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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09BAGHDAD2386 2009-09-04 10:46:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

AMMAR AL-HAKIM SUCCEEDS FATHER AS ISCI CHAIRMAN

Tags:   PGOV PREL IZ 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO8740
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDIR RUEHIHL RUEHKUK RUEHTRO
DE RUEHGB #2386/01 2471046
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 041046Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4589
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 002386 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/03/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL IZ
SUBJECT: AMMAR AL-HAKIM SUCCEEDS FATHER AS ISCI CHAIRMAN

REF: A. BAGHDAD 002288

B. BAGHDAD 002302

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher R. Hill for reason 1.4(d).



1. (C) SUMMARY: Six days after the death of Abd al-Aziz
al-Hakim, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) Shura
Council elected Hakim's eldest son, Ammar, to be ISCI's new
chairman. The move was widely anticipated given the close
association of the Hakim family to ISCI and the praise
lavished on Ammar during funeral processions for his father.
On September 1, the Ambassador visited ISCI headquarters,
jam-packed with mourners and Iraqi officials, to pay
condolences to Ammar and others from the Hakim family.
Ammar, facing questions about his youth and inexperience,
will likely seek to portray his leadership as a continuation
of his father's legacy. Preparations for the planned January
national election should keep ISCI focused on external
challenges and, for the time being, also limit moves inside
ISCI to constrain Ammar's authority. On the other hand, many
observers have questioned ISCI's ability to lead the recently
announced Shia-dominant Iraqi National Alliance (INA) in the
absence of Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim and questioned the permanence
of his son as party leader. END SUMMARY.

Ammar Elected New ISCI Chairman


--------------------------





2. (U) The ISCI Shura Council unanimously elected Ammar as
chairman on September 1. This decision was expected given
the religious and political prominence of the Hakim family
and the grooming of Ammar for the position since his late
father was diagnosed with cancer in 2007. During Abd
al-Aziz's funeral procession across southern Iraq this week,
mourners carried photos of Ammar along with his deceased
ancestors: Abd al-Aziz, Muhammad Baqir, and Grand Ayatollah
Muhsin al-Hakim. On August 30, outside a shrine in the Shia
holy city of Najaf, Ammar publicly read Abd al-Aziz's will,
which announced Ammar as "my guardian after my death. In view
of my personal knowledge of him and overseeing his
upbringing, I testify that he is trustworthy and honest and
possesses the competence and experience to handle religious,
political and social matters."



3. (U) During the Shura Council's press conference announcing
the ascension, Ammar acknowledged ISCI's "setbacks" during
the 2009 provincial elections, subtly called for PM Maliki to
join the newly-formed, Shia-led INA (ref A), and advocated
openness with Iraq's neighbors "like Iran and Turkey." (Note:
INA can also be translated as Iraqi National Coalition.
Because the group itself uses INA in its English language
materials, post will follow suit. End note.)

Ambassador's Condolence Call Amid the Masses


--------------------------





4. (SBU) The Ambassador and Pol MC earlier on September 1
attended condolence ceremonies at the ISCI compound in
Baghdad amid masses of mourners and numerous Iraqi officials.
The crowds, numbering well over 1,000, carried black banners
lauding the late Abd al-Aziz and periodically chanted for
Ammar's success. The usual five-minute ride from the edge of
the International Zone to the compound took 40 minutes
because of the vehicle and pedestrian traffic.



5. (SBU) The mosque was jam-packed with condolence callers,
despite Baghdad's 110-plus degree heat. Upon entering the
teeming, chaotic mosque, the Ambassador was escorted to greet
Ammar, his younger brother Muhsin, and clerical descendants
of the Hakim family. Ammar stood at the front of the line to
receive all visitors. Muhsin thanked the Ambassador for the
assistance the United States provided in offering initial
Qassistance the United States provided in offering initial
medical care to his father. (Note: Abd al-Aziz's cancer was
first detected in a Texas hospital. End note.) Foreign
Minister Hoshyar Zebari, numerous members of parliament, and
other foreign diplomats were in attendance. The chief of
staff to the late Abd al-Aziz told Poloff that ISCI had to
extend the hours of the three-day condolence event to
accommodate all the visitors. The ISCI-affiliated satellite
television station al-Furat broadcast the gathering live.

Comment: Ammar to Show Continuity


--------------------------





6. (C) To consolidate his authority within ISCI and fend off
challenges from its old guard (ref B), Ammar probably will
demonstrate ISCI's continuity by regularly referring back to
the Hakim legacy--whether his father or his uncle, Muhammad
Baqir, ISCI's founder. Major reforms are unlikely before the
January election as Ammar and other ISCI leaders will be
focused on managing the split between the ISCI-Sadrist led
INA and PM Maliki's nascent electoral coalition. Ammar might

BAGHDAD 00002386 002 OF 002


cede intra-INA issues to Humam Hamoudi, a member of the ISCI
old guard appointed by Abd al-Aziz to negotiate ISCI's
alliances. Hamoudi, a potential challenger to Ammar, is
known to be more sympathetic to the Iranian government. ISCI
has a decades-long rivalry with the anti-U.S. Sadrist Trend
and may be able to use its tested relationship with Sunni and
Kurdish parties to limit the Sadrist role in the next
government. Others fear, however, that if Ammar provides
weak leadership or is seriously challenged by Hamoudi and
intra-party fissures rise to the surface, then ISCI will have
less bargaining power to work against Sadrist demands for
government posts in the event of a strong INA showing in the
January polls. End comment.
HILL