US embassy cable - 88BAGHDAD1177

THE REGIME IS PART OF THE PROBLEM

Identifier: 88BAGHDAD1177
Wikileaks: View 88BAGHDAD1177 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Baghdad
Created: 1988-03-02 09:51:00
Classification: SECRET
Tags: PREL IZ
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 020951Z MAR 88
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6461
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 01177 
 
E.O. 12356: DECL:OADR 
TAGS:  PREL IZ 
SUBJECT: THE REGIME IS PART OF THE PROBLEM 
 
1.  (SECRET-ENTIRE TEXT) 
 
2.  SUMMARY.  IRAQI MORALE IS AT A LOW POINT, ALTHOUGH 
IRAQIS REMAIN AS WEARILY DETERMINED AS EVER NOT TO 
LOSE THE WAR.  SEVERAL RECENT GOVERNMENT ACTIONS -- 
RENEWED POPULAR ARMY RECRUITING, THE EX POST FACTO 
CANCELLATION OF AN AMNESTY FOR DESERTERS, AND THE 
BUNGLED EVACUATION EXERCISE -- ARE LARGELY RESPONSIBLE 
FOR THIS DIP.  EROSION OF LIVING STANDARDS THROUGH 
INFLATION REMAINS A SERIOUS LONG TERM PROBLEM.  THE 
RECENT MISSILE EXCHANGE HAS ADDED TO CIVILIAN FEARS. 
IT HAS ALSO GIVEN A BOOST TO THE MORALE OF SOME TO 
SEE IRAQ ABLE TO STRIKE BACK AT TEHRAN, BUT THIS 
POSITIVE EFFECT WILL DISSIPATE IF THE EXCHANGE 
CONTINUES VERY LONG.  OFFICIAL BRAVADO IS A RESULT 
OF LOCAL MACHISMO AND A DESIRE TO BOOST SAGGING 
HOME-FRONT MORALE.  END SUMMARY. 
 
3.  IN THE OPINION OF THE AMBASSADOR, CIVILIAN MORALE 
IN BAGHDAD IS CURRENTLY LOWER THAN AT ANY TIME DURING 
HIS THIRTY-NINE MONTHS AT POST.  WHILE THE QUESTION 
MAY NOT BE CRITICAL FOR IRAQ, SINCE IRAQIS SOMEHOW 
DO AND MUST KEEP ON WITH THEIR DAILY LIVES IN THE 
FACE OF OFFICIAL COMPULSION AND POSSESS A GENUINE 
IF WEARY DETERMINATION NOT TO BE DEFEATED BY A 
DESPISED IRANIAN REGIME, THE PSYCHOLOGICAL BURDEN 
IS MORE ANGUISHING NOW THAN IN RECENT MEMORY. 
 
4.  UNFORTUNATELY FOR THE IRAQIS, MUCH OF THE ADDED 
BURDEN ON MORALE IS DUE DECISIONS AND MISCALCULATIONS 
BY THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT IN RECENT MONTHS, INCLUDING: 
 
-- 1) A MAJOR REAPPEARANCE OF POPULAR ARMY PRESS GANGS 
AFTER AN ABSENCE OF A YEAR.  ONE EXPLANATION IS THAT THE 
REGIME IS RAISING UNITS TO REPLACE KURDISH TRIBAL 
IRREGULAR UNITS DOING GARRISON AND REAR-AREA PATROL DUTY, 
SINCE THESE UNITS ARE CONSIDERED EVEN LESS RELIABLE 
IN THE WAKE OF THE GOVERNMENT'S WHOLESALE DESTRUCTION 
OF KURDISH VILLAGES.  (THE STREET RUMOR IS THAT 
THREE-FOURTHS OF THE NEW PA FORCES WILL GO NORTH TO 
KURDISTAN;ONE FOURTH TO GUARD PIPELINE.)  MIDDLE-AGED 
BAGHDADIS REALLY FEAR DUTY IN KURDISTAN, EXPECTING 
TO HAVE THEIR THROATS CUT IN THE DARK OF NIGHT. 
ANOTHER EXPLANATION IS THAT AFTER A YEAR OF RECRUITING 
INACTIVITY, MANY PA UNITS ARE DUE TO BE DEMOBILIZED 
AFTER THEIR FOURTEEN MONTHS DUTY PERIOD AND MUST NOW 
BE REPLACED WHOLESALE. 
 
