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Viewing cable 06REYKJAVIK93, MEDIA REACTION FOR MARCH 18-20, 2006: U.S.

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06REYKJAVIK93 2006-03-20 17:05 2011-01-13 05:05 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXYZ0010
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRK #0093/01 0791700
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 201700Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2639
INFO RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0187
UNCLAS REYKJAVIK 000093 
 
SIPDIS 
 
USNATO FOR MIKIEWICZ 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: NATO MARR PREL KPAO IIP ECA IC
SUBJECT:  MEDIA REACTION FOR MARCH 18-20, 2006:  U.S. 
REMOVAL OF AIR ASSETS FROM NAVAL AIR STATION KEFLAVIK 
 
1. Summary:  Weekend media reaction to the U.S. decision to 
realign Keflavik Naval Air Station (NASKEF) took a sober 
turn as politicians and pundits assessed the cost of this 
development to their state's security and treasury.  The 
national newspaper of record, whose editor is close to 
former PM David Oddsson, adopted an especially harsh line. 
Other coverage was more straightforward or even ironic, 
tapping what appears to be pent-up journalistic desire to 
imagine Iceland post-NASKEF.  End summary. 
 
----------------------- 
Five Stages of Mourning 
----------------------- 
2.  If the universal stages of mourning are denial, anger, 
bargaining, depression, and acceptance, then some members of 
the Icelandic intelligentsia have now entered the anger 
stage.  Arguably Reykjavik had been in denial from 2003 (or 
even earlier) until March 15.  Post still anticipates eager 
Icelandic entry into bargaining as soon as a U.S. 
negotiating team can come to Reykjavik. Weekend commentators 
meanwhile threw some brickbats: 
 
-- Morgunbladid (national newspaper of record, center-right, 
supports governing coalition; its editor is a close friend 
of former Prime Minister David Oddsson): 
 
In an editorial March 18:  "Even though the United States 
made a unilateral decision to withdraw the helicopters and 
fighters, it cannot make a unilateral decision to remain 
here. In an interview with Morgunbladid yesterday, Carol van 
Voorst, the new U.S. Ambassador to Iceland, said that a new 
chapter in reliable defense cooperation would now commence. 
Really?  What chapter is that?  The U.S. Foreign Service has 
acquired great skill in saying a lot of fine words about 
nothing at all....(I)t would be advisable for the U.S. 
Ambassador to avoid any form of flattery right now.  We can 
see through empty words." 
 
In an op-ed March 19:  "Robert Loftis's statements in 
Morgunbladid yesterday are unconvincing:  he said there was 
no point in having military aircraft stationed in Iceland, 
 
given the current situation....The cooperation that Loftis 
talked about probably involves only a continuation of the 
current cooperation between U.S. and Icelandic customs 
authorities, police, and border inspection authorities, 
which is important of course, but which cannot replace air 
defense....The real import of the U.S. decision...might 
therefore be that the United States intends to shift the 
cost of airspace monitoring for Iceland onto the other NATO 
countries." 
 
In a somewhat more constructive editorial March 20:  "Even 
though the United States has long wanted the four fighters 
for different duties in other parts of the world, it has 
planes in Britain that could maintain regular surveillance 
flights to Iceland.  Iceland could then take over Keflavik 
Airport and its operation, and the military base area would 
no longer be under U.S. control, nor would there be an 
`insignificant number of U.S. personnel' there, to quote 
U.S. representatives.  The fighters that perform 
surveillance duties for Iceland could use the services at 
Keflavik Airport.  There is every reason for the Icelandic 
Government to propose this alternative before negotiating 
the airspace monitoring that NATO now provides...." 
 
-- In a March 20 Frettabladid (largest circulation daily, 
center-left, sympathetic to opposition) article reporting 
Social Democratic Alliance Chair Ingibjorg Solrun 
Gisladottir's explanation of why she has appointed former 
Foreign Minister (and former Ambassador to the United 
States) Jon Baldvin Hannibalsson to head a defense working 
group:  "It is time for Iceland to formulate an independent 
policy on defense and security that reflects national 
interests in a changing world.  It is urgent that Iceland 
take the initiative in shaping this policy, given the 
turning point in defense and security that has now been 
reached with the U.S. Government's unilateral violation of 
the defense agreement." 
 
