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WikiLeaks: 2008-09-01: 08BAGHDAD2809: Erbil: S/A Krajeski Meets with Angry KRG Leaders Preparing for Confrontation with PM Maliki

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD2809: September 01, 2008.

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2013 at 07:19 PM UT


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD2809 2008-09-01 16:18 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #2809/01 2451618
O 011618Z SEP 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BAGHDAD 002809 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/19/2018 
Classified By: Classified By:  RRT Erbil Regional Coordinator Lucy Taml 
yn for Reasons 1.4 (b,d) 
This is an Erbil Regional Reconstruction Team (RRT) reporting 
1. (C)  SUMMARY:  KRG officials are frustrated with the 
stagnation in the implementation of Article 140, dismayed 
about recent Iraqi Army attempted deployments into Khaneqin 
and other disputed territories, and fearful for their future 
within a federal Iraq if the perceived anti-Kurd sentiment 
growing in Baghdad continues to strengthen.  During an August 
24-28 trip to Erbil, Dohuk, and Sulimaniyah, Senior Advisor 
Tom Krajeski met with KRG President Masu'd Barzani and other 
senior KRG officials, all three governors, NGO 
representatives, journalists, and representatives of minority 
groups.  President Barzani complained bitterly about PM 
Maliki's growing power and ambition, and reiterated the KRG's 
close ties to and dependence on the USG for support and 
protection of their interests.  NGO and journalists chafe 
under KRG rule, but Kurdish popular support for uniting 
Kirkuk and other disputed territories with the KRG remains 
very strong.  Religious minority representatives acknowledged 
the improvements in their overall quality of life since the 
fall of Saddam,s regime, but expressed a desire for 
unification of and increased decision-making authority for 
their (still disparate) communities.  END SUMMARY. 
2.  Senior Advisor for Northern Iraq Thomas Krajeski, 
accompanied by POLOff Joseph Cassidy and POLMILOff David 
Howell, visited all three provinces of the KRG August 24-28. 
He met with senior-level officials of the regional and 
provincial government, political party leaders and religious 
minority groups. He also met with representatives of the 
independent media in Kurdistan Region.  S/A Krajeski 
reiterated USG support for the implementation of Article 140, 
the USG,s desire for the successful passage of the national 
Provincial Elections Law, the necessity of separating the 
Kirkuk issue from the passage of the law, and the desire of 
the USG for an equitable, peaceful and locally-generated 
resolution on the status of Kirkuk.  S/A Krajeski also 
conveyed the USG desire for a reduction of military tensions 
in Khaneqin district and increased diplomatic cooperation 
between the GOI and KRG on the political administration of 
the disputed areas. 
GOI and KRG standoff in Khaneqin at Risk of Escalation 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
3. (C)  In August 27 meetings with KRG President Masu,d 
Barzani and KRG Chief of Intelligence Masrur Barzani, S/A 
Krajeski voiced USG concern about recent confrontations 
between the Iraqi Army and KRG Peshmerga forces in the 
Khaneqin district of northern Diyala province.  He said that 
the status of the disputed territories should be determined 
via political and diplomatic means, not through military 
escalation.  Both the KRG President and the KRG Intel Chief 
responded by expressing grave concern over what they believed 
to be the overreaching of the GOI into Kurdish areas, with 
little regard for Kurdish authority or interests in the 
disputed areas.  KRG President Barzani has concluded that 
Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki's recent actions in Khaneqin 
underscored his growing "arrogance," and that Maliki's 
intention is that Khaneqin be the first step in using force 
to undermine the rights of the KRG as provided under the 
Iraqi constitution.  He believes that the GOI has no interest 
in cooperating with the KRG as an equal partner within a 
federal Iraq.   KRG President Barzani stated that the only 
acceptable way to determine the status of the disputed areas 
is through the implementation of Article 140, and that until 
there is a constitutional resolution to this issue, no Iraqi 
army presence in the disputed areas would go unchallenged by 
a KRG Peshmerga presence.  The idea that Khaneqin was only 
the first step by the GOI to encroach upon KRG autonomy was 
shared by the KRG Deputy Prime Minister Omar Fatah, who 
likened the current situation to a similar incident during 
the Iraq-Iran War, in which Saddam negotiated with the KRG to 
allow them to temporarily occupy Khaneqin due to its close 
proximity to the Iranian border, but then took it back and 
expelled Kurdish forces. 
