US embassy cables: Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists raise funds in Saudi Arabia

by admin

Monday, 10 August 2009, 23:56
S E C R E T STATE 083026
EO 12958 DECL: 08/07/2019
REF: STATE 65044
Classified By: IO“>IO“>IO Assistant Secretary Esther Brimmer for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (U) This is an action request. Please see paragraphs 4-6.



2. (SBU) In May 2009, legal representatives for 1267-listed entity Jamaat-ud-Dawah (identified by the UN 1267 Committee as an alias for Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, permanent reference number QE.L.118.05) and its leader, Muhammad Saeed (permanent reference number QI.S.263.08) petitioned on their clients behalf for delisting via the UN focal point. The focal point, which was established in the UN Secretariat pursuant to UNSCR 1730 to allow listed individuals/entities (or their representatives) to petition directly for de-listing, forwarded the de-listing request on behalf of JUD and Saeed for review to the USG (designating state) and to the Government of Pakistan (state of citizenship/residence/incorporation). The USG and GOP have had three months to review the de-listing petition. We have completed our review and plan to notify the UN focal point on August 25 of our opposition to de-listing. Before doing so, we would like to take this opportunity to: — share the results of our review of the de-listing petition for JUD and Muhammad Saeed with Pakistani officials; — seek GOP views on the request; — underscore our ongoing concern over the threat posed by LeT/JUD and Saeed; — ask Pakistani officials to update us on actions taken to impose UN 1267 sanctions on LeT/JUD and Saeed.




3. (S) On December 10, 2008, the UN 1267 Committee took several actions related to the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Tayibba (LeT), including its listing of Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JUD) as an alias for LeT, as well as the listing of JUD’s leader, Muhammad Saeed. The Committee in 2005 added LeT to its Consolidated List citing its affiliation with al-Qaida. The addition of the JUD alias, as well as the listing of Saeed, followed closely on the heels of the LeT-perpetrated attacks in Mumbai, India, in November 2008. Prior to the attacks, our request to list JUD and Saeed were placed on hold by China at the behest of Pakistan. In spite of Pakistani acquiescence to the listings in December 2008, we continue to see reporting indicating that JUD is still operating in multiple locations in Pakistan, and that the group continues to openly raise funds. It is unclear what, if any, steps the GOP has taken to freeze JUD’s assets or otherwise implement UN 1267 sanctions, which include an asset freeze, travel ban, and arms embargo.




4. (SBU) USUN is requested to inform the focal point on August 25, after both USUN and Islamabad have had a chance to inform Pakistani officials of our views, of our opposition to the de-listing request on behalf of JUD and Muhammad Saeed. In its communication to the focal point, USUN should refute the assertion in Saeed’s and his legal representatives claim in the focal point de-listing petition that “there are no grounds for placing Saeed and JUD on the Consolidated List and the material relied upon is incorrect and baseless” and note that we stand by the information included in the statements of case we submitted (co-sponsored by the UK and France) to the UN 1267 Committee to add JUD and Saeed to the Consolidated List. USUN should further state that we have seen no evidence of a change in circumstance warranting de-listing of JUD or Saeed.

5. (SBU) USUN and Embassy Islamabad should inform Pakistani officials in New York and Islamabad, respectively, of our opposition to the de-listing petition for JUD and Saeed. Action addressees may wish to draw upon the following points:

— We have reviewed the de-listing petition from attorneys on behalf of Jamaat-ud Dawa (JUD) and its leader Hafiz Saeed and will soon inform the UN 1267 Committee, via the UN focal point, of our opposition to de-listing.

— We first wanted to share our views with Pakistani officials, and to seek Pakistan’s view on the de-listing petition.

— As you are no doubt aware, we are deeply concerned about the threat posed by LeT/JUD, and reject Saeed’s and his legal representatives claim in the focal point de-listing petition that “there are no grounds for placing Saeed and JUD on the Consolidated List and the material relied upon is incorrect and baseless.”

— In fact, LeT and JUD stem from the same original organization, Markaz-ud-Dawawal-Irshad (MDI). When LeT was declared a terrorist organization in Pakistan in 2002, MDI publicly divested itself of LeT at that time and renamed itself JUD. LeT transferred most of its assets and personnel to the newly formed JUD, ensuring its survival.

