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Cablegate: Allies Voice Concerns Over Legal Status of Ntm-I

VZCZCXRO8812
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHNO #0468/01 3521803
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 171803Z DEC 08
FM USMISSION USNATO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2571
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCQAAA/USCINCCENT INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JCS WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 USNATO 000468

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/16/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR MOPS IZ ES RO AS EN UK
SUBJECT: ALLIES VOICE CONCERNS OVER LEGAL STATUS OF NTM-I

REF: BAGHDAD 3940

Classified By: A/DCM W. Scott Reid for reasons 1.4(B)&(D).

1. (C) Summary: During the December 17, 2008 North Atlantic
Council (NAC) meeting, Allies expressed serious concern about
the possibility of a lapse in the authorization and legal
protections for the NATO Training Mission - Iraq (NTM-I).
They also expressed concerns that the draft law approved by
the Council of Representatives calls for NATO's withdrawal by
July 31, despite an earlier letter from PM Maliki inviting
NATO to stay until the end of 2009. To assure Allies of
Iraq's interest in NTM-I remaining and to prevent Allies from
withdrawing, we suggest conveying to appropriate Iraqi
authorities the need to rapidly conclude a new exchange of
letters extending NTM-I at least through 2009 in the initial
implementing EOL between the GOI and NATO. End Summary.

2. (C) The NAC discussed the legal status of the NTM-I on
December 17. The SYG explained that so far, NATO had
received no response from the Government of Iraq (GOI)
regarding the proposed Exchange of Letters (EOL) authorizing
NTM-I to continue beyond December 31, 2008, although he noted
the Iraqi Council of Ministers approved a new draft law that
sets out the legal basis for NTM-I. The law still must be
approved by the Council of Representatives (COR). The SYG
announced he would circulate a text of the draft law among
nations, and that the protections afforded by this new law
are similar, but not the same as those in the U.S. SOFA.
(Note: NATO had planned on signing an exchange of letters
with the GOI that would cite relevant articles from the U.S.
SOFA. It is unclear whether the slightly different
protections afforded by this new law will satisfy the Allies,
who must agree by consensus. ASG Howard told USNATO he
received this text through UK sources in Iraq. End Note.)
The SYG announced that NATO Legal Advisor DeVidts thinks the
law provides adequate authority and protections for NTM-I to
continue into the new year. It is understood that a new EOL
is needed, as called for in the new law.

3. (C) The SYG acknowledged that if the new Iraqi law is not
passed in time, NATO will have to instruct its commanders to
cease operations and confine personnel to base effective
January 1, 2009.

4. (C) NATO Assistant SYG for Operations Martin Howard
explained that the initial Iraqi response to the proposed EOL
was positive, but due to Iraqi domestic considerations, the
Prime Minister decided they needed a new law passed by the
Council of Representatives. Howard explained that the new
law calls for NTM-I to terminate its mission by July 31,
2009, but there is a possibility of an extension. Howard
said he is confident NATO would be offered an extension as PM
Maliki has already requested that NTM-I continue through
2009. Howard said the only substantive difference with the
U.S. SOFA is that Iraq will have jurisdiction when "grave and
premeditated misdemeanors" are committed by NATO forces off
base, whether on or off duty (U.S. servicemembers accused of
such acts can only fall under Iraqi authority when off base
AND off duty.)

5. (C) Italy expressed concern, calling this a serious issue,
and saying that if no legal status is established by December
31, 2009, NATO will have to freeze operations. Italy also
expressed concern that the six month extension (until the end
of 2009) needs to be in place for planning purposes. (Note:
Italy is currently the largest force contributor to NTM-I.)
The Netherlands, Romania, and Portugal also expressed serious
concern over the potential for a lapse in legal authority and
protection for NTM-I. Romania asked the SYG to provide an
explanation of the differences in the previous legal status
compared to those afforded by the new law. The UK expressed
hope that the new law will pass in a timely fashion and saw
the Iraqi progress on moving the draft law ahead as
"generally positive," per UK sources in Baghdad. (Note: The
UK Mission to NATO has informed us that a delegation from
London is in Baghdad, trying to wrap these issues up through
back channels. End Note.)

6. (C) NATO Allies currently contributing forces to NTM-I
include Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Italy,
Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia,
Turkey, United Kingdom and United States.

7. (C) Comment and Action Request: We have been fortunate that Allies have not made the lack of legal status for NTM-I an issue sooner. Allies deferred to the U.S. during SOFA negotiations, and expect that the U.S. will now ensure there is no legal void that would cause the NATO mission to cease. The mission end date of July 31, 2009 in the draft law represents a significant step backwards for the NATO mission in Iraq, which had previously been planning for the mission to extend at least until the end of 2009 as invited to do so in a letter from PM Maliki. To keep NTM-I on track, and to ensure that Allies do not begin withdrawing troops, it will be important not only that the COR adopt the law by the end of 2008, but also that the GOI rapidly conclude an EOL with NATO that extends its presence beyond the July 31 withdrawal date. Post therefore requests that Department instruct Embassy Baghdad to convey to the appropriate Iraqi authorities the need to extend the legal status of NTM-I through the end of 2009 in the initial, implementing EOL between the GOI and NATO. End Comment and Action Request.

VOLKER

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