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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07BAGHDAD2229 2007-07-05 11:09:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

ANBAR TRIBAL POLITICS: LOOKING AHEAD TO THE

Tags:   PGOV PINS KDEM IZ 
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VZCZCXRO3534
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #2229/01 1861109
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051109Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2054
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 BAGHDAD 002229 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/02/2017
TAGS: PGOV PINS KDEM IZ
SUBJECT: ANBAR TRIBAL POLITICS: LOOKING AHEAD TO THE
POST-WAR PERIOD

Classified by PRT Anbar leader James Soriano, reasons 1.4 (b)
and (d).



1. (U) This is a PRT Anbar reporting cable.



2. (C) Summary. A struggle for tribal leadership is
underway in Anbar Province, as Ali Hatem, a young sheikh of
prominent lineage seeks to replace Sheikh Sattar Abu Risha,
the tribal leader responsible for evicting Al-Qaeda from
Ramadi. Sattar has done much to tip the battlefield in our
favor. Al-Qaeda is on the defensive. Public opinion has
turned against Hatem and the tribes are mobilized to oppose
him. Amid improved security, there is a mood of rising
expectations for responsive local government. Those
expectations themselves are a sign that public opinion has
shifted away from estrangement from Baghdad to getting on
with reconstruction. In this context rival tribal factions
are jockeying for position in the post-conflict period. The
Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) has questionable clout, but should
not be discounted. It is possible that its clerical base can
revive its prospects. Sattar holds the IIP in contempt,
holding it up as the source of Anbar,s woes. He, like many
other Anbaris, view the Provincial Council as illegitimate,
as it was formed on scant voter turnout in the boycotted 2005
poll. In our view, provincial council elections would not be
a threat to Coalition interests. Elections here would more
likely consolidate security gains and result in the
continuation of pragmatists in public office who would
cooperate with us and seek accommodation with Baghdad. End
Summary.

Tribal Power Challenge


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





3. (U) A power struggle among influential tribal sheikhs in
Anbar Province has spilled onto the world press in recent
weeks. The opening salvo was a June 11 story in the
&Washington Post,8 which described fissures inside the
Anbar Awakening Council (SAA), the group of anti-insurgent
sheikhs based in Ramadi. In that story, SAA founding member
Sheikh Ali Hatem Suleiman predicts that the SAA would soon
splinter because of membership disaffection with its leader,
Sheikh Sattar Abu Risha. The cause of that dissatisfaction,
Ali Hatem, did not make clear, apart from charging that
Sattar made a fortune as an oil smuggler. Ali Hatem, the
35-year-old scion of the powerful Duleimi tribal
confederation, called Sattar a &traitor8 who &sells his
beliefs, his religion, and he people for money.8 He
repeated his accusation of Sattar,s criminal activity in the
June 22 &Philadelphia Inquirer.8



4. (SBU) Ali Hatem,s prediction of the splintering of the
SAA apparently came to pass on June 20, when a gathering of
SAA sheikhs at Sattar,s compound in Ramadi revoked Ali
Hatem,s affiliation with that organization. We spoke with
Sattar twice in the aftermath of that event. His comments
are interspersed below, but he dismisses Ali Hatem as an
erratic young sheikh who seeks to use his family name to
build a popular following. Sattar grinned in recounting Ali
Hatem,s charges in the press: it was not disaffected
Awakening Council sheikhs who split with Sattar, it was the
sheikhs who expelled Ali Hatem.



5. (C) Although Sattar moved quickly, Ali Hatem is expected
to continue his bid to re-enter post-war Anbar politics. His
ad hominem attack is pitched to many Anbaris who have doubts
about Sattar. The source of his personal wealth )- the
illicit fuel trade -- is widely known. Moreover, Sattar is
from the relatively minor Abu Risha tribe, which lives
chiefly in the Ramadi area. His many detractors typically
describe him as a second-tier sheikh, an upstart, and a
sheikh of money and not of social position.

Tribal Awakening


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





6. (C) Nonetheless, Sattar believes he has won the right to
have a voice in Anbar affairs because of his personal bravery
and leadership in battling Al-Qaeda. He rose to prominence
last September when he formed the SAA, a grassroots reaction
to Al-Qaeda,s murder and intimidation campaign. In
Sattar,s words, the meaning of the Awakening movement is
that &America is not the enemy,8 a message, he insists,
that resonates widely in the Sunni community (see more
below). The SAA,s establishment was the turning point in
the battle for Anbar province. Sattar supported the
Coalition Force,s (CF) police-recruitment drives and quickly
got the GOI,s blessing to raise three &emergency response
units,8 (ERUs, and now called PSFs ) Provincial Security
Forces) drawn from tribal youth. These auxiliary forces are
approved and paid for by the Ministry of Interior.