— We believe that LeT uses JUD facilities as a public front for its activities and shares offices, phone numbers, personnel and bank accounts. LeT’s old offices merely changed the name on the door.

— JUD’s budget, using funds from both witting and unwitting donors, is dedicated to social services and/or humanitarian relief but some is used to finance LeT operations.

— We are also aware that LeT and JUD share many senior leaders, including Hafiz Saeed, who according to information available to the USG, as of 2009 continued to control LeT and issue guidance to LeT members.

— We would like here your views on the status of LeT/JUD and Saeed, and would particularly appreciate an update on steps Pakistan has taken or will take to implement UN 1267 sanctions on them.

6. (S/REL to Pakistan) Embassy Islamabad is also requested to share a non-paper, included below in paragraph 7, prepared by our intelligence community in February 2009 assessing JUD’s links to LeT. This non-paper, which was previously passed by former S/CT Coordinator Dell Daily to Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani, provides more detailed information on our concerns about LeT/JUD and Saeed that underpin our view that their listing by the UN 1267 Committee was and remains appropriate.


(U//FOUO) Assessing Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s Links to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba


(S//REL) The Community assesses that LT, a Pakistan-based terrorist group, uses the JUD name as an alias. JUD is a religious, educational, and humanitarian organization that the Community assesses provides cover and protection for LT‘s militant activities in Pakistan. LT and JUD share many senior leaders; LT falls under the authority of JUD leader Hafiz Muhammad Saeed; and JUD supports and facilitates LT‘s violent activities. – LT and JUD stem from the same original organization*Markaz-ud-Dawawal-Irshad (MDI)*that was founded around 1986 and for which LT served as its armed, militant wing. MDI was renamed JUD in December 2001. – LT was declared a terrorist organization in January 2002, and MDI publicly divested itself of the LT at that time. LT transferred most of its assets and personnel under the newly formed JUD.

(S//REL) The Community assesses that JUD relies heavily on private donations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), madrassas, and businesses spread throughout South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Some of the money to finance LT operations is obtained by fraudulently redirecting donations intended for humanitarian work.

(S//REL) JUD and LT have branch offices with different names and have adopted a number of aliases as a denial and deception tactic.


(C//REL) Various Names and Aliases

(S//REL) The Intelligence Community assesses that Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LT) and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD) are part of the same organization, originally called Markaz-ud-Dawawal-Irshad (MDI), that was founded by Hafiz Muhammed Saeed and other faculty at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore in 1986. MDI was established with funding from donors in the Middle East and set up camps to prepare its personnel to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.

MDI reorganized after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, creating LT as its paramilitary wing to fight in the Indian-controlled districts of Jammu and Kashmir while MDI focused on religious and humanitarian activity. Saeed led both MDI and LT during the 1990s.

When the US declared LT a terrorist organization in December 2001, MDI reorganized*changing its name to JUD to draw a distinction between its charitable and educational work and LT‘s militant activities*in an effort by MDI leaders to shield their fundraising and other activities from sanctions. Saeed publicly resigned from LT, telling the media that he had assumed the leadership of JUD. In mid-January 2002, LT was banned.

Islamabad “watchlisted” JUD in 2003, but the government has resisted pressure to take action against the group, particularly after JUD,s popular earthquake relief efforts in 2005 and 2006 in response to the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.

LT has used JUD facilities as a public front for its activities and, shared offices, phone numbers, leaders, and bank accounts. LT members identified themselves as JUD when in Pakistan and as LT when in Kashmir.

LT/JUD purportedly raises funds for the Palestinian people in response to Israel’s attacks on Gaza. The Community judges that as of January, JUD also may be operating under the alias Tehreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool. LT‘s political affairs coordinator Khalid Waleed identified himself in late December as the chief organizer for a conference for Tehreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool, according to intelligence reporting. – On 6 February, the JUD held a Kashmir Solidarity Conference at which JUD renamed itself Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir (TAK). At JUD,s first public protest since December, supporters used old JUD banners and chanted JUD slogans, but rallied under the name TAK to avoid arrest.