4. (C)  On August 26, Senior PUK Politburo members Dr. Kamal 
Fuad and Omer Ali Said highlighted the continued 
counterterrorist cooperation between the KRG and GOI in 
Diyala and elsewhere, indicating that the KRG considered it a 
&sacred mission8 to work with GOI and MNF-I on 
counterterrorism issues.  The agreement between GOI and KRG 
to coordinate before Iraqi Army forces entered any 
problematic areas controlled by Peshmerga had been working 
well before Khaneqin.  The recent Iraqi Army actions there 
were uncoordinated and provocative, with Iraqi forces 
attacking the governor,s office in Diyala, killing his 
BAGHDAD 00002809  002 OF 004 
secretary and arresting other employees.  While admitting 
that a small (but not significant) Al-Qaeda presence existed 
in Khaneqin, Kamal Fuad characterized the district as a 
normally safe area, and suggested that Prime Minister 
Maliki,s move into the district had less to do with 
counterterrorism than to expel Kurds from the area.  The GOI 
was seeking unilateral authority to expel Peshmerga forces 
from disputed areas, and this is "unacceptable."  When the 
Peshmerga went to these areas, Fuad said, the GOI was 
informed and the purpose was to protect the areas.  The 
Peshmerga presence had been positive and there had been no 
tension with any ethnic groups.  The KRG was ready to 
cooperate to fight terror, but if the purpose was simply to 
expel Kurds, it would reject this; counterterrorism could not 
be the justification for the expulsion of Kurds from disputed 
areas.  Fuad noted that the PUK and KDP leadership would 
continue to coordinate closely on Khaneqin, suggesting an 
unusual degree of party unity on this issue.  Fuad said he 
hoped that relations between the KRG and the GOI would 
continue to develop positively and that the KRG hoped for no 
escalation in Khaneqin, but stressed the message that the KRG 
was prepared to defend its position militarily in Diyala if 
5. (C)  Governor of Sulaimaniyah Dana Majeed told us of Prime 
Minister Maliki,s decision to remove Iraqi Army troops from 
around Khaneqin city and expressed hope that the move would 
go far toward avoiding further escalation.  Majeed judged 
Maliki,s original decision to deploy IA to Khaneqin as 
ill-conceived and criticized the Prime Minister for not 
having weighed the consequences of his actions.  Majeed noted 
wryly the political precedent being created in Khaneqin, 
suggesting that if demonstrations had proved to be a 
successful means of driving the Iraqi Army out of disputed 
areas, others would eventually follow suit.  General Mahmud 
Singawi, Deputy Commander of the PUK Peshmerga and President 
Talabani,s Peshmerga representative, claimed that the Iraqi 
Army was trying to destabilize Khaneqin, forcing a Peshmerga 
withdrawal that would then create a free hand in the area. 
General Mushen Bayuz, PUK Deputy Minister of Peshmerga 
Affairs, agreed that the action in Khaneqin was a concerning 
one that could lead to similar unilateral moves by Iraqi 
forces in other disputed areas.  Singawi had just returned 
from Khaneqin before meeting with S/A Krajeski, having 
visited to try and help calm the situation.  The KRG,s goal, 
he said, was to avoid escalation and to avoid war.  Public 
pressure, however, as a result of the unilateral Iraqi Army 
move into the district and the August 26 explosion in Jalalwa 
was mounting.  All ethnic groups had participated in 
demonstrations rejecting the Iraqi Army &occupation,8 
Singawi said.  &People are afraid.  If we do not support 
them, they may turn elsewhere.8 
KRG Offcials Deeply Suspicious, Resentful of Maliki, Growing 
Power of Baghdad 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
6. (C)  Both KRG President Masu'd Barzani and KRG Intel Chief 
Masrur Barzani expressed fears about the KRG's increasing 
marginalization from key decisions concerning the future of 
Iraq.  Masrur noted that the most important positions within 
the GOI have gone to friends of PM Maliki, while Kurds have 
been relegated to ineffectual positions outside of the 
&circle of influence.8  On this point, he pointed out that 
all positions currently held by Kurds in the GOI are the 
result of alliances formed between the Kurds and other 
parties, and that &we are only Iraqis when the GOI wants 
something from us, but we are Kurds and therefore separate 
from Iraq when we want to be treated as equal partners with 
the GOI and share in the administration of its government.8 
In both meetings, they alleged double-standards in the 
treatment of the Kurds as compared with other minority 
populations in Iraq.  Masrur highlighted Prime Minister 
Maliki,s refusal to fulfill the promise that he made two 
years ago to create two entirely Kurdish divisions of the 
Iraqi Army as an example of discrimination against the Kurds, 
noting that PM Maliki has already created two completely 
Shi,a military divisions. 
