Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09BAGHDAD808
2009-03-24 13:12:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

NAJAF: ISCI BOXED OUT AS COALITION-BUILDING

Tags:  PGOV IZ 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO8166
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #0808/01 0831312
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 241312Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2370
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 000808 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/24/2019
TAGS: PGOV IZ
SUBJECT: NAJAF: ISCI BOXED OUT AS COALITION-BUILDING
CONTINUES

REF: BAGHDAD 170

Classified By: Deputy Political Counselor John G. Fox for reasons 1.4 (
b) and (d).

(U) This is a PRT Najaf message.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 000808

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/24/2019
TAGS: PGOV IZ
SUBJECT: NAJAF: ISCI BOXED OUT AS COALITION-BUILDING
CONTINUES

REF: BAGHDAD 170

Classified By: Deputy Political Counselor John G. Fox for reasons 1.4 (
b) and (d).

(U) This is a PRT Najaf message.


1. (C) Summary: The provincial election results mark the
end of one-party Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI)
domination in Najaf and will usher in a power-sharing
coalition in one of southern Iraq's most religiously and
politically important provinces. ISCI's Shahid al-Mihrab
list and Prime Minister Maliki's Da'wa-led State of Law list
won an equal number of seats, giving the Sadrist Free Trend
(which won only one fewer seat) a strong role as king-maker.
The most likely result is a Da'wa-led coalition that includes
the Sadrists, Adnan al-Zurfi's Loyalty to Najaf, and ex-Prime
Minister Ja'afari's Reform Trend. The final outcome is still
uncertain, however, due to political brinkmanship
orchestrated from Baghdad. The three main Shi'a movements
(ISCI, Da'wa, Sadrists) are vying intensely and negotiating
creatively to gain executive positions in the next provincial
government, including Najaf Provincial Director of Police
(PDoP) and head of the Najaf Reconstruction Committee (NRC),
in addition to Governor, Deputy Governor and Provincial
Council (PC) Chairman. End Summary.

Breaking Down the Numbers
--------------


2. (SBU) Despite early optimism from ISCI that it would
retain its majority or at least lead a majority coalition in
the next provincial government, strong performances by its
two biggest rivals -- Da'wa's State of Law list and the
Sadrist Free Trend list -- put them in a difficult position.
ISCI- and Da'wa-backed lists tied with seven seats apiece
(out of 28 on the Council),while the Sadrists won six. The
Loyalty to Najaf list headlined by Ministry of Interior
intelligence official and former Najaf Governor Adnan
al-Zurfi netted four seats, former PM Ja'afari's Reform Trend
won two, and the Independent Union of Najaf, an erstwhile
ISCI ally, also won two. The province reelected only five
sitting PC members, most notably State of Law candidate and
close PRT interlocutor Sheikh Fayed al-Shimmeri, Deputy
Governor Abtan (ISCI),and Deputy PC Chairman Sheikh Khaled
al-Numani (ISCI).


3. (C) ISCI used its dominance in the 2005 election to place
a former Badr commander as Provincial Director of Police and

to stock the Najaf Reconstruction Committee with its members.
As a result, provincial budgets were funneled toward
projects favored by the ISCI Governor and Deputy Governor,
such as the province's contribution to the Najaf
International Airport. (Note: the NRC is the enhanced
equivalent of the Provincial Reconstruction Development
Council.) Appointments to these positions are now being
heavily contested and have emerged as keys to the overall
coalition-building process.

Current Provincial Leadership Continues to Hold on and Hope
-------------- --------------


4. (C) Governor Asaad Abu Gelal al-Taie, an ISCI nominee,
fell out of favor with party leadership prior to the election
and, according to multiple first-hand sources, has courted
and been courted by PM Maliki to align against his former
party. Governor Asaad continues to lobby either to remain
Governor as part of a State of Law coalition, act as
placeholder until a more acceptable replacement is found
after a new coalition is formed, or receive another
high-level government appointment. Governor Asaad has mused
with PRT officers about possibly accepting an ambassadorial
post in a western country.


5. (C) Over the past six months, PRT officers personally
witnessed open hostility between Governor Asaad and Deputy
Qwitnessed open hostility between Governor Asaad and Deputy
Governor Abtan, ISCI's front man for the election campaign
and one-time heir apparent. Maintaining productive relations
with both politicians proved challenging, but possible, to
the PRT. After a recent meeting we had with Abtan, Governor
Asaad repeatedly called PRT locally-engaged staff to inquire
nervously about the details of the meeting, and dropped by
personally a day later to demonstrate his own good relations
with the PRT.


6. (C) Abtan appeared despondent when he sat down with us.
He said he has been negotiating with all of the lists to form
a "unity government" in Najaf, which would include all
parties and grant ISCI some provincial leadership positions,
but had been unable to get Da'wa to bite. Follow-on ISCI
negotiations with the Sadrist Free Trend list have proved
similarly unsuccessful to date, with one source suggesting

BAGHDAD 00000808 002 OF 002


ISCI offered the Sadrists the governorship in return for
joining a coalition with it. Abtan continues to parade
before the media as a top Najaf official, welcoming Arab
League Secretary General Amr Moussa and the first-ever Syrian
direct flight to Najaf. (Comment: Due to his close personal
relationship to Abdel Aziz and Ammar al-Hakim, Abtan's future
in Iraq will remain closely tied to ISCI -- in Najaf,
Baghdad, or beyond. End Comment.)

Najaf's Sadrists: At the Table at Last
--------------


7. (C) Najaf's numerous Sadrist followers sat out the 2005
provincial election, but responded strongly this January,
securing six seats on the next PC. Several PRT contacts
express concern that most of the new Sadrist members have
limited government, management or political experience.
Governor Asaad informed the PRT the Sadrists had three
demands heading into the coalition process: Provincial
Director of Police, Najaf Reconstruction Committee Chair, and
amnesty for Sadrist affiliates currently being held in Najaf
jails. The Governor expressed concern over all three points
and said that the Sadrists' political immaturity, combined
with their inability to differentiate political from security
demands, has already caused problems.

Comment
--------------


8. (C) In the end, the six Sadrist seats will need to join
forces with somebody to establish a PC governing coalition
with a conclusive majority. Da'wa is the best suited to lead
the coalition due to the PM's personal popularity, the
party's seven seats, its outreach to the Sadrists and its
previous affiliation with Loyalty to Najaf and Ja'afari's
Reform Trend. ISCI is likely to be the odd man out, despite
Abtan's concerted attempts to make a deal that would keep him
in power. The PRT has close and established ties to all of
the party lists except the Sadrists.


9. (C) Recent PRT attempts to reach out to newly-elected
Sadrists have met with a mixed response. Amjad Shihab
(reftel),one of the leading Sadrist personalities elected to
office, expressed no direct antipathy toward the PRT or the
U.S. government, but claimed he could not meet with us openly
because his followers would not approve. Instead, he
suggested a joint meeting with the United Nations to give him
plausible cover. We believe the Sadrists intend to focus on
provincial development and the delivery of essential
services, and will treat us as partners once they realize
that the PRT is in a position to help in these areas.
Potential Sadrist obfuscation of security and detainees, and
the continued presence of Special Group elements in the
province, could present difficulties to ongoing U.S.-Iraqi
operations targeting Jaysh al-Mahdi affiliates still known to
reside in Najaf. End Comment.
BUTENIS