US embassy cable - 05BAGHDAD3018

CHARGE'S TOUR D' HORIZON WITH PRESIDENT TALABANI

Identifier: 05BAGHDAD3018
Wikileaks: View 05BAGHDAD3018 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Baghdad
Created: 2005-07-20 17:54:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PTER IZ SY KEDEM Sunni Arab Parliament
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 003018 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/19/2015 
TAGS: PGOV, PTER, IZ, SY, KEDEM, Sunni Arab, Parliament 
SUBJECT: CHARGE'S TOUR D' HORIZON WITH PRESIDENT TALABANI 
 
REF: BAGHDAD 2981 
 
Classified By: Charge d' Affaires David M. Satterfield for reasons 1.4 
(b) and (d) 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: In a tour d'horizon with Charge on July 19, 
President Jalal Talabani pledged to continue lobbying for 
Masoud Barzani's direct participation in securing a draft 
constitution by August 15, and urged Charge to travel to 
Salaheddin to try to persuade Barzani to come to Baghdad. 
Talabani said he had listened to the concerns of a delegation 
from the Sunni Constitutional Committee and pushed back on 
nation-wide federalism.  He proposed two options for dealing 
with the Sunni detainee issue, and floated a plan for a 
media-restrictive anti-terrorism bill.  He also reviewed his 
approach to gaining Syrian and Jordanian support in the war 
against terrorism.  Septel on PPK discussion to follow.  End 
summary. 
 
2. (C)  President Talabani told the Charge on July 19 that 
although neither he nor his staff have reviewed in detail 
Hamum al-Hamoodi's latest draft of the constitution, they had 
forwarded it to Masoud Barzani seeking input from both the 
KDP and PUK politburos.  Talabani said that as recently as 
July 18 he had urged Barzani to travel to Baghdad to help 
conclude the political negotiations necessary to complete the 
draft constitution.  He alluded to Barzani's crucial role in 
bringing around 'our extremists' and promised the Charge he 
would keep pressing Barzani to leave 'the mountain'. 
Talabani strongly urged the Charge to travel to Salaheddin in 
an effort to persuade Barzani to come to Baghdad "where he 
cannot maintain his hard-line position as easily as on the 
mountain."  The Charge remarked that final negotiations might 
best be conducted in Baghdad, so as to counter the perception 
that crucial decisions are being made in Najaf and Irbil. 
 
------------------------------- 
Sunnis Constitutional Drafters: 
Appeal to Talabani for Support 
------------------------------- 
 
3. (C) Talabani disclosed that a group of key Sunni Arab 
constitutional drafters had met with him to appeal for his 
support in ensuring that all Iraqis will be treated as equal 
citizens under the constitution.  (Comment.  Talabani replied 
"you'll have it as you did in the past," a reply that can be 
interpreted as reminder that many citizens were treated less 
than equal in the past, and that the Sunni Arabs should 
appreciate the new direction in which democracy may carry 
Iraq.  End comment.)  He also promised the Sunni Arabs that 
the Kurds would always side with the oppressed, as they had 
sided with the Shia under Saddam. 
 
4. (C) Talabani observed that the Sunni Arabs had shown no 
opposition to federalism as practiced in Kurdistan, but they 
rejected expanding KRG privileges to the rest of the 
provinces.  Acting Spokesman Dr. Ayad Samarra'i had argued 
that the expansion of similar authority to Shia areas would 
lead to the break-up of Iraq.  Talabani had countered that 
federalism is a modern form of government practiced not only 
in the Arab world (Libya and the U.A.E), but also in 74 other 
countries.  According to the president, the Sunni Arabs 
continued to press for decentralization to the provincial 
level, rather than to regional entities.  Talabani pushed 
back the Sunni Arab assumption that a southern regional 
government would automatically be under Iranian sway.  He 
stated the "Shia would follow Iran only if we don't treat 
them right".  The Charge rejoined that the Sunni position 
cannot be one of denying the rights of other people in order 
to protect their own. 
 
--------------------------- 
Other Potential Compromises 
--------------------------- 
 
5. (C) As on previous occasions with key ITG and 
constitution-drafting officials, Charge made clear that the 
Iraqi state or "people of Iraq" must retain ownership of 
Iraq's rich reserves of natural resources.  Legislation or 
budget measures providing for revenue sharing are fine, but 
it is essential that the state as a whole retain ultimate 
ownership of state resources.  Talabani suggested the 
desirability of assigning such ownership to the "state", but 
dedicating a share to the producing province.  He observed 
ruefully that Basra is responsible for 70 percent of Iraq's 
oil production and does not even have a potable water supply 
system.  (Comment.  If Talabani means "state" as the central 
government, the two sides are pretty close.  This would 
reflect a backing off of Kurdish demands for local control of 
resources as delineated in their draft constitution in ref 
A.)  Talabani listed three other Sunni concerns: 
 
-- provincial-based electoral districts (vice a single 
district slate); 
-- specific language on whether Iraq is a member of the 
Islamic nation or Arab nation (Talabani said Sunni Arabs 
oppose the "Islamic" version as it includes Iran.); and 
 
-- Article 58 and the resolution of Kirkuk's status. 
(Talabani said two members of the delegation, Kirkuki Hasib 
Saleh al Obeidi and now deceased Mujbil Ali Haseen al Shaykh 
had asked for a follow-up meeting on Kirkuk with the 
president.  The president said Obeidi had helped negotiate a 
protocol eight months earlier for a multi-ethnic commission 
to provide oversight of inter-ethnic conflicts and security 
related issues.  Talabani opined that Obeidi then abandoned 
this idea, telling Talabani that the KDP had barred his 
joining in efforts to diffuse tensions.) 
 
