|08BAGHDAD2361||2008-07-28 16:17:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Baghdad|
1. (U) This is a PRT Maysan reporting cable.
2. (C) In a candid hour-long discussion, prominent Maysani
Sheikh Sa'adoon Bani al-Lami expressed frustration with the
pace of assistance to Maysan, and told us that it was up to
the U.S. to choose whether it is committed to Maysani
reconstruction efforts. He identified clean water and
electricity as the most pressing needs for his tribal area in
northern Maysan. He said he was hopeful for the upcoming
provincial elections, but fears that Sadrist-affiliated
parties and candidates will create problems. He credited the
tribes with helping to improve the security environment and
was supportive of the tribal support council established in
Maysan. Sa'adoon conveyed skepticism about U.S. promises of
assistance, and said he would only be willing to continue
engagements with us when he sees results. End Summary.
We Need Clean Water Projects and Electricity
3. (C) In a frank hour-long conversation with the acting PRT
Team Leader, Poloff, and 2/7 BN officer at Camp Sparrowhawk
on July 22, Sheikh Sa'adoon Gulam Abdul Kareem al-Lami
expressed his frustration with the pace of reconstruction
assistance and his doubts about the U.S. commitment to help
Maysanis. He complained that after five years of Coalition
presence, there had been no progress. Head of the
influential Bani Lam tribe in the north, Sheikh Sa'adoon said
he represented the "faces of the villagers," and that clean
water and electricity were the two most pressing needs. He
said that in his area in northern Maysan, they usually
received two hours of power and seven hours off the grid.
Acknowledging that many things have improved in other areas
of Iraq, he bluntly asked us what is stopping the GOI and
Coalition Forces (CF) from building a power plant in Maysan.
Elections Look Promising
4. (C) Sa'adoon told us that he is hopeful for the upcoming
provincial elections, but has reservations about
Sadr-affiliated parties and how they will behave. Although
he did not know the Maysani Governorate Election Officer
(GEO) personally, he said he had not heard any alleged
improprieties or partisan behavior by the GEO.
5. (C) Sa'adoon said that the security situation in the
province continues to improve and credited the tribes for
helping to keep order: "You see that nothing is happening
here ) that is us." He acknowledged there was continuing
Iranian interference and smuggling, and blamed the Iraqi
Border Police for failing to secure the border.
Tribal Support Council
6. (C) PolOff inquired of Sa'adoon's thoughts on the tribal
support council. Sa'adoon said he was satisfied with the
council, but added that there were tribes closely associated
with certain political parties that "do not have Iraqi
national interests at heart." He advocated that these tribes
be removed from the council.
Doubts About Commitment to Reconstruction
7. (C) Sheikh Sa'adoon was one of the participants in the
recent Joint Sunni-Shi'a Reconciliation International
Visitors Leadership Program that traveled to the U.S. to meet
with USG officials, including President Bush. When asked
about the trip, he stated he had raised his concerns with the
President, but was troubled that he had not seen any
response. We reminded him that the security situation in
Maysan precluded the PRT and CF from routine collaborative
reconstruction and capacity-building activities, and that
development assistance will take time and careful planning.
We also reminded him that establishing project sustainability
by Iraqis is a critical component of development assistance.
Sa'adoon said he would be reluctant to meet with us again
until he saw results. 2/7 BN officer explained that there
are a number of projects already underway in and around the
provincial capital Amarah, and that we are working to push
projects out beyond Amarah into rural communities. Sa'adoon
responded that he was the person through whom we should
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coordinate projects in his tribal area because "we have the
companies and contractors to fulfill contracts," but was
quick to express caution that it not appear that he was
receiving preferential treatment over other Maysanis.
Sa'adoon emphasized at the conclusion of our meeting that it
is our choice whether the U.S. will fulfill its commitment to
reconstruction efforts in Maysan.
8. (C) The uncertainty and suspicion expressed by Sa'adoon
reflect common feelings among Maysanis due to previous
experiences with the Coalition. The PRT and CF are working
together closely to overcome these perceptions by
prioritizing and coordinating assistance efforts to target
the areas of greatest need. Some Maysani officials continue
to exhibit anxiety about the impact of PRT/USG activities on
the political balance; however, most engagements thus far
with directors-general and civil society organizations have
been positive, with contacts seeming receptive to our message
of collaborative efforts to promote the welfare and
well-being of Maysanis through sustainable economic capacity
building efforts and private sector development initiatives.