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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09DAMASCUS851 2009-12-08 14:32:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Damascus
Cable title:  

IRAQI EMBASSY REPORTS MORE SYRIA-IRAQ TENSION

Tags:   PTER PGOV PREL IZ SY 
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PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHDM #0851/01 3421432
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081432Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7099
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 5876
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0046
					C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DAMASCUS 000851 

SIPDIS

LONDON FOR LORD, PARIS FOR NOBLES

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/12/2019
TAGS: PTER PGOV PREL IZ SY
SUBJECT: IRAQI EMBASSY REPORTS MORE SYRIA-IRAQ TENSION

REF: DAMASCUS 820

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Chuck Hunter for reasons 1.4(b,d)

1.(C) SUMMARY: The Iraqi Embassy reported a telephone call
following last week's Eid al-Adha holiday between the
directors of the Syrian and Iraqi Prime Ministers' offices
"did not go well," underscoring continued tension between
Damascus and Baghdad. The Syrian side reportedly placed the
call to encourage Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari to attend the
December 15 Arab-Turkish forum in Damascus and to obtain GOI
assistance for Syrian trucks carrying refrigerated food
products that were stuck on the Syrian-Iraqi border. The
Iraqi Embassy told us the Iraqis remain concerned about
broadcasts from Syria by a new anti-GOI television stated
called "Saddam" and were annoyed by a report published in a
Syrian newspaper claiming that new Iraqi government security
installations on the Iraqi-Syrian border were provided by
Israel. The Turkish Embassy, on the other hand, believes the
SARG is looking for ways to improve relations with Baghdad,
if only to get the trucks moving again, and may explore ideas
for doing so during the Turkish foreign minister's visit to
Damascus next week. END SUMMARY.

TELEPHONE CALL BETWEEN PM OFFICES DOESN'T GO WELL



2. (C) According to the Iraqi Embassy in Damascus, the
director of Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji al-Otri's
office called his counterpart in Iraq following last week's
Eid al-Adha holiday. According to Ahmed Ubaid, the Iraqi
Embassy's media attache, the Syrians expressed concern about
Syrian trucks stranded at the Syrian-Iraqi border. According
to Iraqi and Syrian contacts, Syrian trucks carrying
refrigerated goods bound for Iraqi markets are facing
significant delays in getting approval to cross the border
into Iraq. Al-Hayat Bureau Chief Ibrahim Hamid (strictly
protect) said sources in FM Muallem's office reported that a
call took place, possibly at a higher level between the prime
ministers themselves, and claimed Syria responded positively
by urging the Iraqis to send FM Zebari to attend the December
15 Turkish-Arab Forum in Damascus. Ubaid said the call "did
not go well." The Syrian trucks continued to face delays,
and the GOI was not backing down from accusations the SARG is
hosting Iraqi Baathists responsible for terrorist attacks in
Iraq, he explained.



3. (C) Ubaid said the delay of Syrian trucks at the border
underscored Syrian-Iraqi tension. "They have called us
frequently regarding trucks at the border. We need to keep
the border safe, and they want everything to go through,"
Ubaid related. Ubaid said the Iraqi Embassy received calls
from lower-level officials on a daily basis regarding Syrian
trucks that are being blocked from entering Iraq by Iraqi
border guards. Syrian businessmen trading in Iraq confirm
their products are not getting through to Iraqi markets.

IRAQIS CONCERNED ABOUT NEW BAATHIST TELEVISION STATION



4. (C) While the SARG expresses frustration with Baghdad's
decision to severely restrict the movement of trucks ferrying
Syrian goods across the border, the Iraqi Embassy remains
concerned about a new anti-GOI television station called
"Saddam," with possible links to Iraqi Baathists Izzat
al-Douri and Mishan al-Jabouri. "Saddam" recently completed
its inaugural two-day broadcast during Eid al-Adha, marking
the 3rd anniversary of Saddam's execution. In addition,
al-Jabouri's television station "al-Rai," which broadcasts
from Damascus and had been criticized by the Iraqi government
as a platform for terrorists, is still on the air despite
reports that the station was being closed, complained Ubaid.
(NOTE: Syrian media reports on November 23 stated Syrian
businessman Rami Makhlouf had purchased all the equipment for
"al-Rai" from Jabouri and his Syrian wife, Rawa'a al-Usta,
who jointly owned the station. A subsequent report quoted
Makhlouf as denying the story. END NOTE.)



5. (C) Ubaid reported the Iraqis were attempting to confirm
that "Saddam" broadcast its inaugural programming from an
office in the Damascus suburb of Yafour. He criticized
"Saddam" and "al-Rai", and suggested both stations had
received financial support from Syrians. Ubaid related the
GOI had not been able to confirm the location of "Saddam's"
broadcasting site, but said the embassy was convinced the
SARG and prominent Syrian businessmen had supported "Saddam"
and "al-Rai."



6. (C) The Iraqis also took umbrage at a report published in
the Syrian newspaper al-Watan on December 6 claiming that new
Iraqi government security installations on the Iraqi-Syrian

DAMASCUS 00000851 002 OF 002


border were using Israeli-supplied equipment. Claiming that
the SARG had approved placing the story in the newspaper,
Ubaid said the article was calculated to embarrass the Iraqi
government. "Everything the Syrians do, including stories
like this that they put in the newspaper, sends a message,"
Ubaid declared, noting the Israeli reference was meant to be
an especially stinging criticism. Acknowledging the large
number of Iraqi accents around him at a Damascus cafe, Ubaid
said, "We can't deny the Syrians have welcomed a lot of
Iraqis here in the last six years. But the situation between
the two governments is getting worse, and will get even
worse," he concluded.

CAN THE TURKS HELP?



7. (C) Turkish DCM Aydin Acikel (strictly protect) told us
December 8 that the Syrian MFA had quietly requested a
meeting with FM Davutogulu to discuss relations between Syria
and Iraq during the Turkish FM's December 14-15 visit to
Damascus and that the Turkish ambassador to Iraq might
attend. Acikel said he sensed the Syrian government was
looking for ways to improve relations with Baghdad if only to
solve the immediate problem of traffic jams at border
crossings. VP advisor Mohamed Nassif Khayrbick would also
participate in the talks. Acikel asked whether U.S. concerns
regarding Syrian support for foreign fighters and former
Iraqi regime elements still applied. Hearing a positive
response, Acikel suggested the Turks would urge the Syrians
to take positive steps to ease bilateral tension with Iraq.
Acikel was unsure whether FM Zebari planned to attend the
Turkish-Arab Forum, and he worried that today's attacks in
Baghdad would harden Iraqi resolve against Syria. Still, he
said Ankara viewed Syria's request to discuss Syrian-Iraqi
relations as a positive sign that might be used to
re-establish diplomatic contacts.

HUNTER