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WikiLeaks: 2007-11-15: 07BAGHDAD3768: Article 140: Uncertainty Fuels Arab-Kurd Tension

by WikiLeaks. 07BAGHDAD3768: November 15, 2007.

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 06:39 PM UT


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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07BAGHDAD3768 2007-11-15 15:19 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #3768/01 3191519
P 151519Z NOV 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 003768 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/14/2017 
     B. BAGHDAD 3693 
Classified By: Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (C) Summary: Article 140 High Committee Chairman (and 
Minister of Science and Technology) Raid Fahmi gave Senior 
Advisor an overview on November 12 of committee developments 
since Fahmi took office at the end of July.  Fahmi asserted 
that the committee's recent progress will help alleviate 
Kurdish concerns about the inevitable referendum delay past 
December 31, although he admitted Kurdish leaders have done 
little to prepare their public.  He characterized the 
committee's approach as fair and transparent, with a 
deliberate focus on technical preparations and not political 
deal-making.  The committee is exploring the use of the 1957 
census as a method to develop a voter registry for a 
referendum, as well as beginning to address key issues such 
as the referendum question itself.  However, he acknowledged 
that internal boundary change recommendations being developed 
by the committee did not address fundamental Sunni Arab 
concerns, e.g. on Ninewa Province, and will eventually face 
political opposition.  We want a lasting solution to Article 
140 implementation, Fahmi said, with "consensus and not 
coercion."  But while the process he outlined may narrow the 
issues in play, it will likely stall out, due to the 
opposition of Sunni VP Tariq al-Hashimi, when the committee 
refers its recommendations to the Presidency Council.  In 
that case, the law provides for recourse to a neutral 
arbitrator or UN mediation.  And meanwhile, uncertainty over 
how the sensitive provincial border/Kirkuk issues are to be 
resolved is not only fueling Arab-Kurd tensions in the north, 
but also the insurgency.  End Summary. 
Chairman's Approach to Implementation 
2. (C) Fahmi said he was hesitant when first approached by 
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Barzani and 
others in July to consider becoming Chairman of the Article 
140 high committee.  The committee was established in August 
2006 by Prime Minister Maliki to implement Article 140 of the 
Iraqi Constitution (and Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) 
58), articles intended to redress Saddam-era Arabization 
policies.  The committee had been without a chairman since 
March when then-Justice Minister Hashim al-Shibli resigned, 
complaining of a lack of political will to implement Article 
140.  Fahmi asked whether there was a willingness to move 
forward politically and was assured by PM Maliki that he was 
serious about implementation and that the commitment of the 
GOI was 
clear.  Article 140 is part of the Constitution, and the GOI 
has the duty to implement it even though it is a difficult 
problem, Fahmi asserted. PM Maliki appointed Fahmi (Iraqqiya, 
Iraqi Communist Party) on July 31 (ref a). 
3. (C) He works on the principle of transparency and 
dialogue, Fahmi noted; there is a problem of trust on all 
sides and he does not want anyone to accuse him or the 
committee of hidden agendas.  Fahmi's approach is to avoid 
using the committee for political positioning, and to keep 
matters to a technical level only.  The question, he said, is 
how to satisfy all sides.  If the process stagnates, it will 
be very dangerous -- tensions and distrust will only 
increase.  Fahmi believes the committee needs to move ahead, 
but in a way that does not make the situation more 
complicated; priorities are necessary.  The committee focused 
first on accelerating relatively non-controversial 
normalization aspects like compensation for that reason. 
4. (C) Emphasizing the need to be clear with all about the 
committee's work, Fahmi noted he met with all political 
parties and leaders, including Vice President Tariq 
al-Hashimi (Tawafuq, Sunni Arab).  He invited Hashimi to 
nominate an observer to the committee, an invitation Hashimi 
has not taken up to date.  Fahmi claimed that Hashimi's only 
criticism was that the committee is only dealing with Kirkuk 
and not other disputed territories (i.e., Ninewa).  (Note: 
The committee currently has three current and one former 
Kirkuk Provincial Council members (one each representing 
Sunni Arabs, Turkmen, Assyrian Christians and Kurds), three 
GOI ministers (one Shia, one Kurd and Fahmi), one member of 
the Council of Representatives (Shia), the head of the 
Commission to Resolve Real Property Disputes (Shia) and one 
KRG minister.  End Note). 
