Cablegate: Keeping the Momentum in Maysan: Key Areas For

Published: Fri 12 Oct 2007 02:16 PM
DE RUEHGB #3414/01 2851416
P 121416Z OCT 07
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (U) This is PRT Maysan report.
2. (SBU) Summary and Comment: Despite four years and over
USD 200 Million of consent-winning projects in rural and
urban Maysan, the province remains solidly allergic to any
Coalition military activity. That said, the recent burst of
engagement opens the door to several potentially valuable
opportunities for PRT influence. Expectations are high for
the GRS-supported surgical hospital in al-Amarah. There are
excellent opportunities to provide both construction training
and relief from a difficult housing shortage through the
Governor's ambitious plan to build a city near the capital.
There is also an opportunity to develop an academic center of
excellence in energy studies through a dedicated energy
department or institute in the local university. We plan to
support both job creation and training through connecting
Maysanis with available business development centers created
by the USAID/Izdihar program and with a vocational training
center. There is also very positive scope to influence
students through carefully targeted technical support of
visible areas of Maysan University, as well as to facilitate
a connection with American universities for a potential
twinning relationship. End Comment.
The Flagship: A Surgical Hospital in al-Amarah
--------------------------------------------- -
3. (SBU) The Maysanis are looking forward to the planned
construction of the Maysan Surgical Hospital, a very solid
deliverable for al-Amarah. The Provincial Council (PC) has
requested and received Ministry of Health approval for the US
Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) Gulf Region South (GRS) to
build a quality 100-bed facility in two phases for roughly
USD 17 Million. Given that Maysan has only two hospitals for
a province of roughly 800,000 people with low development
indicators, this is a high-impact, high-visibility way to
improve acute health care. We have heard our provincial
interlocutors on local Arabic radio programs describing their
plans to deliver this hospital for the benefit of the people
of Maysan. This effort is a must-deliver.
Housing and Training: Infrastructure Planning Assistance
--------------------------------------------- -----------
4. (SBU) The Maysanis offered additional information about
the Governor's long-term vision of building a planned city.
Observing that al-Amarah suffers from poor urban planning and
an overburdened infrastructure, they have emphasized the need
to systematize the distribution of the population. To this
end, they expressed a keen interest in having training in
city planning at the technocrat/Director General (DG)
staff-level, particularly in core services such as water,
electricity, sewage, and waste disposal. They also welcomed
any assistance that we can offer for training on project
planning, from site selection and survey onward. They
specifically noted a need for accurate mapping products.
5. (SBU) (Comment: We believe that for the Governor, this
city vision is second only to developing Maysan's hydrocarbon
upstream/downstream as a provincial priority. He sees the
successful development of this city as the key to job
creation, IDP resettlement, and pacifying the restive,
unemployed youth that comprise the footsoldiers of the
militias. The Governor's assistant told us that they see
al-Majar al-Kabir as the main area of unemployment and
insecurity in the province and the best opportunity for
improvement. While we are helping coordinate Local
Governance Program (LGP-RTI) assistance for city mapping, we
believe that the Governor's vision offers an excellent
opportunity to proactively and widely support the elected
officials of Maysan in a well-considered (if ambitious) plan.
Although they have not detailed the costs or their plans for
funding the city project, it is clear that they have made
some arrangement with Baghdad for the investment that will be
required. We have seen digital photos of
some of the heavy earthmoving equipment that the Governor
purchased in Dubai. If successful, we believe that it could
generate substantial numbers of unskilled, semi-skilled, and
skilled construction jobs, thereby indirectly weakening the
appeal of Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) membership and easing the
housing stresses caused by large numbers of returnees from
Iran and Sadr City. We warmly welcome creative ideas on how
to deliver tangible training opportunities in support of this
vision. End Comment.)
Iraq's Future Top Energy Institute in Maysan-Why Not?
