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Viewing cable 07BAGHDAD2838, VP ABDEL MEHDI TO CODEL VOINOVICH: PATIENCE, PLEASE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07BAGHDAD2838 2007-08-24 16:04 2010-12-05 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
VZCZCXRO9511
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #2838/01 2361638
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 241638Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2988
INFO RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC//NSC// PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 002838 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/23/2017 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINS KDEM IZ
SUBJECT: VP ABDEL MEHDI TO CODEL VOINOVICH: PATIENCE, PLEASE 

Classified By: Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 

1. (C) Summary: Vice President Adel Abdel Mehdi told CODEL 
Voinovich (Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), Sen. Lamar Alexander 
(R-TN), Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)) 
August 20 that an improved security environment and a change 
in the Sunni "mood" indicate that Iraq is making slow but 
significant progress. In reply to repeated questions about 
the Iraqi Government's inability to effect political 
reconciliation, Abdel Mehdi conceded limited progress but 
cited recent senior-level agreement on the broad outlines of 
de-Ba'athification, amnesty, and detainee release, as well as 
major private sector investment in mobile telephone 
infrastructure as grounds for optimism. The VP stated that 
Iraq has a "Sunni problem" that requires a "Shi'a solution" 
through Shi'a accommodation of Sunni fears and frustrations 
resulting from a loss of political dominance, and that he and 
President Talibani are working together to develop trust 
between Prime Minister al-Maliki and Vice President 
al-Hashemi. He said he shared USG concerns about malign 
Iranian influence in Iraq, stating that the Iran-linked Mahdi 
Army (JAM) was "probably" behind the recent assassinations of 
two southern provincial governors. He claimed that JAM's 
spiritual leader Muqtada al-Sadr has "only 3 percent" of the 
influence wielded by supreme Shi'a prelate Ali al-Sistani 
among Iraq's majority Shi'a population. A recurring meeting 
theme was expression of Senatorial impatience with GOI 
political progress met with Abdel Mehdi's plea for greater 
patience: Senator Voinovich closed the meeting by imploring 
the GOI to come through with a "dramatic" political 
achievement to ensure status quo USG support, while Abdel 
Mehdi asked the USG to not "throw away your past sacrifices" 
through a precipitate change in policy. End Summary. 

Sunni Problem, Shi'a Solution 
----------------------------- 

2. (C) In a 45-minute meeting with CODEL Voinovich, Vice 
President Abdel Mehdi stated that the last few months had 
seen a "shift in Iraq's situation" that went to the "root" of 
its core problem: Sunni fears and frustrations, "whether 
valid or not valid," caused by a loss of political dominance. 
He cited the willingness of Sunni leaders in Anbar province, 
"where all the trouble started," to battle al-Qaeda as 
evidence of that shift, and attributed a change in Sunni 
"mood" to "exhaustion" and a realization by Sunni leaders 
that they had run out of options. Using Northern Ireland as 
an analogy, he averred that insurgencies end when insurgents, 
even if not thoroughly defeated, realize they can not achieve 
their aims through violent means. Abdel Mehdi said he 
detected a changed mood among Iraqis in general, stating that 
"in 2003 we were totally optimistic and in 2006 we were 
totally pessimistic, now we are exhausted and more 
realistic." The 59 year-old Shi'a politician stated that 
Iraq's "Sunni problem" requires a "Shi'a solution" through 
greater Shi'a understanding and accommodation of Sunni fears 
"even though the fears might not be just" but provided no 
details beyond "good governance" and better education. 