Work on Boundary Change Recommendations Still Ongoing 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
5. (C) Moving to boundary changes, Fahmi said that even 
though Transitional Administrative Law 58 calls for the 
BAGHDAD 00003768  002 OF 003 
Presidency Council to submit internal boundary adjustment 
recommendations to the Council of Representatives (CoR), 
al-Hakim and Itelaf asked the committee to develop 
recommendations for areas around Kirkuk and in the south. 
The committee is looking into all Saddam-era boundary changes 
to determine which changes were political and which were 
technical, Fahmi said; the committee will only deal with 
boundaries that were originally adjusted for political 
reasons.  PM Maliki appointed Itelaf-member Hanan al-Fatlawi 
to the committee specifically to work on boundary issues 
related to the south, Fahmi commented.  Once the committee 
agrees on its recommendations, they will be sent to the PM 
and the Presidency Council (and then the CoR) for a political 
6. (C) Fahmi said recommendations on revising Kirkuk 
province's boundaries are complete and work on Karbala is 
almost done.  For Kirkuk province, the committee generally 
agrees that the districts of Kalar and Chemchemal in 
Sulaymaniyah, Kifri in Diyala and Tuz Khurmato in Salah ad 
Din should be restored to Kirkuk province (since renamed 
Ta'mim), which would bring it back to its pre-1976 borders. 
The committee is still collecting technical information about 
the southern part of Anbar province, which is being studied 
for a possible move to join Karbala province.  Fahmi opined 
that once these two areas are addressed with the agreement of 
the two major governing political blocs (Kurd and Shia), it 
would be easier to deal with Ninewa province later.  The 
committee is not discussing Ninewa boundary changes now.  He 
asserted that if these recommendations are sound and fair 
when they get to the political level, opponents (i.e., the 
Sunnis) will not have a leg to stand on.  He is trying to 
narrow opportunities for political problems in his approach, 
he said.  It is possible the boundary changes package would 
be ready to forward to the political level soon, Fahmi opined. 
Normalization Not As Controversial 
7. (C) Since the committee began meeting again in August, 
Fahmi said it gave priority to moving ahead on normalization 
-- rectifying Saddam-era displacements of persons and 
property, a relatively non-controversial piece of the puzzle. 
 All groups agree with the "legal and moral need" to resolve 
the voluntary return and movement of persons (and 
particularly their compensation) in a way that will not 
create more injustice, Fahmi commented.  Since August, the 
committee has coordinated with relevant ministries, such as 
Interior and Trade, to resolve remaining glitches in the 
return of wafadeen Arabs to their original provinces and in 
the distribution of their compensation.  Fahmi noted good 
progress, citing 3000  applications approved and more than 
2000 checks cut (Note: Actual distribution of checks lags 
behind this number of signed checks, according to Kirkuk PRT. 
End note.) 
8. (C) The Commission to Resolve Real Property Disputes 
(CRRPD) needs to accelerate its work on property disputes, 
Fahmi asserted; it is taking too long.  The committee wanted 
to rescind several Saddam-era Revolutionary Command Council 
(RCC) decisions to address the slow pace, but the Council of 
Ministers (COM) legal advisor told Fahmi that the CRRPD 
process was the constitutional one, and changing the process 
would require a different approach than rescinding RCC 
Census Should be Simultaneous, although 
    Referendum Deadline Will Still Be Missed 
9. (C) For a census, according to Fahmi, there are two 
possibilities: conduct a census in its normal definition 
sequentially after normalization is complete or conduct what 
amounts to a voter registration simultaneously as 
normalization continues.  Waiting for normalization to be 
complete is not acceptable, Fahmi said; therefore, the 
committee is looking at alternatives using 1957 census data 
from before Arabization policies changed demographics.  He 
said the committee is consulting with Ministry of Planning 
(MOP), Ministry of Interior and the Independent High 
Elections Commission (IHEC) on how to move ahead.  The MOP 
said it did not have the capacity to do a census within the 
next year, Fahmi stated, and even so, it would not provide 
what we need for a referendum, which is really a voter 
registry.  The 1957 census could be used, Fahmi said.  The 
MOI has the original registration data used in the census, he 
said, which could be amended to add descendants and subtract 
the deceased to develop a voter registry that reflects those 
originally living in Kirkuk province before Saddam-era 
Arabization and their descendants.  (Note: See ref B for why 
this approach is problematic.  End Note.) 