(U//FOUO) UN Links Jamaat-ud-Dawa to Terrorism

(S//REL) The United Nations (UN) banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD), and on 10 December, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee (the 1267 Committee) approved the addition of JUD as a new LT alias for targeted sanctions. This UN designation required all UN member states to freeze any assets this entity may have under the member states’ jurisdiction, impose a travel ban, and implement an arms embargo against them as set out in paragraph 1 of UNSC Resolution 1822 of 2008.

(S//REL) The Community assesses that LT/JUD, in an attempt to evade restrictions, has established branch offices with different names and adopted a number of aliases. One branch, Idara Khidmat-e-Khalq, is a publicly acknowledged charitable arm of JUD and has its own web page with photos of hospitals and ambulances. Other aliases include Paasbaan-e-Ahle-Hadith, Paasban-e-Kashmir, Al-Mansoorian, and Al-Nasaryeen. We assess that LT and LT-associated militants will continue to use aliases in order to circumvent restrictions on their movement and operations.


(U//FOUO) Financial Support

(S//REL) The Community assesses that JUD fundraising has relied heavily on private donations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), madrassas, and businesses spread throughout South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Some of JUD’s budget, using funds raised both from witting donors and by fraud, is dedicated to social services or humanitarian relief projects, while some is used to finance LT operations. – In December 2005, an official of Idara Khidmat-e-Khalq forwarded JUD donation receipts to a probable LT front company in Saudi Arabia where an LT finance official may have been closely associated with the general manager*possibly acting as a front for moving LT funds, according to intelligence reporting. – Makki in 2002 frequently visited the Middle East and viewed it as a main source of funding. To demonstrate results to donors, JUD would finance the cost of building a new school or upgrading facilities at a madrassa, but would inflate the cost to siphon money to LT.

(S//REL) The Community lacks sufficient intelligence to determine if or how the November Mumbai attacks have affected donations to JUD. Some donors may be dissuaded from supporting JUD if they become aware that their funds may be used for additional terrorist attacks, whereas other donors may support LT‘s attacks. As public and government scrutiny increases in the wake of the attacks and subsequent designation of JUD as an alias of LT by the UN, we assess that JUD will rely more on covert fundraising efforts.

(U//FOUO) Leadership

(S//REL) The Community assesses that Saeed is the leader of LT and Lakvi is LT‘s operations commander*and they continue to run the organization despite being detained for their role in the November Mumbai attacks. We also judge that they have planned, directed, and executed LT attacks throughout South Asia and likely have used some funds collected in the name of JUD’s charitable activities to support multiple LT terrorist operations, including the November Mumbai attacks. The Community assesses that Saeed continues to lead both organizations. However, the Community is unable to assess to what extent senior JUD leaders such as Saeed are involved in specific terrorist operations or the level of detail to which they are knowledgeable about specific past and pending attacks. – As of mid-July Lakvi was responsible for the LT‘s military operations budget of PKR 365 million (approximately US $5.2 million) per year. He reportedly used the money to purchase all materials required for LT operations other than weapons and ammunition, according to a source claiming direct and ongoing access to LT leaders.





8. (U) Action addressees should report as soon as possible but no later than August 19 results of their demarche to Pakistani officials .

9. (U) Questions may be directed to IO“>IO“>IO/PSC (Erin Crowe, 202-736-7847). CLINTON

Source: Guardian

3 Comments to “US embassy cables: Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists raise funds in Saudi Arabia”

  1. WikiLeaks cables portray Saudi Arabia as a cash machine for terrorists

    Hillary Clinton memo highlights Gulf states’ failure to block funding for groups like al-Qaida, Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba

    Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba – but the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of money, according to Hillary Clinton.

    “More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups,” says a secret December 2009 paper signed by the US secretary of state. Her memo urged US diplomats to redouble their efforts to stop Gulf money reaching extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,” she said.

    Three other Arab countries are listed as sources of militant money: Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

    The cables highlight an often ignored factor in the Pakistani and Afghan conflicts: that the violence is partly bankrolled by rich, conservative donors across the Arabian Sea whose governments do little to stop them.

    The problem is particularly acute in Saudi Arabia, where militants soliciting funds slip into the country disguised as holy pilgrims, set up front companies to launder funds and receive money from government-sanctioned charities.

