Cablegate: Major Turkish Trucking Company Boss Threatens To

Published: Wed 27 Oct 2004 02:19 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
271419Z Oct 04
E.O. 12958: N/A
B. ANKARA 5997
C. STATE 195610
(U) Sensitive but unclassified -- please protect accordingly.
1. (SBU) Summary: The head of a large Turkish trucking
company, Emin Deger, warned emboffs Oct. 22 that U.S. and
Turkish officials have been too slow to address the security
concerns of Turkish truckers in Iraq, threatening that he
could close the Habur Gate if he wished. Deger said that
many of those attacking truckers were not
ideologically-motivated insurgents, but criminal gangs after
money. Deger accused the U.S. of being both insensitive and
ineffective in dealing with the problem. He proposed
creating an Iraqi unit of mixed ethnicity to provide convoy
security. Deger is well-connected politically. We do not
believe he really plans to try to close down the Habur Gate
and the northern Ground Line of Communication (GLOC), but he
reflects well Turkish frustration over continuing security
problems for Turkish drivers and contractors in Iraq. End
2. (SBU) At his request, Emboffs called on Emin Deger, Head
of Deger International Transport and Trading Company and the
Turkish-Iraqi Friendship Association, in his Ankara office on
Oct. 22. Deger, a Turkish Kurd of Iraqi background, told us
that until three months ago, his company had been a KBR
subcontractor carrying 3000 tons/day of humanitarian fuel
shipments into Iraq as far as Baghdad. Now that the Iraqi
State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) has taken over
humanitarian fuel shipments, his company now carries less
than a quarter of that amount into Iraq daily.
3. (SBU) Deger complained that despite somewhat beefed-up
coalition protection for truck convoys in recent weeks,
security for Turkish truck drivers remains inadequate. He
says that so far his company has had one trucker killed and
two kidnapped in Iraq; one of the kidnap victims is his
relative. He also claims to have lost a number of trucks and
their cargo. Deger claimed bandits attack trucks both in and
out of convoy in Iraq going both directions. He
characterized those attacking trucks and truckers as bandits,
not insurgents. He believes that most of the attacks are
conducted by a single group of about 90 persons (Arabs, Kurds
and Turkmen) and that they are motivated by financial gain,
not insurgents motivated by a political vision.
4. (SBU) Deger claimed that he had information on individual
leaders of these gangs, and that his employees in Iraq had
attempted to pass this information on to the Iraqi police.
However the police, according to Deger, informed his
employees that while they may work as police by day, they
work with the criminals/insurgents by night. He said that a
Turkmen named "Mustafa" and a restaurant owner named "Farhan"
in Mosul were the main ringleaders, along with a police
officer named "Ibrahim," who was since killed (NFI). The
dead police officer, Ibrahim, worked at the Jemal police
station, 70 km south of Mosul on the road to Baji. His
cousin (NFI) works at a restaurant 1.5 km south of this
police station, and served as the connection between the
police and the criminal gangs/insurgents. According to
Deger, the major offload point north of Mosul, Filfil, is the
main gathering point for both criminal gangs and insurgents.
He said that it is well-known among the trucking companies
that Filfil is the place to go to get information on missing
trucks and their drivers.
5. (SBU) Deger seemed well-informed on GOT efforts to work
with the USG and the IIG on the trucker security problem, but
he declared these efforts inadequate. He said he had
strongly opposed the call in August by the International
Transporters Union (UND in Turkish--see ref a) for a ban on
trucking in support of the coalition, and that he continues
to counsel truck companies and individual drivers on the
importance of trade between Turkey and Iraq and of not giving
into the terrorists and criminals. But, Deger continued, he
believes the U.S. and Turkey have been much too slow to act
and the situation has become worse. The U.S., he went on,
has also been "insensitive" in dealing with him on this
issue. He claimed that through his contacts he could easily
close down the Habur Gate, though he was not immediately
inclined to do so.
6. (SBU) Emboffs assured Deger that both the GOT and the USG
were quite concerned about trucker security, and that
trilateral (USG, GOT, IIG) meetings were about to start as a
further step in grappling with the problem. We noted that
sustainment and humanitarian shipping, as well as regular
commercial traffic, over the GLOC was significant and vital
to Iraqi stability and future prosperity. Deger said he
understood this, and emphasized his feeling of solidarity
with the Iraqi people.
7. (SBU) We asked Deger what measures he thought would be
effective, and he recommended a multi-ethnic (Arab, Kurdish,
Turkmen) convoy protection team of 200-300 Iraqis who could
be funded by the IIG, the USG, and/or the truckers
themselves. The team would include mechanics and ambulances
to handle stalled trucks and injured drivers and would be
solely responsible for convoy security and have no other
duties. When emboffs asked if 200-300 people would be
enough, he said that more might be needed, but the smaller
the better. "If you have a larger unit," Deger said, "you
have a larger problem."
8. (SBU) Comment: Deger is well-connected politically (and is
known in particular to be close to former President Demirel)
and runs a larger trucking company here. It is not clear
whether he has the influence to effectively close down the
GLOC. His threat, we believe, reflects overall Turkish
frustration with the continued attacks against and
kidnappings of Turkish truckers. We understand many Turkish
truck drivers are refusing to drive south of Mosul out of
security concerns. While we cannot evaluate Deger's
recommendation for improving security for the drivers, it is
all the more important that trilateral trucker security talks
(refs b and c) begin as soon as possible to demonstrate U.S.
seriousness. End comment.
9. (U) Baghdad minimize considered.
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