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WikiLeaks: 2008-11-05: 08BAGHDAD3506: Christian Leaders Disappointed in Quotas Outcome; UNAMI More Positive

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD3506: November 05, 2008.

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013 at 12:35 PM UT


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD3506 2008-11-05 11:24 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #3506/01 3101124
P 051124Z NOV 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 003506 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/05/2018 
Classified By: By Political Counselor Robert S. Ford for reasons 1.4(b) 
 and (d). 
Summary and Comment 
1.  (C)   Several prominent Christian leaders expressed 
bitter disappointment over the single-seat minority quotas in 
the Provincial Elections Law (PEL) passed on November 3 
(reftel), and several minority groups issued a joint protest 
statement on November 4.  While all were frustrated, views on 
why the quotas for minorities, and especially Christians, who 
believe their greater numbers entitle them to more seats, 
were reduced to only single seats differed.  Their ideas on 
what Christians should do next to register their dismay also 
vary.  UNAMI had put forward a proposal that would have given 
more seats to Christian minorities, but it views the November 
3 PEL outcome as a step forward for minorities.  We share 
UNAMI's view that the Council of Representatives has 
acknowledged the principle of minority rights, even if the 
seats fall short of the desired outcome from the minorities' 
point of view.  Christian political leaders likely will keep 
pushing for a larger quota of seats in selected provincial 
councils for the 2009 and future provincial elections.  The 
Ambassador had urged Parliament speaker Mashadani and Vice 
President Abdel Mehdi from the main Shia Islamist bloc to 
support the original UNAMI proposal.  Looking forward, the 
Embassy is in constant contact with a variety of Christian 
and other minority group activists as the Christian political 
leaders themselves ponder their next steps.  End summary and 
Unrealistic Expectations 
2.  (C)  Yonadem Kanna, a parliamentarian and leader of the 
Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM), bitterly complained to 
PMIN on November 4 about the Council of Representatives' 
setting aside only one seat for Christians in Ninewah and 
Baghdad during its November 3 vote on Article 50 of the 
Provincial Elections.  He said the parliament's Sunni Arab 
and Shia majority had refused to grant more because they 
feared that a larger Christian contingent in the Ninewah 
provincial council would team up with the eventual Kurdish 
contingent to reach the one-third of the council's membership 
required by law to seek integration of Ninewah into the 
Kurdish Regional Government.   (Comment:  another prominent 
parliamentarian, Hamid Musa of the Iraqi Communist party, 
explained the political calculation in the exact same terms 
on November 4.  Anti-Kurdish parliamentarian Hanan Qeddo, 
from the Ninewah Shebak community, went a step further and 
charged that the Kurds had encouraged Kanna to seek three 
seats in Ninewah knowing that it would trigger the backlash 
from the Sunni Arabs and Shia and thus make the Kurds look 
better.  End Comment.)  Kanna acknowledged it was unlikely 
there would be yet another amendment to change minority 
representation for the councils elected in 2009.  He said the 
Christian leadership might call for a boycott.   PMIN 
cautioned against a boycott, noting that the Iraqi Christians 
instead should mobilize their voters to lock in the official 
recognition that they had secured and to demonstrate that the 
set-aside for them does not reflect the true numbers of 
Iraq's Christian communities. 
3.  (C)  Hashim Al-Ta'e, chairman of the CoR ad hoc committee 
on provincial elections, in meetings with Deputy Polcouns 
before and after the September 24 vote, said that Kanna met 
with him numerous times to try to increase the Christian 
quotas.  Al-Ta'e said he believed Kanna's demands were 
unrealistic, told Kanna as much, and urged him to take what 
he could get.  Al-Ta'e pointed out that Kanna was not even 
