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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06ATHENS3254 2006-12-28 13:44:00 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Athens
Cable title:  

ATHENS RSI DECEMBER 2006 READOUT

Tags:   PREL PGOV ASEC OTRA PTER GR 
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VZCZCXRO5563
OO RUEHAG RUEHKW RUEHROV
DE RUEHTH #3254/01 3621344
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 281344Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY ATHENS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7735
INFO RUCNMUC/EU CANDIDATE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 0561
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 4521
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 0186
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 0230
RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA PRIORITY 2734
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 3772
RUEHSF/AMEMBASSY SOFIA PRIORITY 1496
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 0576
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUDKSR/EUCOM PLANS AND ANALYSIS STAFF STUTTGART GE PRIORITY
					  S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 ATHENS 003254 

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/28/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV ASEC OTRA PTER GR
SUBJECT: ATHENS RSI DECEMBER 2006 READOUT

REF: A. ISTANBUL 1201


B. SECSTATE 90114

Classified By: CHARGES D'AFFAIRES THOMAS COUNTRYMAN. REASONS 1.4 (B) A
ND (D).



1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: On December 11, Embassy Athens hosted
Chiefs of Mission and others from posts in Amman, Ankara,
Beirut, Cairo, Nicosia, Rome (MFO), Sofia, and Tel Aviv, as
well as participants from S/CT, INL, NEA, DOJ, OSD, CENTCOM,
EUCOM, and the NCTC, for an Eastern Mediterranean conference
of the Regional Counter-Terrorism Strategy Initiative (RSI).
Participants described terrorist threats within their host
countries, linkages to trans-national terrorism (principally
al-Qaida, but also the PKK and Hizballah), and possible
regional policy responses. Given the complex nature of the
threats, participants foresaw effective responses in policies
combining diplomatic efforts and assistance to host
governments, intelligence collection and information sharing,
economic measures, military power, as well as public
diplomacy, particularly through the internet, which was seen
as the medium of choice for terrorists. The work of the
conference focused on five key areas of concern:

-- the persistent terrorist threat in Sinai;

-- the threat to European border security posed by returning
jihadists;

-- the PKK,s role in destabilizing Turkey, Iraq, and Western
Europe;

-- Lebanon as the front line in the struggle between
democracy and Iranian theological revolution;

-- challenges and best practices for our public diplomacy in
countering terrorist propaganda.

The incoming Eastern Med regional CT coordinator was able to
participate in the conference, which will help this officer
get off to a strong start when she arrives in Istanbul in
mid-2007. Regional participants welcomed the opportunity to
work cooperatively and looked forward to meeting again )- a
point they underscored with Washington participants. END
SUMMARY.

AN EVOLVING THREAT ) AND DYNAMIC RESPONSE


--------------------------





2. (S/NF) The December 11 Athens conference was the second
Eastern Mediterranean RSI meeting; the first was held in
Istanbul in June 2006 (ref a). COMs and other participants
viewed the RSI format as a valuable one, in this case
especially because it brought together participants from two
different regional bureaus and the MFO. Flows of terrorist
personnel, goods, finances, and ideas are dynamic, involving
potential threats to the United States and Europe, which,
participants underscored, demand agile, field-driven policy
responses. Participants focused on a number of issues first
raised at the June RSI conference, as well as newly emerging
potential threats, such as those in the Sinai.

THE SINAI TIME BOMB


--------------------------





3. (S/NF) Participants viewed the Sinai as the site of
persistent terrorist activity. Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad, an
indigenous Islamist bedouin terror group, has carried out
three major terrorist bombings in Sinai resort communities
since 2004. In addition, it has -- so far unsuccessfully --
targeted the Multi-national Force and Observers (MFO) with
one IED and two suicide bombings. Ambassador Larocco, MFO
Director General, described the Sinai as a &time bomb8 with
consequences for Israel, Gaza, and Jordan, as well as Egypt.
Weapons trafficking, a profitable element in the broader
smuggling apparatus between Sinai and Gaza, attracts a high
volume of weapons and explosives to the area. According to
Larocco, because this includes Strela missiles, MFO
helicopters no longer fly in the vicinity of the Gaza border.

