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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
10BAGHDAD168 2010-01-23 10:03:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

BAGHDAD AREA REACTIONS TO PRE-ELECTORAL

Tags:   PGOV KISC KCRM IZ 
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VZCZCXYZ0005
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHGB #0168/01 0231003
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231003Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6245
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L BAGHDAD 000168 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/23/2020
TAGS: PGOV KISC KCRM IZ
SUBJECT: BAGHDAD AREA REACTIONS TO PRE-ELECTORAL
DE-BA'ATHIFICATION

REF: BAGHDAD 0136

Classified By: Baghdad PRT Team Leader Tom Lynch for reasons 1.4 (b) an
d (d)



1. (U) This is a Baghdad PRT message.



2. (C) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: Two IFND (MP Salih al-Mutlaq's
party) and one INM member of the Baghdad Provincial Council
told the PRT January 18 that VPOTUS' engagement regarding the
de-Ba'athification review of electoral candidates was welcome
and the U.S. is right to support fair elections. They said
the disqualification process was illegal. They see an
Iranian hand seeking to prevent true elections. Baghdad
local politicians appear to be polarized, with Sunnis
interpreting de-Ba'athification as an effort to discourage
Sunni voting. Most Shi'a contacts were supportive of the
ban, saying that Ba'athists should not be allowed any role.
Conversations so far suggest the effort to ban former
Ba'athist politicians will not seriously impact Sunni turnout
in Baghdad in the upcoming election and may even serve to
galvanize Sunnis to vote. Sunni and Shi'a politicians alike
believe that disgruntled Sunni voters will be galvanized to
turn to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiyya Alliance. END SUMMARY AND
COMMENT.



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



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


MUTLAQ/ALLAWI PROVINCIAL COUNCIL ALLIES: CRITICAL


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



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





3. (C) Three Provincial Council (PC) members -- two from the
Mutlaq's Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, Abbas Mahdi
al-Hamdani and Isam Mustafa al-Shahiri (IFND), and one Falah
Mahmud al-Qaisi (a Shi'a) who is a member of the Iraqi
National Movement (INM) of Allawi ) criticized the
disqualification of electoral candidates under the provisions
of the Accountability and Justice Law to the PRT January 18
(reftel). al-Hamdani, a Sunni who ran on Multaq's ticket for
the PC in January 2009 and now serves as the legal advisor to
the PC, argued the entire process was illegal. He says the
Accountability and Justice Commission (AJC) is not legally
empowered to make these findings as it had never been
re-appointed by the Council of Representatives (CoR). All
three PC members endorsed the U.S. engagement on behalf of
fair elections. While specifics on how exactly the U.S.
should do this were thin, Hamdani told PRToffs that the
remarks attributed to VP Biden in the Iraqi press were a big
hit which sent the right signal at the right moment and got
people on "the street" talking. The PC members said this was
not about individuals, but about controlling the process.
They also speculated that any prominent person in conflict
with the Shi'a religious parties would be called a Ba'athist
and disqualified.



4. (C) The PC members professed to PRToffs they had
confidence in the Allawi-Mutlaq Iraqiya Alliance's chances,
with or without de-Ba'athification. The politicians believe
Allawi has extremely strong popular support, surprisingly
even in areas like Sadr City. They feel also that "everyone
is fed up" with the big religious parties and their failure
to deliver services. The politicians added that the attempt
at de-Ba'athification appears to be Iran's attempt to prevent
true elections from occurring in Iraq and thus create a
failure of true democracy in Iraq. They repeatedly and
explicitly linked the success of these national elections
with the success of the democratic project in Iraq.



5. (C) The Baghdad PC members also noted that the
de-Ba'athification process has the potential to spark
violence. While all three members were at pains to explain
why they utterly reject political violence, they are each
from formerly "hot" areas and say that the reality is that
Qfrom formerly "hot" areas and say that the reality is that
some people will turn to violence to protest this, especially
if the election is considered illegitimate. They observed to
PRToffs that Iraqi officials who have supported democratic
process throughout will be hurt by an illegitimate election,
and noted that if democracy crumbles, they and others like
them will have no place in Iraq.



