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WikiLeaks: 2008-05-15: 08BAGHDAD1514: KRG Boundaries Still Contentious on Eve of UNAMI's First Recommendations

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD1514: May 15, 2008.

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2013 at 12:51 PM UT


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD1514 2008-05-15 14:58 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #1514/01 1361458
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 001514 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/13/2018 
BAGHDAD 00001514  001.2 OF 003 
Classified By: Acting Political Counselor Greg D'Elia for reasons 1.4 ( 
1.  (C) Special Advisor for Northern Iraq Tom Krajeski in 
early May visited Kirkuk, Mosul, and Erbil to discuss the 
status of Kirkuk and other disputed internal boundaries in 
the run-up to the first United Nations Mission in Iraq 
(UNAMI) recommendations on resolving KRG boundaries. 
Ambassador Krajeski met with Kurdish, Arab, Turkman, and 
Christian leaders in Kirkuk city, Christian and Shabak 
minority leaders in the disputed Hamdaniya district of Ninewa 
province, and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials 
in Erbil.  Positions on all sides remain hardest over Kirkuk; 
the Kurds offer compromises on timing and the makeup of local 
government but demand the city join the KRG, while the Arabs 
and Turkmans lobby for &special status8 outside KRG 
control.  The minorities in Hamdaniya - one of the four 
territories UNAMI designated for early resolution - are 
similarly divided, with some Shia Shabak opposing KRG 
membership due to local Kurdish excesses, and some Christians 
hoping for KRG blessing to form an autonomous region of their 
own.  End summary. 
Kurds: No Compromise On Annexing Kirkuk City 
2.     (C) Kirkuk remains the greatest challenge.  At the 
national level, Kurdish leaders are offering what they 
consider compromises to ensure Kirkuk city,s entry into the 
KRG, including accepting the principle of shared 
administration among the city,s ethnic groups and the idea 
of splitting the province so that some districts remain 
outside KRG boundaries.  Neither offer is new, and some 
hardline KRG leaders continue to reject even these, but they 
represent at least a stated willingness among KRG 
policymakers to embrace pragmatism to soften opposition to 
KRG annexation. 
3.     (C) A newer, and perhaps a more significant, 
compromise is a greater willingness to wait.  In February, 
KRG President Massoud Barzani vehemently maintained that 
Kirkuk must be resolved by July 1, the end of the six-month 
extension that UNAMI leader Staffan de Mistura negotiated 
last December.  Only a few months later, Kurdish leaders at 
all levels acknowledge - in both public and private - the 
difficulty and inevitable sluggishness of resolving such 
contentious issues.  They now demand only demonstrable signs 
of forward motion during the six-month extension, so that 
they can show their population the process is yielding 
4.     (C) Local Kurdish leaders show little of the same 
flexibility.  Rizgar Ali, Kirkuk Provincial Council Chairman 
and probably the province,s most influential leader due to 
his high-level connections in the PUK, noted that the Kurds 
have little reason to compromise with Arabs or Turkmans ) 
Kurds dominate the executive posts, provincial council, 
ministries, and security forces, and time is on their side. 
This stranglehold on municipal and provincial power does 
little to secure Kirkuk,s annexation into the KRG, but much 
to render the area a Kurdish fiefdom in the meantime. 
Indeed, Rizgar Ali is not the only local Kurdish leader whose 
hardline actions probably exceed KRG policy and alienate 
non-Kurdish communities in disputed territories. 
Arabs and Turkmans Cling To &Special Status8 
5.     (C) Arab and Turkman interlocutors, however, continue 
to insist on a &special status8 for Kirkuk outside the KRG. 
 Few have defined exactly what this means, but most highlight 
the recent agreement betweent the Kurdish and Arab blocs on 
dividing Kirkuk's government posts ) 32% each for Kurds, 
Arabs, and Turkman, and 4% for Christians ) and a degree of 
provincial autonomy exceeding that of a normal Iraqi province 
but short of that of a formal region (since the local Kurdish 
majority probably would block a constitutional effort to 
incorporate Kirkuk as its own region).  Muhammad Khalil, 
Deputy Chair of the Kirkuk province Article 140 Committee and 
a Sunni Arab, emphasized the need to decentralize authority 
from Baghdad, but offered few specifics.  The KRG, 
predictably, continues to reject the &special status8 
proposal ) Masrur Barzani, KRG intelligence chief and son of 
the KRG President, declared special status outside the KRG a 
reasonable idea in theory but one that contradicts the will 
of the Kurdish majority. 
