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WikiLeaks: 2008-03-21: 08BAGHDAD864: Codel Levin Meets with VP Abd Al-Mehdi

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD864: March 21, 2008.

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


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD864 2008-03-21 13:32 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #0864/01 0811332
P 211332Z MAR 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 000864 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/18/2018 
Classified By: PolCouns Matt Tueller for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
1. (C) Summary: On Sunday, March 16, CODEL Levin met with 
Vice-President Adel Abd al-Mehdi at the Hakim Compound in 
Baghdad.  In a civil yet frank exchange, Senator Levin and 
Adel discussed a host of topics.  Focusing initially on the 
political and security environment in Iraq, Senator Levin 
pressed Adel on the necessity of a strategic pause after the 
initial drawdown of U.S. forces, the ability of Iraqi forces 
to assume the duties of the departing American forces, and 
the GOI's position on integrating the Sunni Awakening groups 
into the security forces.  Adel also attempted to explain why 
he vetoed the Provincial Law while assuring Levin that the 
matter would be resolved.  Though Adel appeared calm 
throughout the meeting, he became somewhat flustered when 
Levin questioned why the GOI was not contributing more of its 
resources to reconstruction efforts, given the tremendous 
budget it had.  Regarding Iraq's relations with its 
neighbors, Levin also expressed his displeasure about the 
warm reception given President Ahmadinejad during his recent 
visit to Baghdad.  The two also talked about relations with 
other countries in the region, particularly the Arab states, 
and the need for these states to establish a diplomatic 
presence in Iraq.  In addition to these issues, the 
principals discussed several others, including Adel's recent 
veto of the Provincial Powers Law, the need for a 
Hydrocarbons Law, the SFA/SOFA negotiations, and the status 
of the Chaldean community in Iraq.  End Summary. 
Security Gains 
2. (C) After beginning the meeting with general pleasantries, 
Senator Levin posed a series of questions about the political 
and security situation in Iraq.  Focusing on the surge, Levin 
asked Adel if a strategic pause after the initial drawdown of 
U.S. forces was really necessary, or could the U.S. continue 
withdrawing forces after the first five combat brigades had 
departed.  Responding calmly, Adel said that it was extremely 
important for the U.S. and Iraq to prevent a power vacuum 
from emerging, which could occur if the American troop 
withdrawal was done in a hasty manner.  In Adel's estimation, 
a power vacuum would not only  be damaging to Iraq 
internally, but it would also have external repercussions, as 
an unstable Iraq would be extremely dangerous for the region. 
 Noting that the security situation in Iraq was indeed 
better, which he attributed to the surge as well as the 
Awakening movements and the Jaysh al-Mahdi ceasefire, Adel 
added that now was the time for caution as the situation was 
still tenuous.  Although AQI has been significantly weakened, 
the terrorists were still capable of conducting operations, 
particularly in Mosul and Nineweh province, one of their last 
bastions of power.  Adel praised the tremendous strides that 
the Iraqi military 
has made, citing clashes between GOI forces and JAM elements 
last week in Kut, in which (he claimed) the GOI troops routed 
JAM forces. 
3. (C) Following Adel's commentary on the improved 
capabilities of the Iraqi forces, Senator Levin asked him 
point-blank if they were now ready to take over for the 
departing U.S. forces, and if so, why would a pause in the 
drawdown of forces be necessary.  While praising the GOI 
forces, Adel maintained that they still were not capable of 
assuming the American forces' duties, noting that the U.S. 
troops played an important role as "regulators" between 
neighborhoods and communities.  When asked why GOI forces 
could not take over this role, Adel attempted to dodge the 
question, finally responding that in contrast to the American 
forces, Iraqi forces are still not viewed as impartial.  He 
added that this would change in time, and that the upcoming 
elections would give the people more confidence in their 
government and institutions. 
4. (C) Adel also revealed that there were some concerns about 
integrating the Awakening movements into the GOI security 
forces, and then made a somewhat dubious claim that there 
were over 700,000 Sunnis involved with these groups.  When 
Levin disputed his estimate, asking him if he meant 70,000, 
Adel insisted that it was 700,000, and that the GOI had 
legitimate concerns about these groups and other armed groups 
outside the government's control. 
