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WikiLeaks: 2008-11-09: 08BAGHDAD3538: Ambassador Presses Christian Leaders to Consolidate Gains, Contest Elections

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD3538: November 09, 2008.

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013 at 12:39 PM UT


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD3538 2008-11-09 10:56 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #3538/01 3141056
O 091056Z NOV 08 ZDK
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 003538 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/08/2018 
BAGHDAD 00003538  001.2 OF 003 
Classified By: By Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker for reasons 1.4(b) and (d) 
1.  (C) During a November 5 meeting, the Ambassador pressed 
four Christian leaders to consolidate the gains from the 
November 3 Article 50 vote and avoid the Sunni disaster of 
2005 by not boycotting the upcoming provincial elections. 
The Ambassador acknowledged that the paucity of seats 
allocated to minorities by Article 50 as passed was a 
disappointment to the USG but stressed the need for 
Christians to set aside their differences, contest the 
elections, and move forward.  In November 7 meetings with 
President Talabani and VP Al-Mahdi, the Ambassador urged the 
Presidency Council to sign off on the new legislation as 
quickly as possible; emboffs have vigorously pressed other 
contacts to do the same.  The four leaders expressed concern 
over the future for Christians in Iraq, particularly in light 
of the recent killings and intimidation of Christians in 
Mosul and what they perceive as past GOI negligence in 
protecting Christians.  The leaders said they were unclear 
who was behind the violence in the north, but the Ambassador 
said the USG view was that Al Qaeda, taking advantage of the 
complicated political environment, was responsible.  Bishop 
Wardouni raised the issue of compensation for MNC-I's 
occupation of Chaldean Church properties and his concern 
about security for the facilities once MNC-I leaves.  The 
Ambassador assured him of US commitment to the security of 
the property.  End Summary. 
Frustration Over Too Few Seats 
2.  (C)  On November 5, the Ambassador met with Chaldean 
Auxiliary Bishop Shlaimon Wardouni, Christian 
parliamentarians Younadam Kanna and Ablahad Afram Sawa, and 
Non-Muslim Endowments Director Abdullah al-Naufali.  Bishop 
Wardouni, who is Chaldean Patriarch Cardinal Emmanuel Delly's 
representative, launched into a bitter denunciation of the 
Council of Representative (CoR) November 3 passage of a 
Provincial Elections Law (PEL) that gives Christians only 
single seat quotas in Baghdad, Ninewa and Basrah (reftel). 
Wardouni lamented that Christians, the "original inhabitants 
of Iraq," were being treated as though they do not exist. 
According to Wardouni, after Article 50 had been excluded 
from the PEL passed on September 24, Christians had appealed 
to the highest levels of the GOI, to UNAMI, the USG, Grand 
Ayatollah Sistani, the Sadrist bloc, and tribal sheikhs -- 
all of whom agreed that Article 50 should be reinstated. 
Wardouni was adamant that Christians should reject the PEL as 
voted and demand greater rights. 
3.  (C)  Both Chaldean Democratic Union Party (Kurdish 
Alliance) leader Ablahad Afram Sawa and Assyrian Democratic 
Movement (ADM) leader Younadam Kanna espoused the view that 
CoR members and other senior GOI officials conspired to 
defeat an Article 50 that would have allowed three-seat 
quotas for Christians.  Kanna said he was lied to by senior 
GOI officials, including President Talabani and Vice 
President Al-Mahdi, and that Article 50 was ultimately 
sabotaged by KDP member Mohsin Sa'adoun (Kurdish Alliance). 
Sawa claimed that all protestations of support for minority 
rights and quotas were only lip service and that Christians 
were deceived by everyone, including SRSG de Mistura and CoR 
Speaker Mashadani.  According to Sawa, boycotting the 
upcoming elections would be better than accepting the 
single-seat quotas.  In contrast, Al-Naufali commented that 
the problem stems from the Christians' own disunity, and 
urged his co-religionists to convey a unified message. 
(Note:  At the conclusion of the meeting, Kanna handed the 
Ambassador a copy of a letter to the Presidency Council 
signed by both Sawa and himself.  The letter deplores the PEL 
as passed on November 3 and characterizes the legislation as 
degrading and insulting to the minorities concerned.  It 
further requests the Presidency Council to veto the PEL and 
return to the original formulation (three seats for 
Christians in Baghdad, three in Ninewa, and one in Basrah) or 
do away with this "shameful quota" all together.  End Note). 
4.  (C)  The Ambassador assured his interlocutors that the 
U.S. would have preferred a different outcome to the Article 
50 vote.  However, noting that the principle of guaranteed 
minority representation is now established, he said it is 
important for Iraq's Christians to seize on the gains and 
move forward.  The Ambassador stressed that a boycott of the 
provincial elections is not in anyone's interest, citing the 
Sunnis' disastrous experience in the 2005 elections.  He 
urged the Christians to unify and set aside some of their 
BAGHDAD 00003538  002 OF 003 
differences to achieve the common interests of the community. 
 Boycotting the elections, the Ambassador stressed, would 
only marginalize the community further. 
5.  (C) In separate meetings on November 7, the Ambassador 
urged President Talabani and VP Abel Al-Mahdi to sign off on 
the legislation as soon as possible.  The Ambassador noted 