6.     (C) Another common Arab and Turkomen refrain is that 
the U.S. is responsible for resolving the issue, implicitly 
by imposing a final status outside the KRG.  Kirkuk Deputy 
Governor Rakan al-Juburi (a Sunni Arab) said the U.S. has 
misplayed the Kirkuk situation since 2003, such that the 
BAGHDAD 00001514  002.2 OF 003 
population believes Washington supports only the Kurds. 
Another Sunni leader, Abu Saddam, acknowledged the problems 
with the U.S. imposing such solutions, but still called on 
Washington to expel recent Kurdish settlers or find a way to 
resolve Kirkuk without their participation.  The Arabs and 
Turkomen probably realize that calling on the U.S. to dictate 
terms is unrealistic, but the demand reflects their ongoing 
distrust of the UN, fear of losing a referendum, and 
recognition they are fighting an uphill battle to remain 
outside the KRG. 
7.     (C) Opposition to joining the KRG is strongest in 
Hawija, the Sunni Arab-dominated district in western Kirkuk 
province.  Abu Saddam, probably the district,s most powerful 
tribal leader, said Hawija is a historical and inseparable 
part of Kirkuk province, the province could not join the KRG, 
and his many tribesmen would take to the streets if either 
happened.  The KRG for its part disavowed any claim to Hawija 
years ago and we have doubts that 
Hawijans feel such allegiance to their province, per se, but 
both Abu Saddam,s threat to mobilize and the broader 
risk of violence out of Hawija remain very real. 
Iraqi Turkman Front Fragmenting, Alienating Kurds 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
8.     (C) The Turkmans are struggling with a leadership 
crisis, and their voice in Kirkuk appears to be weakening. 
The Iraqi Turkman Front (ITF) is both the strongest and most 
hardline Turkman party, by many accounts entirely on the 
strength of generous funding from Ankara.  It controls nine 
seats on the Kirkuk Provincial Council, which it has withheld 
in an 18-month-long boycott.  One of these nine returned last 
week to the PC, and five others planned to do so until the 
intervention by Ali Mahdi, the ITF's predominant figure; it 
may, however, be too late to do much good.  The ITF has so 
alienated the Kurdish leadership that even moderate KRG 
leaders in Erbil have little appetite to work with them, and 
write the Front off as a mouthpiece for Ankara in any event. 
Time, however, is not on the Turkman side; their numbers in 
Kirkuk are far less than they claim, by some estimates less 
than 20 percent, and the community lacks any apparent 
military capacity. 
9.     (C) Kurdish officials in both Kirkuk and Erbil decry 
the ITF,s relationship with Ankara, although the ITF,s 
obstinacy probably is a greater irritant.  Kurdish officials 
seem to perceive the Ankara-ITF relationship is weakening ) 
Kirkuk Governor Abdul-Rahman Mustafa said Turkish influence 
is becoming less obvious in his province, 
Masrur Barzani said control of the ITF portfolio auspiciously 
is shifting from Turkish military to civilian intelligence, 
and Nechirvan Barzani assessed that Turkey ultimately will 
not intervene seriously in Kirkuk.  All three, however, 
dismissed the ITF as Ankara's puppet, which neither enjoys 
popular Turkman support nor merits 
engagement as a legitimate Kirkuki political force.  The 
Kurds to some extent are framing their parochial interest in 
Kirkuk as a matter of Iraqi sovereignty, but Ankara can 
indeed help the situation by remaining as far as possible 
from a political party ) the ITF - which does its 
constituency more harm than good. 
Referendum Equated With KRG Accession 
10.  (C) All communities treat the idea of a referendum as a 
de facto agreement to join the KRG.  Kurds often call for 
&quick implementation of Article 1408 or &resolving Kirkuk 
according to the constitution," both essentially euphemisms 
for scheduling a referendum they know the KRG will win.  This 
implicit confidence in the outcome of a referendum stems by 
turns from the Kurds' demographic edge, superior 
organization, and potential ability to stack a close vote. 
