|06SOFIA1667||2006-12-15 09:33:00||SECRET||Embassy Sofia|
VZCZCXRO6156 OO RUEHBC RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHFL RUEHIHL RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV DE RUEHSF #1667/01 3490933 ZNY SSSSS ZZH O 150933Z DEC 06 FM AMEMBASSY SOFIA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2958 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 SOFIA 001667
1. (S) SUMMARY: Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev and
Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin visited Iraq on December
12-13, meeting senior Iraqi officials and sending early
Christmas greetings to Bulgarian troops at Camp Ashraf. FM
Kalfin described a worrying security situation, but stated
that Bulgaria is ready to extend its current mission in Iraq.
2. (S) During a meeting upon his return to Sofia on Dec. 13,
Kalfin thanked the Ambassador for U.S. support in arranging
meetings with Iraqi leaders and getting to and from Ashraf to
meet Bulgarian troops. He gave a sober assessment of
government leaders (President Talabani, PM Maliki and Council
of Representatives Speaker al-Attiya) and expressed concern
about on-the-ground conditions and prospects, though he
predicted Bulgaria would honor a U.S. request to extend its
Ashraf deployment. His impression of Iraqi leadership:
--Understandably divergent viewpoints between the President,
Prime Minister and Speaker, which disappointingly broke along
--Repeated Iraqi assertions that the U.S. does not know how
to handle security, and that the Iraqis do, but without any
evidence or action that suggests that is the case, leading
Kalfin to doubt the leadership's will and ability to handle
--Strategic and tactical differences of opinion on dealing
with Iran, but no enthusiasm that involving Iran or Syria
would bring appreciable change and no clarity on what
"bringing the Iranians on board" (Talabani's position) would
mean in any real sense;
--Disconcerting and inflammatory populist statements
(especially by the Speaker) that are anti-U.S. and anti-
--Disconnect between leaders' acknowledgment that the
government must take ownership and control of security and
lack of action to that effect;
--Heavy criticism of outside actors (to include rejection of
parts of Baker-Hamilton, e.g., control of army, training)
without offering alternatives.
3. (S) According to the Foreign Minister, the Iraqis did
not/not raise the issue of a Bulgarian extension at Camp
Ashraf. They applauded Bulgaria's support and friendship and
welcomed continued cooperation without making any specific
requests. Kalfin said that the Ashraf base itself is safe,
but that the province is not, noting recent attacks on
convoys. Iranian behavior and pressure would be key to an
eventual decision on extension, he said -- Iranians
continually raise the issue of Camp Ashraf and the
Mujahedin-e-Khalq with Baghdad. Kalfin confided that the
Iraqi FM had told him in October that the Iraqi government
had decided to close Ashraf, but agreed it was hard to credit
this with no decision about what to do with the detainees
4. (C) The Iraqis told the visiting Bulgarians that they
appreciated friends who helped them without asking for
anything in return (Kalfin took this as an allusion to debt
relief). On debt, the Iraqis are open to a commercial deal
with international debt/equity firms whereby Bulgaria could
immediately recoup a discounted percentage of Iraq's
obligation under the 20% Paris Club formula rather than
waiting for full payment over 23 years. The respective
Finance Ministers agreed to continue discussions.
5. (S) On 13 December, DCM and PolEcCouns met Valeri Ratchev,
Bulgarian ambassador to Iraq. Ratchev is resident in Sofia
as BG does not yet have an embassy in Baghdad. He confirmed
Kalfin's readout and added additional detail. His key points:
--The PM and FM viewed the trip as successful and productive.
--The PM's goal was to send a strong signal of political
support. President Talabani understood this; Maliki and
al-Attiya somewhat less so.
--Talabani is several grades above the other leaders;
Ratchev's perception is that Maliki is shrinking as a leader.
--Everyone was struck by the anti-U.S. and anti-international
presence remarks by Speaker al-Attiya.
--The PM and FM were "shocked" at the condition of the
country, especially as viewed by helicopter. It was
Ratchev's fourth trip this year -- he believes that
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conditions for ordinary Iraqis have gotten worse.
--Without mentioning Ashraf, the Iraqis made general
statements commending Bulgarian participation. This is
helpful to the GoB as it enlists support for an extended
deployment; they will work closely with us on this.
--Iraqi leaders talked at length about the need for Iraqi
control of the security forces and budget and appeared much
more upset about Baker-Hamilton recommendations on budgetary
control than anything else; however, they were unable to
offer an alternative plan.
6. (S) According to Ratchev, progress on setting up a
Bulgarian Embassy in Baghdad seemed to be off course. Maliki
spoke of signing a paper within two weeks to allow
identification of a suitable building, suggesting the process
was just in its initial stages. Ratchev had been under the
impression that the selection process was completed two
months ago (since a building had been identified and US and
Iraqi security forces had signed off on it) and the GoB was
simply awaiting final bureaucratic approval before gaining
access to the site and building.
7. (S) The Bulgarians may have been unprepared for what they
saw in Iraq, but the Foreign Minister clearly signaled their
political resolve to extend their presence at Camp Ashraf
through 2007. Kalfin's Dec. 18-21 visit to the U.S. presents
the chance to lock that commitment in, while continuing to
work closely with the GoB to get a Bulgarian Embassy up and
running in Baghdad.
8. (S) We want to take this opportunity again to express our
great appreciation and admiration for our colleagues at
Embassy Baghdad. The Bulgarians clearly recognized the
indispensable role you played in pulling this visit off.
Many thanks from all of us.