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Cablegate: Greece On Iran: Carrots Better Than Sticks, But

VZCZCXRO3307
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHTH #0874/01 1711424
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 191424Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ATHENS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2027
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL PRIORITY 2027
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0340

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 ATHENS 000874

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/18/2018
TAGS: AORC EFIN ETRD ETTC EUN GR IR KCRM KNNP KTFN
PARM, PGOV, PINR, PREL, PTER, SNAR, TRGY, UNSC
SUBJECT: GREECE ON IRAN: CARROTS BETTER THAN STICKS, BUT
GREECE "WON'T BREAK EU CONSENSUS"

REF: A. SECSTATE 64530
B. BRUSSELS 924
C. USEU/SYNDER E-MAIL OF 06/17/2008
D. ATHENS 651
E. ATHENS 833

Classified By: DCM THOMAS COUNTRYMAN. REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Greek MFA officials dealing with various
aspects of Iran issues indicated that Greece did not intend
to break an EU consensus on stiffening Iran sanctions, but
that it had concerns about the direction of Iran policy.
Greece believed the evidence did not indicate the Iranians
were actually trying to acquire a nuclear weapon at this
point. As for the efficacy of sanctions, the Iranians were
in a wait-and-see mode in anticipation of the U.S.
Presidential election, and further sanctions now would
unlikely impact their behavior. We pushed back hard, noting
that Iranian behavior did appear to be responsive to
international pressure and that it was particularly important
now to demonstrate Western unity on Iran policy. Greek
reluctance to stiffen sanctions appears to be motivated by
several factors, including a principled belief that sanctions
are ineffective, Greek shipowners' business dealings with the
Iranians, and a GOG desire to play a "bridging role" between
Iran and the West. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) On June 17, EmbOffs delivered ref A demarche on the
updated P5 1 package for Iran to Counselor on Disarmament
Issues Pantelis Margaris and First Secretary Loukas Tsokos of
the MFA D1 Directorate for UN and International
Organizations. Margaris provided a pat answer, stressing
that Greece shared the cncerns of its allies and supported
Solana's icentives package to Iran. Furthermore, the GOG
believed Iran had to answer questions posed by IAEA Director
General El Baradei regarding the latest developments of
concern, specifically the centrifuge machines and metallic
spheres. At the same time, he said Iran needed a diplomatic
"face-saving" solution. "Iran is a nation that needs special
handling, given its long history similar to ours. We need to
pay attention to the long history and try not to damage its
face." Margaris added, "We hope to breathe fresh air into
this problem and find a solution with diplomatic means."

3. (S) In a June 18 meeting with MFA A6 Directorate for
Middle East and Arab Countries deputy head Giorgos Ayfantis,
DepPolCouns also delivered ref A demarche and took the
opportunity to raise the question of reported Greek
foot-dragging in Brussels on strengthening Iran sanctions,
particularly in advance of the expected June 23 designation
of Bank Melli (refs B, C). DepPolCouns stressed that the
rest of the EU was getting on board and asked whether Greece
was concerned about ending up the lone hold-out. Ayfantis
said Greece would not be the last to approve further
sanctions, if that was the way the EU was headed, and that
Greece would not break an EU consensus. At the same time,
Ayfantis signaled that Greece had concerns about the
direction of EU Iran policy.

4. (C) Ayfantis said Greece desired a broader discussion at
the EU on Iran policy. It was important to establish an EU
red line on Iran. No one wished to see Iran acquire nuclear
weapons, but at this point the evidence did not indicate that
Iran was actually trying to build a weapon. It was much more
likely that the Iranians were trying to acquire enough
Qtrate that they could Qwanted to. The Irania.
gain the respect and clout in the Middle East and the world
they thought they deserved.

5. (C) As for the immediate question of toughening sanctions,
Ayfantis said Greece believed whatever we did at this point
would have little impact on Iranian behavior. The Iranians
now had gone into a wait-and-see mode in anticipation of the
U.S. Presidential election. They wanted to see who won the
election and would then calculate their next moves based on
what they perceived their options to be under a McCain or
Obama Presidency. Given this dynamic in Teheran, Greece
believed now was not the time to try to stiffen sanctions.
Greece assessed that waiting several months until the
election made no difference in the larger scheme of things,
especially since Iran was unlikely to change its behavior in
the short term.

6. (C) DepPolCouns pushed back, noting that the evidence did,
in fact, indicate that the Iranians were responsive to
international pressure, as the U.S. NIE of last December had
shown. Indeed, the Iranians appeared more responsive to
sticks than carrots. Furthermore, if we assumed that Iranian
policy was driven by a desire to gain respect on the
international scene, it was all the more important now, when
a consensus was developing in the EU for tougher sanctions,
for Greece to demonstrate that there were no cracks in
Western unity. Iran needed to gain international respect
through cooperation and playing by the rules, not through
scare tactics and defying the international community.
Ayfantis appeared to take this on-board and ended the meeting
by reiterating that Greece, despite its misgivings, would not
break an EU consensus.

7. (C) COMMENT: Greek reluctance to strengthen sanctions on
Iran seems to be driven by several factors. One is Greece's
oft-stated belief that, in principle, cooperation and
discussion are more effective than sanctions. Another factor
is the economic interests of Greek shipowners, who apparently
have considerable dealings with the Iranians and are a major
player in Greek domestic politics with great influence over
the Karamanlis government (ref d). A third factor is
Greece's historical -- and apparently growing -- self-image
as a "bridge" between East and West, whether in terms of Iran
or Russia or the Arab states/Palestine and Israel (see, for
example, ref e). To accomplish the latter, Greece believes
it needs to show that it is an honest broker and more
accommodating than others. Greece may, indeed, be able to
play such a role, but it would require that Greece produce
results.

8. (C) COMMENT CONT.: As for the immediate problem of Greece
joining the growing EU consensus on stiffening Iran
sanctions, including designation of Bank Melli, Greece on
just about all other issues has not been willing to buck EU
consensus (the one exception is the Macedonia name issue,
where it perceives its vital interests are at stake). We
have put the Greeks on notice that they are falling behind
the EU curve on Iran sanctions and that we are watching. We
believe further discussion in Brussels highlighting Greece's
increasing risk of isolation could have a positive impact.
SPECKHARD

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