Keep Us Strong WikiLeaks logo

Currently released so far... 2497 / 251,287

Articles

Browse latest releases

Browse by creation date

Browse by origin

A B C D F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z

Browse by tag

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
QA
YE YM YI

Browse by classification

Community resources

courage is contagious

Viewing cable 09BAGHDAD2992, IRAN'S EFFORTS IN IRAQI ELECTORAL POLITICS

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Understanding cables
Every cable message consists of three parts:
  • The top box shows each cables unique reference number, when and by whom it originally was sent, and what its initial classification was.
  • The middle box contains the header information that is associated with the cable. It includes information about the receiver(s) as well as a general subject.
  • The bottom box presents the body of the cable. The opening can contain a more specific subject, references to other cables (browse by origin to find them) or additional comment. This is followed by the main contents of the cable: a summary, a collection of specific topics and a comment section.
To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.

Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #09BAGHDAD2992.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BAGHDAD2992 2009-11-13 12:12 2010-12-05 12:12 SECRET Embassy Baghdad
VZCZCXRO7222
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDIR RUEHIHL RUEHKUK RUEHTRO
DE RUEHGB #2992/01 3171246
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 131246Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5418
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 002992 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/FO LIMBERT, NEA/IR AND NEA/I. NSC FOR TALWAR, MAGSAMEN, PHEE AND VROOMAN 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/13/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER TU IR IZ
SUBJECT: IRAN'S EFFORTS IN IRAQI ELECTORAL POLITICS 
 
REF: BAGHDAD 2288 
 
Classified By: Political M/C Gary A. Grappo for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
1.  (S) SUMMARY: Iran is a dominant player in Iraq's 
electoral politics, and is using its close ties to Shia, 
Kurdish, and select Sunni figures to shape the political 
landscape in favor of a united Shia victory in the January 
election.  A pro-Iran, Shia-dominated, and preferably 
Islamist government, led by a united Shia alliance remains 
Iran's top priority.  Toward that end, Iran is seeking to 
increase pressure on Maliki to join forces with the other 
prominent Shia coalition (Iraqi National Alliance) led by the 
Sadrists and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI).  END 
SUMMARY 
 
2. (S) Iran is arguably the most influential regional power 
seeking to shape and influence the outcome of Iraq's 
election.  This message offers an assessment of Iran's 
efforts to shape Iraq's electoral politics in anticipation of 
the national election in January. 
 
Iran's Policy Goals and Tools 
----------------------------- 
 
3.  (S) Iran's over-arching political objective for Iraq's 
January election is the re-election of a Shia-dominated, 
preferably Islamist, coalition led by Tehran's closest 
allies, notably ISCI and the Sadrist Trend under the rubric 
of the Iraqi National Alliance coalition (INA) (reftel). 
Iraq, given its proximity to Iran and its shared Shia 
heritage, represents a vital foreign policy priority for the 
Iranian government's (IRIG) efforts to project its ideology 
and influence in the region.  An economically dependent and 
politically subservient Iraq would foster greater strategic 
depth for Tehran. Iranian president Ahmadinejad has referred 
to Iraq in recent press statements as "a Shia base" 
confronting the broader menace perpetrated by those opposed 
to Iraq's identity and stability (i.e., Sunni states, the 
West). 
 
4.  (S) Iran's approach to its bilateral relationship with 
Iraq ranges from political micro-management to broad 
strategic guidance emanating directly from Supreme Leader 
Khamenei in Tehran. The IRIG recognizes that influence in 
Iraq requires operational (and at times ideological) 
flexibility.  As a result, it is not uncommon for the IRIG to 
finance and support competing Shia, Kurdish, and to some 
extent, Sunni entities, with the aim of developing the Iraqi 
body politic's dependency on Tehran's largesse.  While exact 
figures are unknown, Tehran's financial assistance to Iraqi 
surrogates is estimated at USD 100-200 million  annually, 
with USD 70 million going to ISCI/Badr coffers. 
 
