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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05BAGHDAD3393
2005-08-17 10:58:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

LEITH KUBBA AND BARHAM SALEH ON BUILDING A VIABLE

Tags:   PGOV  KDEM  IZ 
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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 003393 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/17/2025
TAGS: PGOV KDEM IZ
SUBJECT: LEITH KUBBA AND BARHAM SALEH ON BUILDING A VIABLE
POLITICAL CENTER

Classified By: Political Counselor Robert Ford for reasons 1.4 (B) and
(D)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 003393

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/17/2025
TAGS: PGOV KDEM IZ
SUBJECT: LEITH KUBBA AND BARHAM SALEH ON BUILDING A VIABLE
POLITICAL CENTER

Classified By: Political Counselor Robert Ford for reasons 1.4 (B) and
(D)


1. (C) SUMMARY: Political Advisor to Prime Minister Ja,fari
Leith Kubba and Minister of Planning Barham Saleh told POLOFF
separately on August 13 that, after the completion of the
constitution, building a political center should be the
immediate goal of the U.S. Government to ensure that the
December elections produce a moderate and centrist assembly.
Kubba said that SCIRI has the financial and political backing
from Iran that will give them advantage over all other
political parties. Minister of Planning Barham Saleh said
that, without a moderate political center, Iraq would not be
a viable democracy. Interestingly, both thought that former
Prime Minister Ayad Allawi would be the base for a political
center. Saleh went so far as to speculate that after the
constitution draft is finished, the Kurds might seek to bring
down the Jafari government. How this would help the
political center compete against Islamist parties like SCIRI
is not clear, as Allawi had a poorly organized campaign last
January and it is not at all clear it would be any better
this time. END SUMMARY.

--------------
Barham Saleh
--------------

2. (C) Minister of Planning and senior PUK official Barham
Saleh told PolOff on August 13 that, for Iraq to succeed, the
U.S. Government must set as an immediate goal building
Iraq,s centrists in preparation for December,s elections.
Saleh warned that, if the centrists were not supported, the
December elections would bring back the most zealous
religious groups, which will interpret the new Iraqi
constitution to their best interest. Saleh said that the
December elections might result in a conservative Islamic
state that is antithetical to the direction in which
centrists want to go. One of the mistakes of last January,s
elections, Saleh opined, was that the moderates were
fragmented, and that many of the votes were wasted because
they could not come together in one list. He said that the
U.S. should back a few moderates to ensure that they become a
force able to challenge the Shia and Sunni extremists. Saleh
said former PM Allawi would be the most likely candidate to

lead the centrists, and that he is gaining popularity among
the moderates from both Sunni and Shia. (Comment: We have
heard similar views from several other contacts, including
people with no political connections.) Saleh said Allawi had
succeeded in attracting popular TNA Sunni Speaker Hachem
al-Hassani to his group.. He predicted that Pachachi and the
others wouldwill also join Allawi,s group --either as
candidates or supporters -- and would contribute to his
message of national unity.


3. (C) Equally important, Saleh said, is that the U.S. must
also develop a medium-term plan for centrists, politicians
throughout Iraq. Particularly, he said, the North needs
assistance in developing democratic institutions and he
described the two main political parties, PUK and KDP, as
autocratic and oligarchic. Saleh recommended that the U.S.
strengthen NGO capacity building, women's programs and the
media. He pointed out that the most- read newspapers in the
North are party affiliated.

--------------
Leith Kubba
--------------


4. (C) PM Advisor Leith Kubba said that it is essential to
support centrist Iraqi politicians to compete with the
financially backed political parties, particularly SCIRI.
Although he said that the Da,wa party remains popular, he
attributed SCIRI,s success in the provincial assemblies to
its unlimited resources from Iran. Kubba, while admiring the
Prime Minister for not being corrupt, said Jafari,s ethics
might hurt him in the end. He said the Prime Minister is not
using his position to strengthen his chances to win in the
next elections. (Comment: Kubba considers Jafari a moderate
Islamist. End Comment.) Kubba said centrists must come
together if they want to win in the next elections. If
moderates do not receive assistance, Kubba expects SCIRI to
win in the next elections. Interestingly, Kubba commented
that the centrists were building their base around Ayad
Allawi, who appears to be attracting both Sunni and Shia
moderates. (Comment: Kubba said that he personally is
assessing the situation to determine see whether he wants to
be in politics or continue to be a technocrat in the
Government. He said that, if he chooses politics, he will
consider approaching Allawi. End Comment.)

--------------
Would Sistani Interfere in the Elections?
--------------


5. (C) While most interlocutors believe that Sistani will
not interfere in the next elections, Leith Kubba said Sistani
has respect for PM Ja,fari's ethics but he realizes that
Ja,fari does not have enough backing. He predicted that
Sistani would &order SCIRI8 to join forces with Da,wa for
the December elections. However, Kubba does not expect
Jafari to negotiate his place from a strong position because
of his administration's the poor performance of the
government. While Kubba admitted that Jafari lacks executive
skills, he also said that all parties are working against
him. Saleh, however, went further, saying that, as soon as
the constitution is completed, he expects the Government to
collapse. He sheepishly added, &There are some people
working on it.8

--------------
Comment
--------------


6. (C) During the drawn-out constitution discussions at the
KDP headquarters August 15, there was plenty of speculation
among the second-tier Kurdish leaders of dissolving the
National Assembly and going promptly to new elections. It is
not clear this would help the political center. In the
January 2005 elections it was evident that aside from the
Allawi campaign list, none of the centrists had much
experience, financing or organization to compete. So far, we
see no reason to change that assessment. We expect the
December elections to have three competing voices -- the
Islamists, the centrists moderates, and the Kurdish Parties.
Roughly four months away from the election, the hope of the
centrists seems to revolve around former Prime Minister
Allawi. His As many contacts have said to us, the centrists
have neither the experience, the finances or the
organizational skills to successfully carry themselves to the
next elections. relative success in the last elections and
the concerns of the moderates over the draft of the Iraqi
constitution are building more contributing factors
tointerest in Allawi,s low-key drive to build a broad
political front. Not all political observers think that
Allawi is going anywhere far. For example, former Allawi
ally Qassem Daoud dismisses the significance of the political
allies that Allawi is trying to entice into his camp. In
addition, while Allawi did the best of any secular party
aside from the Kurds, his campaign last time was poorly run.
It is not at all clear it will be any better this time,
especially if there are early elections and Allawi's
coalition-building is not finished. current popularity,
which is giving more hope to the moderates. At the same
time, Iraqis expect strong Sunni participation in the
December elections, many of who represent Islamist views.
All reporting indicates that that both Shia and Sunni
Islamists will continue to receive financial backing from
neighboring countries. Both Saleh and Kubba predict that,
without financial assistance to the moderates, their voice in
the December elections will be weak at best. The Islamists
and the Kurdish parties have the means to ensure their voices
are heard. The moderates, however, will not be competitive
without assistance. End Comment.



Khalilzad