that he had met the previous day with the Papal Nuncio, who 
had made the Vatican's position clear:  the Vatican supported 
the bill -- one minority seat for Ninewa Baghdad, and Basrah 
-- as passed by the COR.  Emboffs have followed up these 
conversations with similar demarches to UNAMI and other GOI 
Mosul Security Improved--But How Long Will It Last? 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
6.  (C)  Bishop Wardouni deplored the GOI's past negligence 
in providing adequate security for Christians in Mosul, who 
fled in large numbers after a series of killings in early 
October.  Wardouni said Mosul's Christians were relieved when 
the GOI did finally send security reinforcements, but he 
wondered how long they would remain.  Wardouni noted that the 
Bishop's Councils of Mosul and Iraq were pleased that an 
estimated 500 to 600 Christian IDP families had returned to 
Mosul.  He added there had been attempts -- he did not say by 
whom -- to offer the IDPs money to stay in the villages where 
they had taken refuge.  Kanna voiced suspicions that elements 
of the Iraqi forces in Mosul were themselves involved in the 
violence, adding that the GOI need to be pressured more on 
security for Christians.  Sawa commented that the reasons for 
the Mosul violence and displacement of Christians were 
unclear, and the GOI was not offering any explanation. 
7.  (C)  The Ambassador said that information available to 
the USG indicated that Al-Qaeda, taking advantage of the 
complicated political situation, was responsible for the 
Mosul killings.  PM Maliki's response -- ordering an 
investigation and sending additional troops -- was positive 
and suggested that changes would be made with regard to 
security measures in Mosul.  When asked if he was satisfied 
with the current increase in security, Wardouni replied yes, 
but expressed concern that the extra forces might eventually 
be reduced.  The Ambassador assured him that the U.S. 
believes the additional Iraqi Army units should remain in 
Mosul and would remain in close touch with the GOI. 
MNC-I's Departure From Babel College 
8.  (C)  Wardouni said when MNC-I forces began to use a 
Chaldean Church property, Babel College, in the Doura area of 
Baghdad as billeting in March 2007, Muslims accused 
Christians of collaborating with the "occupiers."  According 
to Wardouni, the Church never received any compensation from 
the U.S. Army for damages and now the MNC-I has begun to 
leave the premises.  Fearing that Muslims will loot and 
destroy everything as soon as MNC-I is gone, Wardouni said 
that if nothing is done by the USG to secure the property, he 
will air his grievances publicly.  Kanna expressed surprise 
at hearing that MNC-I was leaving so soon, and suggested that 
the Sahwa (Sons of Iraq--SOI) forces in the area could be 
asked to step in to protect the property.  He added that the 
Iraqi Army could eventually assume security responsibility 
for the Church properties.  The Ambassador assured Wardouni 
that the embassy would follow up to ensure the security of 
the premises and that strong liaison and communication 
existed between Christian leaders and the U.S. military, to 
their satisfaction.  (Note:  On November 6, Baghdad 1 e-PRT 
leader reported that Wardouni had met with him and U.S. 
military authorities the same day and agreed to recommend to 
Cardinal Delly that the Chaldean Church sign a lease for the 
period of U.S. Army occupancy at Babel College to include 
rent and responsibility for repairs on the building as well 
as a claim submitted under the Claims Act for compensation 
for the building's contents.  Wardouni acknowledged that U.S. 
forces are leaving, requested that the surrounding T-walls be 
left in place, and agreed that custody of the walls should be 
transferred to the Ministry of Interior.  Wardouni will make 
arrangements for the SOI to provide interior security; ISF 
will provide exterior security.  Further details will be 
addressed after Wardouni consults with Delly.  End note.) 
9.  (C)  Al-Naufali noted that the Non-Muslim Endowments 
Office (NME) has 650 security guards for all non-Muslim 
houses of worship in Iraq -- not even 25 percent of the 
number needed to provide adequate security.  The NME is able 
to provide security only for Baghdad churches and some 
Sabaean-Mandaean and Yezidi houses of worship.  According to 
al-Naufali the NME does not lack funds to maintain and 
renovate churches and other religious sites; the problem is 
non-availability of engineers and trained technical staff. 
BAGHDAD 00003538  003 OF 003 
Wardouni noted that the NME had submitted to PM Maliki and 
Deputy PM Barham Salih many requests detailing security needs 
for non-Muslim religious sites, but had never received a 
response.  He added that protecting the aforementioned Babel 
College would require 30-40 guards alone.  The Ambassador 
indicated that he supported their requests for additional 
guards for churches and other non-Muslim religious sites. 
10.  (C) While the leaders of the minority communities are 
indeed upset with the reduced number of seats for minorities, 
they have not yet made a decision to boycott the provincial 
elections.  Press reports indicate that the Presidency 
Council will approve the new legislation very soon, but such 
a move will likely only increase the ire of leaders such as 
we met with on November 5, who are digging in their heels on 
the threat of a boycott.  Such a move would be extremely 
short-sighted, and we continue to reach out to minority 
contacts to urge them to avoid a step that would only serve 
to undermine the relevance and stature of the minority 
communities in Iraq. 


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