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Cablegate: Iraqi President and Vice President Discuss

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHGB #0070/01 0111553
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 111553Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6076
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL//CCJ2//
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L BAGHDAD 000070

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/FO AND NEA/I. NSC FOR PHEE AND VROOMAN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/07/2020
TAGS: IR IZ KDEM PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: IRAQI PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIDENT DISCUSS
IRAN-IRAQ BORDER DISPUTE, ELECTIONS, AND SECURITY WITH
CODEL MCCAIN

REF: A. A) BAGHDAD 3334
B. B) BAGHDAD 0028

Classified By: DCM ROBERT S. FORD FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)

1. (C) Summary: Senators John McCain (R/AZ), Joseph Lieberman
(I/CT), John Barrasso (R/WY), and John Thune (R/SD) on
January 5, 2009 held meetings with Iraqi President Jalal
Talabani and Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi to discuss the
recent Blackwater ruling, upcoming Iraqi national election,
and Iraq's regional relations. In separate meetings, both
Talabani and Abd al-Mahdi discussed the status of Iraqi
relations with Iran relative to the Fakkah oil field
incident. Additionally, Talabani commented on the
seriousness of recent demonstrations inside Iran and
cautioned the U.S. against showing public support for the
Iranian opposition, which could undermine their credibility.
For his part, Abd al-Mahdi discussed the need for Iraqi
elections to be seen as transparent and legitimate, and noted
the importance of a timely government formation period. With
regard to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, Abd
al-Mahdi acknowledged progress made in strengthening the
Iraqi Army, but stressed the importance of not overestimating
Iraq's capabilities. He called for the U.S. and Iraqi
governments to reassess the current security situation and
revise the security agreement accordingly after the new Iraqi
government is established. End Summary.

----------------------------------
REPERCUSSIONS OF BLACKWATER RULING
----------------------------------

2. (C) President Talabani remarked that he hoped the incident
would not affect the relationship between Iraq and the U.S.
and commented that even in Iraq, courts are independent and
sometimes issue decisions that those in the government do not
agree with, but such rulings must be obeyed regardless. The
Vice President stressed the importance of an appeal as the
Iraqi people are looking for justice. Abd al-Mahdi noted
that in a separate incident one of his personal guards was
killed by an intoxicated Blackwater employee.

----------------------------
THE IRAN-IRAQ BORDER DISPUTE
----------------------------

3. (C) Abd al-Mahdi commented that Iraqi relations with Iran
are at a low point, noting that what the Iranians did in
Fakkah was a mistake. (Ref A) He said that both countries
acknowledge that the Fakkah oil well is in a disputed area,
because of the unclear border between Iran and Iraq, but he
believed the situation was returning to normal as evidenced
by the Iranians removing their flag from the field. The Vice
President stressed that because of Iraq's shared border with
Iran, it is very important to maintain good relations between
the two countries, just as the same is true for Iraqi
relations with Turkey and Syria. He believed that Iraq could
not risk its future by entering into a new conflict with
Iran. Abd al-Mahdi stated that Iraq cannot wage war against
its neighbors, and said that the more problems Iraq has with
its neighbors, the more they must negotiate to overcome those
problems.

4. (C) Talabani commented that the 1975 Algiers Agreement (on
border delineation) is the root of many problems surrounding
the Iran-Iraq border. The President commented that in some
places the Iranians are moving toward the border because of
what they see as laid out in the 1975 Agreement, but said
Qwhat they see as laid out in the 1975 Agreement, but said
that the Iraqis do not recognize the agreement because it was
formalized under the Saddam regime.

---------------------------------------------
TALABANI: U.S. SHOULD BE MINDFUL OF IMPACT OF SUPPORTING IRAN
OPPOSITION
---------------------------------------------

5. (C) When asked about the ongoing demonstrations in Iran
and whether such events pose a real threat to the Iranian
regime, Talabani said that the current demonstrations are
very serious and represent the division among the political
leaders and religious authorities trickling down to the
street level. The President commented that Iran has a
diverse population, with differences among all groups running


deep with a long history. He stressed that it was not that
the Iranian regime was weak, but rather that the opposing
side was strong. Talabani said that the Iranian opposition
included both experienced Iranian politicians, to include
Mousavi, Rafsanjani, and Karrubi, and important religious
figures. He also commented that whereas the demonstrations
at first were attacking Iranian President Ahmadinejad, they
have now shifted to being against Supreme Leader Khamenei.
Talabani said that the Iranian government feels threatened.
In response, Iran has threatened to use any force necessary,
and was presently trying to pass a law in the Parliament to
hang those found to be against the regime. Talabani also
commented that historically major leadership changes in Iran
begin in the main cities and spread throughout the country.
He opined that what is currently transpiring is reminiscent
of past major changes in Iran. However, he believed that
unlike in previous scenarios, the current regime is able to
threaten people without any fear of a third party stepping
in. Talabani said for example that the Shah was somewhat
tempered by his fear of the U.S. intervening, but that no
such moderating force presently exists.

6. (C) With regard to any possible show of U.S. support to
the Iranian people, Talabani cautioned that the U.S. must
consider how the Iranian regime could use a show of U.S.
solidarity toward the Iranian opposition to further label the
opposition as agents of the U.S.

