrived from Baghdad several days
before the turnover ceremony. However, none of the delegation
members were engineers, administrative managers, or logistical
experts. The delegation toured the REO offices and looked at the
desks, chairs, and air conditioners. In addition, they focused on
planning the turnover ceremony, but did not inventory nor inquire
about operation of the generators, reverse osmosis water plant, or
any other technical matters.

INADEQUATE SECURITY COORDINATION

4. A number of Iraqi uniformed personnel arrived concurrently with
the advance delegation from Baghdad. However, according to U.S.
military present, none approached either U.S. soldiers or security
personnel to coordinate security of the premises.

MORE THAN 100 IRAQIS PARTICIPANTS IN THE TURNOVER

5. More than 100 officials from Baghdad attended the handover
ceremony. No additional Iraqi security forces arrived for the
ceremony to assist during the festivities. Immediately following
the 1130 AM exchange of documents between the American and Iraqi
representatives that effectuated the turnover, U.S. military
personnel, Embassy representatives, and remaining KBR personnel
departed. Although there have been reports of gunfire at the scene,
U.S. personnel present state that they witnessed no celebratory
shooting in the air by ISF; they do not know whether such shooting
occurred after they left.

GOVERNOR ADDRESSES LOOTING BY CHANGING SECURITY PERSONNEL

7. On December 16, the Governor, Babil Chief of Police, and PRT
Babil LES assigned as liaison to the Governor's office, traveled to
the former REO to verify reports of looting. According to PRT LES,
there were few Iraqi national police at the site. Upon arrival, the
Qthere were few Iraqi national police at the site. Upon arrival, the
Governor saw an Iraqi national police lieutenant, allegedly in
charge of security, carrying off six air conditioner units. The
Governor ordered the Babil provincial Police Chief to arrest the
National Police Lieutenant, and then ordered the Police Chief to
detail his most trusted police to guard the site.

GOVERNOR CONVINCES COUNCIL OF MINISTERS TO CEDE REO TO PROVINCE

8. The PRT LES observed the Governor calling the Council of
Ministers to complain about the handling of the former REO property
and said he intended to conduct his own inventory. (Note: PRT
briefed him about the existence of a LOGCAP-prepared 25,000 item
inventory. He said he did not have a copy of this document and
resolved to do his own count. End note.) The Governor said that
items he had requested to use for the benefit of Babil's citizens
were being damaged and/or stolen.

9. Governor Al-Zarqani has assumed security of the hotel. The
watchtowers and perimeter control points are manned by 30 IP and

supervised by a number of officers. The Governor ordered the gates
closed to everyone including local government officials. The
exception is for a logistics team from Babil tourism department
supervised by the Governor's security officer Colonel Rahman.
10. On December 17, as a result of the Governor's complaint, the
Ministry of Tourism assured the Governor the hotel would be returned
to the province. The Governor told the PRT that his top priority is
to reopen the road along the canal to ease the flow of traffic in
Hillah. Although he had hoped to have the road opened in time for
the Ashura holiday, upon inspection he determined that it would take
at least two months to make the road passable. The PRT understands
that the former REO will resume its function as a tourist
accommodation, but exactly how and when remains unclear.

11. Comment: TV stations covering the turnover evidently focused on
the turnover and did not report the looting. Local media appears
not to have covered the story. PRT Babil local staff tells us that
few citizens in Babil know that the turnover has even taken place.


12. Comment continued: The handover of REO Babil illustrates poor
coordination between Baghdad and provincial governments. Despite
the critical role of the Office of Receivership and central
ministries in turnover of U.S. assets like the hotel, the GOI must
include local stakeholders in planning early in the process and
ensure proper security coordination. Without that coordination,
security lapses were apparent. Further, the GOI lost an opportunity
to learn how to operate the technical equipment at the facility,
because it did not cooperate with REO staff and contractors
throughout the process. End Comment.

FORD

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

OECD: COVID-19 Crisis Puts Migration And Progress On Integration At Risk, Says

Watch the live webcast of the press conference Migration flows have increased over the past decade and some progress has been made to improve the integration of immigrants in the host countries. But some of these gains may be erased by the COVID-19 pandemic ... More>>


Pacific Media Watch: How Pacific Environmental Defenders Are Coping With The Covid Pandemic

SPECIAL REPORT: By Sri Krishnamurthi of Pacific Media Watch Pacific Climate Warriors - creative action to trigger better responses to climate crisis. Image: ... More>>

Reporters Without Borders: Julian Assange’s Extradition Hearing Marred By Barriers To Open Justice

After monitoring four weeks of evidence in the US extradition proceedings against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates concern regarding the targeting of Assange for his contributions to journalism, and calls ... More>>

OHCHR: Stranded Migrants Need Safe And Dignified Return – UN Migrant Workers Committee

The UN Committee on Migrant Workers has today called on governments to take immediate action to address the inhumane conditions of migrant workers who are stranded in detention camps and ensure they can have an orderly, safe and dignified return to ... More>>