BAGHDAD 00002229 002 OF 005




7. (C) After his success in Ramadi, tribal leaders in other
Anbari cities, and even in other provinces, have set up their
own ERUs. When we spoke to him in Ramadi on June 25, Sattar
claimed that two sheikhs from Salah Ad-Din province were
staying at his compound, reportedly seeking his advice on
anti-insurgent activities. He claims that other sheikhs from
Diyala are also seeking to meet with him.



8. (C) Nonetheless, the key point is that Sattar,s ERUs were
formed without the provincial government. Last year Sattar
did an end-run around provincial officials and appealed
directly to the GOI for assistance in setting up the ERUs.
The GOI responded favorably and even appointed Sattar as a
semi-official provincial security advisor. What followed was
a steady decline in violence. According to MNF-West records,
Ramadi has recently experienced fewer than 20 security
incidents a week, down from the 160-plus incidents weekly
last September. Today Ramadi is no longer under insurgent
control.

Political Tensions


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





9. (C) Even as the SAA was succeeding against Al-Qaeda, it
took aim at two other targets: Anbar,s Provincial Council
and Tariq Al-Hashmi,s Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP). Shortly
after its founding, the SAA openly denounced the Provincial
Council as illegitimate, absent, and ineffective in the
battle against the enemy. There is much truth to these
charges. Anbar,s Provincial Council was installed in the
January 2005 national election, a poll that widely boycotted
by Anbaris, who at time felt estranged from the national
political process. Only 3,775 ballots were cast
province-wide, in population of 1.2 million residents. The
IIP won some 2,700 votes and the right to form the Council.
It is on the shaky foundation of this boycotted poll that
Anbar,s Provincial Council rests today.



10. (SBU) The Provincial Council has been absent from the
local scene for much of the past 15 months. It fled to the
relative safety of Baghdad in March 2006 amid continuing
insurgent violence. In the following months, it conducted
business in Baghdad, but for all practical purposes the
provincial government had effectively ceased to function.
Only Governor Ma,amoun Sami Rasheed, himself the target of
assassination attempts, maintained office hours at the
war-damaged Government Center in Ramadi, protected by a
company of US Marines. Meanwhile, the SAA charged that the
Council abandoned its post, while the tribes stayed to fight
the enemy. Privately, IIP figures in the provincial
government counter-charged that the SAA,s real objective was
to take over the Provincial Council.



11. (U) Relations between the two sides deteriorated, and in
early November PM Maliki appointed Minister of State of
Foreign Affairs Dr. Rafe Al-Essawi, a Fallujah native and an
IIP member, to mediate. In doing so, the PM bypassed IIP
leader and Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who is
widely distrusted by Anbar,s tribal leaders. Indeed,
several weeks earlier Hashmi had chaired an Anbar
reconciliation meeting at Baghdad,s Rasheed Hotel, which was
snubbed by many Anbari sheikhs. By November 4, Dr. Rafe
brokered a compromise in which Provincial Council agreed to
expand its membership to create additional seats for SAA
representatives, thus giving Sattar at least eight SAA
members on the council.



12. (U) The developments last fall set a pattern that is
still evident today: the reflexive tribal hostility to the
IIP; the widely-held perception that the Provincial Council
lacks public consent and has an undistinguished record; and
the persistent badgering by the Sattar camp to get a bigger
voice in provincial affairs, especially on security matters.
This spring, Sattar renewed his push for greater
representation on the Provincial Council. The IIP, under
pressure, opened a dialogue with him, purportedly with a
power-sharing agreement as an aim. The talks were
inconclusive. No such agreement has been reached, and today
relations between the provincial government and the Sattar
group are publicly polite, but two sides still harbor
suspicions of each other.



13. (SBU) Provincial Council Chairman Abdulsalam Abdullah,
the senior IIP official in the province and a close associate
of Hashemi, repeatedly warns us about Coalition support for
Sattar, and also about tribal mobilization more generally.
His view is that tribal awakenings diminish the legitimacy of
public authority, and that, despite the imperatives of a
counter-insurgency strategy, the US should lend its support
to local government, as imperfect as it is.



