Cablegate: Dutch Parliament Debates Iraq

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: On April 15, the Dutch parliament
debated Foreign Minister Bot and Defense Minister Kamp on
the future of Iraq. Looming in the background is the
government's upcoming decision whether to renew the
deployment of Dutch troops currently in Iraq beyond July.
Bot and Kamp parried opposition demands for a complete UN
takeover as well as calls for criticism of U.S. strategy.
Both the government and parliament agree on the
desirability of a bigger UN role, but Bot rejected a call
by the opposition Labor Party to give the UN "final
responsibility" for all international efforts. Bot noted
the UN does not want such a role, and suggested doing so
would amount to Iraq being ruled by another occupation
force, instead of giving "Iraq back to the Iraqis." Kamp
robustly defended the U.S. approach in Iraq and put down
clear markers for a renewed deployment of Dutch troops. He
warned that a Dutch pullout would have very negative
consequences for the Iraqi people and underlined that the
UN, U.S. and UK have explicitly asked the Dutch to stay.
Ambassador Sobel will follow up with Bot on April 22. By
then, the dust will have settled and it will be clearer as
to the effect of the debate on a possible extension. End

UN Role

2. (U) Much of the debate centered on the future role of
the UN in Iraq. Bot recalled the government has
persistently sought a more significant UN role; however,
UNSYG Annan and Special Envoy Brahimi made clear to him in
a recent meeting that the UN does not seek a dominant role.
Accordingly, Bot rejected a resolution tabled by opposition
Labor Party Foreign Affairs Spokesman Koenders calling for
the UN to have "final responsibility" for all international
efforts." Bot noted that work continues on a new UNSCR,
which he called desirable, and the goal of which is to get
more countries involved. To that end, he said he had
specifically discussed these issues with his French and
German counterparts, and had observed a willingness on
their parts to consider sending troops if the UN role was
more clearly defined.

3. (U) Overall, Bot was cautiously optimistic about the
political developments in Iraq. He asserted that the
current violence is primarily caused by small groups of
extremists who do not have much support among the
population. He said that those who oppose the current
process towards establishing democracy could be expected to
continue to try to frustrate this process. Bot was
nonetheless hopeful it would be possible to get the
security situation under control.

Renewing the Dutch deployment in Iraq

4. (U) Defense Minister Kamp strongly argued in favor of
continuing the Dutch troop deployment in Iraq (note: the
Dutch have approximately 1300 personnel serving in
AlMuthanna province as part of the UK Multinational
Division South-East). He noted UN, U.S. and UK requests
for the Dutch to remain and observed there would be "very
negative consequences" for the Iraqi people if they left.
He also cited the importance of Dutch assistance to
Japanese forces in AlMuthanna. He did allow for three
possible scenarios in which Dutch troops might be
withdrawn: "If the Iraqis no longer appreciate our
presence; if the UN involvement does not become bigger, and
if the security situation deteriorates so much that it
would be no longer responsible to stay."

5. (U) Kamp said preparations continue for relieving
currently deployed troops. The Dutch are coordinating
closely with the British, and he warned it would become
more and more difficult to pull out as time passes, since
other countries rely on the Netherlands. The Dutch relief
forces are due to arrive in Iraq by mid-June to give them a
few weeks to acclimatize. Accordingly, the final deadline
for an extension decision would be mid-June. Both Bot and
Kamp supported a larger future role for NATO in Iraq,
although they said for the moment NATO is very much
preoccupied with Afghanistan.

6. (U) A majority of MPs from the three coalition parties,
the Christian Democrats, the Liberals and the Liberal
Democrats, are inclined to support the extension, while the
smaller Green Left party and the Socialist party are
opposed. While the main opposition Labor Party supported
the initial Dutch deployment and its first renewal, it now
states it will not support a renewal unless the UN is
granted a "lead role" and the entire strategy is "radically
changed." (Comment: the political problem is that the
Dutch prefer to have the main opposition onboard for
deployment decisions. Technically the government has
enough votes without the Labor party or the smaller far
left parties, but it would be a significant shift to
proceed without them. End comment).

7. (U) The debate disintegrated after Green Left Foreign
Affairs Spokesperson Karimi tried to induce either Bot or
Kamp to criticize the U.S. for its handling of affairs in
Iraq. Neither rose to the bait. Kamp delivered a strong
and lengthy defense of U.S. actions and objectives, noting
that the U.S. was "investing tens of billions in Iraq" and
that the main goal of the U.S. is to "bring about
improvements for the people, to transfer power to them, and
to leave the country as soon as possible." He said the
Netherlands is "glad to be part of that" and "just like
President Bush, I say in all modesty, we won't stay a day
longer than is strictly necessary." In response to Kamp's
remarks Karimi shouted that she had to throw up, and Kamp
advised her to see a doctor. Koenders then stalked out of
parliament in a huff shouting that there was no point in
talking to a minister who resorts to "taking the moral high

8. (SBU) Comment: Such antics are uncommon in the Dutch
parliament. Dutch MFA contacts, perhaps relieved that
Koenders and Karimi had not been able to corner the
ministers, said the exchange was more reminiscent of the
British parliament. Bot and Kamp robustly defended the
Dutch role in Iraq and laid down markers for a future
debate on the renewal of the deployment. Even so, we
anticipate further tough debates leading up to a renewal,
especially since a decision will likely need to be made
before consideration of a UNSCR is completed. End comment.


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