Cablegate: Dutch Parliament Endorses Cabinet Decision To

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 1454

1. (U) An overwhelming majority of the Dutch Parliament
voted on June 22 to endorse the cabinet decision to extend
Dutch participation in the multinational force in Iraq for
eight months. (The Dutch have approximately 1300 troops
serving in Al Muthanna province as part of the UK's
Multinational Division SE.) Only the left Socialist and
Green Left parties and three dissident members of the main
opposition Labor (PvdA) Party (in total 19 of 150 members)
opposed extension. Although the Labor party had publicly
opposed extension in recent months, PvdA spokesman Koenders
stated during the debate that his party had been convinced
by the government's arguments to remain in Iraq, and that
adoption of UNSCR 1546 had been a decisive factor in the
party's endorsement.

2. (U) Although extension is an executive decision, which
only requires the cabinet's approval, Prime Minister
Balkenende, Foreign Minister Bot and Defense Minister Kamp
spent much time generating broad support for the decision in
parliament. A broad parliamentary endorsement was also
viewed as vital to the troops' morale and retaining public
support. The cabinet deliberately postponed making a
decision on extension one week - from June 4 to June 11 -
to allow UNSCR 1546 to be adopted. These efforts clearly
paid off.

3. (U) Much of the debate in parliament focused on the
duration of the extension. Some parties did not want to
rule out another extension beyond the present eight months,
but FM Bot stated that "longer is not under discussion."
One major argument for the proposed extension was to have
the Dutch troops provide security before and during the
elections, which should be held by January 2005. In Bot's
view, there is accordingly a safe margin between the
elections and the planned withdrawal by mid-March 2005. Bot
did not, however, completely rule out that the Dutch troops
may have to stay longer if exceptional circumstances were to
occur, but stated that in that case the government would
again seek the parliament's endorsement.

4. (SBU) Comment: The broad parliamentary endorsement of the
cabinet's decision, to include the main opposition,
represents a significant victory for Balkenende, Bot and
Kamp. Dutch governments always prefer to make potentially
controversial decisions (such as military deployments)
backed by a super-majority in parliament. In this case, the
cabinet was not only prepared to proceed without Labor's
backing, but also if necessary without the support of its
own junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats (D66)
which had also expressed concern about extension. The
proposal and subsequent passage of UNSCR 1546 - and the
cabinet's decision to delay action for a week to ensure that
a resolution was in place - allowed D66 and then PvdA to
climb down from their earlier opposition to extension
relatively smoothly. Depending on the evolution of the
political process in Iraq, Balkenende, Bot and Kamp will
likely have to repeat this process come January 2005 should
further extension of the Dutch deployment be required. End


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