-- 2) THE EX POST FACTO CANCELLATION BY SADDAM OF THE 
LAST AMNESTY DECLARED IN JANUARY.  MANY IRAQIS 
ACCUSE THE REGIME OF LURING DESERTERS IN TO SENTENCE 
THEM TO PRISON AND SOME TO EXECUTION.  THIS PERCEIVED 
DOUBLE-DEALING HAS HARMED THE REGIME'S ALREADY POOR 
CREDIBILITY WITH ITS OWN PEOPLE. 
 
-- 3) THE BUNGLED EVACUATION EXERCISE CANCELLED IN 
LATE FEBRUARY.  THE GOVERNMENT'S CHARACTERISTIC 
FAILURE TO EXPLAIN ITSELF AND THE POPULATION'S USUAL 
PENCHANT FOR WILD RUMORS IN THE TOTAL ABSENCE OF 
RELIABLE INFORMATION SOWED REAL PANIC, WITH RUMORS OF 
IMPENDING NUCLEAR ATTACK, CHEMICAL WARFARE, AND FLOODING 
DUE TO THE COLLAPSE OF THE SADDAM TIGRIS DAM NEAR 
MOSUL. 
 
5.  A LONGER TERM SERIOUS PROBLEM FOR IRAQIS REMALNS 
THE STEADY EROSION OF THEIR STANDARD OF LIVING 
THROUGH STEADY INFLATION IN THE FACE OF A NINE-YEAR 
GOVERNMENT WAGE FREEZE AND THE DRAFTING ONE AFTER 
ANOTHER OF WORKING MALE FAMILY MEMBERS.  A HIGH 
GOVERNMENT MONTHLY SALARY OF 250 DINARS (800 DOLLARS 
AT THE OFFICIAL RATE, 125 AT THE BLACK MARKET AND 
REAL VALUE RATE) BUYS LITTLE WHEN MEAT ON THE BONE 
COSTS NINE DINARS A KILO AND A KILO OF FRUITS OR 
VEGETABLES TWO TO THREE DINARS. 
 
6.  ONE NOTICEABLE RESULT OF THESE CURRENT PRESSURES 
HAS BEEN THE GROWING NUMBER OF BAGHDADIS MOVING THEIR 
FAMILIES OUT OF THE CITY OR MAKING ALTERNATIVE 
EMERGENCY ACCOMMODATIONS ARRANGEMENTS ELSEWHERE. 
THE EVACUATION EXERCISE AND THE LATEST MISSILE EXCHANGE 
WITH IRAN HAVE ACCELERATED THIS TREND.  (THE 
AMBASSADOR'S NEAREST NEIGHBOR, ONE OF IRAQ'S RICHEST 
BUSINESSMEN, HAS DECAMPED TO MOSUL AND POORER PEOPLE 
ARE TRYING TO MOVE IN WITH RELATIVES ELSEWHERE.)  WE DO 
NOT EXPECT ANY WHOLESALE FLIGHT, BUT TRAFFIC IN BADHDAD 
IS CURRENTLY NOTICEABLY LIGHTER THAN USUAL. 
 
7.  IT REMAINS TO BE SEEN WHAT THE LONGER-TERM EFFECT 
OF THE MISSILE EXCHANGE WILL BE.  FOR MANY, IF NOT 
MOST, IT HAS MEANT FEAR.  OTHERS ARE PLEASED TO SEE 
IRAQ AT LAST ABLE TO RESPOND IN KIND AND IN FORCE TO 
PREVIOUS IRANIAN SCUD ATTACKS ON BAGHDAD AND HOPE IT 
WILL FRIGHTEN IRAN FROM FURTHER ATTACKS.  IF, AS WE 
WOULD EXPECT, IRAN RESPONDS INSTEAD WITH MORE SCUDS, 
THESE LATTER PEOPLE WILL LIKELY LOSE THIS OPTIMISTIC 
INTERPRETATION.  FINALLY SOME GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, 
INCLUDING A NORMALLY PACIFIC MFA SOURCE, ARGUE THAT 
IRAQ SHOULD ENCOURAGE A MAJOR IRANIAN ATTACK SINCE THE 
IRAQI ARMY HAS NEVER BEEN STRONGER, ITS MORALE BETTER, 
WHILE THE IRANIANS ARE HAVING DIFFICULTY MOBILIZING. 
WE PUT THIS VIEW DOWN TO OFFICIAL BRAVADO ARISING OUT 
OF A RESURGENCE OF IRAQI MACHISMO AND A DESIRE TO 
COMBAT SAGGING HOME-FRONT MORALE. 
 
 
NEWTON 

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