Cablegate: Usdp Edelman's October 15 Meetings in London
P 211703Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
INFO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0149
EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
S E C R E T LONDON 002651
EO 12958 DECL: 10/20/2018
TAGS PGOV, PREL, PINR, UK, ECON, KNNP, MOPS, PTER, AF, FR,
GG, PK, RS, UP
SUBJECT: USDP EDELMAN’S OCTOBER 15 MEETINGS IN LONDON
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Richard LeBaron for reasons 1.4 b and d
1. (S/NF) Summary. The UK is pessimistic about Pakistan, especially in light of President Zardari’s poor leadership and the bad economy, although they praise efforts by Pakistani President Zardari to cooperate with Afghan President Karzai, UK senior officials at the Ministry of Defense (MOD), Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and Cabinet Office told DOD Under Secretary for Political Affairs (USDP) Eric Edelman and CENTCOM J5 Major General Robert Allardice during October 15 meetings in London. The officials stressed the importance of maintaining public support for efforts in Afghanistan as casualties mount there. They agreed that financial pressure has had an impact on the Iranian regime. The UK needs a SOFA in Iraq and may require U.S. support to obtain one. HMG supports NATO Membership Action Plans (MAPs) for Georgia and Ukraine but, in an effort to maintain allied unity, is preparing a compromise “Bucharest Implementation Plan” for the December NATO Ministerial that will contain the elements of a MAP. HMG has been “pleasantly surprised” by the pragmatism of the French EU Presidency. According to the Chief of the Defense Staff Jock Stirrup, the MOD did not welcome the unexpected cabinet reshuffle that replaced Defense Minister Des Browne with John Hutton, but Stirrup described the new Defense Minister as “keen on defense, keen on his job.” End Summary.
2. (SBU) USDP Edelman and Major General Allardice met with UK officials in London October 15 on a broad range of issues including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Russia/Georgia. At the MOD, Edelman and Allardice met with the Chief of the Defense Staff Jock Stirrup and Policy Director John Day; at FCO with Permanent Under Secretary for Security Affairs Peter Ricketts; and at the Cabinet Office with Foreign and Security Adviser to the Prime Minister Simon McDonald and the Cabinet’s Deputy Head of the Foreign and Defense Policy Secretariat Margaret Aldred.
Bleak Situation in Pakistan -- But a Few Glimmers
3. (S/NF) Although UK interlocutors were generally pessimistic about Pakistan’s prospects, including the government’s ability to manage the financial crisis, they expressed cautious optimism about President Zardari’s efforts to cooperate with Afghanistan President Karzai. McDonald noted that Prime Minister Brown wants to “encourage communications” between Zardari and Karzai since he “believes that if the top levels can work well together, the lower levels” will follow suit. Ricketts, who had just returned from a visit to Pakistan, praised Zardari’s efforts to reach out to Karzai.
4. (S/NF) Ricketts characterized Zardari as having “not much sense of how to govern a country...I fear he talks and talks but not much happens.” Ricketts stated that HMG would “like to believe in Zardari...he says the right things, but he faces big challenges,” including the economy, which “is in a really bad way.” Stirrup stated that Pakistan is “arguably worse” now than a month ago, asserting that although Zardari has “made helpful political noises, he’s clearly a numbskull.” Real progress in Pakistan requires “a government with stability and self-confidence” with a goal beyond “hanging on to power.” Stirrup stated that a major obstacle to progress is an “enormous strand of deep anti-Americanism among the public” although such views have diminished considerably among the political classes. According to Day, Zardari’s principal strategy appears to be asking for “lots of development aid...and meanwhile circumstances on the ground are getting worse.” Day described Zardari as a “more positive and stable leader than we’d feared and his relations with Karzai are a plus,” but Zardari “does not know what to do and is waiting for someone to provide him a solution.” McDonald also deprecated Zardari’s “passing the hat quite energetically” and stated that during a recent meeting with British officials he presented a “specific shopping list.” Despite “encouraging first signs” when Zardari took office, it has become clear he is “not running the country.”
5. (S/NF) McDonald acknowledged U.S. concerns about former Premier Nawaz Sharif, including ties to Islamists, but asserted that “he’s indicated he’s willing to change and some in the system believe he has already done that.” Although Sharif’s “moment may not come for a couple of years” he is in line to be Pakistan’s next President, McDonald said. Ricketts observed, however, that many members of the opposition are “publicly irresponsible” although some, like Sharif, are “reasonable in private.”
6. (S/NF) Stirrup agreed that “clear intelligence” has demonstrated that U.S. Predator drone strikes in Waziristan have had an impact on terror networks. Ricketts noted that cross border operations are “resonating hard” in Pakistan’s political world, but Ricketts and other interlocutors concurred that the Pakistani leadership was not presently troubled by U.S. Predator strikes that kill “Arabs” and Taliban, although Stirrup cautioned that such attitudes could change.
7. (S/NF) Stirrup asserted that General Ahmed Pasha’s recent appointment as head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the army spy agency, by Pakistani Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani (former ISI head) reflects Kayani’s efforts to “get control of the ISI” and make sure that Zardari won’t control the ISI. Stirrup claimed that HMG has urged Zardari and civilian leadership to get control over ISI but “when we put pressure on the Pakistanis they rearrange the furniture.” Ricketts’ described Pasha as “Kayani’s man,” but also noted that during his recent trip to Pakistan “everyone spoke highly” of Pasha.
