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Viewing cable 06REYKJAVIK130, ICELANDIC FOREIGN MINISTER BEARING UP WELL UNDER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06REYKJAVIK130 2006-04-11 16:04 2011-01-13 05:05 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXYZ0010
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRK #0130/01 1011605
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111605Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2700
INFO RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0208
UNCLAS REYKJAVIK 000130 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE, SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: NATO MARR PREL KPAO IIP ECA IC
SUBJECT:  ICELANDIC FOREIGN MINISTER BEARING UP WELL UNDER 
OPPOSITION FIRE ON BASE ISSUE; COULD STILL USE OUR HELP 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  Icelandic Foreign Minister Geir H. Haarde 
has spent early April trying to diffuse criticism from press 
and politicians who accuse him of failing to predict the 
U.S. decision to draw down Naval Air Station Keflavik 
(NASKEF), and who say he is too passive in letting the U.S. 
define Iceland's defense needs.  Haarde's critics are 
variously using the base closure issue to argue that 
Haarde's Independence Party is not the guarantor of national 
security that it has long claimed, that the Government is 
asleep at the switch, and that Iceland should join the 
European Union.  We will reward Haarde's dogged Atlanticism 
if we come up with a plan for security post-NASKEF that he 
can sell to an increasingly skeptical public. End Summary. 
 
2. (U) Foreign Minister Haarde used his twice-yearly speech 
on foreign policy to the Althingi (Icelandic Parliament) 
April 6 as a platform to defend himself against criticism 
that he did not foresee the U.S. decision to zero out 
NASKEF's budget. "The world is constantly changing, even in 
the short time between reports by the Foreign Minister to 
the Althingi on the current aspects of foreign affairs," 
Haarde told Parliament. 
 
------------------------------- 
Changes in Security Environment 
------------------------------- 
3. (U) Haarde told MPs that the world now faces a variety of 
threats, ranging from hostile dictatorial states and complex 
ethnic conflicts to tiny terrorist groups and environmental 
damage and epidemics. "It is not unreasonable, therefore, 
that NATO, led by the United States, is now trying to adapt 
its defensive capabilities to these new circumstances," the 
Foreign Minister said.  "The membership in NATO and the 
Defense Agreement with the United States have been the 
cornerstones of Iceland's security policy for over half a 
century.  Although one might be led to think otherwise by 
the recent public debate, the defense cooperation has, 
indeed, changed in light of the changed world order. . .Not 
changed enough, however, to warrant the sacrifice of an air 
defense capability for which there is a defined need within 
NATO." 
 
------------------------------------------ 
Base Announcement a `Great Disappointment' 
------------------------------------------ 
4. (U) Mr. Haarde continued, "Whatever the expectations may 
have been, it cannot be denied that March 15 was a historic 
day, and the unilateral decision by the United States while 
talks were in progress was a great disappointment and a 
setback for the defense cooperation. The possibility of a 
revision, or even termination, of the Defense Agreement 
cannot be excluded.  But in light of the fact that the U.S. 
Government reiterated its commitments under the 1951 Defense 
Agreement, the first step was for Iceland and the United 
States to enter into negotiating on the future of their 
cooperation." 
 
------------------- 
Opposition Reaction 
------------------- 
5. (U) Since the March 15 announcement that no significant 
U.S. military presence will remain in Iceland after 
September 30, 2006, the Foreign Minister has been ridiculed 
by editorial cartoonists and opposition political parties, 
who portray him as being a pawn of the Americans. One 
editorial cartoon showed Secretary Rice dragging the Foreign 
Minister along the ground by his ears, telling him, "It is 
so comfortable dealing with you Icelanders because you can 
take anything we throw at you." 
 
6. (U) An April 4 Morgunbladid op-ed by the Left Green 
Party's chair and his deputy fumed, "It still looks as if 
everything revolves around what the United States is willing 
to do -- with Icelandic envoys in the role of supplicants." 
Ossur Skarphensson, former Social Democratic Alliance (SDA) 
Chair and now an influential MP, remarked in the Althing 
April 5, "The Foreign Minister was the only person in the 
country who believed the Defense Force would not leave 
Iceland." 
 
7. (U) Ogmundur Jonasson, MP for the Left Green Party and a 
reliably strong critic of Icelandic and U.S. foreign 
policies, quipped that Mr. Haarde's April 6 speech amounted 
to "a very good analysis by the Foreign Minister that could 
have come straight from the Pentagon."  Ingibjorg Solrun 
Gisladottir, SDA Chair and Haarde's main competition for the 
Prime Minister's job in 2007 elections, criticized the 
government for lacking a policy on security and defense: 
"They are sitting there with their hands in their laps, with 
no proposals of their own, waiting for the United States to 
make up a new contingency plan for Iceland. These are 
Iceland's willing and steadfast leaders." 
 
 
8. (U) Gisladottir added (comment:  accurately, in post's 
view; end comment) that there was a different foreign and 
defense policy emphasis between the two parties making up 
the coalition government.  Haarde's Independence Party seems 
more in favor of cooperation with the United States, she 
said, and Asgrimsson's Progressive Party with Europe. 
Gisladottir affirmed that SDA policy is to work so that 
Europe "will be our security community in the future." 
 
-------------------- 
What It Means For Us 
-------------------- 
9. (SBU) Comment:  FM Haarde is handling the barbs and 
public ridicule smoothly so far, and he used his speech to 
underscore his rationale for taking a `wait and see' 
attitude toward bilateral defense cooperation.  EUCOM is due 
to brief the GOI later this month on how it plans to 
`replace the base.'  The EUCOM plan will not satisfy 
everyone in Iceland, especially the opposition parties.  But 
if it can convey clearly that we continue to offer genuine 
defense preparedness to this long-time ally, the plan will 
help not only Iceland but also Haarde, thus far the most 
levelheaded of our senior Icelandic interlocutors. End 
comment. 
 
VAN VOORST