7. (C) Referring to his conversations with Syrian President
Bashar al-Asad, Talabani said that the Syrians deny suicide
bombers enter Iraq via Syria and say they support Iraqi unity
and security. Talabani opined that certain parts of the
Syrian regime were supportive of such terrorists. Talabani
also commented that none of Iraq,s neighbors are happy about
Iraq's success and do not want a strong, united Iraq, as they
fear Iraq as a model of democracy in the region and Iraq,s
ability to assume its share of the oil market. However,
Talabani stated that regardless of the positions held by its
neighbors, Iraq will continue to advance in achieving its
goals.

--------------------------------------------- -----
ABD AL-MAHDI HINTS FASTER GOVERNMENT FORMATION IN 2010
--------------------------------------------- -----

8. (C) Adil Abd al-Mahdi in response to an inquiry into his
assessment of the upcoming Iraqi national election said that
he believed that elections are always good, especially in a
country working to move past a history of tyranny and
dictatorship and embrace democracy. He hoped to see a
transparent and legitimate election, free from foreign
interference, and noted that the provincial elections
demonstrated that Iraq is moving in the right direction with
this regard. The Vice President believed that holding a
successful national election would help to further stabilize
the Iraqi political system. He hoped that participation in
the election would be as high as that of previous elections,
but acknowledged that turnout could be somewhat less. Abd
al-Mahdi commented that the four-month delay in forming a
government following the previous national election was
damaging to Iraq and sent the wrong message to Iraq's
enemies. He noted that Iraqi blocs currently are engaged in
Qenemies. He noted that Iraqi blocs currently are engaged in
negotiations in an effort to minimize the length of the
government formation period.

9. (C) Abd al-Mahdi said he believed "popular mobilization"
was the best method to campaign for the national election,
whereby candidates get out to visit various neighborhoods and
go house to house engaging the Iraqi population. The Vice
President also commented that campaigning will utilize both
radio and television, and that during this campaign season
there would also be several debates. Abd al-Mahdi noted that
elections in 2010 will differ from the previous national
elections, in that the Iraqi people will vote for individuals
as opposed to lists, which he believed was a positive change
and would result in less polarization. Additionally, he
observed that there were good and respected names on the
candidate lists.

10. (C) When asked, Abd al-Mahdi acknowledged that he is a
contender for the prime ministership, but noted that as is
the case in all elections, the election outcome and alliances
formed would ultimately determine the next prime minister.


(Comment: It was evident that Abd al-Mahdi clearly remembers
the role that the U.S. Ambassador played in preventing him
from becoming Prime Minister in 2006 because of his ties to
Iran. End Comment.)

----------------------------------
TALABANI: SHIA LISTS WILL DOMINATE
----------------------------------

11. (C) President Talabani when queried as to his election
predictions said that he believed the winning bloc would
either be Maliki's State of Law or the Iraqi National
Alliance (INA), with Allawi's list coming third. Regarding
the Kurdish bloc, Talabani said that the PUK and KDP lists
will be united, but that all Kurdish parties will be working
to advance themselves. However, he stated that regardless of
election outcome, the Kurds will remain a united force in
Baghdad.

--------------------------------------------- --------------
ABD AL-MAHDI CAUTIONS AGAINST OVERESTIMATING IRAQI FORCES
--------------------------------------------- --------------

12. (C) In response to an inquiry into concerns surrounding
the U.S. withdrawal and the readiness of the Iraqi Army (IA)
to fill that void, Abd al-Mahdi said that there are less
fears of this prospect than there were two years ago. The
Vice President acknowledged that there are good signs of
development in the IA, but said he thought all parties
overestimated progress made and said he would qualify the
current situation in Iraq differently than some of his
colleagues would. He said that two months ago others within
the GOI believed Al-Qa'ida was finished and argued for the
removal of T-walls, but that he believed Al-Qa'ida was not
finished, but rather would spread if left to its own devices.
Abd al-Mahdi believes the GOI and U.S. government must
reassess the current security situation in Iraq and the next
Iraqi government and the U.S. should revise the security
agreement accordingly, especially in light of recent attacks
targeting government buildings in the center of Baghdad.

13. (C) The Vice President said that logistically and
strategically we are winning the war, but that all parties
must remain aware that this reality could shift. Abd
al-Mahdi stressed that we should not "underestimate our enemy
or overestimate our forces." He said that with all of the
positive developments in Iraq, one can see a certain light at
the end of the tunnel, but that Iraq can do better in all
areas, from regional relations to countering terrorism.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
SECOND ROUND OF OIL BIDDING, ABSENCE OF U.S. COMPANIES
--------------------------------------------- ---------

14. (C) President Talabani expressed disappointment that more
American companies did not participate in the second round of
oil biding in Iraq. Talabani said that for many years he has
encouraged President Bush, and now President Obama, to
support U.S. companies' investment in Iraq, noting that the
U.S. administration was always waiting for the Iraqi oil law
to be adopted by parliament prior to encouraging such
investment. (Ref B)

15. (U) CODEL McCain cleared this message.
HILL

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