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Viewing cable 06DUBLIN1020, EMERGING CONSTRAINTS ON U.S. MILITARY TRANSITS AT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06DUBLIN1020 2006-09-05 14:02 2010-11-30 16:04 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Dublin
VZCZCXRO1309
RR RUEHAG
DE RUEHDL #1020/01 2481445
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 051445Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY DUBLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7414
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0043
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RHCUAAA/HQ AMC TACC SCOTT AFB IL
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 DUBLIN 001020 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/31/2015 
TAGS: MARR MOPS PREL EAIR PTER EI
SUBJECT: EMERGING CONSTRAINTS ON U.S. MILITARY TRANSITS AT 
SHANNON 

REF: A. DUBLIN 891 

B. DUBLIN 709 
C. USDAO DUBLIN EI U-0011-06 

Classified By: Ambassador James C. Kenny; Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D). 

1. (C) This is an action request. Please see para 10. 

2. (C) Summary: Although supportive of continued U.S. 
military transits at Shannon Airport, the Irish Government 
has informally begun to place constraints on U.S. operations 
at the facility, mainly in response to public sensitivities 
over U.S. actions in the Middle East. Shannon remains a key 
transit point for U.S. troops and materiel bound for theaters 
in the global war on terror, while yielding diplomatic 
benefits for the Irish Government and significant revenues 
for the airport and regional economy. Segments of the Irish 
public, however, see the airport as a symbol of Irish 
complicity in perceived U.S. wrongdoing in the Gulf/Middle 
East and in regard to extraordinary renditions, a view that 
underpinned a recent jury decision to acquit the "Shannon 
Five" protesters who damaged a U.S. naval aircraft. The 
Irish Government has repeatedly defended U.S. interests in 
the face of public criticism, but has recently introduced 
more cumbersome notification requirements for 
equipment-related transits in the wake of the Lebanon 
conflict. These requirements, which entail a more expansive 
interpretation of munitions of war, are designed to give the 
Irish Government mor latitude to decide on allowable 
transits, accoring to a senior Department of Foreign Affairs 
oficial. We suspect that the Government aims with tese new 
constraints to dampen public criticism ahead of the 2007 
general elections, and we would apreciate Department 
gudance on a USG response, including on any next steps 
regarding the Shannon Five. End summary. 

Shannon: Significant Benefits and Sensitivities 
--------------------------------------------- -- 

3. (SBU) U.S. military access to Shannon Airport in western 
Ireland is among the most tangible benefits of traditionally 
strong U.S.-Irish relations. For the United States, 
geography makes Shannon a key transit point for military 
flights and military contract flights carrying personnel and 
materiel to Iraq and the Middle East/Gulf theater in the 
global war on terror, as well as to Europe and Africa. In 
2005, roughly 340,000 U.S. troops passed through Shannon on 
nearly 2,500 contract carrier flights; about 450 
equipment-related/distinguished-visitor transit milair 
flights and thousands of airspace overflights also took 
place. Approximately 220,000 troops have transited to date 
this year. For Ireland, U.S. military transits not only 
demonstrate bilateral cooperation in support of U.S. 
objectives in the Gulf/Middle East, but also generate 
significant revenue for Shannon Airport and the regional 
economy. In 2005, the airport turned a euro 2.9 million 
profit after earning roughly euro 10.3 million from services 
for transit flights, including landing, parking, catering, 
and fuel. The economic gains for the Shannon area are less 
easily calculated, but would include, at a minimum, payments 
for hotels, food/beverages, transportation, and cultural 
activities that come with 8-10 overnight stops per year for 
roughly 200 soldiers each time. (Revenues may fall in 2006, 
as World Airways, a DOD-contract carrier, has begun to 
transfer operations from Shannon to its Leipzig hub for 
internal logistical reasons.) 

