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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04THEHAGUE1210 2004-05-17 15:19:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy The Hague
Cable title:  

PROSPECTS FOR RENEWAL OF DUTCH DEPLOYMENT IN IRAQ

Tags:   MOPS PREL IZ NL 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 001210 

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USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL IMMEDIATE
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USNMR SHAPE BE IMMEDIATE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/16/2014
TAGS: MOPS PREL IZ NL
SUBJECT: PROSPECTS FOR RENEWAL OF DUTCH DEPLOYMENT IN IRAQ

REF: THE HAGUE 1164 (NOTAL)

Classified By: CLASSIFIED BY AMBASSADOR CLIFFORD M. SOBEL
FOR REASONS 1.5 (B AND D)



1. (C) Summary: Balkenende's cabinet is leaning toward
approving an eight-month extension of the Dutch force in Iraq
by mid-June, but it is far from a done deal. Junior
coalition member D66 has spelled out conditions for
supporting a renewal, several of which cannot be fulfilled
prior to the June 4 cabinet meeting at which a decision will
most likely be taken. Senior cabinet officials predict that
D66 coalition partners will concur with the extension, but
are concerned about an acrimonious debate in parliament if
the UNSC has not yet agreed on a resolution. We will need to
continue efforts to convince the Dutch that progress toward
achieving a UNSC resolution and other conditions provide
sufficient justification for a positive decision. End
summary.



2. (C) Reftel outlined Dutch reactions to the first death of
one of their soldiers in Iraq, and outlined the challenges
facing PM Balkenende's government as it decides whether or
not to extend Dutch troops in al Muthanna province beyond
their current July 15 mandate for at least eight months
(i.e., to accommodate two four-month troop rotations).
Embassy The Hague has aggressively reached out to
parliamentary floor leaders, defense and foreign affairs
spokesmen of the government parties (Christian Democrats,
Liberals and Liberal Democrats, AKA, "D66") and the main
opposition Labor party, MFA Pol Director Siblesz, and PM's
senior foreign advisor Swartbol. The Ambassador has also
spoken with FM Bot and Deputy PMs Zalm and de Graaf. We will
continue to address the apparent lack of understanding
regarding sequencing of UNSCR discussions the transfer of
authority to an Iraqi interim government demonstrated in the
public statements of some Dutch parliamentarians. The
pro-extension Liberal (conservative) party has repeatedly
cited as a problem the political fallout following the
prisoner abuse scandal. The loss of moral high ground deeply
troubles Dutch conservatives, who are watching carefully to
see how the U.S. addresses the problem.



3. (C) After a difficult start to last week which saw junior
coalition partner D66 expressing strong public reservations
about renewing the deployment, the situation has improved.
Much of the cabinet is now leaning towards endorsing an
extension, under the strong leadership of PM Balkenende, FM
Bot and Defense Minister Kamp, but parliament remains queasy.
D66 members are nervous about an extension. Deputy PM de
Graaf of D66 told the Ambassador that while D66 ministers are
leaning toward agreeing to an extension for the sake of
government unity, it will be difficult for them to do so if
the D66 MPs remain reluctant. In a meeting with DCM may 17,
D66 foreign affairs spokesman Bert Bakker stressed that while
he and other party members hoped to be able to vote yes on an
extension, such a decision was not yet guaranteed. (Note:
there is no automatic linkage between votes of cabinet
members and their parliamentary party, i.e., while the two
D66 ministers might support a renewal, D66 MPs are not bound
by their decision. End note).



4. (C) D66 has stressed the importance of a new UNSCR, a
credible and central UN role, and an explicit invitation from
the Iraqi government for coalition forces to remain as keys
to securing its support for an extension. In spelling out
the conditions necessary for D66 support, Floor leader Boris
Dittrich and Bakker have made clear that they are as
interested in keeping the Dutch decision-making process open
and honest as they are with the technical fulfillment of the
conditions, including the security of the Dutch forces. In
response to DCM's questioning, Bakker acknowledged that
positive and transparent movement toward fulfilling D66's
conditions should be enough to produce a positive vote.



5. (C) We expect a Cabinet vote on June 4. From our
soundings thus far, we must report that nothing is certain
yet, including the surety of a united cabinet. In order to
pull this off, the Prime Minister will have to:

-- Get his cabinet to approve the deployment. (He intends
to delay a decision until the June 4 cabinet meeting to allow
the UN process to evolve, and then go to D-Day celebrations
with a positive decision in hand.) Deputy PM Zalm chaired
the May 14 cabinet meeting and told us that the tone was
positive concerning a renewal, though no straw poll was
taken.

-- Debate the decision in parliament. Assuming a positive
June 4 decision, the Dutch parliament would debate the issue
during the following two weeks and a parliamentary
confirmation of the government's decision would be likely
just in time to meet the military's rotation requirement of
June 21.

-- Stick to his guns even if there is significant opposition
in parliament. Usually, Dutch make deployment decisions with
a super majority. To move forward without the main
opposition Labor party, as Balkenende appears to be prepared
to do, would break precedent. Harder still would be to move
ahead if D66 members of parliament oppose. Technically, the
government would have the votes without D66, owing to the
support of the populist opposition List Pim Fortuyn party,
but hard decisions are never made with winner takes all votes
in this country. Even the Christian Democrats, the party of
the PM, FM and NATO SYG, are nervous about going ahead with a
deployment without D66 on board. For this reason, Embassy is
blanketing D66 with up to the minute information. (Dittrich
and Bakker have both said they were pleased to learn the
degree to which the U.S. is serious about pursuing a UNSCR.)



6. (C) Comment: GONL sources confirm that the Secretary's
call to FM Bot on May 11, and invitation to Pol Director
Siblesz and other coalition PolDirs for consultations on May
20 were very welcome. The Dutch cabinet's timeline will not
allow the extension decision to wait until the transfer of
sovereignty to an Iraqi Interim Government capable of issuing
an invitation to the international community. It may not
even wait until the adoption of a new UNSC resolution.
Therefore, the more the U.S. (and the UK and UN) can do to
signal that this process is well and truly in train, the
easier it will be in early June for the GONL to win
convincing political backing for an extension. Keeping
Coalition partners like the Dutch well-informed on
developments in the UNSC will be extremely valuable over the
course of the coming weeks. End Comment.
MINIMIZED CONSIDERED.
SOBEL