7. (C)  Both the KRG President and the KRG Intel Chief voiced 
their strong opinion that Prime Minister Maliki was making 
unilateral decisions about the future of Iraq without 
consulting the KRG and other key players in the GOI.  KRG 
President Barzani stated that, &It must be understood that 
Maliki cannot exceed the rights given to him by the 
constitution,8 and that Maliki was &behaving as a 
dictator,8 forgetting that the KRG had entered into a 
voluntary union with the GOI.  The KRG President added that, 
should Maliki continue to take KRG support for granted, he 
would be forced to consider withdrawing the security support 
assets that the KRG already provides elsewhere in Iraq.  S/A 
Krajeski responded by saying that this would cause relations 
BAGHDAD 00002809  003 OF 004 
between the GOI and the KRG to deteriorate further and would 
not serve the KRG,s larger interests of, for the first time 
in history, creating a secure and internationally-recognized 
autonomous region for the Kurds.  When Ambassador Krajeski 
suggested that KRG President Barzani voice his concerns 
directly to Prime Minister Maliki, the KRG President 
demurred, saying he is not boycotting Maliki.  (Note:  We 
learned later that Maliki had been refusing to take Masu'd's 
calls, but that they finally spoke the night of August 29. 
End note) 
Status of Kirkuk remains a charged issue and Article 140 
remains a sticking point 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
8. (C)  Beginning with a meeting with Deputy Speaker of the 
Kurdistan National Assembly Kemal Kirkuki, S/A Krajeski 
stated the USG position that the most equitable and realistic 
solution to Kirkuk is likely to come from the resident 
population of Kirkuk, not from Baghdad, the UN, or any other 
external entity.  He also conveyed USG disappointment with 
the linkage of the Provincial Elections Law to the Kirkuk 
issue and expressed the USG hope that all parties involved in 
Kirkuk be amenable to compromise in order to the facilitate 
an equitable resolution in a timely fashion.  He added that 
decentralization was good for democracy and ultimately, for 
formalizing the authority of the KRG, and that it was only 
through the passage of the Provincial Elections Law that 
decentralization could be codified.  He noted the unique 
opportunity for the KRG to, for the first time in history, 
create an internationally-recognized autonomous region, and 
expressed the USG hope that the KRG would not allow the 
inability to compromise with the GOI on Kirkuk and other 
issues to prevent the KRG from benefiting from that 
9. (C)  KNA and KRG interlocutors reiterated Kurdish support 
for the passage of the Provincial Elections Law, but also 
stated their position that the passage of the law should not 
come at the expense of Kurdish claims to Kirkuk.  KNA Deputy 
Speaker Kerkuki, as well as KRG Deputy Prime Minister Omar 
Fatah and the governors of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaimaniyah, 
spoke of the historical significance of Kirkuk to the KRG and 
repeated their staunch belief that implementation of Article 
140 was the only acceptable, equitable and constitutional way 
to determine its political status and that of the other 
disputed areas that the KRG has effectively administered for 
the majority of its existence (including Khaneqin, Akre, 
Faiyda and Halabja.)  KNA Deputy Speaker Kirkuki spoke 
negatively of the first round of UNAMI recommendations on 
disputed areas.  He also said that he and others were 
increasingly concerned that the GOI was becoming more hostile 
towards the KRG, that the GOI,s actions regarding Kirkuk and 
Khaneqin were indicative of their desire to isolate the Kurds 
and begin encroaching on their hard-won territory and power. 
