Cablegate: Media Play: Iraq
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000396
DEPT FOR INR/R/MR, I/RW, I/REC; PA
SA/INS (FOR JWALLER); SA/PAB SA/RA (FOR SCENSNY)
SA/PD LJIRWIN, WREINCKENS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO OPRC KMDR OIIP CE ECONOMICS
SUBJECT: MEDIA PLAY: IRAQ
1. Independent English weekly lay out "repercussions to the
economies in this and many other parts of the world"
On 3/9 an editorial in the SUNDAY TIMES (independent
English weekly), "Gulf War and US," described the negative
effects of another Gulf war on the Sri Lankan economy. The
The first blow will be to our tea market, with tea exports
poised to take a big drop in view of the fact that West
Asia is our largest regional market, next to the CIS
countries. Remittances from migrant workers and of course
tourist arrivals are also bound to take a dip. There will
be still other rollover repercussions, such as
repercussions to the garment industry as a result of the
United States and European Union economies slowing down due
to the probable effects of the war.
There can also be other jolts to the Richter. A Gulf War
could lead to the downward revision of corporate earnings,
even though most companies quoted on the markets are
reporting good results these days. These residual fears
have in fact already affected the stock market, and brought
down share prices in Colombo as of last week.
Projections will go awry, and a good example is Asia
Securities. The estimated earnings of Asia Securities
would be cut by around 25 per cent for financial year 2004,
wiping out the 18 per cent forecasted profit growth. This
setback is as a result of weaker domestic and export
markets, to which should also be added higher costs of
electricity. The scenario is not rosy, to put it by way of
understatement, and stockbrokers said that if war does
break out in the Persian Gulf "it would not be unreasonable
to expect the All Share Price index to hit the 650 levels."
Which to the uninitiated layman would mean: "Not too
But the impact is going to be multiple, as different
aspects of the economy are bound to get knocked about. For
instance, the global oil market has soared, and further
increases in the price of petroleum would be a kidney punch
to a public already reeling from high prices on all
consumer items. Spiraling inflation, if not shortages,
complete the doomsday picture.
The knock-on effects will see pressure on interest rates,
negating the efforts of government to keep interest rates
down so that businessmen will be able to borrow more for
investment. With borrowing costs climbing, they will have
to cut back on investment. Consumers and of course,
industry will be more directly hit - due to the possible
escalation of costs of transport and electricity which
would cause across-the-board price increases. Not that
President George Bush Jr., would care. He has asked our
new Ambassador to Washington DC, Devinda Subasinghe, for
our support in the days ahead. But who's there to support
us in this New World Order?
The news is already in, that low grown teas are affected
due to uncertainty in the Gulf, as these teas which are
produced by small-holders in the South are in heavy demand
in Arabia. The Southern village economy, which provides
much of the teas to the Arabian states, is already in a
tail-spin with plummeting prices and resultant cash-flow
problems. If this happens, the tea industry would also
face labor unrest, and the industry is already aware of
In a sense, a war in West Asia is even deadlier for Sri
Lanka's fragile outback economy -- than a war at home.
While some matters will be well beyond our control, some
element of damage-control will be the most we can ask for.
While there is, no doubt, an awareness about the domestic
impact, we still see no galvanizing of minds at the higher
political levels to cushion that impact. It's not too much
to ask the Prime Minister to chair some meetings with those
who matter in the coming weeks.
2. Independent Sinhala daily asks whether Iraq war will
"shatter U.S.-European good will."
On 3/9 an editorial in LAKBIMA (independent Sinhala daily)
asked, "Will the Iraq crisis shatter the US Euro good
will?" Excerpts follow:
The gravest issue: three of the five permanent members
oppose it.... Russia says it will use its veto power
against the American resolution ... and France is also
considering a veto.
"The new American resolution favors only war. The U.S.
wants it approved, by hook or by crook....
The U.S. is unable to prove Iraqi deception. It says not
only that Iraq should disarm but that Saddam should be
removed. On what grounds, asks the Canadian Prime
Even militarily, the U.S.'s hegemonic powers are
threatened: Turkey's refusal has Americans considering
other military options.
Let the international community wait and see whether
America is capable of launching a war while the whole world
protests against it....
3. SUNDAY ISLAND reprints Byrd's 2/12 Senate speech
On 3/9 the SUNDAY ISLAND (Opposition English weekly)
reprinted anti-war remarks made on the Senate floor by
Senator Robert Byrd on 2/12. The remarks were published in
the INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE on 2/19; they appeared in
the SUNDAY ISLAND under the headline "We stand passively
mute." Excerpts follow:
This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a
revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at
an unfortunate time. The doctrine of preemption -- the idea
that the United States or any other nation can legitimately
attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may
be threatening in the future -- is a radical new twist on
the traditional idea of self defense. It appears to be in
contravention of international law and the UN Charter. And
it is being tested at a time of world-wide terrorism,
making many countries around the globe wonder if they will
soon be on our -- or some other nation's -- hit list. High
level Administration figures recently refused to take
nuclear weapons off of the table when discussing a possible
attack against Iraq. What could be more destabilizing and
unwise than this type of uncertainty, particularly in a
world where globalism has tied the vital economic and
security interests of many nations so closely together?
There are huge cracks emerging in our time-honored
alliances, and U.S. intentions are suddenly subject to
damaging worldwide speculation. Anti-Americanism based on
mistrust, misinformation, suspicion, and alarming rhetoric
from U.S. leaders is fracturing the once solid alliance
against global terrorism which existed after September 11.
... This Administration has split traditional alliances,
possibly crippling, for all time, International order-
keeping entities like the United Nations and NATO. This
Administration has called into question the traditional
worldwide perception of the United States as well-
intentioned, peacekeeper. This Administration has turned
the patient art of diplomacy into threats, labeling, and
name calling of the sort that reflects quite poorly on the
intelligence and sensitivity of our leaders, and which will
have consequences for years to come.
Calling heads of state pygmies, labeling whole countries as
evil, denigrating powerful European allies as irrelevant --
these types of crude insensitivities can do our great
nation no good. We may have massive military might, but we
cannot fight a global war on terrorism alone. We need the
cooperation and friendship of our time-honored allies as
well as the newer found friends whom we can attract with
our wealth. Our awesome military machine will do us little
good if we suffer another devastating attack on our
homeland which severely damages our economy. Our military
manpower is already stretched thin and we will need the
augmenting support of those nations who can supply troop
strength, not just sign letters cheering us on.
... to turn one's frustration and anger into the kind of
extremely destabilizing and dangerous foreign policy
debacle that the world is currently witnessing is
inexcusable from any Administration charged with the
awesome power and responsibility of guiding the destiny of
the greatest superpower on the planet. Frankly many of the
pronouncements made by this Administration are outrageous.
There is no other word.