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05BAGHDAD4973 2005-12-13 15:13:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

KAMIRAN KARADAGHI ON "IRAQI IDENTITY," CABINET

Tags:   PGOV IZ 
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1. (C) Summary: President Talabani's Chief of Staff
and former journalist Kamiran Karadaghi told us on
December 12 that there was no such thing as an "Iraqi
identity." Rather, people still identified themselves
primarily in sectarian terms. The Sunni Arabs were so
fragmented, Karadaghi said, that if Saddam Husayn ran
in the election today he would garner at least one
million votes. Moving on to post-election Cabinet
reshuffling, Karadaghi stated that, in his opinion,
the most qualified candidate to be Prime Minister is
Ahmad Chalabi. Dismissing concerns about Chalabi's
actions as chair of the de-Baathification committee,
he laughed and told PolOffs that "you will have to get
over your personal problems with Chalabi, because he
is the most efficient and capable person to run
things." He also claimed that former Prime Minister
Allawi would be the worst choice. While Karadaghi
supports Chalabi for Prime Minister, he noted that
Talabani prefers 'Adel 'Abd al-Mahdi. The PUK
leadership is split on this, with Talabani at odds
with the rest of his senior leadership (who prefer
Allawi). End Summary.



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(U) There is no 'Iraqi' Identity


--------------------------





2. (C) During a meeting with President Talabani's
Chief of Staff Kamiran Karadaghi on December 12,
Karadaghi remarked that there was no such thing as an
"Iraqi identity;" rather people still identified
themselves primarily in sectarian terms. He repeated
his example of the committee headed by Rowsh Shaways
(KDP) to investigate recent allegations against the
Interior Ministry for human rights violations (see
reftel). For the next four years, Karadaghi predicts
politics in Iraq will continue along these sectarian
lines.



3. (C) Sunni Arabs were having a difficult time
adjusting to the political realities of life after
Saddam Hussain, according to Karadaghi. Sunni Arabs in
the West were being supported by nations such as Saudi
Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. While other groups -
Kurds, Turkmen, Shi'a - have forged their own ethnic
or religious identity, the Sunni Arabs have only just
started to figure it out, said Karadaghi. In response
to PolOff's observation during her time in Kirkuk that
the Sunni Arabs were running four separate lists,
Karadaghi replied that that just went to show how
fragmented the Sunni Arabs were. "If Saddam ran in
the election today," Karadaghi proclaimed, "he would
get at least one million votes, easily."



--------------------------


(U) Chalabi as Prime Minister?


--------------------------





4. (C) Moving on to post-election Cabinet reshuffling,
Karadaghi stated that, in his opinion, the most
qualified candidate to be Prime Minister is Ahmad
Chalabi. Mischievously pointing his finger at
PolOffs, he laughed and said "You will have to get
over your personal problems with Chalabi, because he
is the most efficient and capable person to run
things." Karadaghi claimed that other ministers have
told him privately that they look forward to the days
when Chalabi is presiding over the cabinet meetings
because he runs them so efficiently and all agenda
items are effectively addressed. He also dismissed
the notion that neighboring countries such as Saudi
Arabia and Jordan oppose Chalabi. "Do you think we
Iraqis really care what the neighbors say?" he asked.
"We care only about what Iran think, and to a lesser
extent, Turkey." Former Prime Minister and current
candidate Ayad Allawi was the worst choice, he opined.
"He looks the part of the competent minister, but in
truth his tenure was the worst we have had."



5. (C) Karadaghi then brought up the issue of
corruption, claiming that only Chalabi was untouched
by any accusations of wrongdoing, unlike Allawi. He
brushed aside PolOff's mention of Chalabi's work on
the De-Baathification Committee, stating that "this
isn't really corruption - it's politics, and anyway
you won't find a single Shi'a who has a problem with
what he's done." (Comment: This is a reference to
allegations of sectarian partisanship by the de-
Baathification Commission (which is headed by
Chalabi), whose list of names recommended for removal
from the candidate roster only targets Sunni Arabs.
The Embassy has brought up this problem with Chalabi
and others in an ongoing attempt to ensure a fair and
transparent election in December. End Comment.)



--------------------------


(U) A Trip to the Iraqi West Wing


--------------------------





6. (U) After the meeting with Karadaghi, PolOffs were
treated to a tour of the administrative area of the
Presidency Building which Talabani's media aide Hiwa
Osman referred to as the "Iraqi West Wing." After
quickly moving through the administrative, legal, and
protocol offices, Osman ushered PolOffs into the Media
Center, where Iraqi journalists monitored the news.
Osman proudly displayed the Iraqi Presidency website,
accessible in both Arabic and Kurdish, and stated that
the English language page would be online soon. He
specifically pointed out the photos page, with a large
picture of Talabani during his hajj. He is pictured
with his bodyguard, who had chosen to drape his white
cloth in the Sunni fashion, baring one arm. According
to Osman, Talabani then chose to wear his in the Shi'a
fashion, to present an image of religious plurality.


--------------------------


(U) Comment


--------------------------





7. (C) While Karadaghi supports Chalabi for Prime
Minister, he noted that Talabani prefers 'Adel 'Abd
al-Mahdi. The PUK leadership is split on this, with
Talabani at odds with the rest of his senior
leadership (who prefer Allawi).
KHALILZAD