|08BAGHDAD1446||2008-05-09 11:28:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Baghdad|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L BAGHDAD 001446
1. (C/NF) A prominent leader of the minority Shia Shabak and
Turkmen communities in eastern Ninewa's al Hamdaniya district
said May 5 that heavy-handed Kurdish pressure in 2008 has
solidified his constituency's opposition to joining the
Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). Islamic Supreme Council
of Iraq (ISCI) Provincial Council member Mohammad Ibrahim
told Special Adviser for Northern Iraq Affairs Ambassador
Thomas Krajeski and PRT Ninewa officers that the Kurdish
prohibition of Arabic-language signs, ISCI exclusion from the
provincial Article 140 committee, Kurdish over-representation
on the Provincial Council and instances of violence between
Shabak and formerly pro-Saddam Herki Kurds in Hamdaniya all
contribute to the opposition to the Kurds. "The Kurdish
Regional Government is being forced on Hamdaniya," he said.
Ninewa ISCI chairman Abu Zainab did not defend the KRG, but
said the region could still be a good option for the Shabak
if the Kurds would protect minority rights.
2. (C/NF) Although Ibrahim is himself a Shia Turkmen, he is
the most visible and vocal representative at the provincial
level of Shia Shabak and Turkmen interests in al Hamdaniya.
His anti-Kurdish views mirror the national level views of Dr.
Hunayn Al-Qadu, a Shia Shabak COR member.
Christians Pitch Autonomy within KRG
3. (C/NF) In a separate May 5 meeting with Ambassador
Krajeski, a group of Assyrian Catholics from al Hamdaniya
maintained their long-standing support for living
autonomously within the KRG and presented for the first time
their vision of what life under the Kurds would look like.
George Naziya, head of the Chaldean-Assyrian-Syriac Council,
described how his political bloc contains 10 smaller
Christian political parties interested in joining the KRG.
Naziya said the Council's proposal would be to create within
the KRG an autonomous region connecting a thin ribbon of
Christian villages in Ninewa's Tel Keif, Mosul and Hamdaniya
districts. Under his proposal, the autonomous Christian
region in the KRG would maintain ownership of oil reserves,
establish its own autonomous cabinet and parliament, and
receive a five percent slice of the GOI budget proportionate
with what he claimed is the area,s percentage of Iraq,s
total population. He said life under the KRG would be
attractive because the Kurds offer minority rights and
economic opportunities. The Assyrian Democratic Movement,
which holds leadership positions in neighboring Tel Keif
district, is not part of the Council, often voices its
anti-Kurd sentiment and supports autonomy within Ninewa under
Comment: Cracks in al Hamdaniya's Support for KRG
4. (C/NF) The disposition of these minority groups, who
comprise most of the Hamdaniya district of Ninewa province,
is important as Hamdaniya may be one of the first districts
UNAMI addresses under the Article 140/disputed internal
boundaries process. Ibrahim's remarks reflect the antipathy
for the Kurds among some of Hamdaniya's ethnic and religious
minorities, who worry that current Kurdish intimidation
foreshadows a restrictive life for minorities under the KRG.
While the economic benefits of joining the KRG continue to
appeal to Hamdaniya's Christian leaders, their proposed
region may lack the political and economic foundation
necessary for viable autonomy, and probably in its current
form asks more than KRG or GOI leaders are willing to give.