3. (C) Abdel Mehdi said that while he and President Talibani 
were working hard to overcome mutual mistrust between Sunni 
VP al-Hashemi and PM Maliki, the concept of power sharing had 
limits "because there can only be two or three top 
positions." He identified lack of trust as a real problem 
among Iraqi politicians, but not within ordinary Iraqi 
society. As a measure of Iraq's growing political maturity, 
he pointed to the contrast between the GOI's inability to 
restrain retaliatory sectarian violence after the February 
2006 bombing of Samara's al-Askari Mosque, and the GOI's far 
more competent handling of the aftermath of a repeat bombing 
of the mosque several months ago that resulted in relatively 
little sectarian mayhem. He also pointed to private sector 
investment of USD 1.25 billion in Iraq's mobile telephone 
industry as evidence that Iraq is moving forward, as it 
indicates investor confidence in Iraq's future. VP Senior 
Advisor Fareed Yasseen chimed in that while the western media 
never tires of stories about Iraq's problems, it pays scant 
attention to Iraqi successes such as the stability of the 
Iraqi Dinar, which he claimed has appreciated against the 
U.S. dollar due to prudent GOI fiscal and budgetary policy. 


4. (C) In reply to repeated questions and expressions of 
American exasperation over the Iraqi Government's inability 
to achieve political reconciliation, Abdel Mehdi conceded 
limited progress but cited recent agreement Iraq's top 
leaders on the broad outlines of de-Ba'athification, amnesty, 
and detainee release. On several occasions he cautioned that 
political reconciliation and Iraq's "radical" transformation 
from dictatorship to democracy will take time: to drive home 

BAGHDAD 00002838 002 OF 002 


his point, he half-jokingly surmised that there may be some 
people in Tennessee, the home state of Senators Alexander and 
Corker, who have yet to be reconciled to the outcome of the 
American Civil War. He insisted that the Iraqi Government 
should not be held responsible for all of Iraq's problems, 
citing al-Qaeda as "an international problem" and complaining 
of support by Iraq's neighbors for malign internal elements. 
For example, he listed Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt 
as sources of support or foreign fighters for internal Iraqi 
violence, and stated that visiting French Foreign Minister 
Kouchner told him France had detained 42 fighters who were 
headed to Iraq. He also stated that the Iraqi Government was 
fearful that its efforts could "backfire" if it acted too 
hastily. Abdel Mehdi opined that Iraq's enemies believe the 
Iraqi and American governments are "nervous and want to force 
us into making mistakes." A recurring meeting theme was 
expression of Senatorial impatience met with Abdel Mehdi's 
plea for greater patience: Senator Voinovich stated the GOI 
badly needs a "dramatic" political achievement to ensure 
status quo USG support, while Abdel Mehdi asked the USG to 
not "throw away your past sacrifices" through a precipitate 
change in policy. 

Iran, al-Sadr, al-Sistani 
------------------------- 

5. (C) Abdel Mehdi said he shares American concerns regarding 
Iranian activity in Iraq, adding that the recent 
assassinations of two provincial governors from Iraq's 
southern Shi'a belt (both of whom were affiliated with Abdel 
Mehdi's ISCI/Badr political movement) were "probably" 
perpetrated by the Mahdi Army (JAM). He stated that Iran was 
exploiting some Iraqi Shi'a elements, but declined to express 
an opinion on the extent of Iranian influence over Muqtada 
al-Sadr, JAM's spiritual leader. Recounting an anecdote 
about recent mortar attacks on Baghdad's International Zone 
(where Abdel Mehdi lives and works), he stated that an 
Iranian official told him Iran had pressured al-Sadr 
followers to cease such attacks: Abdel Mehdi said with a 
chuckle that the official's statement unwittingly revealed 
Iranian complicity in the attacks. He claimed that al-Sadr 
has "only 3 percent" of the influence and public prestige 
held by Iraq's supreme Shi'a prelate Ali al-Sistani among 
Iraq's majority Shi'a population, and he hailed al-Sistani's 
efforts to counsel Shi'a calm and peace in the wake of 
repeated provocative violence by Sunnis. Senator Voinovich 
asked him to pass a message of thanks to al-Sistani. 

6. (U) CODEL Voinovich did not have an opportunity to review 
this message. 

CROCKER