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WikiLeaks: 2008-02-17: 08BAGHDAD456: Talabani, Alabani, Salih and Shaways on LTSR, Government Changes, Legislation, Refugees and Provincial and Regional Developments

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD456: February 17, 2008.

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2013 at 11:30 AM UT


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD456 2008-02-17 11:03 SECRET Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #0456/01 0481103
O 171103Z FEB 08
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 000456 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/16/2018 
     B. BAGHDAD 422 
Classified By: Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (S) Summary: Ambassador met with President Talabani, DPM 
Barham Salih and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and 
Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) representative Rowsch 
Shaways in two separate meetings on February 12.  All noted 
that the Prime Minister will oversee the technical team's 
negotiations on the U.S.-Iraq strategic relationship and 
report back to the Executive Council and the Political 
Committee on National Security (PCNS).  The political parties 
are still discussing government cabinet changes and the 
return of boycotting political parties in both bilateral 
negotiations and within the Executive Council.  They 
discussed the political agreement to vote on the 2008 budget, 
provincial powers and the amnesty law as one package (note: 
it failed the evening of February 12 but passed on February 
13) and recent political tensions between Kurds, Shia and 
Sunni.  DPM Salih reported that discussion by the Council of 
Ministers (CoM) on refugees and internally-displaced persons 
and the executive order was delayed until next week.  Salih 
also raised concern about recent developments in Diyala and 
Anbar.  President Talabani briefed on his visits to Najaf and 
Kirkuk.  The President noted that he declined the Iranians' 
request to sign bilateral agreement(s) during Iranian 
President Ahmedinejad's visit (expected March 1).  Talabani 
also said he was pleased with Turkish President Gul's 
comments on Iraq, the PKK and Talabani himself during a 
February 12 al-Jazeera interview.  Ambassador urged continued 
KRG actions against the PKK and increased dialogue between 
the GOT and GOI, including KRG representatives.  End Summary. 
Long-Term Strategic Relationship Negotiations 
2. (S) Ambassador told both Shaways and President Talabani 
that negotiations on the Iraq-U.S. long-term strategic 
relationship may begin by the end of February.  Both 
responded that the Executive Council and the Political 
Committee for National Security (PCNS) decided that the Prime 
Minister would be the primary interlocutor with the technical 
team.  The PM would in turn brief the Executive Council and 
the PCNS as negotiations proceed.  Ambassador noted that the 
technical team lead, Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Haji 
Hamoud, is very professional and has led many negotiations. 
According to Shaways, the PCNS discussed the negotiations' 
structure and goals at its last meeting.  Shaways confirmed 
to the Ambassador that the PCNS expanded to include 
additional members, namely Salah al-Mutlaq and Salam 
Government Changes Still Unclear; 
   Tawafuq and Iraqqiya Return? 
3. (S) Shaways said that the Executive Council preparatory 
group had agreed to reduce the GOI to 22 ministries, with the 
argument that not eliminating the ministries of women, 
environment, displacement and migration and human rights is 
important.  The preparatory group also agreed that the five 
main parties would split the posts.  On the other hand, 
Shaways explained, PM Maliki insisted at the Executive 
Council meeting that the cabinet makeup clearly reflect 
ethnic demographics (i.e., Shia then Kurds then Sunni) and 
that he have final say on selecting ministers.  Shaways said 
he believed the Executive Council would discuss the issue in 
their regular Wednesday meeting on February 13, but admitted 
that an agenda was not circulated yet.  Shaways said that KRG 
President Barzani plans to come to Baghdad to support the 
cabinet reshuffle when it is time. 
4. (S) Ambassador asked about how re-shaping the cabinet was 
proceeding as PM-Tawafuq negotiations continue.  President 
Talabani concurred that the PM and Tawafuq were negotiating 
separately on Tawafuq's return and that he understood that 
Khalaf al-Ayan was against reducing the number of GOI 
ministries.  Despite a continuing "trust deficit" between the 
PM and VP Hashimi, President Talabani agreed with Ambassador 
that it was good that PM Maliki invited VP Hashimi to join 
the Mosul Crisis Action Cell (ref B).  President Talabani 
noted that Khalaf al-Ayan remains a problem that Hashimi may 
have to jettison.  Ambassador said that Maliki had made some 
gestures on issues like amnesty and power sharing; Hashimi 
needs not to overplay his hand and use this opportunity to 
return to government.  DPM Salih asked Ambassador whether he 
expected PM Maliki to push for a "fundamental reshuffling" of 
the government or an expedient replacement of current 
vacancies.  Ambassador responded that it was important to 
bring forward an effective government, which means a more 
BAGHDAD 00000456  002 OF 003 
fundamental change, but that he understood VP Hashimi wanted 
to "plug in the holes" first and then look at wholesale 
changes; at the same time, it seemed that the Executive 
Council had agreed to a fundamental reshuffling.  DPM Salih 
said that PM Maliki seems to be particularly upset with the 
Minister of Electricity but not with the Minister of Oil, who 
Salih said is the real problem. 
5. (S) Regarding Iraqqiya, President Talabani and DPM Salih 
both said bringing Ayad Allawi fully back to government will 
require a package deal. 
Kurdish Relations and 
   Agreement on Budget, Provincial Powers and Amnesty 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
6. (S) Shaways responded to Ambassador's question about 
Kurdish relations with the Shia and Sunni parties by 
admitting that tension around the budget issue has created 
