|03KUWAIT3619||2003-08-06 17:15:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Kuwait|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KUWAIT 003619
1. (C) Summary: A group of prominent Kuwaiti Shia
businessmen recently briefed the Ambassador on their visit to
the Shia spiritual centers of Najaf and Karbala. The group
met with Shia leaders who shared their concerns that the
security situation in the holy cities had still not been
properly addressed. The Shia leaders, who included Grand
Ayatollah Ali Sistani and Mohammed Bahr Al-Oloum, also gave
the Kuwaitis advice to pass on to the USG on how to stabilize
the situation in Iraq. End Summary.
2. (C) The Ambassador met with prominent Kuwaiti businessmen
Jawad Bukhamseen and Abdul Ilah Marafie on July 18. Also
present were two of Bukhamseen's sons, Anwar and Raed, and
Poloff (notetaker). Bukhamseen and Marafie had recently
returned from a trip which took them into the Shia holy
cities of Najaf and Karbala. There, they met with Shia
clerics Mohammed Bahr Al-Oloum, Mohammed Baquer Al-Hakim,
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Sayed Mohmammed Saeed Al-Hakim
and Shaikh Ishaq Al-Fadhli and discussed with them the
current situation in Iraq.
3. (C) Bukhamseen said all of the clerics expressed their
gratitude to the coalition for its liberation of Iraq, but
were deeply troubled that the security situation had not
markedly improved since the officially declared end of major
combat operations. For example, despite issuing fatwahs
calling on his followers not to commit acts of violence
against coalition forces and reminding them that they "are
not allowed to take revenge," i.e fatwahs aimed at
maintaining stability, Grand Ayatollah Sistani has found the
security situation so threatening that he has stopped
attending Friday prayers. Bukhamseen said the clerics
proposed that the provision by the coalition of forces
specifically charged with guarding religious shrines and the
lives of religious leaders would do much to restore stability
to the region.
Remove all Ba'athis
4. (C) In addition, the clerics were concerned that coalition
forces were installing and/or empowering local officials who
were at best, not accountable to the people, or at worst
Ba'athi officials from the old Saddam regime. The clerics
urged coalition forces to conduct thorough background checks
on all officials being installed and to increase the security
of the holy cities.
Countering Satellite Stations
5. (C) Bukhamseen said Bahr Al-Oloum was distraught at the
seeming inability of the coalition to counter Arab satellite
channels, although the cleric understands that much has been
asked of the coalition in a very short period of time. Bahr
Al-Oloum told the visitors he and his colleagues constantly
try to reinforce to their followers that the stations are
working against their interests as Iraqis, but they are
fighting an uphill battle. Bukhamseen suggested to the
Ambassador that the USG should offer key Iraqi journalists
the opportunity to visit the U.S. This, he said, might be an
effective way to garner their goodwill, as well as educate
Encouraging the return of the Diaspora
6. (C) Both Bukhamseen and Marafie made suggestions about
what the USG and the CPA could do to further their goals in
Iraq. For example, they said, the goal of growing the
economy and encouraging investment in Iraq would be made much
easier if exiled Iraqis were given preferential tax treatment
to return and invest in the country. In addition to helping
grow the economy, this would bring back many Iraqis who have
been exposed to Western ideas about justice and democracy,
which they said, are bound to rub off.
Addressing Psychological Trauma
7. (C) Marafie said it was also important for the CPA to
begin addressing the psychological trauma of the Iraqi people
by building memorials to those who had fallen during the
Saddam Hussein era. The Ambassador agreed this was a good
idea, and suggested that local exhibits featuring names
and/or photos of dead and/or missing loved ones would be a
good way to go about this task.
Building economic ties through trade shows
8. (C) Bukhamseen, who already has plans to build two hotels
in Najaf and Karbala as well as a re-bar factory and a
bottling plant in Basra, and has already started distributing
boxed juices in Iraq (via his company, ABC), said that the
security sitaution in Iraq was prohibiting even small-scale
trade and barter. He proposed that a secure exhibition space
be developed near Baghdad, where local Iraqi companies could
come to do business with Kuwaiti and American firms.
Bukhamseen said he would periodically organize armed convoys
to protect shipments of goods to the exhibition area.
Bukhamseen said the exhibition areas would serve the dual
purposes of supplying the existing huge demand in Iraq, and
allowing companies a foothold in the Iraqi market.
9. (C) Both Marafie and Bukhamseen are very successful
Kuwaiti Shia businessmen with strong historical ties to the
Shia community of southern Iraq. Marafie's grandfather
gilded the dome of the Imam Ali mosque, and built many other
mosques in Southern Iraq. They are clearly well connected
and not afraid to take risks in Iraq for their own benefit
and to create employment for Iraqis. They are exactly the
kind of entrepreneurs we should encourage to enter the Iraqi
market -- preferably with U.S. partners.
10. (U) Baghdad minimize considered.