ATHENS 00003254 002 OF 004


The introduction of the Egyptian border force in September
2005 -- concurrent with the withdrawal of Israeli troops from
Gaza -- has failed to curb the weapons smuggling. The
Egyptians insist that more troops are needed but have not
received permission under the Camp David Accords for
additional troops. Although there is no treaty limit on the
number of police forces in the area, all agree that police on
the ground have not been effective.



4. (S/NF) The USG has engaged with the Egyptians on technical
assistance at the border to address smuggling, but there
appears to be no simple technological fix, especially in
light of treaty limitations. Egyptian, Israeli, and
Palestinian border authorities have met on a regular basis,
but meetings were disrupted by violence in Gaza last summer.
The parties are now working to re-start these consultations.
The Egyptians are also hampered by their own bureaucratic
infighting over Sinai, which has impeded economic and
political development in the region.

Participants identified five discreet avenues of activity as
potentially fruitful:

-- increasing Egyptian intelligence collection and capacity;
-- improving border controls;
-- strengthening legal/legislative measures;
-- addressing deeper economic and social conditions;
-- continued diplomacy, focusing on cross-border
consultations.

Participants also agreed that the USG should share best
practices developed elsewhere with Egypt and Israel )-
perhaps by funding a conference to share information on
technical means to disrupt terrorist activity, such as
terrorist financing.


RETURNING JIHADISTS: THE NEXT BIG THING


--------------------------





5. (S/NF) Participants agreed that as the situation in Iraq
and/or Afghanistan changed, many jihadists were likely to
leave those theaters and attempt to transit to Western
Europe, creating a new CT problem. Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece,
and Cyprus were identified as likely transit nations in the
eastern Mediterranean, while European and American
border-control tools to deal with the problem were described
as uneven and disjointed, allowing little bilateral or
international cooperation. Examples of the latter were the
absence of a common European database of useful information
beyond the embryonic Schengen &Information System.8
Moreover, American databases held by the CIA, FBI, DHS,
State, etc. were stovepiped. The obstacles to overcoming
these problems were both procedural and technical.



6. (S/NF) Using a discussion paper developed by Ambassador
Ries and country team on ways to counter the threat posed by
returning jihadists, participants identified two specific
areas to begin work. First, the U.S. needed to make
decisions on what watchlist information )- especially
biometric -- it could share with European border-control
agencies and how to do so. Second, a first step to
cooperation with the Europeans would be a conference
involving experts below the political level but senior enough
to make decisions/commitments. After considerable discussion
of possible venues, it was decided that S/CT would coordinate
with EUR/ACE and DOJ to organize a conference involving
participants, host countries and perhaps others and
Interpol. The question of whether the conference would be
small and regionally focused or larger and more theoretically
oriented was left open, though the majority of participants
leaned toward a smaller conference focused on technical
standards of data sharing, with a larger conference as a next
step. The Southeast European Cooperative Initiative Center
in Bucharest was discussed as a model for developing this
type of cooperation.

