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08SANSALVADOR78 2008-01-28 22:11:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy San Salvador
Cable title:  

EL SALVADOR: SECOND SURVEY OF IRAQ DEPLOYMENT

Tags:   ES MARR MOPS PREL 
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1. (C) Summary: The government of El Salvador would have to
overcome significant political and legal hurdles in order to
continue to deploy troops to Iraq without a United Nations
(UN) Chapter VII mandate. In December 2007, the Legislative
Assembly approved troop deployments through June 2009;
however the expiration of the UN mandate on December 31,
2008, combined with the legislative and presidential
elections to take place in early 2009, allow for the
possibility that the government would reconsider troop
deployments prior to the election. Absent a UN mandate, post
believes that maintaining an EASF presence would be
difficult, but not impossible. End Summary.



2. (C) As requested ref (A), we provide the following
additional assessment of the political and legal challenges
El Salvador would face in order to deploy troops to Iraq in
2009 without the umbrella of a United Nations (UN) Chapter
VII mandate.



3. (C) The government of El Salvador (GOES) has maintained a
military presence in Iraq since August 2003. Besides the
U.S., it is the only troop-contributing nation in this
hemisphere. To date, the Armed Forces of El Salvador (ESAF)
have rotated nine contingents through Iraq and have
authorized a tenth set to arrive in February. According to
the Salvadoran constitution, the President does not need
Legislative Assembly approval to deploy the ESAF abroad
(though there are differing interpretations of the Salvadoran
Constitution.) In order to confer the maximum political
legitimacy possible, however, President Saca sought and
obtained (most recently in December 2007) a Legislative
Assembly vote in support of allowing the ESAF to remain in
Iraq until June 2009 (Ref (B)). This extension through
mid-2009 was designed to put off future debate on
reauthorization until after the 2009 elections. Further votes
on troop deployment will depend on the outcome of both the
presidential and legislative contests.



4. (C) President Tony Saca has stated on numerous occasions
that the decision to deploy troops to Iraq is an expression
of gratitude for the U.S. "standing by" the GOES during the
Salvadoran civil war. He has also indicated that Salvadoran
troops will remain in Iraq "for as long as they are needed."
However, any decision to extend El Salvador's participation
beyond June 30, 2009, will take place in the waning days of
Saca's term.



5. (C) While we have no reason to doubt President Saca's
resolve, there are several possible impediments, including
public opposition, to continuing his seemingly open-ended
commitment of Salvadoran troops to Iraq. A December 2007
poll from the Public Institute of the University of Central
American (UCA) revealed that 83.4 percent of Salvadorans do
not agree with President Saca's decision to send troops to
Iraq.



6. (C) In terms of possible scenarios, a UN Security Council
resolution would be the ideal means of securing any continued
Salvadoran military presence in Iraq. Scenarios based on
anything other than a UN resolution, while not impossible,
would certainly prove far more difficult vehicles for
continuing an ESAF presence.



7. (C) Moreover, while Legislative Assembly approval is not a
legal prerequisite to an ESAF Iraq deployment, it is, most
likely, a political necessity. Furthermore, we assess the
Salvadoran Legislative Assembly would be hesitant to vote in
favor of the continued deployment of Salvadoran forces to
Iraq in the absence of a legitimizing UN resolution or,
possibly, some other mechanism, such as a bilateral Iraqi
request for a continuing troop contribution. To date, each
legislative authorization for Salvadoran participation in OIF
has specifically referenced the controlling UN resolution.



8. (C) Ref (A) requests an assessment of the domestic
political conditions the host government might face in
agreeing to a post-UN mandate deployment to Iraq. El
Salvador is entering an electoral cycle that will feature
municipal and legislative elections in January 2009, followed
by Presidential elections in March 2009. In these elections,
the ruling right-of-center National Republican Alliance
(ARENA) will square off against the opposition left-wing
Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN) in what promise to be
hotly contested elections. The most recent authorization has

put off a decision about troop deployments until after the
election; however, the outcome of the elections will
determine the future of troop deployments, and it could
become an electoral issue. The FMLN has consistently opposed
sending Salvadoran forces to Iraq, even under the current UN
mandate. Should the FMLN win the 2009 Presidential
elections, and/or gain an upper hand in the Legislative
Assembly, they will almost certainly move to terminate El
Salvador's military deployment to Iraq in short order.



9. (C) Once the UN mandate expires in December, there is also
the possibility that troop deployments reemerge as an
election issue and the government is forced to reconsider its
participation prior to the authorization,s expiration date
of June 2009. In this scenario, the future of troop
deployments would likely reflect a political climate in which
elections would be imminent and could catapult the issue to
the forefront.



9. (C) Ref (A) also requests that post explore whether the
host government would be interested in benefiting as a
third-party from a U.S.- Iraq Defense Cooperation Agreement
(DCA). Poloff spoke with the Director General for Foreign
Policy (Ambassador rank), who said that before he could
provide a definitive answer he would need to consult with
President Saca, the Ministry of Defense, and the Legislative
Assembly. He said that for such an arrangement to be viable,
it would need to pass scrutiny from all three parties. He
added that this would be a difficult path since all previous
efforts have been based on a UN mandate. At the same time,
he said that since the GOES views the U.S. as a good ally,
all involved would take this into account.



9. (C) Comment: Mission will continue to monitor and report
on executive, legislative, and electoral developments that
could impact any future Salvadoran deployments to Iraq.
While participation without a UNSCR would not be impossible,
the precedent established by the Salvadoran Assembly and the
uncertain political climate will be make obtaining
authorizations for future troop deployments difficult. If
the FMLN were to prevail in the 2009 elections, future troop
deployments would be most unlikely. End Comment.
Glazer