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WikiLeaks: 2008-03-25: 08BAGHDAD896: Codel Levin Meets with DPM Saleh

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD896: March 25, 2008.

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2013 at 12:04 PM UT


Viewing cable 08BAGHDAD896, CODEL LEVIN MEETS WITH DPM SALEH

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD896 2008-03-25 16:07 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Baghdad
VZCZCXYZ0210
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHGB #0896/01 0851607
ZNY SSSSS ZZH (CCY AD74305C MSI2009-695)
P 251607Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6419
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
S E C R E T BAGHDAD 000896 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
C O R R E C T E D COPY CAPTION 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/16/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PARM XF IZ IR
SUBJECT: CODEL LEVIN MEETS WITH DPM SALEH 
 
Classified By: EMIN Charles P. Ries, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
1. (S) In a cordial meeting on March 16, Deputy Prime 
Minister Barham Saleh told Senator Carl Levin that recent 
political developments were proof that the Iraqi political 
system was working.  He expressed confidence that provincial 
elections would take place in October.  Saleh acknowledged 
there were sectarian problems within the Maliki-led 
government, but argued the fundamental issue transcended the 
office of prime minister.  On Iran, Saleh said its influence 
in was Iraq "excessive" and called for a US-led "regional 
architecture" to contain it.  While denying he had 
intelligence on the matter, Saleh shared his personal belief 
that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons.  Senator Levin said 
more Iraqi oil revenue should fund reconstruction efforts, 
and Saleh agreed that Iraq should share more of the 
responsibility through a fund matching program.  Senator 
Levin also raised his concern over the safety of 
Assyrian-Chaldean Christian groups in northern Iraq; Saleh 
promised to take all necessary actions to protect these 
communities.  End Summary. 
 
2. (U) The 45 minute meeting between Deputy Prime Minister 
(DPM) Barham Saleh and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of 
the Senate Armed Services Committee, took place at the DPM's 
residence on March 16.  Senator Levin was accompanied by Rick 
Debobes, Majority Staff Director for the Senate Armed 
Services Committee, William Monahan, Majority Counsel for the 
Senate Armed Services Committee, as well as the Embassy's 
Deputy Legislative Affairs Advisor and econoff (notetaker). 
 
 
POLITICAL PROGRESS AND PROVINCIAL ELECTIONS 
------------------------------------------- 
 
3. (C) DPM Saleh told Senator Levin that recent political 
developments were proof that the Iraqi political system was 
working, and expressed confidence that provincial elections 
would take place in October.  Saleh said the February 13 
trifecta of benchmark legislation was further proof; each of 
the three laws benefited Kurd, Sunni, and Shia, respectively. 
 Asked by Senator Levin about Vice President Abdel Medhi's 
veto of the Provincial Powers law, Saleh conceded it was a 
setback but remained hopeful that Abdel Mehdi would 
reconsider.  Saleh stated he knew of the veto before the COR 
passed the bill and said MPs had "taken for granted" the 
Presidency Council's support for the law.  To Senator Levin's 
question whether the veto would delay provincial elections in 
October, Saleh replied, "I am as confident as one can be in 
Iraq that elections will take place."  The DPM said Abdel 
Medhi still supported the October elections, adding that many 
citizens were eager to hold local and national 
representatives accountable.  Saleh also predicted that a 
larger proportion of Sunni would participate in the 
provincial elections than Shia.  On political reconciliation, 
Saleh complained that Tawafuq cabinet ministers continued to 
boycott the government and suggested that the GOI reduce the 
size of the cabinet from 36 to about 23. 
 
SALEH ON SECTARIANISM IN MALIKI GOVERNMENT 
------------------------------------------ 
 
4. (S) Senator Levin inquired whether Prime Minister Maliki 
was beholden to sectarian influences.  Prefacing his answer 
with "Remember, he's my boss," Saleh acknowledged there were 
sectarian problems within the Maliki-led government, but 
argued the fundamental issue transcended the office of prime 
minister.  Saleh said Maliki was constrained by political 
"shackles" and explained that if Sunni groups viewed the 
government as sectarian, this was indication enough that the 
administration was not sufficiently reaching out to them. 
 
IRAN 
---- 
 
5. (S/NF) Saleh said Iranian influence in Iraq was 
"excessive" and called for more involvement from Arab 
countries to contain it.  Lamenting a lack of Arab diplomatic 
presence here and arguing the United States alone could not 
counter nefarious Iranian influence, Saleh called for a 
"regional architecture with the US as a key pillar."  Iran 
should be a part of that architecture, Saleh said, but on USG 
terms.  Saleh also stated the USG should have more direct 
engagement with Iran.  When Senator Levin pointed out that 
many in the US did not appreciate the GOI having hosted 
Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Saleh replied, "The United 
States may someday leave Iraq.  But Iranians will always be 
next door to us, so we have to deal with them." 
 
6. (S/NF) Responding to a question on a possible Iranian 
nuclear weapon program, Saleh said he thought Iran was indeed 
pursuing such a capability.  Saleh denied having specific 
intelligence on nuclear weapons, but cited Iran's 
"self-importance" and "expansionist" foreign policy in 
supporting his personal belief, "There is no way Iran isn't 
seeking nukes."  He said Iran was threatened by a 
nuclear-armed Israel and India, but recalled that senior 
Iranian officials had specifically expressed concern to him 
over the threat of a "Sunni Pakistan with nukes." 
 
WHO SHOULD PAY FOR RECONSTRUCTION? 
---------------------------------- 
 
7. (C) Senator Levin said more Iraqi oil revenue should fund 
reconstruction efforts, and Saleh agreed that Iraq should 
share more of the responsibility.  Stating, "You have a 
surplus, we have a deficit," Senator Levin questioned why the 
US was shouldering the burden of reconstruction efforts. 
Saleh agreed, and called for a "partnership" in 
reconstruction, whereby the GOI would match USG funds in such 
projects.  Praising USG assistance in budget execution, Saleh 
pointed out that the GOI had successfully spent 63 percent of 
its investment budget in 2007, up from 24 percent in 2006. 
Saleh stated he would be presenting a plan for the injection 
of 5 billion USD, carried over from the 2007 budget, to be 
used for "major" public works, such as schools and hospitals. 
 
BISHOP'S MURDER RAISES CONCERNS 
------------------------------- 
 
8. (U) Senator Levin raised his concern over the safety of 
Assyrian-Chaldean Christian groups in northern Iraq, and 
Saleh promised to take all necessary actions to protect these 
communities.  Senator Levin said the recent killing of Bishop 
Faraj Rahho in Mosul highlighted security concerns facing 
Iraqi Christians.  What they need more than anything is to be 
able to defend themselves, Senator Levin said.  Saleh 
discouraged the Christian groups from forming Sunni-like self 
defense groups, stating this would make them more of a target 
of violence.  He promised Senator Levin that he would raise 
the issue with Iraqi security forces. 
 
IRAQI VIEW ON US ELECTIONS? 
--------------------------- 
 
9. (C) In response to Senator Levin's question about how 
Iraqis viewed American presidential elections, Saleh 
responded, "Do you want to hear the truth...or its cousin?," 
then answered that the political elite preferred Senator John 
McCain.  Saleh went on to state the Iraqi public was 
"intrigued" by Senator Barack Obama, but added that Senator 
McCain's "steady record on Iraq" was "appealing."  He also 
said AQI and Iran were closely watching the U.S. election, 
and expressed his hope that it would not cause instability in 
Iraq. 
 
10. (U) Senator Levin has not cleared this message. 
CROCKER

 



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