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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05BAGHDAD5001 2005-12-14 16:56:00 SECRET Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

NEWSPAPER EDITORS LOOK TO PLAY A ROLE IN BUILDING

Tags:   PREL KDEM IZ 
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					  S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 005001 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/14/2015
TAGS: PREL KDEM IZ
SUBJECT: NEWSPAPER EDITORS LOOK TO PLAY A ROLE IN BUILDING
DEMOCRACY AFTER THE DECEMBER 15 ELECTIONS

Classified By: Political Counselor Robert Ford, reasons 1.4(b) and (d).



1. (C) Summary. Two newspaper editors-in-chief, Muhammad
'Abd al-Jabbar of al-Sabah and Shaker al-Jaboury of
Al-Furat, both expressed concerns about the direction Iraqi
politics is headed after the December 15 election, but both
expressed interest in becoming more politically active
afterwards. Jabbar believes more long-term democracy
development is required, especially with the moderate
Muslim democrats, in order to counter Iranian influence
among the Shi'a. He is seeking funding from the
International Republican Institute for more democracy
promotion among Islamist Shi'a. Jaboury believes the next
government will have too much Islamist influence compared
to the views of the Iraqi people. Jaboury wants U.S.
officials to meet with a group of non-exile intellectuals
who can provide more legitimate ideas than the exiles that
have dominated post-liberation Iraqi politics thus far.
Jaboury urged the United States to get involved in pushing
for government ministries to be in the hands of technocrats
and for ministries not to be divided by the political
parties as spoils. End summary.



2. (S) Separate conversations at the al-Rashid hotel on
December 13 with two newspaper editors led down
surprisingly parallel lines, given the different
backgrounds of the editors and their newspapers. Muhammad
'Abd al-Jabbar al-Shabut, editor in chief of Al-Sabah
newspaper and a former London-based oppositionist who had
worked with the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development
Council, told PolOffs he was very concerned about the
long-term direction of Iraqi politics. Jabbar, who coined
the term "moderate Muslim Democrats," said that the voices
of "democratic Iraqis" (by which he meant moderate Muslim
democratic Iraqis) were being drowned out by what he
described as Iranian-backed parties. (Jabbar is Shi'a and
ran on the Democratic Islamic Trend political party in the
January 2005 election. He is not running in this election,
although a number of his moderate Muslim democrats are
running on other lists, most notably Ayad Allawi's Iraqi
National List (731).) He criticized the role of the parties
in the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), which was using its
influence to move into all areas of politics and the
economy, especially in the South and in Baghdad. As an
example, he cited an effort by Council of Ministers
Secretary-General Khudayr Abbas to try to dismiss four

SIPDIS
members of the Iraqi Media Network's board, to be replaced
by several of the dismissed members and two new members
acceptable to Abbas's Da'wa Party. They tried about two
weeks ago to replace the manager of Al-Iraqiyya, Habib
al-Sadr, so that one of their own could be put in his
place, according to Jabbar. Although this firing was
deemed illegal and Sadr was still on the job, Jabbar said
that the UIA was waiting until after the December 15
election to make another move to gain control of
al-Iraqiyya television network. Each of the major,
Iranian-backed parties had its own television station
already, Jabbar said.



3. (C) Jabbar said that the parties now in power, Shi'a
and Kurdish, were acting in their own interests as parties,
not in the interest of the state. The state in Iraq was
weak, Jabbar said, reminding PolOffs of a paper he had
written in Iraqi opposition days on how the Iraqi
opposition needed to make the transition to running a
state, which, he pointed out, was an altogether different
enterprise. "Instead of Ministers of State," he said, "We
have Ministers of Parties."



4. (C) Jabbar expressed a desire to have further funding
for his "Islam and Democracy" publications, which had been
funded by the Department and, later by the International
Republican Institute. (Jabbar had recently applied to IRI
for further funding.) After the December 15 election,
Jabbar believed that promoting democratic development in
Iraq was likely to take years, and that the United States
should begin funding such programs now, years in advance of
the next Council of Representatives election. There were
provincial elections, local elections, and other work that
needed to be started now to promote democracy.



5. (C) Al-Fourat Editor in Chief Shaker al-Jaboury said
that, while he may write editorials criticizing the United
States, he is concerned about the way the election and the
post-election environment is headed. (Jaboury is a Sunni
Arab who lived in exile in France and holds French and
Iraqi citizenship. His family lives in France.) He
believes it will bring in disproportionately more Islamists
than it should. He urged the United States to become more
directly involved and to use our influence to push for more
technocrats in the next Iraqi cabinet. PolOffs
remonstrated that the days of CPA were over, and that it
was not the responsibility of the United States to pick
Iraqi cabinet ministers. Iraqis should elect their own
leaders and Iraqis should pick the cabinet. Jaboury said
that it was important for the United States to weigh in
with Iraqis that technocrats, not politicians, should be
picked for the key cabinet ministries. He challenged
PolOffs to name any technocrats in the current Iraqi
cabinet. PolOffs quickly named three (Barham Salih,
Hoshyar Zebari and 'Ali Allawi), all of whom Jaboury said
were either exiles, Kurdish and, in the case of 'Ali
Allawi, not likely to stay on as ministers. Ayad Allawi's
cabinet had technocrats in it largely because the CPA put
them there. Left to their own devices, Jaboury said, the
Iraqi political parties would act in their own interest,
and not the interest of Iraq or the United States. For
that reason, the United States should get involved.



6. (C) It was also essential, he said, for the United
States to push for the dissolution of militias, which have
a de-stabilizing effect. PolOffs agreed that only the
Iraqi Police and Iraqi Security Forces should be
responsible for security in Iraq.


7. (C) Jaboury wanted to bring a group of 10-15
intellectuals and others, not former exiles, to meet with
U.S. officials, either in Baghdad or in Washington, to
share their ideas on how the United States should help
advance democracy in Iraq. These would include
journalists, educators, and other professionals from a
range of views. PolOffs invited Jaboury to explore further
contacts and exchanges, and the many ways the U.S.
Government has for promoting such exchanges.



8. (C) COMMENT. December 13 was the last day newspapers
could print before the election, so the campaign was over
the evening of the 13th as far as these print media moguls
were concerned. They could afford to be reflective about
the post-election future of their country. Both recognized
the progress that Iraq had made since the liberation, but
both felt -- despite their different political, social and
religious backgrounds -- that they needed to get more
engaged in politics. Both were sharply critical of the
direction Iraqi politics has taken. Both urged that help
from the United States was still, in today's Iraq,
essential to continue Iraq's democratic development. END
COMMENT.
KHALILZAD