4. (SBU) For segments of the Irish public, however, the 
visibility of U.S. troops at Shannon has made the airport a 
symbol of Irish complicity in perceived U.S. wrongdoing in 
the Gulf/Middle East. This popular sentiment was manifest in 
the July 25 jury decision to acquit the "Shannon Five," a 
group of anti-war protesters who damaged a U.S. naval 
aircraft at the airport in 2003 in the belief that they would 
prevent loss of life in Iraq (ref A). Members of the Shannon 
Five have subsequently called for a mass demonstration in 
Dublin on September 23 (capitalizing on publicity for the 
September 21-24 Ryder Cup tournament and the return of 
university students) as part of a campaign to "demilitarize" 
the airport. Although it is by no means clear that any 
protest will reach "mass" proportions, participation in the 
planned protest will likely draw from a vocal anti-war lobby 
that has demonstrated against U.S. use of Shannon from the 
start of the Iraq War up through the recent Lebanon conflict. 

DUBLIN 00001020 002 OF 003 


In late 2005/early 2006, EU-wide debate on extraordinary 
renditions similarly galvanized this lobby, and the Irish 
public generally, to question U.S. military access to the 
airport. 

The Irish Government and Shannon 
-------------------------------- 

5. (C) The Irish Government consistently has acted to ensure 
continued U.S. military transits at Shannon in the face of 
public criticism. Since the Shannon Five decision, for 
example, Irish authorities have upgraded airport security, 
doubling the number of police and military personnel 
patrolling the facility and introducing rigorous checks at 
the parking lot and perimeter fence. (The upgrade is also 
partly a response to possible Islamic extremist threats.) 
Moreover, despite a general Government reluctance to 
challenge independent court decisions, Defense Minister 
Willie O'Dea and governing Fianna Fail party politicians have 
publicly questioned the legal merits of the Shannon Five jury 
decision. These public statements track with representations 
to the Irish Parliament by Government ministers over recent 
years and months in defense of U.S. practices at Shannon, 
including by Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, who cited U.S. 
assurances on renditions this past year to rebuff calls for 
random aircraft checks. In parliamentary debate this spring, 
Minister of State for Europe, Noel Treacy, dismissed renewed 
calls for random inspections following the transit of a U.S. 
military prisoner that occurred without prior notification to 
the Irish Government (ref B). 

6. (C) Notwithstanding its general support for U.S. 
interests, the Irish Government has more recently begun to 
place limits on certain forms of U.S. transits at Shannon. 
On August 15, the Irish Department of Transport informally 
advised Post by e-mail that all military equipment, including 
HMMWVs and trucks, were to be considered "munitions of war," 
requiring prior notification to the Transport Department and 
exemption waivers for transshipment. In addition to 
diplomatic clearance requests for state aircraft, we have 
heretofore provided notification for troop transits (with 
accompanying weapons), hazmat, and actual weapons/munitions, 
but not non-lethal military articles. The Transport 
Department notice followed upon the Department of Foreign 
Affairs (DFA) oral but definitive decision during the Lebanon 
conflict to forbid U.S. military transits carrying munitions 
to Israel, a policy that DFA did not convey to Post before 
informing the media. Indications of this trend to constrain 
U.S. operations at Shannon first arose in the context of the 
extraordinary renditions issue. In late 2005, for instance, 
the DFA informally denied a DHS deportation transit through 
Shannon of convicted foreign nationals from the United States 
out of apparent concern that the public would misread the 
transit as a rendition. 

7. (C) In an August 30 meeting with the DCM and emboff, DFA 
Political Director Rory Montgomery said that the Department 
of Transport's more encompassing approach to munitions of war 
and notification requirements reflected the Irish 
Government's interest in knowing the full scope of military 
materiel transiting Ireland. He recalled that the February 
shipment through Shannon of U.S. Apache helicopters to/from 
Israel, which the U.S. contract carrier had not listed as 
munitions of war, elicited parliamentary criticism and 
highlighted the need for clarity about the nature of materiel 
in transit (ref C). More expansive notification requirements 
that would apply to all countries would "make it easier" for 
the Irish Government to decide on allowable shipments, while 
remaining predisposed to respond quickly and positively to 
U.S. transit requests, said Montgomery. He added that the 
DFA would recommend that the Department of Transport consult 
with Post in the process of clarifying and publishing 
guidance on munitions of war. The DCM noted Post's intention 
to confer with the Transport Department, and he emphasized 
that broader notification requirements would make it more 
cumbersome to process materiel shipments, with the 
possibility that U.S. military planners would consider 
alternatives to Shannon as a transit hub. 