Legislative and Election Issues 
4. (C) Returning to Adel's comment about the upcoming 
elections and how they would give people more confidence in 
the GOI, Senator Levin asked him how certain he was that the 
Elections Law would be passed. Adel replied that he believed 
it would be passed within 90 days, adding that the law had 
already been sent to the cabinet for review.  Levin asked 
Adel if his recent veto of the Provincial Powers Law wouldn't 
BAGHDAD 00000864  002 OF 003 
impede this process and delay the elections.  Attempting to 
assuage Levin's doubts, Adel opined that the GOI would be 
able to resolve the issue and that elections would be held as 
planned in October.  Returning to Adel's veto, Levin 
mentioned that he was puzzled how Adel could selectively veto 
one item in a bill containing two other items. Adel replied 
that his veto was consistent with Iraqi law, and again sought 
to reassure Levin that the issue would be resolved.  Later in 
the meeting, one of Levin's aides asked directly why he had 
vetoed the Provincial Powers Law.  Responding that there were 
constitutional and legal issues that led to his veto, Adel 
once again told his audience that it was not a big issue and 
that the government would work out a compromise.  (Note:  On 
March 19, VP Adel withdrew his veto following an agreement 
worked out with COR leaders.  End Note.) 
5. (C) Turning his attention to the upcoming provincial 
elections, Levin asked Adel if he favored open list 
elections. Adel said that he personally favored an open list, 
but that this matter was up to the Iraqi Electoral Commission 
(IHEC) to decide.  Adel also explained that closed lists were 
used in the past at a time when candidates legitimately 
feared for their lives if they openly declared their 
Iran, Syria, and Iraq's Arab Neighbors 
6. (C) Switching to Iran and its influence in Iraq, Levin's 
questions appeared to put Adel on the defensive. Noting that 
he had met with General Petraeus earlier in the day and 
learned that the Iranians were still supplying EFPs and other 
weapons used by insurgents against American, GOI, and other 
Coalition Forces, Levin asked Adel if he could understand why 
many Americans were disturbed to see the GOI warmly welcome 
Iran's president to Iraq, given that Ahmadinejad's government 
was responsible for the deaths of many Americans. Reassuring 
Levin that this was a matter the GOI took very seriously, 
Adel explained that GOI officials frequently raise this issue 
with the Iranian government.  He also revealed that Sayid Abd 
al-Aziz al-Hakim had lectured Ahmadinejad on this very issue, 
stating that the Americans were Iraq's guests and that Iran's 
actions reflected poorly on the Iraqis as hosts.  In 
addition, Adel said that Iraqi leaders have tried to temper 
Ahmadinejad, constantly urging him to tone down his 
anti-American rhetoric. 
7. (C) Continuing on the subject of Iran, Levin asked Adel 
how Iraq would respond if Iran was successful in its pursuit 
of nuclear weapons.  Acknowledging that the introduction of 
nuclear weapons to the region would be a dangerous 
development, Adel added that the issue should be addressed by 
the UN.  In response to Levin's question about how the 
average Iraqi felt about Iran's attempts to acquire nuclear 
weapons, Adel dismissed the query, stating that the average 
Iraqi had much more immediate concerns.  He also reminded 
Levin that Iraq desires friendly relations with all of its 
neighbors, including Iran.  Highlighting the importance of 
improved relations between Iran and Iraq, Adel cited as 
examples the growing number of Iranian pilgrims visiting 
Iraq's holy sites, as well as the important commercial and 
economic ties between the two nations. 
8. (C) Adel said Iraq's relations with Syria were improving. 
Syrian propaganda against the GOI, for example, was much 
tamer than it had been in the past.  In Adel's opinion it was 
not just Syria that had changed its position but the region 
as a whole, and that Iraq was now enjoying better relations 
with the Arab world. Responding to this comment, Levin asked 
why the Arab diplomatic presence in Iraq remained lacking. 
Adel replied that Egypt and Kuwait were considering opening 
up in Baghdad, and said he was confident this would come to 
fruition soon. 