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

-
PROVINCIAL COUNCIL LEADERSHIP EXPRESS CONCERNS


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

-



6. (C) PC Chairman Kamil al-Zaidi, although a prominent
member of the PM's Da'wa party, believes that the
de-Ba'athification controversy is a destructive waste of
time. He questions the timing, pointing out that many of
those on the exclusion list have served in the GOI. The
problem, as he sees it, is that the law is being twisted for
political ends. In his opinion, "elections are like a garden
and the citizens should be able to choose their own fruit."



7. (C) Dr. Riyadh al-Adhadh, Deputy PC Chair, is a long-time
prominent Sunni politician from Adhamiyah. As a member of
the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), he is in direct competition
for votes with the secular Mutlaq group. Despite this, he
described the move as illegitimate and following "no
parameters." He cited the number of sitting ex-Ba'athist CoR
members and members accused of serious human rights
violations. That said, he did not think that the
disqualifications would delegitimize the elections or
discourage voter turnout.



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


BAGHDAD SUNNIS CRITICAL OF DE-BA'ATHIFICATION


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





8. (C) Sunni Qada (district) Council members told ePRT Team
Leaders in Baghdad that de-Ba'athification will have a
negative impact on the political process, national
reconciliation, and the upcoming election. The Qada Council
members accused the AJC of following the dictates of the GOI,
"especially the Prime Minister." They indicated that if this
is meant as a ploy to discourage Sunni participation in the
elections, it will fail. Mutlaq's followers will turn to the
Allawi's Al Iraqiya list. They also believe the Governments
of Iraq and Iran are jointly responsible for politicizing the
Ba'athist issue, and for seeking to push Sunnis out of the
political process -- or at least to marginalize them. In
that endeavor, a Sunni politician claimed, Shi'a politicians
are cooperating with Kurdish politicians "because the Shi'a
will give the Kurds what the Sunnis would not." In addition
the Sunni politicians in Baghdad welcomed reports of Vice
President Biden's recent engagement with senior GOI officials
to oppose the disqualifications, and urged a sustained USG
effort to oppose GOI efforts unfairly to disqualify
candidates on political/sectarian grounds.



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


SHI,A MAINLY SUPPORT DISQUALIFICATION


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





9. (C) In conversations with ePRT and PRT Baghdad team
members, Shi'a politicians were generally but not unanimously
supportive of the de-Ba,athification effort.

-- Abu Ammar, Mahmudiyah Qada Council Chairman, member of
the Daawa party, stated that disqualifying Ba'athists is in
the interest of the Iraqi people because allowing Ba'athists
to participate in the process (or remain in office) allows
them to "spoil" the process;
-- Abu Ammar added that Maliki is being unfairly blamed;
members of his own State of Law coalition, such as Defense
Minister Abdul Qadir al-Obeidi, had also been disqualified by
the AJC. (NOTE: al-Obeidi was later removed from the
disqualification list);
-- Yaqub Yusif al-Bakhati, Chairman of the Rashid District
Council, a Shi'a, and a State of Law candidate advised the
PRT that disqualification is a reasonable means to keep
Ba'athists out of positions which they could use to subvert
the political process as they seek to regain power;
-- al-Bakthati also indicated that banning Mutlaq will not
seriously impact Sunni turnout as Sunnis have other options,
including Allawi.



10. (C) Baghdad Mayor Dr. Saber al-Essawi, Shi'a (ISCI),
told the PRT January 11 he knew Mutlaq in the nineties when
he was "just a businessman." The Mayor expressed skepticism
of Mutlaq's alleged Ba'athism. (COMMENT: The explanation may
be complex but it is interesting that Baghdad's rival
principal local leaders point the same way on Mutlaq. END
COMMENT:)



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


COMMENT


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





11. (C) These conversations do not suggest the effort to ban
former Ba'athist politicians will seriously impact Sunni
Qformer Ba'athist politicians will seriously impact Sunni
turnout in Baghdad in the upcoming election and may even
serve to galvanize Sunnis to vote. Whatever the outcome of
the effort to disqualify Mutlaq, his Sunni base in Baghdad
Province will probably continue to support his Iraqiya
alliance with Allawi; indeed, Allawi may now even gain votes
in Baghdad from galvanized Sunni voters. END COMMENT.

HILL