Comment and Action Request 
-------------------------- 

8. (C) Comment: Irish sensitivities generally about foreign 
military usage of the airport often make any inadvertent 

DUBLIN 00001020 003 OF 003 


breaches of Ireland's restrictive rules on foreign military 
transits more visible and problematic. A neutral country, 
Ireland has no military attache system, no SOFA for U.S. 
activities, and strict rules regarding weapons transits and 
the wearing of foreign military uniforms. Occasional and 
inadvertent breaches of weapons and uniform policies, like 
"failure" to notify transiting prisoners (ref B) and military 
equipment, are met with public and press scrutiny, but also 
with Government understanding. Any incident, however, that 
becomes the cause for a public debate about the U.S. use of 
Shannon will likely add pressure on the Government. Embassy 
has sought to manage the policy issues, notification 
requirements, and the coordination of transiting flights, 
overflights, refuelings, crew rest overnights, and equipment 
failure overnights with existing DAO and civilian Embassy 
resources on the ground. With the help of extra TDY support 
to the DAO office and a TDY EUCOM presence at Shannon airport 
(which is three-and-a-half hours from Dublin), we have 
managed the occasional problems adequately and well. 

9. (C) More comment: We intend to engage other ranking DFA, 
Transport, and Irish Defense Department officials, upon their 
return from the August holiday period, on the reasons for new 
constraints at Shannon, particularly the novel interpretation 
of munitions of war and its application to other countries 
(Russian transits to Venezuela, for instance). The Irish 
public's overwhelming opposition to Israeli military actions 
in Lebanon has exacerbated the governing Fianna Fail party's 
sensitivity to public criticism ahead of Ireland's May 2007 
general elections. The major opposition party, Fine Gael, 
supports continued U.S. military use of Shannon, but the 
Labour Party and the Green Party, Fine Gael's opposition 
partners, favor a review, if not reversal, of Irish policy on 
U.S. transits. Against this political backdrop, U.S. 
missteps at Shannon could easily become campaign grist, a 
Fianna Fail concern that mid-level DFA officials have cited 
in informal discussions with Post. Compliance with the new 
rules (entailing notification for almost any U.S. military 
equipment transiting), if feasible from the U.S. logistical 
perspective, will require a higher order of coordination 
among TRANSCOM, Air Mobility Command, TACC, and the contract 
carriers. 

10. (C) Action request: We would appreciate input from the 
Department and other USG agencies for our planned follow-on 
discussions with Irish officials on Shannon. Embassy will 
diplomatically pursue the most workable arrangements possible 
with Irish officials, but we would appreciate Washington's 
judgment as to whether the process of notification of almost 
everything of a military nature (including by contract 
carriers) through Shannon is becoming too difficult to make 
the airport a preferred transit stop. Guidance is also 
requested regarding the Shannon Five decision, an outcome 
that DFA Political Director Montgomery described as "bizarre" 
and presumably not precedential. Our understanding is that 
the case, as a criminal matter, has run its course, as there 
is no possibility to appeal a jury decision under Irish law. 
There may be an option to pursue the case as a civil matter, 
and Post would need authorization and funding to contact 
local attorneys about this possibility. Another option would 
be to present an itemized bill for aircraft damages to the 
Irish Government, either to seek compensation outright or, at 
least, to convey USG dissatisfaction with the Shannon Five 
verdict. 
KENNY