Cablegate: Ambassador Amplifies Vp's Messages in Iraqi Media

DE RUEHGB #0216 0280655
R 280655Z JAN 10 ZDK




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Reinforcing the messages delivered by Vice President
Biden during his recent visit to Iraq, Ambassador Hill hosted a
January 24 round table discussion with eight local Arabic media
outlets, followed by interviews with two major Iraqi TV channels.
The back-to-back media engagements at the Embassy helped quash
negative local speculation about the reasons and timing of the VP's
visit, and amplified our message that Iraq remains a top priority
for the United States. End Summary.

2. The Ambassador's 90-minute round table with local Arabic print,
radio and newswire journalists was arranged by the Public Affairs
section and resulted in saturation coverage in the next day's news
cycle. Headlines and articles on January 25 focused on the
Ambassador's rejection of earlier media speculation that VP Biden
had come to Iraq solely to propose a solution to the controversy
surrounding the disqualification of more than 500 electoral
candidates. Resulting headlines in national papers featured
Ambassador Hill's explanation that Washington had not interfered in
the issue, and that VP Biden had already planned to come to Iraq
long before the disqualification imbroglio erupted. The popular
independent daily Azzaman ran a front-page story with a photo,
quoting the Ambassador that the VP had come "to listen to Iraqi
leaders in a supporting role."

3. The roundtable discussion and TV interviews with Al Hurra and Al
Sumariya served to drive home the message that while the U.S. did
not object to applying a constitutional ban on Baathist candidates,
the process by which they are excluded had to be transparent, fair
and credible in order for the elections themselves to appear
likewise. The Ambassador echoed the Vice President's theme that we
are confident Iraqi leaders understand the problem and are working
hard to resolve it.

4. The question of whether or not the U.S. agreed with the
reinstatement of alleged Baathist candidates dominated the
discussions with the media. The Ambassador reiterated the point that
the United States condemns the crimes of the previous regime and
would never support a return to power of the Baathists. This firm
statement was widely re-played in the media.

5. All major outlets also reported on the Ambassador's response to
tough questions on the delay in removing Iraq from Chapter VII
sanctions. The media afforded favorable coverage to the
Ambassador's replies that we needed to speed up the process and that
A/S Feltman was remaining in Iraq specifically to discuss this issue
with the GOI. Finally, the Ambassador's iteration of the VP's
announcement regarding the Blackwater appeal was carried in several
print outlets.

6. We will continue to monitor coverage of the Ambassador's public
messaging and report back as warranted.


© Scoop Media

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