--------------------------------------------- --------
6. (SBU) During a recent conference in Dubai, we noted
Governor al-Maliki's deep and focused interest in developing
BAGHDAD 00003414 002 OF 003
the oil and gas potential in his province. Shell's Luay
Jawad, Business Advisor for the Middle East, Caspian, and
South Asia told us of his suggestion to the Governor that the
province ask for assistance in establishing an energy
institute in Maysan. Such an institute could be funded by
international oil majors and, if well-organized, eventually
produce the country's supply of petroleum and gas engineers,
as well as technologists developing renewable energy
solutions for rural application, using solar, wind, and
biofuels. Such an institute need not only produce masters or
undergraduate degrees, but could also include a shorter-term
training track oriented at youth aiming for blue collar
opportunities in the oil, gas, and renewables sectors.
7. (SBU) Although this would be a vanity project for the
Governor, we do see practical value and a reaffirming
connection with the university if it were established as a
college. Given al-Maliki's (what we believe to be)
admiration of the deep energy infrastructure investment in
and good relations with Khuzestan, Iran's most oil-rich
province on the other side of the border, we assess that he
would strongly desire a legacy accomplishment such as this.
We note that Iran's Petroleum University of Technology (www., has a college in Ahwaz, the Khuzestani capital.
According to their website, the school generates a large
number of internationally trained petroleum engineers and
that all specialized classes are given in English (rather
than in Farsi). Putting Maysan on the map with such a high
profile center of national excellence would be another
signature accomplishment for such a young and ambitious
politician. The prestige and prospect of meaningful jobs
across Iraq following training in such an institute could
attract considerable interest among the youth and serve as
another moderating influence. We would value any suggestions
on how the Coalition might be able to support this,
particularly technical training resources or related
Letting a Little Sun Shine In
8. (SBU) After the Governor expressed interest in solar
energy resources, we drew from Department of Energy/National
Renewable Energy Laboratory references and academic/ industry
technical publications and prepared a linked listing of
backgrounders, technical references, and component/system
purchase resources. When they received this, we received a
note graciously thanking us and adding that "really we feel
very happy with our relationship with you and PRT". This
small expression is symbolic of the dramatic turnaround we
have seen in the relationship and the effectiveness of small
gestures in this quirky relationship.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs-Part 1: Small Business Help
9. (SBU) From recent meetings with USAID/ Izdihar officials,
it is clear that a Southern Business Development Center
(SBDC) as currently contemplated for an-Nasiriyah would be a
boon to local provinces, including Maysan. Provincial
officials were supportive of the idea of a women's
craftmaking cooperative, but were cautious about the
mechanics of setting up such a business. We expect that an
SBDC that serves the local provinces with varying levels of
business training via existing chambers of commerce or
business associations would have excellent Maysani
participation. We intend to nominate Maysanis for similar
training at the established business development center in
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs-Part 2: Vocational Training
10. (SBU) During recent meetings with the National VoTech
Team, we learned that there is an opportunity for building a
vocational technology training center in Maysan. We have
raised this with provincial officials and the Governor has
expressed his interest in having one. We believe the best
prospect for this type of center in Maysan would be one
tailored toward basic construction-related skills, given the
province's ambitious plans for housing expansion and city
Reaching Maysani Students: University Assistance
--------------------------------------------- ---
11. (SBU) Given the Maysanis' strong interest in boosting
their university, we think that there is a special
opportunity for subtle, targeted public diplomacy with
Maysani youth. We believe that a high-visibility,
well-designed and appointed student center or library (as
BAGHDAD 00003414 003 OF 003
requested by al-Rafaie) would be a popular amenity. A
well-endowed university in the US may be interested in
establishing such a connection, perhaps even linking students
in the university's English college by videoteleconference
with occasional classes in the US. We understand that many
Maysan University students are relatively underprepared
academically and pursue non-rigorous programs while waiting
for job opportunities. We would welcome any suggestions on
what might be possible to engage with them.
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media