5.  (S) Since at least 2003, Brigadier General Qasem 
Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards 
Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), has been the point main directing 
the formulation and implementation of the IRIG's Iraq policy, 
with authority second only to Supreme Leader Khamenei. 
Through his IRGC-QF officers and Iraqi proxies in Iraq, 
notably Iranian Ambassador and IRGC-QF associate Hassan 
Kazemi-Qomi, Soleimani employs the full range of diplomatic, 
security, intelligence, and economic tools to influence Iraqi 
allies and detractors in order to shape a more pro-Iran 
regime in Baghdad and the provinces. 
 
6.  (S) Soleimani enjoys long-standing close ties with 
several prominent GOI officials, including President 
Talabani, Vice-President Adel Abdal-Mahdi (ISCI), Prime 
Minister Maliki (Da'wa), former PM Jaafari, and more 
recently, Speaker Samarra'i (Septel reports Iranian Speaker 
Qrecently, Speaker Samarra'i (Septel reports Iranian Speaker 
Larijani's November 4-7 visit to Iraq at Samarra'i's 
invitation.).  Khamenei, President Ahmadinejad, Speaker 
Larijani, and former president Rafsanjani consult regularly 
with visiting GOI officials as part of the IRIG's broader 
"strategic" council of advisers seeking to influence the GOI. 
 
 
7.  (S) Iran's tools of influence include financial support 
to (and pressure on) a cross-spectrum of Iraqi parties and 
officials; economic development assistance, notably to 
religious organizations; lethal aid to select militant Shia 
proxies; and sanctuary to Iraqi figures fearful of USG 
targeting or those seeking to revitalize their 
political/religious credentials, most notably Moqtada 
al-Sadr.  This leverage also extends, to a lesser extent, to 
select Sunni actors, including such public figures as Iraqi 
Speaker Samarra'i, whose September visit to Tehran included 
 
BAGHDAD 00002992  002 OF 003 
 
 
meetings with several senior IRIG officials. 
 
Pre-Election Jockeying 
---------------------- 
 
8.  (S) Predictably, Iran is actively lobbying and recruiting 
Iraqis of various political stripes and affiliations, 
including Sunnis, in the run-up to the election to ensure a 
united Shia-led coalition government.  Given the likelihood 
of a Shia-led victory in the election, Iran appears more 
concerned about the strength of a united Shia bloc in the 
post-election phase of government formation.  For Iran, a 
"rebellious" Maliki pursuing a more nationalist vs. sectarian 
agenda risks splitting the Shia vote, which in turn weakens 
the Shia political bloc's negotiating strength during the 
government formation period post-election.  Iran's greatest 
fear for the upcoming election is a fractured Shia coalition 
that is unable to coalesce and thereby dominate the next 
government.  Iran's worst-case election scenario 
(increasingly unrealistic) is a coup d'etat of former regime 
elements hostile to Tehran. 
 
9.  (S) A weak Shia coalition before or after the election 
would further undermine the INA and their pro-Iranian 
entities, notably ISCI and the Sadrist Trend.  The Kurds, 
historically closer to ISCI, remain the important swing vote 
and are unlikely to reveal their true coalition intentions 
until after the election.  As seasoned masters of the Iraqi 
political chessboard, Kurdish leaders such as Talabani and 
Barzani will likely exploit their political strength among 
Shia/Sunni counterparts to protect and expand Kurdish 
influence in a future government. Iran's historic ties to the 
PUK, and to a lesser extent KDP officials, make the Kurds an 
important element in ensuring a pro-Iranian Shia victory in 
the election.  INA officials are confident that the Kurds 
will join their coalition, all but guaranteeing an election 
victory.  An unknown factor in national elections is the 
Kurdish opposition party, Goran List, under the leadership of 
former PUK Secretary General Nawshirwan Mustafa.  Goran is 
committed to unseating the PUK (and Talabani) in Suleymaniyah 
province but needs financial backing to ensure its long-term 
viability in the KRG and national politics.  Iran could 
conceivably alleviate Goran's financial woes, particularly 
through its close ties with the Kurdish Jaff tribe, some of 
whom are Goran members.  However, doing so would undermine 
the IRIG's valued relationship with Talabani, while also 
proving exceedingly duplicitous, even by IRIG and KRG 
standards. 
 
