Keep Us Strong WikiLeaks logo

Currently released so far... 2497 / 251,287

Articles

Browse latest releases

Browse by creation date

Browse by origin

A B C D F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z

Browse by tag

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
QA
YE YM YI

Browse by classification

Community resources

courage is contagious

Viewing cable 06REYKJAVIK431, ICELAND: PEACEKEEPING POLICY AT A CROSSROADS

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Understanding cables
Every cable message consists of three parts:
  • The top box shows each cables unique reference number, when and by whom it originally was sent, and what its initial classification was.
  • The middle box contains the header information that is associated with the cable. It includes information about the receiver(s) as well as a general subject.
  • The bottom box presents the body of the cable. The opening can contain a more specific subject, references to other cables (browse by origin to find them) or additional comment. This is followed by the main contents of the cable: a summary, a collection of specific topics and a comment section.
To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.

Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #06REYKJAVIK431.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06REYKJAVIK431 2006-11-27 11:11 2011-01-13 05:05 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXRO8954
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHIK RUEHKUK RUEHYG
DE RUEHRK #0431/01 3311149
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 271149Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3068
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0071
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE 0043
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0007
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 REYKJAVIK 000431 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
STATE FOR P (BAME) EUR/NB EUR/RPM IO/PSC SCA/INS SCA/A 
OSLO FOR DATT 
OSD/P FOR J. HURSCH, J. KELSO 
EUCOM FOR COL FRANKLIN and LTC GREEN 
CENTCOM FOR COALITION COORDINATION CELL (KURDIAN) 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL KPKO EAID NATO IC
SUBJECT:  ICELAND: PEACEKEEPING POLICY AT A CROSSROADS 
 
REFTEL: REYKJAVIK 294 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Iceland's Foreign Minister has announced that 
Iceland will increase the number of peacekeepers sent abroad with 
the Icelandic Crisis Response Unit(ICRU), while focusing on civilian 
projects where Iceland has particular expertise and restricting 
behavior (e.g. wearing battle dress, carrying automatic weapons) 
that has dismayed the public.  The decision reflects an ongoing 
debate in Iceland - which has no military - about where to draw the 
line between being a peacekeeper and being a warrior.  Post believes 
that the GOI's "softer" peacekeeping policy is a sensible response 
to public anxiety, but risks offering unrealistic assurances that 
peacekeeping can be made safe rather than simply safer.  End 
summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- - 
A softer, less ad hoc approach to peacekeeping 
--------------------------------------------- - 
2. (U) Icelandic Foreign Minister Valgerdur Sverrisdottir announced 
on October 19 that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is revising its 
policy on involvement in peacekeeping, with the goal of focusing 
more on "softer" civil affairs missions where Iceland has expertise 
- such as midwife training and airport management, the latter 
proposal reflecting Iceland's experience running airports in Kosovo 
and Afghanistan.  The FM amplified these comments in her report to 
the Althingi (parliament) on Foreign Affairs on November 16, where 
she announced an MFA study of ways in which Iceland can increase its 
contribution to NATO's Afghanistan mission, pointing to the need for 
"experts in the fields of health, law enforcement, and judicial 
matters."  She further requested the Althingi's support for draft 
legislation to formalize the legal framework for the Icelandic 
Crisis Response Unit (ICRU), an MFA department overseeing Icelandic 
peacekeeping efforts. 
 
---------------------------------- 
Icelandic peacekeeping on the rise 
---------------------------------- 
3. (SBU) According to the MFA, Iceland currently has 25 personnel 
deployed abroad under the ICRU aegis: 
 
--13 in Afghanistan (NATO/ISAF management of Kabul 
 International Airport and training of local Afghan 
 managers); 
--10 in Sri Lanka (Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission, 
 monitoring cease-fire implementation - ref A); 
-- 1 in Iraq (NATO Training Mission-Iraq's Public 
 Affairs Officer); and 
-- 1 in Serbia (assigned to UNIFEM's Belgrade office) 
 
Current plans are to increase this number to 34 by the end of 2006 
through the deployment of additional personnel to Sri Lanka (1) and 
Serbia (5; 2 to UNIFEM and 3 under a new agreement with UNICEF) and 
a new deployment to Lebanon of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) 
personnel from the Icelandic Coast Guard (2 EOD experts and 1 
medic).  The ICRU's stated goal is 50 deployed personnel by the end 
of 2008.  Funding continues to trend upward; the ICRU will receive 
roughly ISK 600 million ($8.6 million) in 2007, up from ISK 573 
million ($8.1 million) this year and ISK 463 million ($6.6 million) 
in 2005. 
 
--------------------------------- 
Crossing the line in Afghanistan? 
--------------------------------- 
4. (SBU) Icelandic peacekeeping is already weighted towards "softer" 
tasks, a logical result of the fact that Iceland does not have a 
military.  Iceland's participation in foreign peacekeeping efforts 
began with the deployment of police officers and medical personnel 
to Bosnia and Kosovo; according to ICRU figures, roughly 50 
Icelanders have served in the Balkans since 1994.  The optics of 
Icelandic participation changed markedly in 2003 when Iceland 
assumed the role of lead NATO nation at Kosovo's Pristina Airport. 
Iceland chose to provide its civilian peacekeepers with uniforms, 
even ranks and rank insignia - with the aim of improving credibility 
with NATO partners.  Two armed Icelandic Coast Guard EOD specialists 
deployed to Iraq in 2003 as part of a Danish unit. 
 