problems with some political parties and with the "street." 
While the Shia have been Kurdish allies, Shaways noted, there 
are internal problems within the Shia parties in government 
that influence the relationship with the Kurds.  Iran is also 
a problem, he said, and there is a fundamental lack of trust 
between the Kurds and the Shia.  Regarding the Sunnis, 
Shaways said relations with the Islamic Party (IIP) are good 
but other Sunnis like Salah al-Mutlak and Khalaf al-Ayan are 
problematic.  PM Nechirvan Barzani is in Korea now, should 
return around Feb 15-16, and is waiting for word to come to 
Baghdad to negotiate. 
7. (S) On the budget, all confirmed that there was a 
political agreement that the Kurdistan Regional Government 
(KRG) would receive 17% in the 2008 budget, with the other 
primary sticking point on the Peshmerga being saved for later 
negotiation between PM Maliki and KRG PM Nechirvan Barzani. 
Ambassador noted that the PM to PM negotiation is a change 
from an initial agreement in which the negotiation would be 
between Maliki and KRG President Masood Barzani.  During the 
meeting with President Talabani, Salih received word from the 
Council of Representatives that the agreement to hold a vote 
on the budget, provincial powers and the amnesty law as one 
package had failed during the CoR evening February 12 
session. (Note: The CoR passed all three measures on February 
13.  End Note.) 
Assisting Returning Refugees 
8. (S) DPM Salih said discussion by the CoM on refugees and 
the executive order was delayed until next week.  He offered 
that some questioned the need to give aid to those who 
voluntarily left Iraq because they don't support the 
government.  Salih said he reminded the ministers that many 
of these refugees were poor, with children in need of an 
education, and "we have a responsibility to create conditions 
for their return."  President Talabani agreed.  Salih also 
said he thought that MoDM Sultan was "not up to the job." 
Developments in Anbar and Diyala a Problem 
9. (S) DPM Salih urged Ambassador to pay close attention to 
the recent developments in Anbar regarding Awakening threats 
against IIP (ref A) and in Diyala regarding the protests 
against the police chief.  Especially with the Mosul 
operations starting up, Salih stated, action is needed to 
address both issues now. 
Talabani Visits to Najaf and Kirkuk 
10. (S) President Talabani conveyed that the message he 
received in Najaf from Ayatollah Sistani and the other 
ayatollahs in Najaf was the same as the one received by VP 
Abdel Mehdi (septel).  It included a sharp attack on the 
government, an accusation that the government is responsible 
for problems and should uphold the Constitution, a suggestion 
that Talabani should threaten to resign if that's what it 
takes to reform the government, a warning to be careful of 
the neighbor countries and an opinion that the ministers of 
oil and trade are particularly bad for the country. 
President Talabani said Sistani supported negotiating a long 
term relationship with the U.S. but wanted no part in it 
officially.  Ayatollah Yakoobi, spiritual leader of Fadhila, 
also told Talabani that he urged Hassan al Shammari to return 
to government. 
11. (S) The President briefed on his recent visit to Kirkuk. 
He urged the Turkmen bloc to return to the Kirkuk provincial 
council and agreed to their list of demands on power-sharing 
BAGHDAD 00000456  003 OF 003 
and increased rights.  "I signed the paper right there" and 
asked PC Chairman Rizgar Ali to make it happen, Talabani 
said.  The Turkmen bloc did not expect the agreement, 
Talabani commented, and probably needs to get guidance from 
Ankara before proceeding.  He also described implementing a 
provision in which Turkmen, Arabs and Kurds comprise 32% each 
of government jobs (with 4% for the Assyrian Christians) as 
important, but told Kirkuk interlocutors that it would take 
time.  Arabs have most of the jobs in the oil sector now, for 
example.  They cannot be fired so the impetus will be on 
generating new jobs that Turkmen and Kurds can fill. 
Regional Issues: Barzani Travel, Iran, Turkey/PKK 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
12. (S) Shaways offered that he believed KRG President 
Barzani's trip around the region soon would include stops in 
Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia and UAE. 
13. (S) President Talabani said the visit of Iranian 
President Ahmedinejad was now scheduled for early March. 
(Note: Iraqi MFA told us in a separate meeting that the visit 
would be on March 1. End Note.) The Ambassador urged Talabani 
to ensure that the visit is low-key.  The President responded 
that the Iranians wanted to sign agreement(s) during the 
visit, but Talabani declined as there were too many 
outstanding unresolved issues between Iran and Iraq, such as 
oil, Algiers Accord, Shatt al Arab, etc. 
14. (S) President Talabani made clear that he was very happy 
with an interview Turkish President Abdullah Gul gave to 
al-Jazeera on February 12.  Talabani said that the Iraqi MFA 
told him that the GOT had indicated that an official 
invitation for him to visit Ankara would be forthcoming 
within three weeks.  Good preparation for the visit will be 
necessary, Talabani agreed, and the GOI wanted U.S. help. 
Ambassador reminded Talabani and Salih about the importance 
of keeping and strengthening the measures in place against 
the PKK and asked about arrests.  Talabani replied that the 
PKK are all hiding in Iran now; PJAK has stopped anti-Iranian 
activity and the leadership recently met in Iran.  Salih 
confided that he is very concerned about the coming spring 
and an increase in Turkish attacks.  The Ambassador 
reiterated the importance of KRG actions against the PKK, but 
also noted that the U.S. suggests to Turkey that it needs a 
political solution and a serious exploration of amnesty.  The 
Ambassador urged ongoing and increased dialogue between GOT 
and GOI, to include the KRG.  President Talabani agreed and 
said that some of the dialogue was so sensitive (e.g., on 
Kirkuk, PKK, Iran) that it would need to happen at a covert 
level as well. 


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