BAGHDAD 00003768  003 OF 003 
10. (C) The committee asked the MOI and IHEC if such an 
approach could work but neither has replied yet, Fahmi 
continued.  The IHEC told the committee it could organize a 
referendum, but several questions must be addressed, 
including a budget, the referendum question and who votes, 
when and where.  Fahmi said the IHEC sent a letter to the 
Prime Minister outlining these issues, which the PM passed to 
the committee to draft a reply. 
11. (C) Fahmi acknowledged that meeting the December 31 
deadline as outlined in the Constitution is not possible but 
that it should not be a political problem.  The point, he 
asserted, is for the committee to get everything moving ahead 
and to show it is doing all that it can.  That way, a delay 
can be viewed as technical and not political, an outcome that 
is acceptable to the Kurds.  He admitted, however, that the 
Kurdish leadership has not done enough to prepare its public 
for the delay.  Fahmi said he thought there was a consensus 
among the main political parties that April or May might be a 
feasible timeframe to hold a referendum. 
But, Political Problems Are Unavoidable, 
   Especially Regarding Boundary Changes 
12. (C) Senior Advisor said it was obvious to him from a 
recent trip to Kirkuk, Irbil, and Mosul that communities like 
Sunni Arabs are fearful of the Article 140 process.  So it 
was difficult to see how there could be any prospect of 
agreement, when the committee referred its recommendations to 
the Presidency Council, if Sunni concerns about Kurdish 
inroads in Ninewa Province were not also addressed, in 
addition to the recommendations on Kirkuk and Karbala. Fahmi 
said the committee will do the best that it can, but once the 
issue becomes political it will get caught up in the balance 
of power struggle in Iraq.  Fahmi asserted that VP Hashimi 
will oppose any boundary proposal, even if Ninewa was 
included, and the matter will have to go to arbitration or an 
international mediation. 
13. (C) He claimed the Arabs in Kirkuk proper are not too 
concerned about Article 140, especially if they can see a 
democratic process leading to a solution and if we give no 
excuse to the Kurds to justify any Kurdish heavy-handedness. 
Fahmi said the Turkmen are split into Sunni and Shia camps, 
and political leaders like the Iraqi Turkmen Front will never 
accept Article 140.  He is working towards allaying the fears 
of those not in the Turkmen leadership.  For example, the 
last resolution issued by the committee (number 6) 
specifically addressed the dispossession of Shia Turkmen 
lands by Saddam outside of Kirkuk city, in part to gain 
traction with the Shia Turkmen community to support the 
overall process.  Fahmi opined that if the committee could 
solve the Shia Turkmen issue, perhaps even the Sadrists would 
fully support implementation. 
14. (C) The key is a fair and transparent process, Fahmi 
repeated.  If we can define a fair solution, we can adapt it 
to what is happening on the ground.  In Ninewa, Fahmi said 
there are Christians, Arabs, Kurds and other minorities and 
we will need to talk to everyone.  We want a lasting 
solution, with consensus and not coercion. 
15. (C) The committee's technical progress over the last few 
months will help alleviate concerns about a referendum delay 
past December 31, but boundary issues will remain the primary 
political obstacle to implementing Article 140. 
Concentrating on Kirkuk province and Karbala province 
boundary changes and deliberately leaving a likely flashpoint 
like Ninewa province from committee deliberations guarantees 
that Sunni Arabs will feel squeezed out of the process. It 
also means any technical recommendations to the Presidency 
Council will fail to gain agreement from VP Hashimi, which 
would mean arbitration or UN mediation would be necessary (as 
outlined in TAL 58).  In short, the Article 140 Committee may 
manage to narrow the issues in play, but it will likely stall 
out at the political level, due to the opposition of Sunni VP 
Tariq al-Hashimi.  In that case, the law provides for the 
Presidency Council to have recourse, by unanimity, to a 
neutral arbitrator or, failing that, to the UNSYG for 
mediation.  Meanwhile, uncertainty over how these sensitive 
provincial border/Kirkuk issues will be sorted out has fueled 
not only Arab-Kurd tensions in the north, but also the 
insurgency.  Ambassador will discuss next steps with newly 
arrived UNAMI envoy De Mistura. 


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