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Cablegate: Uk Reaffirms Long-Term Presence in Iraq; Praises

VZCZCXRO9944
PP RUEHBC RUEHBW RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHIHL RUEHKUK RUEHPW
DE RUEHLO #1311/01 1301618
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 091618Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8557
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 LONDON 001311

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/05/2018
TAGS: PREL MARR IZ AF UK
SUBJECT: UK REAFFIRMS LONG-TERM PRESENCE IN IRAQ; PRAISES
PM MALIKI'S NEW CONFIDENCE

REF: LONDON 1241

Classified By: Ambassador Robert H. Tuttle, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
.

1. (S/NF) Summary. During their meetings with Secretary
of State for Defense Des Browne and FCO Political Director
Mark Lyall Grant, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and
the Commanding General of MNF-I General David Petraeus were
reassured that the UK was in Iraq "long-term" and had
temporarily halted its drawdown from Basra. Both sides
expressed satisfaction with developments in the south and
PM Maliki's improving confidence, and the Council of
Representative's focus on pressing issues of elections and
hydrocarbons legislation. The U.S. and UK will continue to
coordinate on Strategic Framework/SOFA negotiations with the
Iraqi government. Joining Browne was Chief of Defense Staff
Jock Stirrup and UK Ambassador to Iraq Christopher
Prentice. Ambassador Tuttle and the DATT accompanied
Petraeus and Crocker to the meeting with Browne, and the
DCM accompanied Crocker to the meeting with Lyall Grant.

Overview of Basra
-----------------

2. (S/NF) Defense Secretary Browne noted that "after a shaky
start" in the wake of the recent offensive by Iraqi security
services, the situation in Basra is beginning to stabilize.
Petraeus
agreed that the speed with which the decision was reached
to begin the offensive left little time for coalition
preparation, and expressed appreciation to Browne for the
UK's role in enabling Iraqi success in the operation.
Petraeus
emphasized that there were a number of lessons to be drawn
from the Basra operation, most notably the value of
transition
teams and armed UAVs. Brown returned the thanks for U.S.
military
support, and emphasized the need to sustain momentum and
build upon
the security gains in the province. Brown was hopeful that
investors
would start to look more closely at the south, citing
interest
expressed by a number of business executives during a recent
HMG sponsored investors conference tied to the Basra
Development
Fund program. Browne said oil industry executives in
particular are not
averse to operating in high-risk environments, but the
security situation needs to be quantified more precisely
for their decision-making processes. Petraeus concurred,
adding that a key step would be for the Iraqi Ministry of
Finance to underwrite some of the risk to compensate for
the lack of protections under the current legal system.

3. (S/NF) Looking forward, Browne said the UK will be
focusing on enhancing its divisional headquarters, completing
the training and generation of the Iraqi Army 14 Division,
continuing naval training, and sustaining and improving
security operations at Basra Airport and the Contingency
Operating Base. He noted that the British "remain committed
to a long-term presence in Basra," and that the military
drawdown had "paused" at 4,100 personnel, but that the
commitment, particularly force levels and tasks after
the expiration of the UNSCR at the end of the year,
would need to be "revisited" with an eye to the future
prior to the UK Parliament's recess in late July.

Maliki's Confidence
-------------------

4. (S/NF) Browne said that the U.S. and UK will need to
temper PM Maliki's "new confidence" to keep his focus on
consolidating gains in Basra, as opposed to launching
sudden new military operations elsewhere, such as in
Maysan. Crocker concurred, noting that Maliki came back
from Basra determined to launch an operation in Mosul
concurrent with ongoing efforts to take control of Sadr
City. Maliki has been talked out of it for now, but will,
for political reasons, feel the need to revisit the
possibility soon.

5. (S/NF) Crocker said that the perception of Maliki as a
decisive leader improved across all spectra of Iraqi
society after the Basra operation. The fact that he was
willing to come down hard on Shia militia has broadened his
support base. Recent Sunni opposition to Al Qaida in Iraq

LONDON 00001311 002 OF 002


(AQI) has built Shia confidence, allowing the legitimate
political process to gain momentum, and the Council of
Representatives to focus more closely on much needed
legislation and the fall elections. Crocker also noted
that talks with the government on post-UNSCR/SOFA and
Strategic Framework issues were proceeding, and added that
it would be difficult to predict an end date for such
complicated and technical negotiations. Lyall Grant and
Crocker reaffirmed the commitment for close U.S.-UK
coordination as the negotiations proceed.

Regional Considerations
-----------------------

6. (S/NF) Petraeus outlined efforts for retraining and
strengthening the Iraqi Army 14 Division, noted that some
of the units that performed poorly at the start of the
operation
were already back in the line with new replacements, and
underlined
the confidence close air support gives the troops. He also
complemented
MND-SE on the speed at which it reoriented its headquarters
and force
to support operations in Basra. He noted that an Iraqi-led
operation
in Maysan to address arms and insurgent activity on the
Iranian
border may be possible. He related that PM Maliki has
sent a delegation to Tehran armed with U.S. intelligence
and evidence of Iranian arms and insurgent training -- the
results of that visit will play a part in decisions on how
to deal with Iran's involvement in Iraq. Crocker added that
he believes, and Maliki agrees, it is more productive to deal
with Iran-Iraq issues separately from other Iran-West
issues, such as nuclear weapons ambitions.

7. (S/NF) Lyall Grant emphasized the differences between
efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, including malign Iranian
influence. He said that in Iraq, Iran had a true strategic
interest in influencing political and security
developments, while in Afghanistan, its goal is more
tactical -- an effort to disrupt Coalition efforts.
Therefore, Lyall Grant continued, there may be more
opportunities to convince Iran to alter its behavior
vis-a-vis Afghanistan. Crocker added that it may be more
beneficial for Iraqi officials, rather than the U.S. or UK,
to appeal to Tehran to halt Iran's destabilizing impact.
Lyall Grant agreed, noting the recent groundswell of
negative Iraqi public opinion against Iran may have an
impact on Tehran's behavior.

8. (S/NF) Crocker said the U.S. is working hard to
encourage Iraq's neighbors, particularly Saudi Arabia, to
provide more economic and political support, including an
exchange of ambassadors. Joint UK and U.S. efforts to
engage with Kuwait on border and trade issues will also
hopefully pay off soon, particularly on reduction of trade
barriers.

9. (U) Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus have
cleared this cable.
Visit London's Classified Website:
http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Unit ed_Kingdom
TUTTLE

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