• "Sensitive Material"

    From Steve Asher@3:800/432 to All on Fri Jun 23 01:19:14 2006
    Baghdad - the ugly truth behind the spin

    Wednesday June 21, 2006

    FROM: Zalmay Khalilzad, US Ambassador, Baghdad

    TO: Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State


    The summary

    Iraqi staff in the Public Affairs sector have complained that Islamist
    and militia groups have been negatively affecting daily routine.
    Harassment over proper dress and habits is increasingly persuasive.
    They also report power cuts and fuel prices have diminished quality of

    Women's rights

    Two of our three female employees report stepped up harassment
    beginning in May. One, a Shiite who favours Western clothing, was
    advised by a woman in her neighbourhood to wear a veil and not drive
    her car. She said some groups are pushing women to cover their face, a
    step not taken in Iran at its most conservative.

    Another said people are harassing women to cover up and stop using
    cellphones. The driver who brings her to the Green Zone said he cannot
    let her ride unless she wears a headcover.

    The women say they cannot identify the groups. Some ministries,
    notably the Sadrist controlled Ministry of Transport, have been
    forcing females to wear the hijab at work.

    Dress code for all?

    Staff members have reported it is now dangerous for men to wear shorts
    in public; they no longer allow their children to play outside in
    shorts. People who wear jeans in public have come under attack.


    One colleague beseeched us to help a neighbour uprooted from her home
    of 30 years on the pretence of some long-disused law. The woman is a
    Fayli Kurd. Such uprootings may be response by new Shiite Government authorities to similar actions against Arabs by Kurds in other parts
    of Iraq.

    Power shortages

    Temperatures in Baghdad have already reached 46C. Employees confirm
    that, by the last week of May, they were getting one hour of power for
    every six hours without.

    By early June, the situation had improved slightly. In Hal al-Shaab,
    power has improved from one in six to one in three hours. Areas near
    hospitals, party headquarters and the Green Zone have the best supply.
    One staff member reported a friend lives in a building that houses a
    new minister; within a day of his appointment, her building had power
    24 hours a day.

    All staff pay for neighbourhood generators. One pays US$50 a month to
    get eight hours of power per day.

    Fuel queues

    One employee spent 12 hours on his day off waiting to get gas. Black
    market prices were now above 1000 Iraqi dinar ($1.1) per litre [the
    official, subsidised price is 250 ID].

    Kidnappings and worse

    One employee informed us that his brother-in-law had been kidnapped.
    One employee, a Sunni Kurd, received an indirect threat on her life in
    April. She took extended leave, and by May, relocated abroad with her

    Security forces mistrusted

    In April, employees began reporting a change in demeanor of Green Zone
    guards. They seemed to be more militia-like - in some cases seemingly
    taunting. One employee told how a guard held her badge and proclaimed
    to passers-by "embassy", a death sentence if heard by the wrong

    Staff at high risk

    Of nine staff, only four had family who knew they worked at the
    embassy. Those called after hours often speak in Arabic as an
    indication they cannot speak openly in English.

    We cannot call employees in on weekends or holidays without blowing
    "cover". Some staff do not take phones home, as it makes them a

    We have begun shredding documents that show local staff surnames. In
    March, a few members approached us to ask what provisions would we
    make for them if we evacuate.

    Frayed nerves

    Against this backdrop of frayed social networks, tension has risen. A
    Sunni female apparently insulted a Shiite female by criticising her
    liberal dress.

    One employee feels "defeated" by circumstances, and is unable to help
    his asthmatic 2-year-old son who cannot sleep in the stifling heat.

    Another employee tells us life outside the Green Zone has become
    "emotionally draining". He claims to attend a funeral every evening.
    He, like other local employees, is financially responsible for his
    immediate and extended families. He revealed that "the burden of
    responsibility and everyday threats weigh very heavily".

    Staying safe

    Staff say they daily assess how to move safely in public. Often, if
    they must travel outside their neighbourhoods, they adopt the
    clothing, language, and traits of the area. Sadr City requires Shiite
    dress and a particular lingo.

    Since [the bombing of the Golden Mosque in] Samarra, Baghdadis have
    honed survival skills. Vocabulary has shifted. Our staff - and our
    contacts - have become adept in modifying behaviour to avoid "Alasas", informants who keep an eye out for "outsiders" in neighbourhoods.

    Staff report security and services are being rerouted through "local
    providers" whose affiliations are vague. Safety depends on good
    relations with "neighbourhood' governments, who barricade streets and
    ward off outsiders. People no longer trust most neighbours. A resident
    of Shiite / Christian Karrada district told us "outsiders" have moved

    The situation

    Although our staff retain a professional demeanor, strains are
    apparent. We see their personal fears are reinforcing divisive
    sectarian or ethnic channels. Objectivity, civility and logic that
    make for a functional workplace may falter if social pressures outside
    the Green Zone don't abate.


    Source: "New Zealand Herald" http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=340&ObjectID=10387519

    Cheers, Steve..

    * Origin: Xaragmata / Adelaide SA telnet://xaragmata.thebbs.org (3:800/432)