184385 12/22/2008 16:44 08BAGHDAD4007 Embassy Baghdad CONFIDENTIAL VZCZCXRO2616 PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK DE RUEHGB #4007 3571644 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 221644Z DEC 08 FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0983 INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE RUEHBM/AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST 0044 RUEHSN/AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR 0024 RUEHTL/AMEMBASSY TALLINN 0018 RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0078 RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1987 C O N F I D E N T I A L BAGHDAD 004007
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/22/2018 TAGS: PREL, MARR, PGOV, IZ SUBJECT: CONTROVERSY OVER SPEAKER MASHHADANI COMMENTS DELAYS ALLIED SECURITY AGREEMENT
Classified By: Classified By: Political Minister Robert Ford for reason s 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C) SUMMARY. Shia and Kurdish parliamentarians are demanding the ouster of Speaker Mashhadani because of his insulting comments last week, delaying a vote on an Allied security agreement. Mashhadani's political future looks grim as he loses his Sunni allies with every controversial outburst. END SUMMARY.
Frustration Over Mashhadani
2. (U) Unified Iraqi Alliance (UIA) and Kurdish Alliance (KA) parliamentarians have called for Speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani to leave his leadership position, culminating in a special session today to hold a vote on the erratic speaker's fate. Numerous Iraqi MPs have told Emboffs that Mashhadani -- described as comedic and unprofessional -- sparked the ire of colleagues last week when he called fellow MPs "agents" of foreign interests and "pimps," the latter insult especially angering female MPs. Since these insults on December 17-18, the UIA and KA have boycotted sessions led by Mashhadani. Many Shia and Kurdish MPs have bluntly told Emboffs that they want Mashhadani to resign or be voted out of office.
3. (U) This frustration boiled over December 22. Defiant, Mashhadani, during a conference on Iraqi expatriates this morning, stuck an Arab nationalistic tone by declaring that the Muslims will not surrender until they "take Rome." He later offered a spirited rebuke of the Kurds in parliament, saying they are "not part of the Republic" and they should go "back to Irbil," according to a Poloff observing the session.
4. (U) Facing another boycott and trying to save his job, Mashhadani, along with some Sunni Arabs and newly-found Sadrists allies, declared the session adjourned until January 7. However, once Mashhadani left the chamber, the UIA, KA and some Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) members -- who had been waiting just outside the chamber -- called for a special session to vote on Mashhadani's fate as speaker of parliament. (Note. An absolute majority of 138 is required to oust the speaker. End Note.) The session adjourned until December 23 without action taken.
Controversy Delays Allied Troops Bill
5. (C) Speaker Mashhadani's political future looks grim as he loses allies with nearly every outburst. IIP Deputy General Secretary Ayad Samarrie on December 21 told PMIN that the UIA is playing hardball by demanding that Tawafuq -- the main Sunni bloc, which includes the IIP -- vote to oust Mashhadani or else lose its ability to choose his successor. Samarrie said it put Tawaffuq in a tight spot, since there is no easily selected successor to Mashadani; Tawaffuq gets to undergo a wrenching internal dispute to choose a new speaker or lose the right to choose the speaker entirely. Without Taqafuq, Mashhadani is unlikely to survive. Both Salim Jabouri, a prominent IIP MP, told Emboffs December 22 that Mashhadani is likely to get removed, and Ali Sijiri, a fiery Sunni Arab MP conceded Mashadani's chances were slim.
6. (C) The Mashhadani controversy is delaying a vote on a resolution to allow the United Kingdom and the other Coalition partners to remain in Iraq. (Note. The legal authority for non-US Coalition Forces to operate in Iraq expires at year's end. End Note.) The British Ambassador Qexpires at year's end. End Note.) The British Ambassador and Poloffs have been lobbying Iraqi officials and parliamentarians for several days (as have US Embassy poloffs). British poloffs have expressed consternation that Mashhadani's antics have made their jobs increasingly difficult. The British have a deal in principle with the Maliki government and Deputy Speaker Khalid Attiyah for a binding resolution granting protection for British, Australian, El Salvadorian, Estonian, and Romanian troops, plus the NATO training mission. This Allied Force resolution, however, is stuck until the Mashhadani issue is settled. If Mashhadani goes, Attiyah will be acting speaker until a new speaker is selected. CROCKER