14. (SBU) Abdulsalam makes a point on the limited utility of

BAGHDAD 00002229 003 OF 005


tribal engagement, but in a wider sense, his suspicion of
tribal influence reflects a deeper social divide. IIP
members in Anbar tend to be educated professionals and urban
dwellers. Abdulsalam, a physician by training, and Governor
Ma,amoun, a civil engineer, are examples. Although such
individuals have tribal roots, they are not necessarily
tribal, in outlook, and tend to regard tribal authority as
feudal relic. The tribes, on the other hand, regard the IIP
as alien and disruptive to their traditional way of life.
Their unhappy experience with the Ba,ath shapes their views
on all parties. &Tribes are easier to control than
politicians,8 Sattar half-jokingly told us recently.

The Iraqi Islamic Party


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





15. (C) Sattar makes little effort to conceal his contempt of
the IIP and Sunni fundamentalist groups. In several recent
discussions with him, he said that his opposition to the IIP
is based on the principle that politics and religion ought
not to be mixed, and that any such mixture will refine
neither and pollute both. He bluntly describes
cleric-politicians as &frauds.8 Last November, he traded
insults in the Iraqi press with president of the Muslim
Scholars Organization Sheikh Harith Al-Dhari after the latter
appeared to give support to Al-Qaeda by referring to its
actions as &resistance.8 Sattar is quick to trace the
IIP,s origins to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, an
association that, in his view, &brought the insurgents into
Anbar.8 Sattar says that he has good relations with
individual IIP members, but the party as an organization is a
menace to public order.



16. (SBU) One point of contention is the use of the term
&friendly forces.8 In press conferences and public
statements, Sattar regularly refers to the US Marines and
soldiers in Anbar Province as &friendly forces8 and
addresses his written correspondence to them in that fashion.
He dares his detractors to do the same. On two occasions
this year, he co-sponsored Ramadi city reconstruction
conferences with the MNF-West brigade in Ramadi. At those
events, he insisted on displaying the American flag alongside
the Iraqi flag. Sattar,s example led to a change of tone by
Gov. Ma,amoun. The governor, who has IIP roots but claims
to be non-partisan after assuming office in 2005, had long
avoided the use of &friendly forces,8 but has recently used
the expression on radio and television. In general, Sattar
favors the continuation of US military bases in Anbar for the
foreseeable future. He sees the CF as a sword against
Al-Qaeda and a shield against Shia overreaching.

"The Honorable Resistance8


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





17. (SBU) Sattar denounces the concept of the &honorable
resistance,8 the moral double-standard that forbids a
&resistance group8 to undertake violence against Iraqi
citizens, but countenances attacks against the CF. In
Sattar,s words, the honorable resistance is &terrorism with
a different face.8 This position has long put him at odds
with the IIP, whose program calls for the &liberation8 of
Iraq from &occupation forces,8 and which seeks also a
&fair and objective8 view of the Iraq insurgency, an
ambiguous loophole that holds open the moral acceptability of
the &honorable resistance.8 Sattar puts much of the blame
for the insurgency on Sunni clerics who accommodated radical
calls to arms.



18. (SBU) By contrast, Ali Hatem finds the &honorable
resistance8 to be a valid moral distinction. On June 13, he
chaired a meeting of several dozen Anbari sheikhs in the
Euphrates River town of Hit. That meeting produced a set of
resolutions, among which was a distinction between
&terrorists,8 who ought to be fought, and the &honorable
Iraqi resistance,8 which ought to be supported. What was
not clear, however, was whether the attendees at that
conference, several of whom reportedly were Sattar
supporters, approved that language or whether the document
was drafted chiefly by Ali Hatem without their explicit
concurrence.



19. (SBU) Two days later, Ali Hatem got into hot water on
&Al-Arabiyah8 when he expanded his attack on Sattar to
include the Coalition. &I am against the Americans,8 he
said, adding later &as far as we are concerned, we are not
agents and have nothing to do with the Americans. Our war
will continue against AQI, the militias, and the American
Forces until the last man.8 Such inflammatory words were
apparently too much for Ali Hatem,s own people in Ramadi.
His uncle, Sheikh Amer, the titular head of the Dulaimi
federation, reined him in. Ali Hatem recanted in an undated
weekly Anbar newspaper, &The Voice of Anbar,8 which appears

BAGHDAD 00002229 004 OF 005


to have been issued after the &al-Arabiyah8 interview.
&Our principle enemy is Al-Qaeda and not the Americans,8 he
said. But the damage was done. Ali Hatem delivered his
message on a widely viewed TV broadcast and later modified
his views in an obscure local publication. Sattar points to
the flip-flop as evidence of Ali Hatem,s untrustworthiness.

