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08BAGHDAD971 2008-03-30 02:39:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

Chalabi's Provision of Services Committee - March 25

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1. SUMMARY: Dr. Chalabi's March 25 Provision of Services Committee
meeting focused on a variety of topics covered in previous weeks.
While he did briefly discuss ongoing events in southern Iraq and
Basra, the remainder of the meeting was divided between violations
on potable water lines, Ministry of Industry involvement in Cleaning
Days, and quality of wheat/flour in public rations. The meeting
concluded with a report on corruption issues at a fuel distribution
point in the Shaab area. Though attendance was relatively low,
representatives from the Ministry of Industry & Minerals (MoIM),
Ministry of Trade (MoT), Baghdad Water Authority (BWA), Baghdad
Operation Command (BOC), Ministry of Environment (MoEn), and the
Embassy did participate. END SUMMARY.

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Pre-Meeting Topic: Situation in Basra
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2. Dr. Chalabi began (and concluded) the meeting with a brief
discussion on the situation in the South. In addition to the
current security problems, he noted that an oil pipeline south of
Nassiriyah (exact location and/or type was not specified) was
bombed. As a result, refineries in the Baghdad area will be
affected in the coming days.

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Water Issues: Site Visit, Violations, and Filtration
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3. Dr. Chalabi began executing the meeting's official agenda by
recapping last week's visit to the Karkh Water Treatment Plant.
While Dr. Chalabi did note that the site is functioning well (due
mostly to the high quality of construction as well as Iraqi Army
presence), a myriad of other problems exist. Much of the equipment
(i.e. lab and testing devices) is over 20 years old and needs to be
replaced. In addition, the emergency power station is not
functioning and in need of an upgrade. Finally, personnel issues
remain, as workers on site have not been adequately or consistently
paid. To address these issues, Dr. Chalabi recommended drafting a
memo to the Baghdad mayor.

4. Discussion transitioned from last week's site visit, to last
week's discussion on water distribution violations. Following a
question from Dr. Chalabi, it was noted that 50,000 to 200,000 cubic
meters of water are lost per day to violations. While this range is
not large in comparison to the overall volume of Baghdad's water
supply, the quantity itself was cause for some concern. Subsequent
discussion followed last week's trend: while water violations are a
problem, scarcity is the main issue. Citizens need water, and as
the BWA representative noted, when the distribution infrastructure
is inadequate, tapping water lines is seen as the only option.

5. A lengthy discussion occurred concerning irrigation canals and
the water which feeds them. Dr. Allen gave a brief presentation on
the location of three pipelines, which the Ministry of Water
Resources had been using for irrigation, in an effort to provide
water to the Swail and Ameriyah neighborhoods. The lines were
eventually turned over to the Amanat, which has since refused to use
them for irrigation purposes, opting instead for use of the canal
system. This issue was complicated when a Committee member claimed
that Coalition Forces are responsible for blocking the canal. Dr.
Chalabi asked BG Milano to follow-up on the accuracy of the alleged
canal blockage.

6. Dr. Chalabi next returned to the issue of water filtration
units. He commented that a memo requesting 100 new water filtration
units had been submitted. Confusion followed, as the committee was
unsure on where and to whom the filtration units should go. Dr.
Chalabi responded that filtration units must first be allocated for
Baghdad residents, before moving forward on remaining units.

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Cleaning Day Update
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7. The MoIM representative entered midway through the meeting, and
was welcomed by Dr. Chalabi. Dr. Chalabi commented briefly on the
lack of MoIM assistance with the Cleaning Days initiative. The MoIM
official responded by citing his Ministry's lack of funding as the
reason for the shortage of vehicles on Cleaning Days. Dr. Chalabi
stressed that the level of MoIM involvement was minimal (twice a
month), and would look for his update on vehicles within 24 hours.

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PDS: The Color and Quantity of Wheat
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8. A minor discussion focused on the status of wheat with regard to
the Public Distribution System. Currently 75% of flour rations are
made with imported wheat. Due to bulk shipments of food arriving
primarily from Umm Qasr Port, citizens in the South are receiving
the majority of imported wheat (Note: This problem will likely be
exacerbated by current security developments in the South. End
Note.). As the quality of flour changes with the proportion of

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imported wheat, residents of Baghdad have been receiving poor
quality flour. Specifically, residents in Baghdad have been
complaining that flour rations are inordinately dark. It was not
mentioned whether this was due to the bleaching process involved in
flour production, or to the quality of wheat itself. As such, Dr.
Chalabi ordered that samples of this wheat be taken for testing.

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Wrap Up: Red Cross Report & LPG Distribution
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9. A recent report by the Red Cross was presented next, which
claims Iraq is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, particularly
in the areas of water, health, and electricity. The Committee's
overall reaction to this report was mixed. Dr. Chalabi initially
noted that these are the issues for which the Committee was
intended, and ordered that the report be provided in order to
improve these sectors. This reaction follows from his previous
comments on the status of NGO's in Iraq. While this appeared
somewhat supportive, subsequent discussion attacked the transparency
of the Red Cross organization itself, particularly in their dealings
with the Government of Iraq. Moving forward, it was agreed that the
Red Cross must coordinate with the Red Crescent before meeting with
any Iraqi officials.

10. Final discussion in the meeting related to corruption at a
particular fuel distribution point in the Shaab Stadium area.
Reports indicate that an Iraqi Army unit in charge of the station
(guilty parties were named specifically) has been preventing the
distribution of fuel to some, while allowing others to effectively
steal it, in addition to accepting bribes. Dr. Chalabi ordered that
a memo be sent to General Aboud to resolve the issue, and remove
those responsible.