Iraq's Budget Surplus 
9.(C) Senator Levin told Adel that a lot of Americans were 
growing extremely frustrated with the continued costs of the 
Iraq war, which he estimated at more than $12 billion a 
month. This issue has been compounded by reports of Iraq's 
rapidly-increasing budget surplus, which he believed to be 
$60 billion, as well as reports that Iraq could obtain over 
$100 billion in oil revenues in 2007 and 2008.  He mentioned 
that both he and Senator John Warner have asked the GAO to 
investigate what Iraq is doing with its oil revenues. 
Noticeably taken aback, Adel immediately denied the existence 
of a surplus, and countered that this money was all part of 
the budget.  Continuing to push Adel on the issue, Levin 
asked when the Iraqis would begin using their own money to 
fund reconstruction activities.  Adel once again denied that 
there was a budget surplus, but finally conceded that 
financial mismanagement was a problem the GOI was working to 
BAGHDAD 00000864  003 OF 003 
address.  He also remarked that current U.S. reconstruction 
efforts were good, and although the Iraqi efforts could 
improve, they were better than in the past. 
The Kurds and the Hydrocarbons Law 
10. (C) Regarding the oil sector, Levin said that he was 
troubled by the recent agreements that the Kurdish 
government had signed with American companies, particularly 
the one with Hunt Oil.  Though Hunt Oil alleges that they did 
not receive proper guidance from the State Department, Levin 
said that State Department officials had assured him that 
they had and that their message was quite clear.  Concurring 
with the State Department's position, Adel rebuked the 
Kurdish account, assuring Levin that the Kurds were quite 
aware of what was and was not acceptable under GOI law.  He 
added that the GOI should devote more attention to this 
issue, and that the Hydrocarbons Law needed to be passed.  In 
response to Levin's comment that he heard the law was stuck 
in committee, Adel assured him that the different parties 
only needed to work out a few details, and that once this was 
done it would be sent to the Council of Representatives. 
SFA/SOFA Negotiations 
11. (C) Adel explained to Levin that the SFA/SOFA 
negotiations were extremely important to the GOI, and that 
the PM was leading the talks, with the assistance of numerous 
technical experts.   He also mentioned Deputy Foreign 
Minister Hamoud's role in the negotiations, and informed 
Levin that the Political Council for National Security would 
also play a prominent role in the talks.  Praising the 
Political Council, Adel told Levin that this institution was 
becoming much more involved in the issues of government. 
The Chaldean Community 
12. (C) An impromptu comment by one of Adel's aides about the 
large Iraqi-American population in Levin's home state of 
Michigan provided Levin the opportunity to question Adel 
about the GOI's role in protecting minority populations, 
particularly the Chaldean Christians.  After informing Adel 
that Michigan had one of the largest Chaldean populations 
outside Iraq, he proceeded to question Adel about GOI efforts 
to protect this community.  Noting that the recent kidnapping 
and subsequent death of the Mosul archbishop had upset many 
of his Chaldean constituents, he asked if the GOI would allow 
the Chaldeans to form their own security forces to protect 
themselves.  Adel responded that this would be reviewed by 
the GOI if the Chaldeans asked.  He also blamed AQI for the 
attacks on the Chaldean community, noting that though some 
JAM elements had conducted attacks in the past, this was no 
longer the case. 
13. (C) Before concluding the meeting, Levin told Adel that 
many opponents of the war believe that though the surge has 
worked militarily, it has failed to bring reconciliation and 
political progress, a point that was bound to come up during 
the upcoming congressional hearings next month.  Before 
giving Adel a chance to respond, Levin told Adel that 
National Security Advisor al-Rubaie had expressed a different 
view about the necessity of a strategic pause, claiming that 
al-Rubaie believed that troop reductions should continue 
unabated.  Once again, Levin asked Adel if a strategic pause 
in force reduction was really necessary. Adel said that the 
U.S. must be pragmatic about this issue, and that sufficient 
time must be allotted to assess the situation.  When Levin 
asked how long the pause should be, adding that the U.S. 
Secretary of Defense favored only a brief pause, Adel ended 
the meeting by saying he would have to give this matter 
further thought and that he would get back to Levin with an 
14. (U) Codel Levin did not have an opportunity to clear this 
cable before departing Baghdad. 

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