The &Iraq Awakening Movement8


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





20. (SBU) In April, Sattar sought to transform the SAA into a
political party, the &Iraq Awakening Movement8 (SAI). The
move was widely seen as a bid to compete with the IIP in
future Provincial Council elections. Sattar maintains that
the SAI secular and seeks to advance national unity and
reconciliation. He disavows any political ambitions for
himself, but sees the party as the home for Sunni
aspirations. However, two months after the party,s founding
it does not seem to have gotten much traction. Sattar told
us in late June that the party,s current work is a continual
round of meetings with Anbari sheikhs, to explain to them the
need for a party. Apart from its base in Ramadi, the SAI has
reportedly sought to open offices in at least two other
cities. Sattar alleges the premises have been vandalized by
his opponents.



21. (C) On 22 May, in a move to break onto the national
political scene, senior SAI representatives met with three
Shia national parliamentarians associated with Muqtada
al-Sadr in Sadr City. It was the first public contact
between the two seemingly disparate groups. Sattar says that
the meeting was arranged because Iraq,s Shia and Sunni
communities face a common enemy in Al-Qaeda. The two sides
issued a joint statement calling for fighting terrorism,
reconciliation, and an early date for provincial council
elections. The SAI,s Shia interlocutors wanted to include a
timetable for the Coalition,s withdrawal, but the Sattarists
declined.



22. (C) Sattar is open to the idea of a meeting between
himself and Muqtada, but maintains the timing is not right.
He believes that such an encounter would attract lightening
from both the GOI and the camp of Shia political leader Abdul
Aziz Al-Hakim, who might regard a Sattar-Muqtada combination
as a threat. Though he harbors predictable Sunni suspicions
about Shia intentions ) both Sattar and Gov. Ma,amoun
regularly warn us frequently about encroachments onto
Anbar,s jurisdiction by Karbali and Najafi police ) he and
his aides insist that the SAI is not a sectarian movement.
Indeed, Sattar says that the SAI delegation was
enthusiastically greeted on Sadr City streets.

Elections


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





23. (SBU) Sattar maintains the IIP has little public support
in Anbar and would not fare well at the polls. This view is
commonly held among many of our contacts, and even some IIP
members privately acknowledge that their party has dim
prospects in Anbar. One sheikh, who is no Sattar admirer,
maintains that the IIP is strong only in Fallujah, which is
close to Baghdad and less tribal than other parts of Anbar.
However, when uttered by tribal leaders such views may be
self-serving. Until there is a free election, most
statements about the relative strength of the IIP and rival
movements tend to be speculative.



24. (SBU) Still, it would be wrong to sell the IIP short.
There are already indications that the party is ready to
breathe new life into its presence in Anbar. The ulema is a
key. Their inclinations bear watching. In recent Anbar
history, the ulema have shaped and reflected public
sentiment. Mosque preachers here did much to foment the
insurgency in 2003-04. They have done much recently to calm
the situation. They could do much to aid the IIP in the
future. Even though the AIM engages clerics, Sattar is wary
of them. In his view, Iraqi society is most easily
penetrated through the ulema.

Comment: The Post-War Period


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





25. (C) Anbar Province is emerging from the battle against
the insurgency into the post-war period. Western Iraq is in
a messy and still-dangerous transition, but the key political
actors are jockeying for position. Al-Qaeda is on the
defensive. Public opinion has turned against al-Qaeda, and
the tribes are mobilized against it. To be sure, the public
wants the CF out of its cities, but virtually all our
contacts recognize that the province is not yet ready to
provide for security without CF help. Still there is a mood
of rising expectations for accountable and responsive local

BAGHDAD 00002229 005 OF 005


government. Those expectations themselves are evidence that
public opinion has shifted from estrangement from the
national political scene to getting on with the business of
reconstruction.



26. (C) Today the political landscape in Anbar has the
following features: The Provincial Council is widely seen as
illegitimate. An uneasy truce exists between the IIP and the
Sattar,s SAI over the control of provincial government.
Municipal councils are self-selected and self-perpetuating.
Tribal factions are squabbling over leadership. The IIP is
down but not out. The SAI has long agitated for an early
provincial ballot, while the IIP has not yet revealed its
hand.



27. (C) In our view, provincial council elections would
further Coalition war aims. An election would help
consolidate the security gains that have been made in the
past nine months and would not be destabilizing. Indeed, a
provincial election would likely result in the continuation
of pragmatists in public office, personalities much in the
mold of the current provincial leadership, who would
cooperate with the Coalition while groping for an
accommodation with Baghdad. In some respects, Anbar
Province, a contested battleground last fall, is today
perhaps a step or two ahead of other parts of Iraq.
CROCKER