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2005-07-22 10:34:00
Embassy Baghdad
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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 BAGHDAD 003042 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/22/2025

REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).

1. (C) SUMMARY: During a July 19 Fallujah city council
session, Sheikh Kamal Shakir Mahmood -- a leading imam and
council member -- announced that city clerics had issued a
Fatwa (religious edict) calling upon all Fallujah residents
to participate in the upcoming referendum and election.
City imams had relayed the message through their mosques
July 15. The Fatwa has only been issued orally. Fallujah
City Council Vice-Chairman Qassim Mohamed Abdulsattar al-
Jassam told Fallujah Poloff privately that approximately
100,000 IECI referendum and election fliers had been
brought to Fallujah; some had already been distributed to
residents. City leaders have stated they intend to keep
national political issues on their local civic agenda. They
want to work cooperatively with the Coalition and Iraqi
Security Forces to ensure high voter turnout. END SUMMARY.




2. (C) In an aside to Fallujah Poloff July 19, Sheikh
Kamal said that he expected "at least 50 percent of the
city" to participate in the upcoming referendum. He was
not overly worried about intimidation because a "majority"
of Fallujans wanted to vote, adding "we will take even the
aged to the polls." Another city leader, Engineer Fawzi
(who initiated a separate grass-roots political gathering
in early June) agreed. Sheikh Kamal said that the imams'
decision to issue the edict had been unanimous. City
religious leaders intended to help educate residents on
political matters.

3. (C) Kamal said the edict had been initiated locally.
There is also growing interest in participating in the
political process in the provincial capital, Ramadi. In a
July 17 PRDC meeting, Anbar Governor Mamoun passed two
letters to Marine officers from the Provincial Council.
One served as a call to action, urging non-complacency of
Anbar Sunnis regarding national politics; the other
contained a long list of complaints and concerns about
security and reconstruction province-wide for which the
Provincial Government seeks readdress in preparation for
the referendum and elections. Both letters originated from
a July 13th Provincial Council meeting that had focused on
the referendum and subsequent election. As the Provincial
Council has four members active in Fallujah, there may have
been coordination between the cities regarding the
substance of the fatwa and letters. Both seem to be driven
by reports of a fatwa expected from "senior Sunni Scholars"
which concluded a conference in Baghdad on this subject
immediately prior to the July 13 PC Meeting. In a meeting

with Division Assistant Division Commander July 20, Al
Anbar Deputy Governor Talal stated that Adnan Al-Dulaimi,
the head of the Sunni Endowment, had been announced the
fatwa for all of Iraq; however, they had not seen a copy of
the text of the message itself. END NOTE.

4. (C) PolOff urged continued city leaders to maintain
their focus on the referendum and civic education
initiatives, and reiterated that Iraq's political process
was its own, not influenced by the U.S. or coalition.
(Comment: Media reports about allegedly planned,
eventually abandoned, covert U.S. intervention in the
January 30 National Assembly election will inevitably be
raised by Fallujah leaders and skeptical residents. Tribal
leaders asked PolOff in prior meeting how Iraq's emerging
democratic process can be safeguarded as fair and free.
Such media reports in Western and Arab press will likely
not be viewed as reassuring among Fallujah leaders
regarding claimed U.S. neutrality in Iraqi politics. End

5. (C) Fallujah Mayor Dhari told Poloff and a Marine civil
affairs officer July 20, that the city council would keep
the referendum and election on its weekly agenda, and that
area tribal leaders were also prepared to inform local
Sunnis about the constitution and election. Council vice
chairman Qassim noted that locals had secured approximately
100,000 IECI fliers on referendum and election issues from
Baghdad. These materials were in the city; some had been
distributed. (Note: PolOff has requested a copy of the
IECI materials, in addition to the fatwa, which locals
agreed to provide. End Note.)




6. (C) Two younger, lower-ranking imams confirmed that the
fatwa had been issued in the city. One told PolOff in a
brif meeting July 19, that he had been "very surprised" by
the announcement, noting that he never thought his local
mosque's imam would "utter these words." He believed 60-70
percent of the city would turn out for the referendum. The
other said that the fatwa had been less of a surprise to
him because most residents realized that not participating
in the January 30 election had been a mistake -- city imams
now understood this, too. He emphasized that since Iraqis
"had only known war -- with Iran and now" many looked to
the referendum and election for hope and improvement.

7. (C) COMMENT: We are not aware of a broad statement by
the Sunni Endowment beyond its public statements supporting
political participation broadly and in the constitution
drafting more specifically. The announcement of the fatwa
about the October elections in Fallujah marks an important
step forward as Fallujah leaders begin to attempt to engage
and educate citizens, largely on their own initiative,
about the national political process. Fallujah still
stands as Iraq's "city of mosques" despite its troubled
past; a united stand by its religious leaders -- if
sustained -- could help move a majority of residents
(including those in outlying communities) to October
polling sites. Insurgent intimidation in the city remains
a concern, although it appears not to be an overriding one
among residents at present. More Fallujans seem to
understand that standing together as a majority will help
beat back insurgent attempts to replace their current
grass-roots political initiative with fear and related
inaction. This toughened approach will undoubtedly be
further tested in the run-up to referendum and election
days. Current momentum is not guaranteed to last. It is
clear that Fallujah leaders, however, both religious and
political, have calculated for now that non-participation
in January came at too high a price to be repeated. This
is positive progress on the political process in Fallujah.
It is worth remembering that Islamists are driving the
process in Fallujah so far, and may well do so in Anbar
more generally - as they largely did in Shia regions. END