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09BASRAH12 2009-03-04 13:06:00 CONFIDENTIAL REO Basrah
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1. (C) Summary: In two separate meetings, REO discussed local
Christian-minority issues with Chaldean Father Emad Aziz
al-Banna. Emad, de facto leader of the Christian community in
Basra, expressed great satisfaction that Christians now have a
designated seat on the Provincial Council (PC). The second
meeting with Emad, held at his Christian kindergarten in Basra,
included Dr. Saad Matti Potrous, the newly-elected Christian PC
member. Matti and Emad embraced the newly-elected Council,
characterizing its new members as secular and nationalistic, and
did not anticipate any antagonism toward the Christian community
by the incoming PC. Matti speculated that Da'wa PC member Dr.
Chaltag Abu Sharad would become the next PC Chairman. On
security, Emad saw an important continuing role for the United
States in Iraq, most notably through economic support and
educational programs. End summary.

Christian Representation


2. (C) Father Emad, the de facto leader of Basra's Christian
community, expressed his satisfaction with the recent provincial
elections during an initial meeting at the REO on February 12.
Commending the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and
the Iraqi Security Forces for a job well done, he was
particularly enthusiastic about the new Christian-designated
seat on the PC, remarking that Christian participation in the
government was long overdue. Referencing the modern plight of
Basrawi Christians (See ref A), he explained that government
connections were necessary for securing jobs and economic
programs. He hoped the new PC, in collaboration with the
Christian representative, would work to improve his community's
circumstances and encourage many internally-displaced Christians
to return home.

Praise for New PC, Especially "State of Law"



3. (C) Emad was optimistic about Basra's future and
characterized the new PC members as "open-minded, secular, and
nationalistic." Emad noted that the nationalist spirit promoted
a popular dedication to improving the country and a resistance
to foreign influence. He voiced particular approval for Da'wa's
"State of Law" coalition, which he said did not have sectarian
interests. Emad hoped that the pattern of corruption and
domination by an over-powering Chairman or Governor would not be

4. (C) On February 22, the REO Acting Director traveled to Saint
Efram Christian Kindergarden in downtown Basra to meet with Emad
and newly-elected Christian PC member Dr. Saad Matti Potrous of
the Chaldean National Council (657). Matti shared Emad's
enthusiasm for the new PC. He described the State of Law
coalition as non-sectarian and capable of improving living
conditions in Basra. Fresh from a meeting with 18 newly-elected
PC members on February 20, Matti stated that he expected a
cooperative relationship with the new government, because all
the PC members - including those from the Islamic parties -
"trust the Christians." He repeated this several times during
the meeting.

Da'wa for PC Chair, Governorship Uncertain



5. (C) Matti said he was nearly certain that local Da'wa party
leader Dr. Chaltag Abu Sharad would soon get the nod for PC
Chairman, and Emad enthusiastically agreed. (See ref B) Matti
believed Chaltag to be very qualified for the job. Matti had no
suggestions as to who the next governor would be, however.

Security Relationship


6. (C) Touching on security issues, Emad stated that for the
foreseeable future Iraq will need and value US support - if not
necessarily military, then at least educational and economic.
In the short term, Emad reckoned that US troop involvement would
be required until Basra Province was strong enough to stand on
its own, although he would not speculate as to how long that
might be. Like most Basrawis, he identified security as the
Province's primary concern - without which economic development
would be impossible.

7. (C) Comment: Emad is a very active community leader and he
appears particularly insightful on political issues. His

BASRAH 00000012 002.2 OF 002

positive appraisal of the new Provincial Council in general and
of Dr. Chaltag in particular is encouraging. His emphasis on
the non-sectarian aspect of the State of Law coalition and his
concern about corruption and executive dominance offer striking
positive comparisons with his opinions on the outgoing PC and
Governor Mohammad Wa'eli, who are associated with religious
extremism, incompetence, and corruption. Father Emad has been
serving as an acting Bishop for some time and will be formally
ordained by Baghdad-based Chaldean Patriarch Cardinal Emmanuel
III Delly during Sunday Mass on March 8. End comment.