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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06REYKJAVIK359
2006-09-27 18:03:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Reykjavik
Cable title:  

Iceland: Press and Politicos Respond to Defense

Tags:   MARR  PREL  KPAO  NATO  IC 
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DE RUEHRK #0359/01 2701803
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
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FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2982
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO IMMEDIATE 0259
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0231
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY 0034
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 REYKJAVIK 000359 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

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DEPT FOR P (BAME), EUR/NB (MIDDLETON, MAHER), EUR/PPD
SECDEF FOR OSD/RA (COSTA), OSD/P (KELSO, HURSCH)
OSLO FOR DATT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MARR PREL KPAO NATO IC
SUBJECT: Iceland: Press and Politicos Respond to Defense
Agreements

REF: REYKJAVIK 357

REYKJAVIK 00000359 001.2 OF 002




1. (SBU) Summary: Icelandic press reaction to the Prime Minister's
September 26 announcement of the results of defense talks with the
U.S. (Reftel) has been measured and largely favorable. Opposition
party expressions of discontent center on two points: 1) the
Government's failure to make public the details of U.S. plans for
the defense of Iceland; and 2) complaints that the USG has "escaped"
from full responsibility for any environmental mitigation costs.
Post will continue to work with the media to fill in gaps in their
knowledge and correct erroneous reports. End Summary.




2. (U) Media reporting on September 27, the day after Prime
Minister Geir Haarde's announcement of the outcome of defense talks
with the U.S. (reftel) was largely straightforward and accurate.
Daily newspaper-of-record Morgunbladid (generally pro-government but
viscerally critical of the U.S. decision to withdraw forces) ran its
lead editorial under the headline, "A New Chapter":

--After the U.S. conveyed its unilateral decision in March about
departure of military forces, Iceland was put in a difficult
negotiating position;

--Icelandic authorities have done well under the circumstances and
have ensured the nation's interests are protected;

--The most controversial issue is that the U.S. doesn't have to pay
for environmental clean-up;

--The deal provides that the U.S. is responsible for defending
Iceland, according to the 1951 Defense Agreement, even if means of
providing that defense are not what Icelandic authorities wanted;
and

--The time has passed when Iceland could have relied solely on
others for defense.




3. (U) The lead editorial in the high-circulation Frettabladid
(which generally leans toward the opposition and is often skeptical
of USG policy) appeared under the headline, "Back on Highway One"
(i.e., back on track), and commented:

-- Iceland retains a clear defense policy that ensures security of
the nation, in which the U.S. plays the key role; and

--It would have been irresponsible for the GOI to have abrogated the
1951 Defense Agreement (note: as some, including former PM David
Oddsson, have suggested should have been done).



4. (U) The PM and key members of his Independence Party continued
their media efforts as well:

-- Haarde appeared on multiple TV news shows to reiterate and
amplify the message from his initial press conference that the
agreements ensure Iceland's continued defense, represent the best
available outcome for both sides, and point to the way ahead for
Iceland-U.S. security relations.

--Minister of Justice Bjorn Bjarnason (comment: an early critic of
the U.S. withdrawal; end comment) said he was pleased with the
agreements and that people were "making too much of" environmental
concerns regarding the base. Bjarnason (comment: one of Iceland's
most security-conscious leaders; end comment) also voiced enthusiasm
for increased police and counterterrorism exchanges between the U.S.
and Iceland.

-- Parliamentarian Bjarni Benediktsson, a rising leader of the next
generation of the Independence Party, was trotted out on the talk
show circuit to declare that the agreements secured the defense of
Iceland and set the stage for future cooperation.




5. (SBU) Opposition figures also tried to get their views out,
though they garnered less coverage:

--Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, chair of the leading opposition
Social Democratic Alliance simultaneously welcomed the fact that
there will be no foreign military forces stationed in Iceland during
peacetime, and criticized the GOI for "leaving the public ill at
ease" about its safety by agreeing to a "secret" defense plan. She

REYKJAVIK 00000359 002.2 OF 002


further opined that Iceland should have gotten a better deal from
the U.S. on environmental issues rather than "letting them leave
without cleaning up."

--Chairman of the (idiosyncratic, largely fishing-oriented) Liberal
Party Gudjon Kristjansson said the GOI had done as well as it could,
all things considered, but said he wished more had been done to
explore closer cooperation with other NATO allies, particularly the
Nordic states.



6. (SBU) Comment: The GOI should be - and, our contacts affirm, is
- pleased with the tenor thus far of media coverage of the defense
rollout. Gisladottir's failure to mount a persuasive counterattack
reflects the discord within the Alliance, which - formed in 2000
from three disparate parties - has never established a formal policy
on defense. Post will continue to work with the media to correct
errors and fill in knowledge gaps, e.g. by offering data on the
history of environmental mitigation at NASKEF, and - to counter
anxiety over the absence of U.S. forces on the island - unclassified
briefings on the expeditionary doctrine and rapid response
capabilities of today's U.S. military.

VAN VOORST