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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08BAGHDAD1291 2008-04-25 18:54:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

ACTING COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER SHOWS LITTLE

Tags:   ECON ECPS EINT 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO8440
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #1291/01 1161854
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 251854Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7033
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 001291 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/22/2018
TAGS: ECON ECPS EINT
SUBJECT: ACTING COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER SHOWS LITTLE
PASSION FOR PUSHING PRIORITIES

REF: STATE 25680

Classified By: Economic Minister Charles P. Ries for reasons 1.4 (b) an
d (d)



1. SUMMARY: (C) Acting Minister of Communications (and
fulltime Minister of Youth and Sport) Jasim Mohammed Jafar
(UIA/Iraqi Turkomen Front) told Econoffs April 21 that he
planned to continue in his current roles at least until
August 2008. Jafar said he did not think Prime Minister Nuri
al-Maliki would appoint a new Communications Minister at
least until ongoing talks with Tawafuq and others yielded a
new cabinet. Jafar opined that the KDP may try to block the
appointment to the Communications and Media Commission (CMC)
of Jowan Massum (PUK), who has been angling for a CMC job.
He said his priorities as Acting Minister would be to execute
25 percent of the Ministry of Communications (MOC) budget by
the end of his expected term and to work on
communications-related projects funded by the World Bank, the
Japanese Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), and Iran.
Jafar perked up when Econoffs described the
revenue-generating potential for the MOC if Iraq provided an
overland fiber optic link between Europe and the
international undersea communications cable system, but he
peppered with "Insha'Allahs" the timelines he mentioned for
taking the steps needed to establish such a connection.
Though seemingly sincere, Jafar is a flaccid leader at the
MOC. Meaningful progress on key USG priorities for the
MOC--e.g., signing a cross-border telecommunications
interconnection agreement with Turkey (reftel), developing a
southern gateway to the international undersea cable network,
and privatizing operations and maintenance for Iraq's core
communications networks--will require either a new
Communications Minister or direct involvement from PM Maliki
or Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh. END SUMMARY.



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



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KEY COMMS POSITIONS TO REMAIN VACANT THROUGH SUMMER


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



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





2. (C) In a cordial meeting at his residence, Jafar appeared
relaxed but tired. Sitting alongside his Deputy Minister of
Communications for Technical Affairs, Amir Bayati, Jafar
noted that doing double duty as Minister of Youth and Sport
and of Communications was taking its toll on him. He did not
think help would be on the way at least until August. Jafar
predicted that PM Maliki would not appoint a new Minister of
Communications (or Minister of Justice, he added) until
negotiations with Tawafuq and other parties yielded an
entirely new cabinet. Jafar suggested that Tawafuq's demands
would carry significant weight in the composition of any new
cabinet but that Ayad Allawi's inflexibility on certain
demands would keep Iraqiyya in the opposition. Jafar said
that the immediate past Minister of Communications, Mohammed
Allawi, who is Ayad Allawi's cousin, would therefore not
likely be returning to the MOC.



3. (C) Jafar did not think the GOI would nominate a
replacement for Siyamind Othman--a PUK-affiliated Kurd who
resigned as Chairman of the CMC eight days before his term
officially ended on April 18--until the parties agreed upon a
new cabinet. Econoffs noted rumors that Jowan Massum (PUK),
a former Minister of Communications, is seeking an
appointment to the CMC, but Jafar thought her nomination
unlikely. He opined that the Barzani-family affiliated,
Kurdistan-based mobile telecoms provider Korek had felt
mistreated by the CMC under Othman's leadership and that
perhaps the KDP would try to block the nomination of any
other PUK member to chair the commission.



