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Cablegate: Dutch Government Defuses Opposition's Efforts To

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 THE HAGUE 002200

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS MARR KPKO IZ NL
SUBJECT: DUTCH GOVERNMENT DEFUSES OPPOSITION'S EFFORTS TO
MAKE AN ISSUE OUT OF IRAQ


1. Summary: At the instigation of opposition parties, a
hearing on Iraq originally scheduled for September was
changed to August 28 in order to put pressure on the
government on the eve of the Prime Minister's visit to the
U.S. The opposition claimed that the Dutch government got
involved in Iraq on the basis of "unreliable" intelligence
from the U.S. and UK. FM de Hoop Scheffer beat back the
charges, reminding parliament that the Dutch government
asked for its support based on UNSC resolution 1441 and
Iraq's persistent non-compliance with previous resolutions,
and that there was no question that Iraq posed a threat. The
"smoking gun" of the debate was the "revelation" that the UK
had provided an eyes-only intelligence assessment to PM
Balkenende and the PM had not shared the information with
his ministers. That item captured Dutch headlines. FM de
Hoop Scheffer and Defense Minister Henk Kamp also handled
questions over the safety of Dutch troops, depleted uranium,
and the way forward. De Hoop Scheffer confirmed that Iraq
is on the agenda in Washington, and that the Dutch wanted to
exchange ideas over the UN's role. (The Dutch want a bigger
role for the UN, and are especially interested in UK and
U.S. ideas.) End summary.

Dispute over intelligence information
-------------------------------------

2. For weeks, the leftist opposition had tried to call the
government's credibility into question by arguing that the
government's decision in March to give political support to
the military intervention in Iraq was possibly based on
unreliable U.S. and UK intelligence information. It called
for the release of the analysis of the controversial British
and U.S. intelligence by the Dutch Military Intelligence
Service (MIVD) so that the parliament could verify for
itself whether the government made the decision to give
support on the basis of slanted information. However, both
De Hoop Scheffer and Kamp refused to make the requested
information public. De Hoop Scheffer said he took offense
at the opposition's display of distrust and emphatically
denied that the government had anything to hide.

3. De Hoop Scheffer argued that UNSC resolution 1441 and
Iraq's persistent failure to comply with imperative
disarmament obligations imposed upon it by the UNSC had been
the "decisive" factors in the GONL's decision to support the
military intervention in Iraq. Intelligence merely provided
"supplemental" information. Moreover, he noted that the UN
had established over and over again that Iraq posed a real
threat. He observed that there never was a dispute over
whether Iraq possessed WMD. The dispute with the opposition
was over the consequences of resolution 1441 and the timing
of a military intervention. He said "the absence of proof
is no proof of absence." The fact that no WMD have been
found does not mean that they are or were not present. He
reiterated that the GONL has always regarded resolution 1441
sufficient legitimacy for a military intervention. The
purpose of this intervention was "to enforce compliance."
Asked about the timing, he said the government was of the
opinion in March that the Iraqi procrastination had taken
"long enough."

4. Kamp said he had no reason to believe that the MIVD had
tampered with information. He expressed full confidence in
the MIVD's integrity and praised the quality of its daily
reports. Kamp rejected as utterly inappropriate the
requested release of MIVD reports because that would
seriously compromise and impair the way in which the MIVD
reports confidentially to the government. Besides, he
added, foreign intelligence agencies must be able to rely on
the fact that information passed to the MIVD is not made
public via parliament.

Only Prime Minister saw classified British intelligence
--------------------------------------------- ----------

5. Since the August 26 Financial Times reported that the
Netherlands had been shown secret documents that served as
the basis for the public British intelligence report, Labor
party spokesman Koenders asked for clarification. Prompted
by the same news report, De Hoop Scheffer called around and
found out that the secret reports had indeed been shown to
Prime Minister Balkenende and "for his eyes only." In the
debate he was obliged to reveal this information and added
that he was not surprised that Balkenende had not shared it
with him or Minister Kamp. After all, Balkenende was bound
by secrecy. De Hoop Scheffer maintained that this had in no
way influenced the GONL decision to support the war in Iraq.
"A different decision would not have been taken because the
Prime Minister knew what he knew." he said.

Netherlands seeks stronger UN role in Iraq
------------------------------------------

6. Reacting to parliamentary calls for a broader and
stronger role for the UN in Iraq, Minister de Hoop Scheffer
said the GONL was pushing for a more substantial role for
the UN for the purpose of winning the peace and encouraging
more countries to contribute. The aim should be to return
Iraq as quickly as possible to the Iraqi people. He also
expressed the wish that the UN contribute fully to the
nation building process and that a renewed appeal be made to
the UN members to contribute to security, including securing
the UN mission in Iraq. As examples of a stronger UN
contribution to the process towards a democratic, sovereign
Iraq, he cited support to the constitutional process, the
organization of, assistance to and monitoring of elections,
as well as giving the Interim Government Council (IGC)
legitimacy. He said that a small step had been made in that
direction with the adoption of resolution 1500 but that the
GONL favored a new UNSC resolution with a stronger mandate.
He welcomed the ideas in this context raised in the press by
Deputy Secretary Armitage. In an implicit rebuke of the
French, de Hoop Scheffer called it essential that the EU
take one line because "the European voice is only heard in
the U.S. when we speak with one voice and not four or five."
Limited Dutch Assistance to Iraq
--------------------------------

7. De Hoop Scheffer explained the reasons for the GONL
decision only to give limited development assistance to
Iraq. Iraq is potentially a very rich country and the
Netherlands only has limited resources. Both he and Kamp
noted that the Dutch troops in Iraq are not relief workers.
However, they do get involved in significant CIMIC projects.
Kamp noted that 10 persons plus 4 DART persons are working
permanently on CIMIC projects. For the moment, their budget
is only 50,000 euros but De Hoop Scheffer said more funding
would be available if they submit proposals for additional
projects.

Depleted Uranium
----------------

8. Asked by several spokesmen about the risks to Dutch
troops of exposure to depleted uranium, Minister Kamp noted
that extensive scientific research has thus far not been
able to prove any health hazards of such exposure. The
Dutch troops have nonetheless been instructed to be cautious
if they come across materiel that may contain depleted
uranium. Until now, no traces of depleted uranium have been
found in the area where the Dutch troops operate, Kamp
added. He noted that the U.S. had initially informed the
Netherlands that ammunition with depleted uranium had not
been used in the last war in the Al Muthanna province where
the Dutch troops are stationed. However, in response to
media reports, he said he had asked the U.S. to look into
the issue again.

Russel

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