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08BAGHDAD470 2008-02-19 07:55:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
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DE RUEHGB #0470/01 0500755
P 190755Z FEB 08
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 000470 




E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/16/2018


Classified By: Classified by NEA/I PDAS Lawrence E. Butler for Reasons

1. (C) SUMMARY. In a February 14 meeting, Foreign Minister
Hoshyar Zebari told NEA DAS Lawrence Butler that he thought
Iran postponed the trilat scheduled for February 15 because
of the February 12 assassination in Damascus of Hezbollah
leader Imad Mughniyah. Zebari confirmed that Iranian
President Ahmedinejad would make an overnight visit to Iraq
on March 1 and include a side-trip to Najaf to meet with
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Zebari said that the Iraqi MFA
had already forwarded to the Presidency and the Prime
Minister's offices a recommendation that Iraq follow the USG
lead and recognize Kosovo independence, but cautioned that
both appeared opposed and that he could not act without their
approval. (Note. In a February 17 Ministerial Committee for
National Security meeting reported septel, the PM said he
would recommend the GOI recognize Kosovo at the February 19
cabinet meeting. End Note.) Zebari dismissed recent
Kuwaiti overtures about opening an Embassy, arguing that the
GOK still refused "to extend Arab legitimacy to the New
Iraq." Zebari thinks the Saudi flag is the only one other
Arab countries, particularly Gulf countries, will follow.
Zebari informed Ambassador Butler that the GOJ rejected the
"check pass" deal Embassy Amman discussed with senior GOJ
leadership. Deputy Foreign Minister Libeed Abbawi also
attended the meeting. END SUMMARY.

Ahmedinejad Visit-Call on Sistani-Iran Trilat-Mughniyah

2. (C) Zebari opened the meeting by complaining that Iran
had "failed us again" although he noted that shortly before
the talks, originally scheduled for February 15--a date
Teheran proposed--Ambassador Qummi told him his delegation
was complete and provided names. Zebari is convinced the
Iranians postponed the trilat because of the February 12
Damascus bombing that killed senior Hezbollah leader Imad

3. (C) Ambassador Butler suggested the GOI link the
upcoming Ahmedinejad visit to a date for the trilat. Zebari
noted that Ahmedinejad has wanted to visit Iraq for quite
some time--the last proposed visit would have occurred during
POTUS recent Middle East tour--and that the MFA had "always
tried to scuttle" the visit on the grounds that timing was
not right. Zebari said the March 2 trip was now confirmed.
He continued that what was originally an "extensive" four-day
program involving travel to Najaf, Samara, Baghdad and
Karbala had been scaled back to an overnight stay with a
side-trip to Najaf. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbawi informed
Ambassador Butler that while President Ahmedinejad is in
Najaf, he is scheduled to meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali

4. (C) Zebari said the point of the trip was to demonstrate
Iraq/Iran friendship and reciprocate for the many trips
senior Iraqi leadership have made to Teheran. Zebari added
he did not expect detailed policy talks, but rather a
courtesy and protocol-type visit. Ambassador Butler stressed
that the USG had enormous concerns over Iran and their
ongoing involvement in Iraq. Zebari warned of a hardening of
Iran's attitude, triggered by Strategic Framework Agreement
(SFA) talks and thinks Teheran will work to undermine USG/GOI
achievements in Iraq by "unleashing forces--not immediately,
but sometime during the spring." DFM Abbawi explained that
Teheran is particularly concerned about the Sunni Al Sahwah
(Awakening--Concerned Local Citizen) movements and suggested
that Teheran could have ordered recent attacks targeting
senior Sahwah leaders.

5. (C) Ambassador Butler emphasized that we are aware
Iranian leadership perceive the SFA process as a threat. He
asked Zebari to convey that the agreement will act as the
basis for normal bi-lateral relations and not a mechanism to
acquire permanent bases or to make open-ended troop
commitments, which neither the USG nor the GOI wanted.
Zebari agreed to reassure the Iranians that there was no
hidden agenda behind the SFA process.