    One cable details how the Pakistani militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks, used a Saudi-based front company to fund its activities in 2005.

    Meanwhile officials with the LeT’s charity wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, travelled to Saudi Arabia seeking donations for new schools at vastly inflated costs – then siphoned off the excess money to fund militant operations.

    Militants seeking donations often come during the hajj pilgrimage – “a major security loophole since pilgrims often travel with large amounts of cash and the Saudis cannot refuse them entry into Saudi Arabia”. Even a small donation can go far: LeT operates on a budget of just $5.25m (£3.25m) a year, according to American estimates.

    Saudi officials are often painted as reluctant partners. Clinton complained of the “ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist funds emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority”.

    Washington is critical of the Saudi refusal to ban three charities classified as terrorist entities in the US. “Intelligence suggests that these groups continue to send money overseas and, at times, fund extremism overseas,” she said.

    There has been some progress. This year US officials reported that al-Qaida’s fundraising ability had “deteriorated substantially” since a government crackdown. As a result Bin Laden’s group was “in its weakest state since 9/11” in Saudi Arabia.

    Any criticisms are generally offered in private. The cables show that when it comes to powerful oil-rich allies US diplomats save their concerns for closed-door talks, in stark contrast to the often pointed criticism meted out to allies in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    Instead, officials at the Riyadh embassy worry about protecting Saudi oilfields from al-Qaida attacks.

    The other major headache for the US in the Gulf region is the United Arab Emirates. The Afghan Taliban and their militant partners the Haqqani network earn “significant funds” through UAE-based businesses, according to one report. The Taliban extort money from the large Pashtun community in the UAE, which is home to 1 million Pakistanis and 150,000 Afghans. They also fundraise by kidnapping Pashtun businessmen based in Dubai or their relatives.

    “Some Afghan businessmen in the UAE have resorted to purchasing tickets on the day of travel to limit the chance of being kidnapped themselves upon arrival in either Afghanistan or Pakistan,” the report says.

    Last January US intelligence sources said two senior Taliban fundraisers had regularly travelled to the UAE, where the Taliban and Haqqani networks laundered money through local front companies.

    One report singled out a Kabul-based “Haqqani facilitator”, Haji Khalil Zadran, as a key figure. But, Clinton complained, it was hard to be sure: the UAE’s weak financial regulation and porous borders left US investigators with “limited information” on the identity of Taliban and LeT facilitators.

    The lack of border controls was “exploited by Taliban couriers and Afghan drug lords camouflaged among traders, businessmen and migrant workers”, she said.

    In an effort to stem the flow of funds American and UAE officials are increasingly co-operating to catch the “cash couriers” – smugglers who fly giant sums of money into Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    In common with its neighbours Kuwait is described as a “source of funds and a key transit point” for al-Qaida and other militant groups. While the government has acted against attacks on its own soil, it is “less inclined to take action against Kuwait-based financiers and facilitators plotting attacks outside of Kuwait”.

    Kuwait has refused to ban the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, a charity the US designated a terrorist entity in June 2008 for providing aid to al-Qaida and affiliated groups, including LeT.

    There is little information about militant fundraising in the fourth Gulf country singled out, Qatar, other than to say its “overall level of CT co-operation with the US is considered the worst in the region”.

    The funding quagmire extends to Pakistan itself, where the US cables detail sharp criticism of the government’s ambivalence towards funding of militant groups that enjoy covert military support.

    The cables show how before the Mumbai attacks in 2008, Pakistani and Chinese diplomats manoeuvred hard to block UN sanctions against Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

    But in August 2009, nine months after sanctions were finally imposed, US diplomats wrote: “We continue to see reporting indicating that JUD is still operating in multiple locations in Pakistan and that the group continues to openly raise funds”. JUD denies it is the charity wing of LeT.

  2. Saudi royal: Punish WikiLeaks source “vigorously”

    (Reuters) – A senior Saudi royal demanded on Sunday that the source of U.S. embassy cables published by WikiLeaks be “vigorously punished” and suggested the credibility of America’s diplomats had been hurt by the disclosures.