PKK: NUMBER TWO AFTER AL-QAIDA


--------------------------



ATHENS 00003254 003 OF 004





7. (S/NF) 2006 saw a major increase in terrorist violence by
the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The Germans have
described the PKK as the second most significant contemporary
terrorist threat after al-Qaida and the number-one
organized-crime threat in Europe (though the French and Swiss
have downplayed or avoided the issue). The PKK also
represents a major political threat insofar as perceived
U.S./Iraqi inaction against the PKK safehaven in Northern
Iraq could provoke Turkish intervention. The U.S. has been
working on several fronts against the PKK, but much remains
to be done. Moreover, action against the PKK by the
Europeans would create a good optic with the Turks as
Turkey,s EU accession slows. The Principals Committee
recently raised the PKK from a Tier 3 to a Tier 2 terrorist
threat, which will allow for the commitment of greater
collection resources to track PKK activity. There is active
interagency collaboration in Washington to shut down PKK
camps and review options against PKK leaders in Iraq.
Participants suggested a number of possible steps for the
U.S. and Europeans: follow-on consultations in Europe by S/CT
Deputy Urbancic, which might include southeastern Europe and
the eastern Mediterranean; increased counter-terrorist
training programs with the Turks; increased intelligence
sharing, including by other RSI countries; increased
overflights of PKK bases in Iraq (this reportedly has a
strong psychological impact on the PKK )- the Turks also
have expressed interest in commercial purchase of
surveillance blimps); strengthening of obstacles to PKK
financial flows; political pressure on Kurdish leader Barzani
to shut PKK bases/centers; a DOJ push on the European
prosecutors, liaison group EuroJust to focus on PKK; and a
diplomatic push on the Germans during their EU presidency to
promote anti-PKK efforts.

LEBANON: FRONT LINE OF U.S./IRAN CONFLICT


--------------------------





8. (S/NF) Lebanon was described as a new surrogate conflict:
while the U.S. sought to promote democracy and stability,
Iran sought to export theological revolution through
Hizballah. Hizballah received tremendous financial,
material, and spiritual backing from Iran and, while the
terrorist group suffered significant infrastructure damage
from the attack by Israel last summer, it emerged
organizationally unscathed, if not stronger, and was likely
to rebuild itself in 6-8 months. Syria was also seeking
avenues to increase its influence in Lebanon. The U.S. had
begun to describe Hizballah as a global terrorist threat.
Participants focused on several areas of activity,
emphasizing the need to continue our efforts in all: working
towards establishing a common political vision for the
country; pre-emptive PD action to head off Hizballah
propaganda undermining the democratic process; build-up of
the Lebanese government,s ability to police through
equipment and training grants (in 19 recent bombing cases, no
one has been arrested, undermining police legitimacy);
increase of costs to Iran and Syria for intervention and
support of Hizballah; and more work with Europeans to
increase awareness of the Hizballah threat.

PUBLIC DIPLOMACY COUNTERING TERRORIST PROPAGANDA


--------------------------

---



9. (S/NF) While all conference participants agreed on the
importance of a strong PD push against the terrorist message,
there was general frustration at the success of our efforts
so far, including the inability of the Department to secure
desired funding for relevant PD efforts. Participants thus
focused primarily on developing new, indirect methods to get
our message across. For example, an increase in the number
of foreign students in American schools and of American
students in foreign schools was seen as paying large
long-term dividends. Embassy Athens shared the experience of
its program on countering anti-Americanism in working with
private foundations to support lecture visits by major
American figures outside the world of foreign policy.
Athens, experience with its brand new youth website
&www.Mosaiko.gr8 was also cited as a model for other

ATHENS 00003254 004 OF 004


embassies. EUCOM discussed its experience with its
&www.setimes.com8 website and the Marshall Center,s
extensive expertise, including a program on Countering
Ideological Support for Terrorism. These and a number of
other EUCOM tools are at the USG,s disposal in the public
diplomacy realm. Participants agreed that television and
radio appearances )- particularly when done in host-country
languages )- were much more effective than conferences of
diplomats, politicians, and scholars. Finally, participants
agreed that progress on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, in
addition to bringing greater stability to the region, would
also have immense PD impact.

LOOKING AHEAD


--------------------------





10. (S/NF) Regional ambassadors will decide on the timing and
venue for the next meeting and asked S/CT, DOD, and other
Washington participants to underscore the important synergy
such meetings bring to regional cooperation efforts.
Ambassador Crumpton previewed the four new full-time regional
RSI coordinator positions that have been created (with six
others in the works) and noted that the Eastern Mediterranean
center would be located in Congen Istanbul. He also
emphasized Washington,s support for flexible, dynamic
regional networks and initiatives to counter terrorists. The
conference agreed that RSI has proved effective not only in
promoting counter-terrorism initiatives but also for
promoting inter-embassy, inter-agency, and inter-regional
cooperation.



11. (C) Conference participants cleared this message.
COUNTRYMAN