PC Chairman Rizgar Ali, a PUK insider and hardline supporter 
of KRG accession, counters concerns a plebiscite would 
destabilize the province by noting that the three nationwide 
votes since 2003 caused only minimal violence in Kirkuk. 
11.  (C) The Arabs and Turkman, for their part, call a 
referendum unworkable because of the large number of Kurds 
) Abu Saddam and others claimed between 600,000 and 700,000, 
many with no previous roots in Kirkuk ) they claim have 
arrived in Kirkuk since 2003.  (Indeed, UN officials in Erbil 
noted a disturbing spike in the voter rolls in 
Kirkuk.)  Some Arabs and Turkman say a vote can happen if 
these people leave or in some way cede voting rights, but 
ultimately treat the idea of a referendum with extreme 
suspicion because of the overwhelming resources they 
anticipate the KRG would put into winning.  The exception are 
Kirkuki Christians ) a delegation of them expressed 
casual support for a referendum as a just and democratic 
BAGHDAD 00001514  003 OF 003 
solution, but otherwise supported any peaceful outcome. 
Shia Shabak Renounce KRG Over Local Kurd Excesses 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
12.  (C) The Hamdaniya district of Ninewa province, one of 
the first four territories UNAMI has slated for resolution, 
is a prime example of an area initially attracted to the KRG 
for its superior services and security, but now partially 
alienated due to perceived abuses by local Kurdish leaders 
and Peshmerga security forces.  Nechirvan Barzani 
acknowledged that Kurdish leaders here and elsewhere may be 
alienating non-Kurds in many of the disputed territories. 
Some leaders of the Shabak, concentrated in Hamdaniya 
alongside Christians complain of discrimination and 
strong-arm tactics by district and provincial Kurdish 
leaders, including diverting water and resettling Kurds on 
others' traditional lands.  The Shabak leaders with whom we 
met, who are members of the Ninewa Provincial Council 
affiliated with the the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq 
(ISCI) and among the only Shabak with significant political 
clout, now fervently oppose KRG accession.  In contrast to 
opponents of KRG accession in Kirkuk, these Shabak leaders do 
not oppose a referendum, probably in the confidence that 
Hamdaniya voters would choose Ninewa province over the KRG. 
Christians Seek Autonomous Region Of Their Own 
--------------------------------------------- - 
13. (C) Christians in Hamdaniya are comparatively agnostic on 
whether to join the KRG ) at least some of them advocate an 
autonomous Christian region on the border of the KRG and 
Ninewa, whether under the GOI or KRG umbrella.  Leaders of a 
Christian umbrella organization called the 
Chaldo-Assyrian-Syriac Front and KRG Finance Minister 
Sarkis Aghajan ) probably the most influential Christian 
leader in Northern Iraq ) laid out essentially the same 
scheme.  The region nominally could answer either to the KRG 
or GOI, but would have its own Prime Minister, cabinet, 
legislature, and five percent allotment of the Iraqi budget 
(proportionate to what the Christians claim is their share of 
the Iraqi population).  Its territory as Aghajan described it 
would consist of a thin ribbon of villages along the 
Ninewa-KRG border, turning eastward into Dohuk province at 
the Turkish border.  Citizens in this scheme would vote for 
representatives at all levels - national, local, and regional 
if they join the KRG. 
14.  (C) The Christians are highly unlikely to get either as 
much territory as they want ) it currently includes Habur 
Gate, the only major border crossing from Turkey into Iraq 
and a huge cash cow for the KRG ) or five percent of the 
Iraq budget, since Christians probably make up less than five 
percent of the Iraqi population.  Nonetheless, KRG Prime 
Minister Nechirvan Barzani, a longtime friend of Aghajan, 
said the KRG could accept some of these demands, for example 
allowing Christians their own legislature and security forces 
under the KRG umbrella. Whether or not Christians remain 
under GOI authority in Ninawa or are incorporated into the 
KRG, the main concern is maintaining and improving their 
tenuous security situation in Hamdaniya.  Any plan to 
transition Hamdaniya from current peshmerga security to GOI 
and local forces would require careful management to minimize 
threats to Christian and other minorities. 


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