    “If diplomats and leaders can’t exchange their views freely on the matters that affect them, then we are all in trouble,” Prince Turki al-Faisal told a Gulf security conference.

    One notable leak cited Saudi King Abdullah as urging the United States to attack Iran’s nuclear installations. He was reported to have advised Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” while there was still time.

    It was one of several disclosures confirming the depth of suspicion of Shi’ite Muslim Iran among Sunni Arab leaders, especially in leading Sunni power Saudi Arabia.

    Prince Turki, a former ambassador to London and Washington and former head of the kingdom’s intelligence service, said the WikiLeaks furor underscored that cyber security was an increasing international concern.

    “So it is incumbent not just on the world community but on the U.S., where these leaks came from, to not just be extra vigilant but to try to restore the credibility and the legitimacy of their engagement with the rest of us, and ensure that there are no more leaks to be faced in the future.”

    “Whoever is responsible must be vigorously punished,” said Prince Turki, the brother of veteran Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

    On December 1 a WikiLeaks spokesman said the website’s staff did not know if a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst detained by military authorities was the source of the cables.

    Bradley Manning, 23, is being held at a Marine base near Washington in connection with the disclosure of U.S. secrets. U.S. officials have declined to say if the cables he is accused of mishandling are the same ones that WikiLeaks made public last week.

    (Reporting by William Maclean; Editing by Peter Graff)

  3. WikiLeaks cables: Saudi Arabia rated a bigger threat to Iraqi stability than Iran

    Baghdad says it can contain influence of Shia neighbour, unlike powerful Gulf state that wants a return to Sunni dominance

    Simon Tisdall,
    Sunday 5 December 2010 12.00 GMT

    King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. An American diplomatic assessment says the Sunni state is alarmed at Shia political ascendency in Iraq. Photograph: Rabih Moghrabi/AFP/Getty Images
    Iraqi government officials see Saudi Arabia, not Iran, as the biggest threat to the integrity and cohesion of their fledgling democratic state, leaked US state department cables reveal.

    The Iraqi concerns, analysed in a dispatch sent from the US embassy in Baghdad by then ambassador Christopher Hill in September 2009, represent a fundamental divergence from the American and British view of Iran as arch-predator in Iraq.

    “Iraq views relations with Saudi Arabia as among its most challenging given Riyadh’s money, deeply ingrained anti-Shia attitudes and [Saudi] suspicions that a Shia-led Iraq will inevitably further Iranian regional influence,” Hill writes.

    “Iraqi contacts assess that the Saudi goal (and that of most other Sunni Arab states, to varying degrees) is to enhance Sunni influence, dilute Shia dominance and promote the formation of a weak and fractured Iraqi government.”

    Hill’s unexpected assessment flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that Iranian activities, overt and covert, are the biggest obstacle to Iraq’s development.

    It feeds claims, prevalent after the 9/11 attacks, that religiously conservative, politically repressive Saudi Arabia, where most of the 9/11 terrorists came from, is the true enemy of the west.

    Hill’s analysis has sharp contemporary relevance as rival Shia and Sunni political blocs, backed by Iran and the Saudis respectively, continue to squabble over the formation of a new government in Baghdad, seven months after March’s inconclusive national elections.

    Hill says Iraqi leaders are careful to avoid harsh criticism of Saudi Arabia’s role for fear of offending the Americans, Riyadh’s close allies. But resentments simmer below the surface.

    “Iraqi officials note that periodic anti-Shia outbursts from Saudi religious figures are often allowed to circulate without sanction or disavowal from the Saudi leadership. This reality reinforces the Iraqi view that the Saudi state religion of Wahhabi Sunni Islam condones religious incitement against Shia.”

    Hill reports the Saudis have used considerable financial and media resources to support Sunni political aspirations, exert influence over Sunni tribal groups, and undercut the Shia Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and Iraqi National Alliance.

    Hill adds that some Iraqi observers see Saudi aims as positively malign. “A recent Iraqi press article quoted anonymous Iraqi intelligence sources assessing that Saudi Arabia was leading a Gulf effort to destabilise the Maliki government and was financing ‘the current al-Qaida offensive in Iraq’.”