(Comment:  Rhetorically, Kurdish officials move quickly from 
complaints about Baghdad's growing power to expressions of 
fear that Kurds will be targeted for extinction.  In these 
conversations, S/A acknowledged Kurdish fears but disputed 
the characterization of Maliki as just another Saddam.  End 
Comment)  To varying degrees, the Deputy Speaker,s views 
were shared by other KRG officials, including KRG Deputy 
Prime Minister Fatah.  Fatah made it very clear that it was 
not in the interest of any KRG official to recommend any 
alternative to Kirkuk being a part of the KRG, saying that 
anyone who did so would &be accused of treason.8  Both KNA 
Deputy Speaker and KRG Deputy Prime Minister alluded to the 
possibility that the people of the Kurdistan Region would 
&rise up8 if Kirkuk were separated from the KRG, and that 
they (the KRG leadership) would be unable to control them. 
10. (C) Former PUK Deputy Secretary General and now reformist 
outsider and media mogul Nashirwan Mustafa went further in an 
August 26 meeting, saying that Kirkuk had long ago become an 
emotional issue.  He said, &We fought for eight years in the 
name of Kirkuk,8 but also said that the Kurdish parties are 
cynically taking advantage of Kirkuk as a diversion to draw 
attention away from their own inability to provide basic 
services and improved infrastructure.  The recent low voter 
registration turnout was a protest, he said, against an 
ineffectual KRG leadership. 
Relations with bordering countries 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
11. (C)  On the issue of Iran,s activities in the region, 
Nashirwan Mustafa indicated his belief that Iran was playing 
a long and calculated game, using its wealth and links to the 
Shi,a, in the south of Iraq to expand its influence in the 
country.  The nuclear issue was a matter of dignity for the 
Iranians, he said, and urged the USG to continue its dialogue 
and pressure in place of any military action against Iran. 
BAGHDAD 00002809  004 OF 004 
Governor Majeed, who was PUK representative in Iran from 
2000-2003, offered his view that Iran was moving slowly and 
quietly, having cultivated public Shi'a support in Iraq 
through provision of services and through support of Shi,a 
holy sites in Najaf and Karbala.  Majeed believed that Iran 
was attempting the same type of influence in Kurdistan. 
Iran, he said, could become "like the USSR" if it was allowed 
to complete its nuclear program, and Iraq would be "among the 
first to surrender."  Majeed urged the USG to continue 
investment in Iraq,s security and economic viability as 
effective checks on Iran,s rising influence and power in the 
Religious minorities find safety, sympathy in the KRG, but 
are concerned about the future 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
12. (U)  In various meetings with representatives of the 
Assyrian and Yezidi communities, S/A Krajeski affirmed the 
USG commitment to the security, economic development, and 
political inclusion of the Christian and other religious 
minority communities of Iraq.  Representatives confirmed the 
accommodations made for them within the KRG and called 
themselves fortunate, relative to their co-religionists in 
the rest of Iraq.  That view was reinforced by the Governor 
of Dohuk Province, Tamer Ramadan, who provided information 
about the resources that the province has committed to 
facilitate the return of religious minorities to their 
ancestral homelands within Dohuk Province.  However, both the 
Yezidi and Assyrian groups expressed grave concern for the 
safety of those members of their communities who do not live 
within the KRG.  In addition, the Assyrian community 
expressed concern about their ability to protect their 
interests, even within the KRG, without some form of 
formalized political autonomy.  The self-selected spokesman 
of the Assyrian community, KRG Minister of Finance Sarkis 
Mamendu, openly stated the community,s intention to pursue 
formalized political autonomy.  He expressed his belief that, 
were he not in the position of leadership that he currently 
occupies, no one in the KRG would be able or willing to 
protect the advances towards self-determination that the 
community has already made.  When pressed for details on the 
exact nature of the autonomous-yet-integrated relationship 
the Assyrians sought with the KRG or with the GOI, KRG 
Minister of Finance was unable to provide specifics.  S/A 
Krajeski responded by saying that the decision on whether to 
create an autonomous Assyrian entity would be for Iraqis to 
make, not the USG, but that it would be politically 
controversial.  He said the USG interest is in protecting 
minority groups, whatever political jurisdiction they fall 


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