Kosovo Independence--Iraq Unlikely to Follow USG Lead

6. (C) Ambassador Butler informed Zebari that his personal
sources said Kosovo would declare independence as early as
February 17, and that we would recognize Kosovo immediately
and hoped Iraq followed suit. He added that this would
likely be POTUS' and the Secretary's main policy issue in the
short term. Zebari said that although the MFA had forwarded

BAGHDAD 00000470 002 OF 002

a positive recommendation to the PMO and to President
Talabani on this issue, both appeared opposed, arguing there
remained (unspecified) problems and that the issue dovetailed
with Iraq's own Kurdish question. Zebari confirmed that
during his trip to Moscow, he discussed the issue with
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov (below). Deputy Foreign
Minster Abbawi mentioned that the Serbian Ambassador to Iraq
had been lobbying the Foreign Ministry against recognition,
arguing that although Kosovo "remained a part of Serbia,"
Belgrade was ready to provide it self-rule, and that a
declaration of independence would open a Pandora's box in the
Balkans. Zebari tamped-down expectations about Iraqi
recognition saying he would only be able to act pursuant to
"very clear instructions" from the Presidency and the Prime
Minister's Office. (Note: In a February 17 Ministerial
Committee for National Security meeting reported septel, the
PM said he would recommend the Cabinet recognize Kosovo at
its February 19 meeting. End Note.)

Moscow Trip--MOU Contains no Quid Pro Quo

7. (C) Zebari disclosed that the MOU he signed with Russian
Foreign Minister Lavrov erasing almost USD 13 billion in
bilateral debt contained no quid-pro-quos or preferential
treatment for Russian companies like Lukoil. It does,
however, identify areas like oil, electricity and gas ripe
for joint cooperative efforts. Zebari said he "refused to
tip his hand to Lavrov" over Kosovo. Lavrov confided to
Zebari the Kosovo declaration was "inevitable" but assured
him Russia would pursue the matter in the UN Security

Neighbors--Border and Refugee Working Groups Still Pending

8. (C) Zebari remarked that Lavrov would attend the Kuwait
Ministerial and confirmed the April 22 date. Zebari noted
that the Energy Working Group March 1-2 meeting was on
schedule, but told Ambassador Butler he had not heard from
either the Syrians or the Jordanians about the Border
Security and Refugee Working Groups. He instructed Abbawi to
be in touch with Syrian and Jordanian counterparts to make
arrangements. Zebari again mentioned that he would like to
host in Baghdad a "Core Group" i.e. Neighbors-only, Foreign
Minister level pre-con before the Kuwait Ministerial, but
worried that March Arab League and Islamic Conference
Summits, and a planned excursion of the Baghdad Diplomatic
Corps to the KRG precluded the meeting.

Arab Embassies--Kuwaitis Won't Extend Arab Legitimacy to New

9. (C) Zebari commented that the Saudis, Kuwaitis and
Egyptians were all saying the right things, but were not
following through. He mentioned last summer's Saudi
exploratory delegation, a Kuwaiti proposal that Iraq and
Kuwait simultaneously name Ambassadors, and recent talks in
Egypt during which President Mubarak promised to send a team
to explore embassy sites. He told Ambassador Butler that he
had already offered the Kuwaitis "all options," including the
use of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs villa, to set up a
Mission. Zebari dismissed what the USG recently heard about
the GOK opening a Baghdad embassy saying the GOK would not do
it because it "refused to extend Arab legitimacy to the New
Iraq." Zebari agreed that establishing a Saudi Mission in
Baghdad was critical because the Saudi flag was the only one
other Arab states, and particularly Gulf Country states,
would follow.

UNHCR Refugee Pledge--GOJ Will Not Touch Check

10. (C) Ambassador Butler outlined the GOI-GOJ-UNHCR "check
pass" deal Embassy Jordan proposed in ref. e-mail. Zebari
said the GOJ rejected the deal on the grounds that "they did
not want to touch the check" but confirmed that the Iraqi
Embassy in Amman still has the USD 8 million dollar check.
In a subsequent meeting with Ambassador Crocker reported
septel, Zebari blamed Prime Minister Maliki for the delay.