satisfied with the original Article 50 (excluded from the PEL 
passed on September 24), which granted Christians 3 seats in 
each of Ninewah and Baghdad and one in Basrah.  Al-Ta'e did 
not say if Kanna had lobbied others on the quota issue; he 
might not have known. 
4.  (C)  Chaldean Democratic Union Party leader (Kurdish 
Alliance) parliamentarian Ablahad Afram Sawa claimed to 
Poloff on November 4 that the outcome was plotted by those in 
the CoR who oppose minority representation.  He noted that 
only the Sadrists and Kurdish Alliance supported the 
Christians.  Sawa said he and fellow CoR member Yonadam Kanna 
will try to get other Christians in the GOI, e.g., Minister 
of Industry Fawzi Hariri (KDP) and Minister of Human Rights 
Wijdan Salim (Independent) to  support an election boycott. 
Kanna and Sawa have already sent a letter to the CoR 
Presidency Council requesting that the PEL be vetoed, but 
BAGHDAD 00003506  002 OF 002 
Sawa acknowledged that it was unlikely that would happen a 
second time. 
5.  (U) Assyrian, Turkmen, Yezidi, and Mandean leaders issued 
a joint statement November 4 protesting the November 3 vote, 
denouncing "political oppression against minorities in Iraq" 
and calling for a "reversal" of the COR decision as soon as 
possible in order to prevent the "marginalization" of "weak 
and vulnerable Iraqi communities." 
Advice for the Politicians 
6.  (C)  In contrast, Non-Muslim Endowments Director Abdullah 
Al-Naufali, told Poloff the same day that a boycott or a veto 
would serve no purpose.  Al-Naufali believes Christians in 
Iraq should organize large, peaceful demonstrations to 
protest the single-seat Christian quotas.  Al-Naufali 
believes Iraq's Christian religious leadership should meet 
with GOI leaders to drive home their concerns about the way 
Iraq's Christians' are being marginalized.  However, the 
underlying cause of this "defeat," according to al-Naufali, 
is not those who oppose minority representation, but the 
political disunity and disarray of the Christians themselves. 
 Al-Naufali urged the U.S. to help convince Iraqi Christian 
leaders that they must unite and speak up for their rights 
with one voice. 
7.  (C)  Journalist, human rights activist and Assyrian 
Democratic Movement (ADM) member William Warda told Poloff on 
November 4 that it was unjust to give Christians the same 
status as the Yezidis and Shabak (these two minorities also 
got single seats in Ninewa).  Warda's reasoning was that 
there are far more Christians than Yezidis or Shabak.  In 
addition, Christians are "better educated and qualified" and 
have "made greater contributions" to Iraq.  Warda said this 
unfair outcome will only encourage more Christians to leave 
Iraq permanently.  As for himself, he does not plan to vote 
in the provincial elections because "Why should I accept this 
gift (of one seat) from the racist Iraqi politicians?"  Warda 
believes many Christians will boycott the elections. 
Nevertheless, he agreed it would do no good to veto the PEL 
(as suggested by Kanna and Sawa) and delay the elections. 
That would only serve to strengthen the positions of the 
blocs in power. 
UNAMI:  A Glass Half-Full" 
8.  (C)  UNAMI official Andrew Gilmour told PMIN on November 
4 that SRSG deMastura perceived the November 3 outcome as a 
small victory for minorities; there are six seats guaranteed 
for minorities in provincial councils where before there had 
been none.  deMastura had never seriously thought his 
proposal of 3 Christian seats reserved in Ninewah and Baghdad 
would pass.  Instead, this had been an opening negotiating 
ploy, according to Gilmour.  The UNAMI team recognized that 
this outcome disappointed Iraqi Christian political leaders, 
but the official recognition of the Christian, Shebak and 
Yazidi communities was at least a glass "half-full."  This is 
only a beginning, Gilmour observed.  There would be other 
elections, and election laws, in the future.  UNAMI released 
a press statement November 4 that welcomed the decision to 
allocate specific seats to minority groups and noted that the 
amendment to the law does not give a larger representation 
for Iraqi minorities but urged the Presidency Council 
nonetheless to approve the amendment. 


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