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


LIMITED AMBITIONS FOR THE MOC


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





4. (C) Jafar outlined his priorities for the MOC while he
remains Acting Minister. He thought it a reasonable goal for
the MOC to execute 25 percent of its ID 300 billion
(approximately USD 250 million) budget for 2008 by August.
He said other priorities would include progress on two
microwave tower construction projects, one funded by the
World Bank and another by the JBIC. A third priority would
be to begin implementing USD 180 million in Iranian
assistance directed toward the communications sector. (NOTE:
The Iranian communications-related assistance is part of
broader package of soft loans. The loan package has not yet
been approved by the Council of Representatives. If
approved, early indications are that the funds would be used
to improve Iraq's telecommunications infrastructure in
Baghdad and the southern provinces. END NOTE.)



5. (C) Econoffs reminded Jafar that the MOC had a great
opportunity to transform Iraq into a regional linchpin for

BAGHDAD 00001291 002 OF 002


global telecommunications. By establishing a connection
between terrestrial fiber optic cables in Turkey and undersea
communications cables in the Persian Gulf, Iraq could be a
critical, redundancy-providing pathway for voice and data
traffic between Europe and Asia. The MOC would need, among
other things, to (a) sign a bilateral interconnection
agreement with Turkey and invest minimally to connect the
countries' fiber optic backbones, (b) move forward on one of
two (or both) contracts the MOC has signed to connect Iraq's
backbone to the undersea cable network in the Gulf, and (c)
sign an operations and maintenance (O&M) contract with a
reputable firm to ensure Iraq's backbone remains operational
to bridge the divide.



6. (C) Econoffs showed Jafar with some quick calculations
that, if its current fiber optic backbone were fully
operational, the MOC could clear USD 30 million per year by
selling bandwidth to telecoms companies eager for system
redundancy as a hedge against cuts to undersea cables, which
pass from the Mediterranean through the Red Sea to the Indian
Ocean, degrading international service, as happened on
January 31, 2008. Jafar's raised his eyebrows with interest,
and he agreed that cross-border connections and O&M contracts
for Iraq's fiber optic backbone would be necessary for the
MOC's Iraq Telephone and Postal Company (ITPC) to be
competitive. Jafar said, however, that "Insha'Allah" MOC
officials would meet with their Turkish counterparts in "the
next few weeks" to work on the technical details of linking
the countries' networks and that "Insha'Allah" they would
meet again "a few weeks after that" to sign an
interconnection agreement. Econoffs noted that time was of
the essence because other countries and companies in the
region were also looking to establish overland fiber optic
links between Europe and Asia. "Insha'Allah," Jafar said
nodding.



7. (C) Jafar was a little more enthusiastic about the concept
of signing O&M contracts with private firms to take care of
Iraq's fiber optic backbone network and other assets.
Econoffs noted that the Embassy's Iraq Transition Assistance
Organization (ITAO) was helping the MOC's other big state
owned enterprise, the State Company for Internet Services
(SCIS), draft a scope of work to solicit proposals to provide
O&M for SCIS's USG-funded wireless broadband network (WBBN)
and video teleconferencing (VTC) system. Econoffs told Jafar
that SCIS's experience with an O&M contract for the WBBN and
the VTC system--which would include a requirement that the
contractor train SCIS staff--could serve as a model for ITPC,
which could likewise hire private firms to get its assets
reliably up and running while training ITPC's engineers to do
the work once the O&M contract term ends. Jafar said he
liked the idea and agreed to discuss it further with ITAO.
Econoffs also advised him that the USG's Procurement
Assistance Center
could serve as a valuable resource for ITPC and SCIS in
contracting private firms for O&M and training.



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


COMMENT


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8. (C) Jafar seems sincere and well meaning, but he is an
uninspired leader at the MOC. A civil engineer by training
and a former Minister of Construction and Housing under the
Iraq Transitional Government, he is a technocrat thrust into
leadership positions at two Ministries about which he knows
little. When talking about the MOC he leaves the impression
that he would rather not be responsible for it all.
Meaningful progress on USG priorities for the MOC appears
unlikely until the GOI appoints a new Communications
Minister, or clear marching orders come to Jafar from PM
Maliki or DPM Barham Saleh.
CROCKER