10. (S) It is important to note that Iran's power in Iraq, 
although extensive, is not without limitations.  The IRIG's 
greatest political roadblock remains the domineering 
authority and religious credibility embodied in Grand 
Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Despite his Iranian heritage, Sistani 
is Iraq's most revered Shia religious (and political) 
authority.  A critic of Iran's "Velayet-e-Faqih" (rule of the 
jurisprudent) system of theocratic governance, Sistani's 
abstemious (aka Quietest school) approach to Shia politics 
has kept him well above the political fray while at the same 
time ensuring him significant impact on those rare occasions 
when he pronounces on politics.  For example, Sistani's 
public support for an open list ballot was instrumental in 
prompting ISCI, Sadrist Trend, Maliki's State of Law, and 
other Shia parties to follow suit, despite Tehran's 
preference for a closed list.  Domestic political realities 
will continue to force Shia political parties like ISCI, Dawa 
Qwill continue to force Shia political parties like ISCI, Dawa 
and Sadr Trend, with close historic ties to Iran, to balance 
between support for a broader Iraqi-Shia agenda, as 
championed by Sistani, and the alternative, championed by 
Iran, that would subordinate Iraqi interests to Iran's 
broader objectives (septel). 
 
Soft vs. Hard Power 
------------------- 
 
11.  (S) Following the GOI's crackdown on Iranian-supported 
Sadrist militias in Basrah during the "Charge of the Knights" 
operation in March 2008, Iran has calibrated its operations 
in Iraq to encompass more "soft power" (economic, religious, 
educational) support and investment as part of a broader 
"hearts and minds" campaign. (NOTE: Iranian lethal aid to 
militant proxies continues; however, on a less visible scale. 
 END NOTE).  With annual bilateral trade estimated at USD 4 
billion (up 30 percent since 2008) and comprised mostly of 
Iranian imports (approximately 48 percent of Iraq's imports 
are Iranian goods), the IRIG continues to jockey for economic 
domination in Iraq through targeted development assistance, 
focused largely on refurbishment of Shia religious shrines, 
 
BAGHDAD 00002992  003 OF 003 
 
 
and trade deals and bilateral agreements aimed at fostering 
greater Iraqi economic dependency on Iran.  This measure has 
been successful, largely because of Iran's geographic 
proximity and access to Iraqi markets that are otherwise 
financially or politically less appealing to other states, 
notably the United States, Europe, and other industrialized 
nations.  Turkey, on the other hand, remains Iran's biggest 
economic competitor, particularly in the Kurdistan Regional 
Government (KRG). 
 
Implications for U.S. Policy 
---------------------------- 
 
12.  (S) COMMENT:  Concerns about long-term U.S. influence, 
albeit tempered by the withdrawal deadline, continue to 
inform IRIG decision-making to ensure its strategic foothold 
in Iraq.  Iran views Iraq as a natural (and more junior) 
strategic partner.  As a result, Iran will continue to flex 
its muscles to ensure it's strategic outcomes are met.  This 
should not lead to alarmist tendencies or reactions on our 
part.  The next Iraqi government will continue to cultivate 
close ties with Iran given long-standing historical realities 
that precede Iraq's ties with the United States.  On the 
other hand, Iran's influence in Iraq should not be 
overestimated.  As the GOI continues to gain its footing, 
points of divergence between Tehran and Baghdad become 
increasingly evident on such sensitive bilateral issues as 
water, hydrocarbons, maritime borders, and political parity. 
Some prominent Iraqi leaders, including those with close ties 
to Iran (i.e., Maliki, Ammar al-Hakim) are increasingly 
sensitive to being labeled Iranian lackeys. 
 
13.  (S)  COMMENT CONT'D:  Our objective in Iraq should be 
less about countering all-things Iranian, and more about 
developing viable alternatives and approaches that gradually 
alter the GOI's political, economic, and social worldview. 
Development of viable international alternatives in Iraq is 
one of the most effective measures of countering Iranian 
ambitions and, ultimately, integrating Iraq as a constructive 
member of the international community.  Specifically, our 
ongoing efforts to bolster the GOI through capacity-building 
and assistance within the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) 
and to remove Iraq from Chapter VII remain our most valuable 
tools in this regard. Given the value placed on the SFA by 
the GOI and the Iraqi public, our ability to recognize, 
enhance, and exploit the value of the partnership will 
constitute an essential element of any effort to counter 
"malign" Iranian influence. 
 
HILL