|08HILLAH58||2008-05-27 03:37:00||SECRET||REO Hillah|
1. (U) This is a PRT Babil cable.
2. (SBU) SUMMARY: The former de facto leader and heavyweight in
Babil's Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) provided insight
into his strife-ridden party, panhandled for U.S. support, and
faulted the U.S. for not being more actively involved in shaping
the provincial political map. Hamza Malallah al-Isawi (Abu
Muhammad) contradicted earlier information he had provided that
Babil Governor Salam Salih al-Mahdi al-Muslimawi would not be on
ISCI's candidate list, but did confirm that ISCI has placed
personnel in the Governate Election Office (GEO). END SUMMARY.
3. (C) Fresh from a trip to Iran and after repeated requests
from the PRT, Abu Muhammad agreed to a May 22 meeting on the
Regional Embassy Compound in al-Hillah to discuss the status of
ISCI in Babil, Governor Salam, and the upcoming elections. For
more than two hours, the former de facto ISCI leader in Babil
argued feverishly for an open list ballot; called the Governor
incompetent and compared him to the devil; described Iranian
perceptions of the U.S. threat and Iran's determination to bog
down the U.S. in south-central Iraq but acknowledged that Iran's
actions do not serve Iraq's interests; and defended the practice
of implanting party affiliates on the GEO staff, explaining that
all the parties, even the Sadrist Trend, are doing it.
4. (C) Contradicting earlier reports that ISCI was forming four
slates under the guise of "independents," none of which included
the Governor, Abu Muhammad claimed that ISCI will run only one
slate in the upcoming provincial elections in Babil. (Comment:
We have reason to doubt this claim. As many as four registered
political entities claiming to be independent have
ISCI-affiliated persons in them.) The Governor should be on the
list and may actually lead it, although Abu Muhammad was neither
bashful in expressing his disdain for the GC leader nor modest
in expressing his ability to remove the Governor from power. He
wants to move against the Governor in an, "organized way," but
believes it is too late to form a political movement against
him, especially if the U.S. is not willing to support (i.e.
fund) such an organization.
5. (C) Abu Muhammad provided insight into ISCI's inner workings.
Despite his references to disagreement and infighting on the
part of the provincial and national party leadership, he
described a coordinated ISCI approach to the upcoming elections.
(Comment: He did not hide his disdain for the Governor and his
inner-circle, blaming the Governor for the current tarnished
public perception of ISCI, which he deems to be their greatest
challenge in the upcoming elections.) He said that ISCI's five
constituent parts -- ISCI (political), Badr, Sayid al Shuhada,
Hizb'allah al Iraq, and Shahid al Mihrab - all have two
representatives on a "vetting committee" in each province that
is charged with proposing a slate of candidates to the party's
Baghdad leadership for review and approval. While deference
will be given to the provincial committee, the leadership will
ultimately designate the candidates, according to Abu Muhammad.
Contrary to original reports, the ISCI diehards are fighting for
an open slate. Abu Muhammad claimed that the closed slate was
vague, marginalized the population, and led to the current
"dictatorship." Moreover, a closed slate would portend
6. (C) Before the topic of Iranian influence was entertained,
Abu Muhammad cast several lines for U.S. support. He said that,
"If the U.S. just sits back and watches, it will only be a
matter of years before Saddam [Hussain] returns to Iraq." He
expressed his frustration with past U.S. support to candidates,
arguing that the Americans made, "a lot of bad people rich."
His last ditch effort was to turn the tables on the PRT.
Referencing the support to the current GC, Abu Muhammad laughed
"If I were President George Bush, I would blame you for failing
to support my vision."
7. (C) ISCI's failures, and not Iran's influence, are the black
stain on Hamza Malallah's party. He described Iran's support to
not just ISCI, but the Sadr Trend, Hizb'al-Dawa, and many others
in Iraq, as an insurance policy. Just days after returning from
Iran, he asserted that Iranian policymakers believe the U.S.
military "cannot fight on three fronts at one time." Thus, as
long as the American's are bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan,
there is no opportunity to directly engage Iran militarily.
8. (C) If not Iranian or American interference in the provincial
elections, what does bother Abu Muhammad? The answer is the
Iraqi High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and provincial GEO.
While he sees nothing wrong with party implants in the IHEC
offices -- according to him, all the major parties are doing the
same thing -- he is concerned about security. Abu Muhammad said
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that the level of violence in Babil may not be as bad as in
other provinces, but predicted that ISCI will try hard to engage
in massive voter fraud and abuse to steal the election. He
identified the storage and movement of the ballots as the area
of biggest risk. He fears that if reelected, Governor Salam
will "work like a devil" to make himself rich, while continuing
to neglect the people of Babil.
9. (S) Comment: It is unclear whether or not Abu Muhammad,
having just returned from Iran, was fishing to see if and how
the U.S. might be attempting to influence the elections, or
whether he was genuine in his attempts to garner U.S. support
for a run against the governor. What was clear was his recent
fall from grace. He appears to have fallen from de facto
Chairman and representative of the al-Hakim family in Babil to a
man fighting for a spot on the ISCI slate for provincial
elections, willing to prostitute himself to both Iran and
America to garner support for his bid. If his assertions of
internal ISCI strife are even half-true, the ISCI leadership
will have its hands full in Babil for the upcoming elections.