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WikiLeaks: 2008-07-24: 08BAGHDAD2305: Election Law Fallout: Kurds Rage, Arabs Rejoice, All Brace for Round 2

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD2305: July 24, 2008.

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2013 at 04:14 PM UT


Viewing cable 08BAGHDAD2305, ELECTION LAW FALLOUT: KURDS RAGE, ARABS REJOICE,

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD2305 2008-07-24 13:55 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
VZCZCXRO5158
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #2305/01 2061355
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 241355Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8474
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 002305 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/24/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR IZ
SUBJECT: ELECTION LAW FALLOUT: KURDS RAGE, ARABS REJOICE, 
ALL BRACE FOR ROUND 2 
 
REF: BAGHDAD 02280 
 
Classified By: Deputy Political Counselor Brian Shukan for reasons 1.4 
(b,d). 
 
1.  (C) Summary: The surprise passage on July 22 of a 
controversial draft of the provincial election law (Reftel) 
has infuriated the Kurds, emboldened Sunni and Shia Arabs, 
marked the overflow of simmering anti-Kurdish sentiment, and 
set the stage for a Presidential veto and further talks in 
the Council of Representatives (COR).  Post has attempted to 
reconstruct who voted for what in the chaotic Tuesday 
session: the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), PM 
Maliki,s branch of Dawa, and a few small secular parties and 
independents joined the Kurds, walkout, while nearly all of 
Tawafuq, the remainder of the Unified Iraqi Alliance (UIA), 
Iraqiyya, and the Sadrists stayed and voted for "Option Two" 
on the Kirkuk election.  (Note: see Reftel for details of the 
vote and the Kirkuk 
options tabled.)  Several COR leaders who opposed the Kurds 
acknowledge they voted largely out of spite at perceived 
Kurdish inflexibility, and said they are prepared to resume 
talks with the Kurds in earnest should the law return to the 
COR.  The Kurds are protesting bitterly in Baghdad, Erbil, 
and Kirkuk, but in the coming days will face a crucial 
decision ) whether to pull further from Baghdad due to the 
perceived betrayal, or to recognize 
their unprecedented inability to defeat a united and 
determined parliamentary coalition of Arabs and adopt a more 
conciliatory attitude.  End summary. 
 
Kurds, Boycott: ISCI & Dawa Support, All Others Oppose 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
2.     (C) The leadership of ISCI, Maliki,s branch of Dawa, 
and several small parties appear to have joined the Kurdish 
boycott, while nearly all of Tawafuq (including the Iraqi 
Islamic Party), Iraqiyya, the Sadrists, Fadhila, Dawa 
Tanzeem, and former PM Ibrahim Jafari,s branch of Dawa 
remained inside and voted almost unanimously against the 
Kurds.  Determining exactly who joined the Kurds after the 
the Turkomen called for the a secret ballot for the 
controversial article) in the walkout has been difficult, 
with conflicting accounts due to the prevailing chaos ) as 
the vote approached, MPs scurried in and out of the chamber, 
some boycotting and others politicking.  Most of ISCI walked 
out with the Kurds, including leading MPs Humam Hammudi and 
Jalal al-Din al-Saghir.  Deputy Speaker Khalid Attiya walked 
out not for loyalty to the Kurds but to protest the use of 
the secret ballot, as did independent Safia Suhail. 
Solidarity bloc leader Qassim Daoud, Assyrian Democratic 
Movement chief Yonadam Kanna, and Communist party leader 
Hamid Musa joined the Kurds at least briefly outside; 
somewhat surprisingly, so did prominent Turkomen MP Abbas 
al-Bayati, who consistently opposes the Kurds on Kirkuk but 
who had accepted the long-awaited deal on Option One.  Dawa 
bloc leader Ali al-Adib appears to have joined the Kurds for 
a time, but many Dawa MPs remained inside for the secret 
ballot and Adib himself later accused Kurdish bloc leader 
Fuad Massum onstage of breaking their pact by walking out 
instead of staying to vote for Option One.  In all, 
approximately 40 non-Kurds departed the chamber between the 
opening roll call and the vote on the Kirkuk election, but 
not all as part of the walkout.  At the height of the chaos, 
Mashhadani dramatically produced and swallowed two white 
pills, declaring to the assembly, "I'm living on valium!" 
 
