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WikiLeaks: 2006-06-01: 06DAMASCUS2518: Iraqi Representatives in Syria Comment on New Arrivals, New PM

by WikiLeaks. 06DAMASCUS2518: June 06, 2006.

Posted: Friday, February 24, 2012 at 09:18 PM UTC


Viewing cable 06DAMASCUS2518, IRAQI REPRESENTATIVES IN SYRIA COMMENT ON NEW

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06DAMASCUS2518 2006-06-01 14:06 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy
Damascus
VZCZCXYZ0003
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #2518/01 1521406
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 011406Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9296
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 0076
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L DAMASCUS 002518 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
PARIS FOR ZEYA, LONDON FOR TSOU 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 5/21/2016 
TAGS: PREL PREF SY IZ
SUBJECT: IRAQI REPRESENTATIVES IN SYRIA COMMENT ON NEW 
ARRIVALS, NEW PM 
 
REF: DAM 594 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Stephen A. Seche
 for reasons 1.4 b/d 
 
 1.  (C) Summary:  Iraqi contacts in Damascus commented 
recently on a range of issues, including the arrival of more 
Iraqis in Syria, Palestinian-Iraqis seeking refugee in Syria, 
the new Iraqi Prime Minister and next steps in the Syria-Iraq 
bilateral relationship.  They asserted that up to 150,000 
mostly Sunni families would visit Syria during the summer, 
some for short-term tourism and others for the entire summer. 
 All of our contacts stated they knew the new Iraqi Prime 
Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, from his more than two decades in 
Damascus and said that he was even-handed and honest.  One 
contact claimed Maliki had ties to a former head of State 
Security Branch of Syria's General Intelligence Directorate, 
Muhammad Nasif Kheirbek.  None of our contacts anticipated a 
rapid upgrade of relations between the two countries even 
given that Iraq now has a new government, at least not until 
the two countries resolve several issues.  A Kurd contact 
speculated that the Iranian Embassy here supports the 
Damascus office of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution 
in Iraq (SCIRI) and that the Turkman Front's Damascus office 
gets help from the Turkish Embassy.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C) Iraqi contacts in Damascus commented recently on a 
range of issues, including the arrival of more Iraqis in 
Syria, Palestinian-Iraqis seeking refugee in Syria, the new 
Iraqi Prime Minister and next steps in the Syria-Iraqi 
bilateral relationship.  Those commenting included Loqman 
Merza, formerly of the Damascus-based office of the Kurdistan 
Democratic Party and now consul at the Iraqi Interest 
Section; Mohammed Said of the office of SCIRI; Amanoail 
Khoshaba of the Assyrian Democratic Movement; Faiq Mahdy 
Faraj of the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party; and Ershad 
Salihi of the Iraqi Turkman Front. 
 
3.  (C) On new Iraqi arrivals to Syria:  Our contacts 
confirmed news reports that Syria is experiencing a new wave 
of Iraqis, prompted by the end of the Iraqi school year, a 
lack of security in some parts of the country, and soaring 
temperatures in Baghdad, which still experiences regular 
electrical outages.  Several of the representatives asserted 
that between 110,000 and 150,000 mostly Sunni families would 
visit Syria during the summer, some for short-term tourism 
and others for long-term stays in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and 
Lattakia.  The majority of Shiites in Syria live in Damascus 
(usually in outlying, poorer suburbs like Saida Zeinab), 
while Sunnis reside in the capital, Homs and Aleppo, Said 
said.  Demand created by the new arrivals was further pushing 
up real-estate prices in Damascus, said Mahdy, who complained 
that an apartment cost more than USD 1,000 per month in 
rundown buildings in his neighborhood.  Commenting on recent 
arrivals of Palestinian-Iraqis from Iraq, contacts were less 
expansive and not sympathetic, emphasizing that 
Palestinian-Iraqis were Sunnis and had been closely 
associated to the former Iraqi regime and its intelligence 
services. 
 
4.  (C) On Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki:  All of our contacts 
stated they knew Maliki from his more than two decades in 
Damascus and that he was even-handed and honest.  Said was 
the most expansive, claiming he had regularly attended Friday 
prayers with Maliki (whom he referred to as Abu Isra'a) in 
the predominately Shiite Damascus neighborhood of Saida 
Zeinab.  Said characterized Maliki as moderate in religion 
and said that the Da'awa office in Damascus once led by 
Maliki is now closed.  When asked if Maliki still had 
contacts with Syrian authorities that could facilitate the 
improvement of bilateral relations between Syria and Iraq, 
the often-evasive Said responded, "He doesn't have bad 
relations with them."  Khoshaba claimed that Maliki had ties 
to the former head of the State Security Branch in the 
General Intelligence Directorate, Muhammad Nasif Kheirbek. 
(Note:  Other non-Iraqi contacts we have spoken with concur 
in general with this view of Maliki.  One prominent 
journalist said that Maliki was thought to have headed the 
military wing of the Da'awa Party when he was here.  He 
maintained a very low profile and was not widely known 
outside a tight circle of expatriate Iraqis.) 
 
5.  (C) On the bilateral relationship:  None of our contacts 
anticipated a rapid upgrade of relations between the two 
countries even given that Iraq now has a new government, 
despite hints to the contrary in the official Syrian press 
during the February visit to Damascus of Iraqi Shiite cleric 
Moqtada al-Sadr (reftel).  Said and Merza added without 
 
elaboration that Syria and Iraq first had to resolve the 
issues of Syria's "financial debts to Iraq," border security, 
and the issue of Iraqi Baathists who still live in Syria. 
The SARG's primary candidate for Ambassador to Iraq remains 
Keriakos Keriakos, a former general from Qamishli (and a 
Christian of Assyrian origin) who handled Iraqi issues for an 
extended period while serving in military intelligence. 
 
6.  (C) Comment:  Most of these Iraqi contacts travel 
regularly to Iraq.  All of them indicated that they have good 
and regular contact with each other in Damascus and predicted 
that the SARG would continue to allow their organizations to 
function in Damascus.  Mahdy had the most gossip about the 
other groups, speculating that the Iranian Embassy had turned 
over one of its diplomatic residence to the SCIRI 
representative who recently moved from a modest office in a 
working-class neighborhood to a new glitzy office/residence 
directly across from the Iranian Embassy.  Mahdy also 
speculated that the Turkish Embassy provided financial 
support to the Turkman Front, which has its office in the 
upscale Damascus neighborhood of East Mezzeh. 
SECHE

 


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