------------- 
Looking Ahead 
------------- 
3.  Some commentators are beginning to consider future force 
structure: 
 
-- Under the headline "Iceland should be offered air 
policing," Frettabladid March 18 quoted sources at NATO 
referring to air policing as effected in the Baltic States 
and Slovenia as a valid option for Iceland. Icelandic 
historian Valur Ingimundarson, who specializes in defense 
 
issues, points out that the F-15's rarely carry weapons but 
that the air policing jets do. 
 
-- Under the headline "Halldor suspected U.S. military would 
leave," Frettabladid reported March 19: "Halldor Asgrimsson 
says that he had suspected that the U.S. would withdraw 
their military force. He therefore stated at a Progressive 
Party meeting that Iceland would never force the U.S. 
military to stay in Iceland if they did not want to stay. 
Mr. Asgrimsson says: `I had expected it to come to pass 
during the present negotiations, but I had imagined it to be 
in a different fashion...Now we know and we can work our way 
forward from this point.' Mr. Asgrimsson could not say 
whether it will be an aluminum smelter or some other 
solution but he stated that the departure of the defense 
force could possibly justify special and temporary measures 
to ensure employment in the (Sudurnes) region." 
 
-- Morgunbladid added in a page-one report March 20:  "A 
seven-person working group will be formed to look into the 
future of jobs in Sudurnes region. The group will most 
likely include four government representatives and three 
regional representatives. Yesterday municipal 
representatives from Reykjanesbaer and Sandgerdi met with 
Prime Minister Halldor Asgrimsson and Minister for Foreign 
Affairs Geir H. Haarde....Arni Sigfusson, Mayor of 
Reykjanesbaer, presented suggestions to the government on 
possible actions. He said that the suggestions had been well 
received by the ministers. `It will now become the project 
for this working group among others to develop these ideas 
further,' said Arni. `Common sense will guide us and the 
belief that we can solve these problems. It began well in 
this meeting here today, but the work is far from over.' 
 
-- In an editorial in the March 18 Bladid (centrist 
tabloid): "(T)here is a risk that people will lose sight of 
the task at hand and allow disputes over the past and 
unrealistic ideas about the future to dominate.  There have 
been several examples of the latter, particularly the claim 
that Iceland should look to the EU in the area of security 
and defense.  There is little time to spare, and it is 
unlikely that the EU will have the capability or the 
interest in guaranteeing security or performing monitoring 
duties in the North Atlantic.  There is a job to be done, 
and it will require pragmatism, consultation, and 
businesslike work methods....(I)t is self-evident that 
Iceland can also "look in other directions," including NATO 
and friendly neighboring countries with regard to national 
defense, rescue operations at sea, and monitoring 
territorial waters.  Icelandic political leaders' abilities 
and sense of responsibility will now be put to the test." 
 
------------------------ 
Keeping a Sense of Humor 
------------------------ 
4.  A poll in Frettabladid March 18 showed that 75 percent 
of Icelanders actually were not surprised by the U.S. 
announcement that the base would close.  Reflecting this 
national shrugging of the shoulders, Frettabladid carried a 
"diary entry" from well-known left-of-center Icelandic film 
director, author, and commentator Thrainn Bertelsson March 
18: 
 
"Heartbreak! 
 
"In (the film)  `Punktur, punktur, komma, strik' is my 
favorite sentence in Icelandic films. A school class is 
interrupted by the tragic announcement that JFK has passed 
away. Overcome by grief the teacher says, `What is to become 
of Jackie and the children?' 
 
"Yesterday the third deputy Secretary of State was late for 
work one more time and was therefore tasked to call up Geir 
Haarde, who I am told is a very nice man and has recently 
returned from a reunion of the Haarde-family in Norway... 
anyway, the reason for the phone call was to ask Geir to let 
the Icelandic people know that the U.S. can't be bothered to 
keep running a very expensive base on `Midnesheidi' (note: 
the heath on which the base is located; end note), however 
bad the fishing or unemployment at Sudurnes might be. 
 
"Isafold (note: mythical female personification of Iceland; 
end note) is left to her own demise. The fiance has left 
her. She gets to keep her engagement ring though, because 
they say the defense agreement is still being honored. What 
is to become of `the Mountain Woman' and her children? Sad 
news indeed that proves once again that loving someone who 
doesn't love you back is not a good idea. The blow is 
lessened, however, since the nation was well prepared to see 
its protector, which lost all interest in Iceland years ago 
when the country stopped being a vital link in the U.S. 
chain of defense, leave. 
 
"And although the whole nation knew this was about to happen 
there are always those that seem to be clueless. In this 
case, the only clueless individuals  were these two: the 
Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs." 
 
VAN VOORST