5. (SBU) This "paramilitarization" took place largely out of public 
view until 2004, when the ICRU took on the running of Kabul 
 
REYKJAVIK 00000431  002 OF 003 
 
 
International Airport.  In line with the more severe threat 
environment in Afghanistan, the ICRU personnel took to wearing 
helmets and body armor and carrying automatic weapons while 
patrolling their perimeter - a far cry from most Icelanders' idea of 
civilian peacekeeping.  Icelandic media reports helped to create an 
image of Icelandic peacekeepers as overgrown teenagers playing 
soldier, with some questioning whether an Icelandic Army of had been 
created without citizens' knowledge. 
 
6. (SBU) These questions turned to dismay (and a certain amount of 
"I told you so") in October 2004 when three uniformed Icelanders 
were injured (and an Afghan and an American civilian killed) in a 
grenade/suicide bomb attack when the ICRU members lingered in 
Kabul's dangerous Chicken Street market.  Press and public concern 
mounted when the Icelandic unit's commander in Kabul as well as the 
Icelandic victims cavalierly shrugged off press inquiries about 
their judgment: "[Stuff] happens." 
 
--------------------------------- 
No guns, please - we're Icelandic 
--------------------------------- 
7. (SBU) After the "Chicken Street Incident," the MFA became 
increasingly sensitive to accusations it was putting Icelanders at 
excessive risk.  Iceland handed the Kabul Airport mission over to 
another ISAF nation in February 2005, four months early.  Iceland 
fulfilled a commitment to deploy armed mobile observation teams 
("jeep gangs" in Icelandic parlance) to two Provincial 
Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan in 2005 and 2006, but in 
both cases withdrew its personnel when security worsened. 
Similarly, when Iceland agreed in January 2006 to resume the Kabul 
Airport mission, it did so with the caveat that Icelanders' roles be 
limited to airport operations and training, with other peacekeepers 
pulling guard duty. 
 
8. (SBU) The discussion continued when in August 2006 Iceland agreed 
to boost its share of the workload in the Sri Lankan Monitoring 
Mission (Ref A). Commentators asked whether Icelanders had the 
experience to deal with armed conflict, and argued that "we should 
confine ourselves to those fields where we have relevant 
expertise." 
 
----------------------------- 
Midwives yes, "Rat Patrol" no 
----------------------------- 
9. (SBU) Given this backdrop, most local commentators welcomed the 
Foreign Minister's announcement of a more "civilian-oriented" ICRU; 
with most media headlining her comment that the new policy 
represented "midwives in place of jeep patrols."  Opposition 
lawmakers on the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee declared 
approval; one Social Democratic Alliance MP expressed hope that 
henceforth "we'll choose the projects we take part in, rather than 
the projects choosing us." 
 
10. (SBU) The GOI is keen to remain active in peacekeeping.  ICRU 
Director Anna Johannsdottir emphasized to Poloff November 2 that 
Iceland intended to live up to its commitments to NATO and would not 
bring home its Afghanistan contingent early.  Asked to explain the 
distinction between "more civilian" ICRU missions and work carried 
out by the Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA), 
Johannsdottir allowed that the two entities - both under the Foreign 
Minister's authority - will now have more in common than previously, 
but that the ICRU would focus on post-conflict response and ICEIDA 
on long-term development and poverty alleviation. 
 
-------------------------------- 
An inherently dangerous endeavor 
-------------------------------- 
11.  (SBU) MFA officials have confided to post that they do not 
believe the public is ready for the death of an Icelandic 
peacekeeper, which would raise questions "about the value of the 
mission and whether we should be doing these things," according to 
one.  A senior MFA official expressed unhappiness with the way the 
Chicken Street Incident was handled, noting to the Ambassador that 
those in charge had tried to "sweep the problem under the rug." 
This made the MFA and ICRU look amateurish when the full story 
emerged.  The official acknowledged the MFA's need to learn to be 
more frank to ensure the public understands the inherent risks of 
peacekeeping in case something unfortunate occurs. 
 
REYKJAVIK 00000431  003 OF 003 
 
 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
12.  (SBU) The Icelandic Government's desire to codify its policy on 
peacekeeping brings needed clarity to what has been a largely ad hoc 
exercise, and should strengthen support across the political 
spectrum for the idea of Icelanders serving abroad.  That said, the 
move carries with it some downsides for the GOI and its 
international partners.  It will become harder to encourage the GOI 
to assist in areas it has not deemed within its area of competence. 
So long as the GOI remains willing to include within its definition 
of acceptable operations such high-value ops as airport management 
(as in Kosovo and Afghanistan), peace monitoring (as in Sri Lanka), 
and EOD (albeit increasingly in relatively permissive environments 
such as Lebanon but no longer in hot spots like Iraq), we should 
remain satisfied with Iceland's contribution. 
 
13. (SBU) The larger risk is posed by the apparently widespread 
public conception - which the MFA has not addressed head on - that 
by assigning its personnel only to civil affairs projects, Iceland 
can largely eliminate the risk of casualties.  Post has cautioned 
host officials of the importance of presenting the public with a 
realistic assessment of the inherent dangers of all peacekeeping, 
lest the next casualty leave the public and opposition too rattled 
to continue. 
 
VAN VOORST