--------------------------------------------- - 
Resolving Non-Constitutional Issues: Detainees 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
6. (C) Talabani noted the real concern of the Sunni Arab 
delegation; namely, their perception of vigorous raids, 
detentions, alleged torture, and assassinations firmly 
directed toward their Sunni Arab brethren.  He proposed 
establishing a committee to review the charges the Sunni 
Arabs have raised, which would include representatives of the 
Presidency Council, Prime Minister's officer, Ministry of 
Interior and the Sunni community.  This body could review 
allegations, oversee investigations, and arrange visits to 
detention centers to allay Sunni Arab fears of persecution. 
Regarding raids, Talabani suggested suspending 'midnight' 
raids and requiring judges to issue warrants prior to 
detentions.  The Charge cautioned that any restriction on how 
Coalition Forces pursue terrorists would require 
coordination.  Talabani also said he had strongly urged the 
Sunni to condemn terrorism. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
Freedom of Speech While Waging an Anti-Insurgency 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
7. (C) The Charge raised the necessity for the Iraqi 
Transitional Government to prepare for the turnover of 
approximately 13,000 detainees now in CF custody, adding that 
many are very dangerous.  Talabani confirmed that persons 
whom "we believe are terrorists" must remain incarcerated. 
He reported he had requested a meeting with the Ministry of 
Justice to draft a law against terrorism.  He decried 
language in one newspaper celebrating the killing of 33 
American soldiers and characterizing their assailants as 
'heroes'. Reading the Charge's hesitant reaction, he quickly 
denied any such law would limit the opposition from 
communicating in a "political and positive way".  The Charge 
cautioned that directing the terrorism campaign against media 
sources might engender a backlash that could in turn harm the 
Kurds themselves. Talabani also protested the right of imams 
to preach "raise arms and kill" from mosques. 
 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
Fighting Terrorism: Talabani's Approach to Iraq's Neighbors 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
 
8. (C) The President said he had engaged in direct 
consultations with Jordanian leaders, and may travel to Saudi 
Arabia.  In discussions with Jordan's King Abdullah, Talabani 
noted, the King had promised to deal with the many Ba'athists 
residing there.  Talabani complained about various tribal 
chieftains from nearby Anbar province who receive terrorists 
in their homes in Amman and provide direction for future 
attacks.  He requested that the Jordanian government clamp 
down on inciteful 'propaganda' from Jordanian mosques.  King 
Abdullah acknowledged the weakness of the Jordanian Waqf, and 
said the Waqf minister would be stronger.  Talabani hopes 
that changes in the religious administration will moderate 
Islamic forces "which are not weak in Jordan".  Charge 
offered assistance in setting up secure communications 
between Talabani and King Abdullah. 
 
------------ 
But Syria... 
------------ 
 
9.  (C) Talabani said he also has communicated with Syria. 
He remarked that its citizens are highly dissatisfied with 
the regime, and that their conditions are 'bad'.  He engaged 
in speculation whether Bashar can consolidate his position 
against internal enemies or whether he simply is not up to 
the job.  The Charge replied that the USG does not want to 
force regime change, but rather to achieve a significant 
change in Syrian policies.  Talabani said he had urged 
Minister of Interior Bayan Jabr to lobby the Syrian 
leadership to "change the tune" of their media's rhetoric. 
E.O 1958: DECL: 07/19/2015 
The Charge replied that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and 
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could best influence the 
Syrians, and should be urged to do so by the Iraqi 
government. 
10. (C) Talabani noted that his relations with Mubarak are 
much better than with the Saudis.  Nonetheless, his military 
advisor had been contacted by an old Saudi friend, who has 
invited Talabani to visit the kingdom.  Talabani suggested 
the Iranians might be best positioned to exert influence on 
the Syrians.  The Charge noted this was hardly likely. 
Talabani rejoined that he had pointedly told Prime Minister 
Jaafari to confront the Iranians on their support for Sunni 
terrorists.  Talabani suggested that the Iranian motivation 
for such activity is to harm the coalition and, in turn, to 
focus the CF's operations against the Sunni. 
 
11.  (C) In our one-on-one, the Charge urged Talabani to help 
us maintain pressure on Syria to return Iraqi assets and to 
end its support for the insurgency.  The Charge reinforced 
concerns in Washington at the most senior level of the White 
House and State Department regarding Syrian intentions and 
the need to avoid handing Damascus a propaganda victory 
through a senior level visit by an ITG leader such as 
Talabani or PM Jaafari.  Talabani said his network of 
personal contacts with the Syrian regime had given no sign of 
positive action by Syria.  Talabani stated that he had no 
intention of visiting there anytime soon; "you can give my 
absolute assurance that I will not go." 
 
12. (C) Comment.  Sunni Arabs appear to trust Talabani far 
more than Shia leaders; his "tough love" approach may yield 
further compromise on the Sunni's part.  Although the USG-PUK 
relationship appears as close and cooperative as ever, it was 
apparent that Talabani sought to distance himself from the 
"extremists" who most likely produced the ambitious Kurdish 
draft constitution.  That said, it is not clear that he can 
make binding commitments without Barzani's implicit consent. 
End comment. 
Satterfield 

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