US embassy cable - 04BAGHDAD246

USEB 149: KIRKUK'S ARAB VILLAGES ADJUST TO TRANSITION; IMPRESSIONS ON THE ROAD TO RASHAD

Identifier: 04BAGHDAD246
Wikileaks: View 04BAGHDAD246 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Baghdad
Created: 2004-07-24 18:40:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PGOV PREF IZ
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 241840Z JUL 04
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0361
INFO SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHDC
UNCLAS  BAGHDAD 000246 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS:  PGOV, PREF, IZ 
SUBJECT: USEB 149: KIRKUK'S ARAB VILLAGES ADJUST TO 
TRANSITION; IMPRESSIONS ON THE ROAD TO RASHAD 
 
1. SUMMARY. The Arab villages west and south of Kirkuk are 
mostly poor and underdeveloped.  Thanks to extensive work 
by the Coalition Provisional Authority, USAID and U.S. 
military forces in the area, the USG has developed 
excellent working relationships with local tribal and 
political leaders.  A visit by Kirkuk Embassy Regional 
Office PolOffs on July 15 to two of these villages - 
Rashad and Yaychi - shows how villagers are adjusting to 
life after transition.  END SUMMARY. 
 
---------------------- 
U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE 
---------------------- 
 
2. Changes in Rashad and Yaychi since the handover of 
sovereignty have been significant.  Violence has decreased, 
IED attacks against U.S. military convoys are at a post- 
liberation low, and local authorities take particular pride 
in keeping their villages crime free.  Gaines Mills, the 
nearest military forward operating base to both Rashad and 
Yaychi, houses a unit from the Second Brigade Combat Team 
of the 25th Infantry Division based at Kirkuk Air Base. 
The base sits in a huge open field 30 kilometers west of 
Kirkuk.  The only other FOB in the area - McHenry -- is 70 
kilometers away and covers the villages of Hawija, Riyad 
and areas further west.  In all, the two FOBs cover 
hundreds of villages, conducting patrols and engaging with 
local leaders on a regular basis.  Officers from the U.S. 
Embassy's Regional Office in Kirkuk accompany them when 
time permits.  They visited the towns on July 15. 
 
------ 
RASHAD 
------ 
 
3. It took PolOffs 55 minutes to drive from Kirkuk to 
Rashad, 45 kilometers to the southwest.  Along the paved 
road, shacks sold ice, wheat and produce.  Lamb carcasses 
hung from hooks in the 110 degree heat of the morning. 
Along the way, a short bridge crossing an aqueduct flowed 
with water.  After the bridge, hints of greenery appeared, 
sunflowers and flocks of sheep and goats dotted the 
landscape.  Agriculture and livestock form the area's 
economic backbone. 
 
4. Rashad Township consists of 66 villages, some with as 
few as three households, some with hundreds, covering a 
large area of Kirkuk Province that stretches south to the 
border with Salah al-Din.  The main road from Kirkuk to 
Tikrit bisects the region.  Unpaved roads lead to some 
villages, while others have no vehicle access at all. 
 
5. A collection of mud and brick structures two minutes off 
the road make up Rashad, the main town in a district of 
20,000 people.  The majority of the population is Arab, 
mostly from the Al-Ubaidi tribe, one of the oldest and 
largest in Iraq.  The houses in the town blend into the 
surrounding brown terrain -- except for three new, white 
structures: the police station, the city council building, 
and the communications center.  Coalition funds built all 
three. 
 
6. Except for three policemen standing guard outside the 
new station, Rashad's streets were empty when PolOffs 
arrived.  The police chief's office was spacious and air 
conditioned but plain.  His desk was bare except for the 
desk set, an Iraqi flag and a telephone on one corner.  The 
telephone only recently started working -- the first to 
work in the township since the liberation. 
 
7. Ten men buzzed about inside the office.  Four wore 
traditional garb: headscarves and robes.  Two wore business 
attire.  The rest wore crisp, new police uniforms, all 
provided by CPA.  The men in traditional garb were shaikhs, 
including Shaikh Louis, the mayor of Rashad. 
 
------------------------- 
U.S. ASSISTANCE TO RASHAD 
------------------------- 
 
8. The U.S. military has provided USD 400,000 in assistance 
to Rashad since liberation, drawn from the Commander's 
Emergency Relief Program (CERP).  The money paid for police 
checkpoints, new schools, bridges, water trucks and the 
communications center. 
 
9. Shaikh Louis pointed out that the village's needs remain 
great: water, electricity, roads and a new hospital. 
Residents cannot safely consume the local well water, and 
the six water trucks that CPA bought for  USD 20,000 cannot 
deliver to all the villages.  If the Coalition were to pave 
more roads, Shaikh Louis said, water delivery would be 
easier.  Electrical service is erratic, and the mayor said 
Rashad needs additional electrical lines.  To get medical 
aid, citizens must be taken to Kirkuk.  There are two local 
doctors, but they are ill-equipped.  The police chief said 
that when one of his men is shot, there is no way to 
provide emergency treatment short of driving to Kirkuk. 
 
---------- 
CEREMONIES 
---------- 
 
10. At the city council building, the mayor and the local 
U.S. military commander raised the Iraqi flag over the 
building in a symbolic display of the handover from CPA 
authority to local governance.  Speeches followed, with 
town council members and civil servants braving the intense 
midday heat to attend.  Two U.S. government-funded members 
of the Kirkuk press recorded the event. 
 
11. The big event on July 7, when PolOffs visited, was the 
opening of the new communications center.  The center has 
the capacity for 500 telephone lines, where none existed in 
the town since the war.  Before the opening, residents of 
Rashad had to drive to Kirkuk to make a phone call. 
 