    Hill and his Iraqi interlocutors are not alone in their suspicions of Saudi policy. At a meeting in Ankara in February this year a senior Turkish foreign ministry official, Feridun Sinirlioglu, told an American envoy that “Saudi Arabia is ‘throwing around money’ among the political parties in Iraq because it is unwilling to accept the inevitability of Shia dominance there”.

    Returning to more familiar ground, Hill asserts that Iranian efforts in Iraq are also “driven by a clear determination to see a sectarian, Shia-dominated government that is weak, disenfranchised from its Arab neighbours, detached from the US security apparatus and strategically dependent on Iran”. Such an outcome is not in the interests of the US, he notes drily.

    But he passes on to Washington the arguments of Iraqi officials who say they know how to “manage” Iran. “Shia contacts … do not dismiss the significant Iranian influence but argue that it is best countered by Iraqi Shia politicians who know how to deal with Iran.” These officials also maintain Iranian interference “is not aimed, unlike that of some Sunni neighbours, at fomenting terrorism that would destabilise the government”. They predict Tehran’s meddling will “naturally create nationalistic Iraqi resistance to it, both Shia and more broadly, if others do not intervene”.

    The difficulties encountered by Iranian-backed Shia parties in coming together to form a new government, despite much urging from Tehran and the co-opting of the hardline Iran-based cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, could be seen as evidence that Iran’s overall influence has been exaggerated and that public “resistance” to Iran’s role is indeed growing.

    All the same, American officials continue to blame Iran principally for instigating and fomenting much of the sectarian and insurgent violence that has disfigured Iraq since the 2003 invasion. James Jeffrey, Hill’s successor as US ambassador, claimed in August that about one-quarter of all US casualties in Iraq were caused by armed groups backed by Iran.

    A Baghdad embassy cable from November 2009 says Iran continues to view Iraq as “a vital foreign policy priority for the Iranian government’s efforts to project its ideology and influence in the region”. At the head of this effort, it says, is the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods (Jerusalem) Force, or IRGC-QF, led by Brigadier-General Qasem Soleimani, whose authority is “second only to supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei”.

    Soleimani has close ties with prominent Iraqi government officials, including the president, Jalal Talibani, and prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, the cable reports. “Khamenei, President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, Speaker [Ali] Larijani and former president [Ayatollah Akhbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani consult regularly with visiting GOI [government of Iraq] officials as part of the IRIG’s [Islamic Republic of Iran government] broader ‘strategic’ council of advisers seeking to influence the GOI.”

    The cable continues that 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 organisations; lethal aid to selected militant Shia proxies; and sanctuary to Iraqi figures fearful of US government targeting, or those seeking to revitalise 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 [Iyad al-] Samarra’i, whose September visit to Tehran included meetings with several senior IRIG officials.”

    The cable comments that Iran is watching the US troop withdrawal schedule closely as it tries to make permanent its “strategic foothold”. All US troops are expected to leave Iraq by the end of next year. But the cable’s American author also injects some welcome historical perspective.

    “Iran will continue to flex its muscles to ensure its 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 longstanding historical realities that precede Iraq’s ties with the United States.

    “On the other hand Iran’s influence 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 issue as water, hydrocarbons, maritime borders and political parity. Some prominent Iraqi leaders, including those with ties to Iran, are increasingly sensitive to being labelled Iranian lackeys.”

    A visit last December by US diplomats to the Iraqi holy city of Najaf, the “epicentre of Shia Islam”, finds further evidence of Iraqi public resentment of foreign meddling from whatever quarter. One local leader “singled out Saudi Arabia and Iran as the biggest culprits but noted that a ‘mental revolution’ was under way among Iraqi youth against foreign agendas seeking to undermine the country’s stability”.

    Iraqi sources also tell the visiting Americans that the Iranian government and the IRGC cannot match the “social and political clout” that Iraq’s Shia establishment, led by the Shia world’s most senior cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, wields among the ordinary citizens of both Iraq and Iran.

    Sistani, it is noted, rejects the fundamental tenet of Iranian clerical rule – the unchallengeable “custodianship of the jurist” adopted by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to justify his de facto dictatorship. Seen this way the entire Iranian Islamic revolution is illegitimate.

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