Viewing cable 09REYKJAVIK69, ICELAND: NO NEW AFGHANISTAN PLEDGES BEFORE ELECTIONS
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|09REYKJAVIK69||2009-04-08 17:05||2011-01-13 05:05||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Reykjavik|
VZCZCXRO2826 RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHRK #0069 0981719 ZNY CCCCC ZZH R 081719Z APR 09 FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4042 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE 0085 RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L REYKJAVIK 000069 SIPDIS DEPT FOR SCA/A REOTT, EUR/RPM COPE ALSO FOR EUR/NB OSLO FOR DATT OSD FOR OSD-P (FENTON) EUCOM FOR J-5 E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/07/2019 TAGS: PREL MOPS PGOV MARR NATO AF IC SUBJECT: ICELAND: NO NEW AFGHANISTAN PLEDGES BEFORE ELECTIONS REFS: A) STATE 031102 B) STATE 028929 Classified By: Amb. Carol van Voorst for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). ¶1. (C) Summary: Iceland's government is committed to supporting NATO in Afghanistan but new pledges of assistance are unlikely before parliamentary elections at the end of April, based on discussions with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. In separate meetings with Ambassador, both ministers repeated the FM's pledges at Strasbourg/Kehl to continue support for operations in Afghanistan. For his part, FM Skarphedinsson noted that simply keeping Iceland's small ISAF contingent in place has been a victory in view of pressure from the other party in government to withdraw entirely. Post does not anticipate a massive shift after the election; all we can realistically hope for given the economic situation here is a plus-up by a handful of billets. End summary. ¶2. (C) Ambassador delivered ref A points to Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, Ministry for Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Benedikt Jonsson, and Minister for Foreign Affairs Ossur Skarphedinsson in meetings April 6-8. In each case, officials took the opportunity to reaffirm Iceland's commitment to Afghanistan, but made no new pledges of support. PM Sigurdardottir, not previously outspoken on NATO, Afghanistan, or foreign affairs in general, noted the Strasbourg/Kehl Summit's strong focus on Afghanistan. Ambassador made the case that Iceland's international reputation has taken a beating due to the country's economic difficulties. In these times, being seen as an active contributor to international reconstruction and stabilization efforts may be one of the most effective means to help displace "economic collapse" as the first association foreign observers have when thinking about Iceland. The Prime Minister sidestepped a direct commitment but made it clear that Ambassador's points were taken on board. ¶3. (C) In subsequent meetings at the Foreign Ministry, Ambassador made the same case, that the sterling reputation of its peacekeepers was a plus point in the eyes of the international community that the government should not let drop. Foreign Minister Skarphedinsson called the Ambassador's argument persuasive, and agreed that efforts within NATO or additional civilian reconstruction efforts would help improve the way the world sees Iceland. However, Skarphedinsson, visibly wincing at the thought of financial contributions to overseas ventures in tough budget times, drew attention to the difficulty of making new commitments right now. He added that the U.S. should be happy that Iceland had fallen short of the Ambassador's worst fears, i.e., that the Icelandic ISAF contingent would be called home immediately when the Left-Greens came in to government in February. The FM said his Social Democratic party is under pressure from their Left-Green coalition partners to cut back on NATO activities, but that he has successfully countered these efforts so far. Skarphedinsson pledged to keep the Ambassador's arguments in mind when looking at the budget again, but implied strongly that this would not happen before the April 25 parliamentary elections. ¶4. (C) Comment: The ministers' responses confirm what other senior officials have told post in recent weeks; namely, that although ministry staff are strongly in favor of maintaining or expanding Iceland's Afghan presence, the political leadership is not interested in moving before the elections. Both the PM and FM stated strong faith in opinion polls that show the current government holding power after April 25, and we believe they may be more open to reexamining the issue at that point. However, given the strong pressure to cut budgets at the MFA and elsewhere, we may at best only be able to hope for an increase by a few billets in police advising or other "civilian-oriented" fields. van Voorst