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10BAGHDAD390 2010-02-15 09:06:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
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DE RUEHGB #0390/01 0460906
R 150906Z FEB 10
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L BAGHDAD 000390 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/15/2020


Classified By: Dhi Qar PRT Deputy Team Leader Ted Lyng. Reasons: 1.4 (

1. This is a PRT Dhi Qar reporting cable.

2. (C) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: As Dhi Qar election officials
prepared for the March 7 election, the province,s leading
politicians used the period before the start of official
campaigning to burnish their anti-Ba,athist credentials.
Governor Taleb al-Hassan (SLA/Da,wa) and other political
leaders led several large demonstrations in Nasiriyah on
January 17 and 27 supporting the Independent High Electoral
Commission (IHEC) decision to exclude from the ballot a
number of candidates with alleged Ba,athist connections.
Da,wa politicians were quick to use the IHEC decision to
show the voters that Da,wa is the party best suited to
prevent a Ba,athist return and not, as some rivals say, the
ineffective incumbent party of the "occupation." The race for
Dhi Qar,s 18 seats will be an all-Shi,a affair: Da,wa,
Sadrist Trend, and National Reform Movement candidates formed
a winning coalition after 2009 provincial elections, but ISCI
is putting Adel Abd al-Mahdi, a contender for Prime Minister,
in the number one spot on the Iraqi National Accord (INA)
list here, and Aziz Alwan, the ex-Governor of Dhi Qar who
used the Governorship to engage in an all-out war with the
Sadrists and Jaish al Mahdi forces in 2007 and 2008, in the
number three spot behind a Sadrist. The PRT expects a
hard-fought contest, good security, and with Ba,athism now a
major issue, a very big turnout. END SUMMARY AND COMMENT.

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

3. (C) In Dhi Qar province, 21 political entities and 324
candidates, including 86 women, will compete for 18 seats
representing the province in the next parliament. Dhi Qar has
nearly one million registered voters, who will cast their
votes in 414 polling stations spread across an area roughly
the size of Connecticut. Nearly half the voters will come
from Nasiriyah, the provincial capital. Alaa Abdel Aouda,
IHEC Director in Dhi Qar, told the PRT that everything is
proceeding according to plan and that he expects a good
turnout and a peaceful election.

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

4. (C) In this province where mass graves dating to the days
following the 1991 Shi,a uprising are still being
discovered, PRT LESs, visitors to the PRT's training center,
and U.S. Army Iraqi Qualitative Atmospheric Task Force
surveys indicate that IHEC,s decision to disqualify alleged
Ba,athists is universally popular (reftel). Contacts
throughout the province told PRT IPAO that former interim
prime minister Iyad al-Allawi, (chief of the Iraqiyya
Coalition and a secular Shi,a) and two of the Sunni
candidates included in the Accountability and Justice
Commission,s (AJC) de,Ba,athification order--Saleh
al-Mutlaq and Dhafer al-Aani--are reviled here for their
Ba,athist roots. Officials from the major Shi,a parties,
including Da,wa, Sadrist Trend, National Reform, and ISCI,
were quick to seize the opportunity to tap into the vast
reservoir of anti-Ba,athist sentiment. Two aspects of the
demonstrations in Dhi Qar on January 17, 22 and 27 included
former political prisoners held by the previous regime and
relatives of those who died in Ba,athist custody, and are
noteworthy for two particular aspects. First, while all the
Shi,a parties participated in the demonstrations to some
extent, the Da,wa politicians, including Governor Taleb
al-Hassen, grabbed the most prominent spots. The Governor led
the January 17 demonstration, flanked by the son and grandson
Qthe January 17 demonstration, flanked by the son and grandson
of elderly Sheikh Mohamed Bakr al-Nasri, Da,wa,s
"philosopher," who returned to Nasiriyah in 2003 after years
in exile. Second, anti-Ba'athist sentiment seems to be
growing here: the January 27 march, organized by Dhi Qar,s
Provincial Council (PC) and its Chairman, Qusei Ibadi, a
member of Jaafari,s National Reform Movement, was the
largest and the most emotional. (Note: Ibadi, who previously
told Team Leader he wanted to annex the eastern part of
Muthanna province, said the same thing to PRT IPAO this week.
He noted that the tribes in the area he covets are Shi,a,
while those to the west were Sunni. Ibadi wants, and believes
he can have, a border with Saudi Arabia. End note.) He was
flanked by Da,wa party council members. Many of the
marchers carried banners calling for al-Aani and al-Mutlaq to
be placed on trial. One banner, paid for by Da,wa, showed a
father kissing the recovered skull of his son.


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

5. (C) The election here will be an all Shi,a contest
between the PM,s State of Law Alliance (SLA) and the Iraqi
National Alliance (INA). ISCI lost big in provincial
elections in 2009, giving up key local posts to Da,wa, NRT
and the Sadrist Trend. Conversely, this year ISCI is running
two big names on the INA list in Dhi Qar: VP Abd al-Mahdi and
Alwan. Sandwiched uncomfortably between the two is Baha
al-Araji, a Sadrist Trend party member and current chair of
the parliamentary legal committee. Alwan, who will campaign
in the four sport for the INA, made his reputation fighting
Sadrists when he was Dhi Qar,s governor in 2007 and 2008,
and tensions between ISCI and the Sadrists in the province
are still palpable. A few weeks ago, PRT Team Leader watched
Alwan and ISCI Chairman Ammar al-Hakim arrive together for
the National Police Service celebration in Nasiriyah. When
the two sat down, the Sadrist politicians in the box got up
and left.

- - - - - - - - -

6. (C) Da,wa has used the IHEC decision very effectively in
Dhi Qar, where many voters now think a key election issue is
who can most effectively keep the Ba,athists at bay. Before
the decision, some of the opposition parties tried to portray
Da,wa as the ineffective incumbent party of "the
occupation." The following examples suggest that Iran is
conducting an active "hearts and minds" campaign here.
First, PRT contacts among Nasiriyah,s businessmen say they
are eager to work with western companies but they tell the
PRT they deal with Iranian and Turkish companies because they
are here and the western companies are not. Second, Iranian
doctors recently performed several heart surgeries in
Nasiriyah. Finally, a good example of Iran,s openly
political efforts took place at Dhi Qar University,s College
of Art on January 16. Iran,s al-Kawther satellite network
held an "Open Microphone" for university students. The
moderator asked the students several good questions about
what voters expect from national candidates. He then followed
up with loaded questions: "What do you think about the
occupation,s effect on the election and security?" and "What
do you think about the occupation,s imposed candidates
hindering the enactment of laws by parliament?" There were
also several thinly veiled references to Saudi meddling in
Iraqi affairs.

- - - -

7. (C) Dhi Qar has seen little violence recently, political
or otherwise, and the PRT does not expect anti-Ba'athist
rhetoric to spur sectarian problems. The province is
homogeneously Shi'a. The Police Chief, General Sabah
al-Fatlawy, has acted relatively impartially and seems to
have things very much under control. Still, some
developments will be important. As noted, Iran is seeking to
stir up public anger about Saudi interference in the
electoral process. The news that a Saudi cleric called Grand
Ayatollah Sistani an atheist created quite a stir in the
press and on the street here recently. The PRT expects a
spirited and close race between the Da,wa and ISCI
candidates. Some Sadrist Trend and National Reform candidates
may also do well. At this point, voter frustrations about
essential services seem to be less important than their
concerns about a Ba,athist coup.