COR Kurds Furious, Arabs Pleased At Message 
------------------------------------------- 
 
3.     (C) The Kurds are reacting viscerally to what they 
consider a betrayal.  For the first time, they lost a major 
vote despite employing the primary weapons in their arsenal: 
apparent consensus with ISCI, Dawa, and the IIP, and the 
ability to bloc a quorum through a parliamentary walkout. 
Many MPs are describing what happened on Tuesday in the 
context of a historical and immutable Arab determination to 
suppress the Kurds.  In particular they criticize Mashhadani, 
who they regularly called an impediment to political progress 
even before the Speaker oversaw Tuesday,s secret vote.  Some 
relayed fear that Talabani will betray them by ratifying the 
law ) Talabani stated both publicly and privately that he 
intended to veto the law, but his history of peacemaking 
gestures on Kurdish causes sits uneasily with the more 
overtly nationalist Kurdish COR members.  We have heard 
threats of drastic Kurdish action, such as attempting to 
unseat Mashhadani or ordering the Kurd-dominated Kirkuk 
provincial council to prepare unilaterally for a referendum 
on joining the KRG, but such ideas probably will fall aside 
if election law 
negotiations restart in earnest.  In our engagement with both 
Kurdish leaders in Baghdad and the northern governorates, we 
 
BAGHDAD 00002305  002 OF 003 
 
 
have emphasized that the Kurdish bloc must avoid hasty action 
or inflammatory rhetoric while the wound is still fresh and 
pursue a solution through the political process. 
 
4. (C) The vote split the Kurds' traditional Shia allies from 
the rest of the UIA.  ISCI COR member Ridha Taqi told us that 
most ISCI/Badr members joined the Kurds in their walkout 
prior to the vote, although he and several 
ISCI/Badr remained in place in their capacities as committee 
heads or senior committee members.  He conceded, however, 
that a number of UIA members remained and may have voted for 
Option Two, particularly members from Dawa 
Tanzim.  Dawa COR bloc leader Ali al-Adib bemoaned the 
walk-out, doubting that a vetoed bill would return to the COR 
before the parliamentary recess.  Characterizing the 
situation as more serious than a mere problem (mushkilah) but 
less serious than a crisis (azmah), ISCI's Taqi said the vote 
sets back the political consensus among Iraq's three major 
communities that has emerged over the past several months. 
In contrast, dissident Dawa MP Faleh al-Fayadh - a key Jafari 
lieutenant - hailed the results and said the unity among 
disparate Sunni and Shia 
groupings in favor of Option Two bodes well for Jaffari's 
National Reform Trend. 
 
5.     (C) Several top leaders of the coalition that passed 
Option Two acknowledge that the vote had more to do with 
punishing Kurdish obstinacy than with enacting a viable law, 
but that having taught the Kurds a lesson, they are ready for 
a more serious negotiation.  Deputy Fadhila bloc leader Basim 
Sharif said the vote &was a good lesson for the Kurds ) 
they need to remember they are part of Iraq.8  Dawa Tanzim 
MP Abd al-Hadi al-Hassani all but stated outright that the 
vote was done out of spite in response to the Kurds, 
perceived unwillingness to compromise.  National Dialogue 
Front leader Salih al-Mutlaq, perhaps the Kurds, most 
outspoken critic in recent months, said the vote &sends a 
message to the Kurds that they have gone too far.8  We heard 
many similar allegations of Kurdish obstinacy throughout the 
weeks of negotiations over the Kirkuk election.  Sharif, 
Hassani, and Mutlaq all indicated, however, that their blocs 
) and the COR at large ) are ready to return to the 
negotiating table presumably after the Presidency Council,s 
expected veto, now that they have sent the Kurds a message. 
PolOff encouraged such willingness to talk and reaffirmed the 
need for compromise. 
 