Afghanistan: Getting the Message Right
Q (C/NF) Several interlocutors expressed concern that rising casualties in Afghanistan could result in waning public support in allied countries for the mission there. McDonald stated that in Great Britain the “electorate wants some movement” in Afghanistan; public sentiment could turn against the “good war” as casualties mount, he asserted. Consequently, the public in allied countries requires “a realistic narrative” that explains the goals in Afghanistan. Stirrup noted that JCS Chairman Mullen’s October 9 Congressional testimony, in which he predicted that 2009 would present increased challenges in Afghanistan and that “trends across the board are not going in the right direction,” was “headline news” in the United Kingdom.
9. (C/NF) “Security is our top concern, but we need political progress,” in Afghanistan, Stirrup emphasized. Ricketts asserted that “we’re holding our own” in the fight against the Taliban and that a uniquely military solution is not sufficient, as we “need to find social and economic solutions.” Part of the problem, he continued, is that in Afghanistan the “perception of security is diminishing” and “fear of Taliban reprisals” impede progress. Consequently, efforts to build civil-military links are crucial to building stability, Ricketts stated.
10. (S/NF) Day stated that HMG continues to feel “deep frustration” with Karzai, wryly adding that “I remind people that we -- the international community -- selected him.” For all Karzai’s faults, Day continued, the real question concerning Karzai’s future is whether there is a “constitutional alternative.” One dire possible scenario would be “failed elections (in 2009) with Karzai having reduced legitimacy and with violence attributed to the campaign.” Stirrup remarked on the importance of ensuring “respectable elections.” McDonald stated that building up the Afghan National Army to the goal of a well-trained force of 122,000 soldiers plus 12,000 in training would take a long time. Aldred wondered whether one solution might be to follow Pakistan’s model and “give the army some sort of economic benefit.” Some interlocutors shared their disappointment at the performance of UN envoy Kai Eide. Ricketts qualified his critique of Eide with the observation that he had “weak back up” from the UN system.
Iran: Bigger Carrot, Bigger Stick?
11. (S/NF) All UK interlocutors agreed that fiscal pressure against Iran has had an impact on the regime and that the international community needs to keep up the pressure, even if immediate changes are unlikely. Ricketts observed that “pressure on Iran’s financial sector” coupled with falling oil prices have been effective and that the “squeeze” against Iran should continue. According to Ricketts, “Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Khameini) feels that (President) Ahmadinejad has not delivered...and the bourgeoisie in Tehran is openly dismissive of Ahmadinejad,” also concluding that he has not delivered. Therefore, we must “plug along” with sanctions and “our advice is to increase the size of the carrot and the stick” in dealing with Iran. He raised the possibility of the United States opening a “visa section” in Tehran, suggesting that “lines of people around the block” queuing for visas would send an “effective message” to Iran’s leadership.
Iraq SOFA: UK Looks to U.S. for Help
12. (C/NF) McDonald stressed that the UK could not have an “orderly transition” of its forces in Iraq without a SOFA to provide a legal framework and the UK seeks to “piggyback” on the U.S.-Iraq SOFA. Day noted that Prime Minister Brown seeks a “low key transition” of British forces in Iraq. Stirrup emphasized that “from a military perspective a UK soldier cannot show up in an Iraqi court,” expressing concern that he was “not sure the SOFA will get through the Iraqi system.” USDP Edelman provided an update on the progress of the U.S.-Iraq SOFA and reassured his interlocutors that the U.S. and UK shared similar concerns on jurisdiction issues.
Avoiding a “Wretched Row” over MAP
13. (C/NF) McDonald stated that HMG rejects the view of “some partners who want to get back to business as usual with Russia.” He continued that Prime Minister Brown shares President Bush’s emphasis on the “importance of allied unity on the Georgia crisis.” Although the UK supports MAPs for Georgia and Ukraine, HMG does not believe the Alliance will agree on MAPs at the December 2-3 NATO Ministerial. Consequently, HMG is “working up a Bucharest Implementation Plan” that will contain the elements of a MAP but would not be “as frightening a word as MAP” to some allies. McDonald stressed that such a plan would help cement Alliance unity and he said he would raise it with NSA Hadley during his meeting with him in Washington in a few days. Day characterized the plan as “like MAP, but without the name,” also noting that “the risk of allied disunity is huge.” Ricketts affirmed HMG’s support for a Georgian MAP, but allies should seek a compromise in order to maintain unity and “avoid a wretched row.” Aldred observed that, depending on the result of Ukraine’s elections, Ukraine may not have a government come the ministerial, temporarily mooting the question of a MAP for Ukraine.
France: EU Presidency -- and NATO
14. (C/NF) Ricketts stated that HMG has been “pleasantly surprised” by the pragmatism of France’s EU Presidency. Day remarked that the current French plan to reintegrate into NATO’s military command is the third such effort. “I am not sure France understands the implications of what they need to do to provide officers and staffers for NATO integration.”
The New DefMin...
15. (S/NF) Stirrup offered a preliminary assessment of new Defense Minister John Hutton, who replaced former DefMin Des Browne in the October 3 cabinet reshuffle. He stated that the reshuffle was unexpected at the MOD and that Defense was the only portfolio Hutton would accept when Peter Mandelson replaced Hutton as Business Secretary. Citing “political considerations” that dominated the Cabinet reshuffle, Stirrup opined that it was “disappointing from our perspective that so little thought was given to what was best for (the Ministry of) Defense” since “we did not need a change” at the MOD. However, “we were lucky we got who we got,” since Hutton is a military historian who is “keen on defense and keen on his job.”
16. (U) USDP Edelman cleared this message.
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