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Viewing cable 09REYKJAVIK69, ICELAND: NO NEW AFGHANISTAN PLEDGES BEFORE ELECTIONS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
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