Reaction in North: Uneasy Calm In Kirkuk, Vitriol In Erbil 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 
 
6.     (C) The news created an uneasy tension in Kirkuk 
province and passionate rhetoric from all sides, but we 
cannot confirm any violent incidents resulting from it. 
Kurdish Provincial Council Chairman Rizgar Ali ) a PUK 
member and the province's de facto strongman ) predicted a 
demonstration against the law later this week but assured our 
PRT leader there will be no violence and that Kirkuki Kurds 
remain committed to the democratic process.  Others were less 
patient ) Muhammad Kamal, the senior KDP member of the PC, 
said the Kurds will never accept the vote and warned that 
violence is possible.  Kirkuki Arabs and Turkomen are 
ebullient; Arab PC member Muhammad Khalil said &this is the 
first time the COR has made a patriotic decision,8 and de 
facto Iraqi Turkomen Front leader Ali Mahdi told the press 
&we as Turkomen welcome this law and hope President Talabani 
does not veto it.8  The Arab and Turkomen blocs released a 
joint statement praising the law and thanking its patrons. 
 
7.     (C) KRG leaders in Erbil reacted emotionally.  The 
official KRG statement called the secret vote 
unconstitutional, placed much of the blame on the Speaker 
personally, and said if the decision sticks &we will 
reconsider our position and even our alliances.8  The KRG 
legislature similarly accused Speaker Mashhadani of violating 
the Constitution, but added a call for the GOI to implement 
Article 140 and warning that the bill,s proviso to replace 
the current security forces in Kirkuk would destabilize the 
city.  In the PUK stronghold of Sulaimaniya, party politburo 
members effectively aligned with the KRG statement, although 
less invectively than their Erbil counterparts.  KRG 
President Barzani is arriving in Baghdad this week, on a 
previously scheduled visit to discuss the SFA and SOFA. 
Barzani,s visit has the potential either to significantly 
calm or inflame the situation, depending on how he chooses to 
play it. 
 
COR Prepares For Veto, Renewed Talks 
------------------------------------ 
 
8.     (C) The parties are bracing for a Presidency Council 
veto and the ensuing resumption of negotiations.  Legal 
advisors for all three members of the Presidency, in addition 
 
BAGHDAD 00002305  003 OF 003 
 
 
to Attiyah, on July 23 were unenthused about a procedural 
challenge (e.g. arguing that the secret ballot was 
illegitimate or that the loss of quorum for the bill's final 
articles negates the vote as a whole).  Talabani on July 22 
told us he would veto the draft, and issued a public 
statement on July 23 to that effect.  Vice President Tariq 
al-Hashemi was reluctant to join a veto and departed on July 
22 for a previously scheduled visit to Turkey, expected to 
last at least a week; Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi voiced 
similar misgivings but to join a veto, but today added his 
signature to Talabani's.  The vetoed draft has returned to 
the COR; Abd al-Mahdi's gesture helps dilute potential 
anti-Kurdish sentiment in rsponse to Talabani's veto.  We are 
stressing to contacts that time is of the essence ) in order 
to sustain the possibility of provincial elections in 2008, 
meaningful negotiations must start immediately and another 
vote must take place before the COR recesses on July 31. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
9.     (C) Following this legislative defeat, the Kurds can 
either declare Baghdad hopeless and pull further away, or 
recognize that they no longer have a parliamentary veto on 
national policy and accept the need for greater compromises 
on sensitive issues.  While their indignant morning-after 
tirades imply a preference for the former, the Kurds still 
need Baghdad ) no amount of unilateralism will deliver them 
control of Kirkuk or hydrocarbon legislation as they conceive 
it.  Cooler PUK heads like President Talabani, Deputy Prime 
Minister Barham Salih, and Kurdish COR bloc leader Fuad 
Massum still drive policy in Baghdad, and probably are savvy 
enough to recognize the Kurds simply lack the numbers to 
impose their will against determined and united Arabs. At the 
same time, delayed provincial elections would set back the 
cause of national reconciliation, and will particularly 
disadvantage Sunni Arabs who boycotted in 2005. The first 
test may be imminent ) if the election law does return to 
the COR before it recesses, all sides must be prepared to 
compromise.  Embassy continues to monitor this situation 
minutely and will send updates as events unfold. 
CROCKER

 



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