Cablegate: Dutch Cabinet Approves Extension in Multinational

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

REF: The Hague 969

1. Summary: On June 11, the Dutch cabinet decided to extend
Dutch participation in the multinational Force in Iraq for
eight months, i.e., until mid-March 2005, so that the Dutch
troops in the Al Muthanna province can help secure stability
during the transition period and the elections. As expected
and reported, the cabinet announced that the troops will
leave thereafter. According to Prime Minister Balkenende,
adoption of UNSC resolution 1546 was crucial to the
cabinet's decisionmaking, as were the requests from the
Prime Minister of the Iraqi interim government, the UK, the
UN and the U.S. The cabinet is well aware of the risks to
which the troops are exposed, and has taken appropriate
security measures. It nonetheless decided to extend given
the mission's overriding significance. An ample majority of
the parliament is expected to support the cabinet's
decision. The parliament will debate it within the next two
weeks. New troops are to leave shortly for Kuwait to
acclimatize so that they can relieve the present troops by
mid-July. End summary.

2. In a June 11 letter to parliament, the cabinet explained
that it had chosen for an extension of eight months so that
Dutch troops can continue to make a contribution to Iraq's
stability until and after the elections in January 2005 and
the formation of a new government. Together with the
planned transfer of sovereignty on June 30, it viewed these
elections as "a crucial step towards a safe, stable and
democratic Iraq." It opined that "a safe and stable
environment is essential to the political and economic
reconstruction of Iraq, in particular with an eye to the
transfer of sovereignty and holding elections so that the
Iraqis can determine their own future in freedom."

3. Foreign Minister Bot noted that "in the past year we
have been able to show that it is possible to establish
stability, and we should now finish the job." After the
elections and the formation of a government, it will be time
to leave, he added. He did not anticipate that the
Netherlands would be asked to find a country to take over
from the Dutch in Al Muthanna.

4. Defying provocative questions inviting him to criticize
U.S. policy, Bot countered that "the relative tranquility of
the past weeks is the clearest evidence that we are on the
right track." He said, "The picture is different now that
the international community has spoken through a new UNSC
resolution," which he said signified a major step forward.
People in Iraq are seeing the end and are waiting to see
what is going to happen. Bot referred to European pressure
on the U.S. to accept a resolution that included some
elements that were hard for the U.S. to accept. He himself
had lobbied hard in past weeks for such a resolution. He
was pleased with the ultimate text, which "met all of our
wishes." With this resolution it had become easier for the
cabinet to approve the extension.

5. Defense Minister Kamp acknowledged that the Dutch troops
face a higher risk of being attacked in the run-up to the
elections "but they are prepared for it." For their
security the troops can continue to rely on assistance from
Cougar and Apache helicopters, as well as observation and
detection equipment. And in case of an emergency, they can
request air support from the air forces of the multinational
force. Apart from rising tension in the months preceding
the elections, Kamp referred to the risk of Iraqi insurgents
who might want to frustrate the reconstruction effort by
turning against the Dutch troops.

6. Balkenende, Bot and Kamp expressed hope that the cabinet
decision would be widely supported both in parliament and
society, also for the sake of the Dutch troops in Iraq so
that they know that an ample majority of the Dutch people
supports their work. A majority of the coalition parties
and several smaller opposition parties have already
expressed support. Only the main opposition labor (PvdA)
party is still dragging its feet. Although it has welcomed
the new UNSC resolution as a major step in the right
direction, it is still questioning the future role of the
UN, the intended internationalization of the multinational
force, as well as the degree to which the U.S. is prepared
to step back in Iraq. PvdA is also concerned about the
security risks and is not yet convinced that the presence of
Dutch troops will enhance stability.

7. Foreign Minister Bot warned that the PvdA should not ask
for the impossible, such as the demand that Arab nations
participate in the multinational force. That will not
happen, Bot retorted but those countries are providing
assistance to the reconstruction effort in other ways. Bot
was confident, however, that the PvdA would ultimately
consent to the proposed extension, if only because it would
hurt its position with its voters if it did not. The
cabinet actually went out of its way to keep the PvdA on
board because wide support from all major parties is
considered crucial to retain public support for the Dutch
military involvement in Iraq.


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