-------------------- 
THE KURDISH QUESTION 
-------------------- 
 
12. Few Kurds live in the surrounding area, but animosity 
toward them is strong.  Two policemen had been shot and 
wounded in Rashad the night before PolOffs' visit, one 
fatally.  Describing the incident the police chief said it 
was surely the work of "outsiders," meaning Kurdish 
infiltrators. 
 
13. There were also complaints about ministry offices in 
Kirkuk, many now dominated by Kurds.  For example, Rashad's 
leaders complained that the Department of Water, which is 
run by Kurds, has stopped up the water pipes that Arab 
farmers depend on to water their crops.  The mayor and 
others listed additional grievances: Kurds are taking Arab 
land and the Kirkuk police chief is biased against Arabs. 
When asked to provide proof, a shaikh left the room and 
returned with a DVD.  On the television screen, the Kirkuk 
chief of police was shown making what looks like a stump 
speech: "Kirkuk is not just a part of Kurdistan.  Kirkuk is 
the heart of Kurdistan."  He repeated the phrase twice. 
Rashad's political elite said they believe their case is 
open and shut. 
 
------ 
YAYCHI 
------ 
 
14. Yaychi is 60 kilometers northeast of Rashad and 
resembles its sister town in some ways: the brown hut-like 
houses; power lines running in all directions; and a few 
new buildings that stand apart.  In some ways, the two are 
distinct.  In Yaychi, the schools are painted with splashes 
of color, children play outside and people are on the 
streets even in the 120 degree midday heat. 
 
------------------------- 
U.S. ASSISTANCE TO YAYCHI 
------------------------- 
 
15. Where the police chief's office in Rashad was stark, 
the mayor's office was steeped with paperwork and pictures 
of himself with U.S. military personnel.  After greeting 
PolOffs, Yaychi's Mayor Abdul Kareem broke into a serenade 
of thanks for all the projects the U.S. has brought his 
people.  Yaychi has received USD 250,000 worth of U.S. 
military aid from CERP funds.  A man brought forward a two- 
and-a-half meter tall, one meter wide board filled with 
photos and descriptions of projects the town has completed 
with these DFI funds: new schools, new mosques, a renovated 
hospital, paved roads, new bridges, a police station, even 
a veterinary hospital.  He then handed certificates of 
thanks to each military officer in the room and had his 
photo taken handing them out. 
 
16. The local Coalition military commander gave a short 
speech that climaxed in the statement that these projects 
were a "testimony of a government that cares about its 
people."  Mentioning the oil pipeline that runs through the 
villages, he said that "attacks on the pipeline directly 
hurt the people of this community."  He also encouraged 
Yaychi's people to turn in to proper authorities those who 
would harm the township.  Mayor Abdul Kareem responded with 
the message that "our economy is improving....everyone has 
benefited from liberation," ending with "Thank you for our 
liberation." 
 
---------- 
CEREMONIES 
---------- 
 
17. The visit to Yaychi had the same purpose as the visit 
to Rashad  a ceremonial handover of sovereignty from CPA 
to the local government and a flag-raising in front of the 
city council building to mark the occasion.  A small group 
of people witnessed the ceremony and listened as local 
dignitaries make speeches.  Along with all the members of 
the Yaychi town council, the police chief from Rashad came 
as a visiting public figure.  He said he plans to combine 
the two localities' police forces under his command. 
 
18. With one ceremony over, the group piled into new, CPA- 
purchased police trucks for a two-minute drive to the 
highlight of the day: the ribbon-cutting at a new 
marketplace established with CERP funds.  The marketplace 
contained six cement stalls linked together on the 
outskirts of town.  The mayor and the U.S. military 
commander surrounded themselves with locals and created a 
ceremony for the ribbon cutting.  "Tomorrow," the mayor 
said aloud, "people selling food, drinks, clothing and 
other goods will fill these stalls." 
 
--------------------------- 
AGAIN, THE KURDISH QUESTION 
--------------------------- 
 
19. Of the 38 villages in Yaychi, three are Kurdish and 
another three Turkman, so residents rarely blame particular 
"outsiders" for town problems.  Still, during PolOffs' 
visit, council members poured their problems on the 
military commander and hinted at a Kurdish conspiracy.  The 
municipal departments in Kirkuk continued to ignore them, 
and the council members pointed specifically to three 
departments -- agriculture, water and municipalities -- all 
Kurdish-controlled.  The members said that they did not 
feel a particular discrimination against Kurds, the people 
of Yaychi only want the services they feel they are due. 
 
20. The complaints continued.  The mayor has to pay for his 
own bodyguards.  None of the department employees come from 
Kirkuk to visit them or hear their requests.  The local 
Government receives complaints in Kurdish and feels 
compelled to respond to the complaints, but has no Kurdish 
translators.  "Arabic is the language of the Koran.  It 
should be good enough for Yaychi," one council member 
concluded. 
 
-------------- 
OTHER VILLAGES 
-------------- 
 
21. The Coalition has assisted many other villages in 
Kirkuk besides Rashad and Yaychi.  USAID, for example, 
provided 13 km of paved road in the far southwest corner of 
Kirkuk province near the village of al-Asfar.  The project 
cost USD 557,000 of which USAID contributed USD 429,000 
drawn from appropriated funds under the Community Action 
Program (CAP).  The remainder came from local 
contributions.  Local government teams with AID contractor 
RTI worked with the local council committees in training 
them on preparing bid packages and making transparent 
decisions. 
 
 
Negroponte 

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