Cablegate: Dutch Parliamentary Debate On 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. (U) Summary: On August 24, the Dutch parliament
interrupted its August recess for a special session on Iraq
attended by Defense Minister Kamp and Foreign Minister Bot.
The parliament endorsed the additional security measures
taken in the wake of the August 14 ambush of Dutch troops in
Iraq and reiterated its support for the Dutch military
mission in Iraq. Several members, however, noted that
withdrawal of Dutch forces should be an option if the
security situation deteriorates to the point that Dutch
troops cannot operate effectively. Bot provided a detailed
overview of planned EU presidency initiatives regarding Iraq
(including sending an EU exploratory mission to Iraq,
inviting Prime Minister Allawi to the European Council in
November, and holding an EU Troika ministerial with Iraq on
the margins of the UNGA in September). Bot stressed that
the level of cooperation and coordination with the U.S. in
Iraq remained good. In recent public statements -- prompted
by increasing Dutch concerns about the Iraq mission -- Kamp
has stressed that the Dutch currently have no plans to
extend the mission beyond its current mandate, which ends in
March 2005. End Summary.

Tightened security measures

2. (U) As noted reftel, one Dutch serviceman was killed and
five were wounded when a Dutch patrol was ambushed in Iraq
on August 14. Following this incident, Dutch patrols in
Iraq were reduced significantly and made more secure. On
August 19, Kamp announced supplemental measures: the troops
will be supplied with more armored vehicles and four-wheel
drives equipped with machine guns; two infantry platoons of
about 60 persons are being sent to Iraq to reinforce
security; and the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the
Dutch troops will be expanded.

Parliament approves

3. (U) On August 24, the parliament interrupted its summer
recess for an extraordinary session attended by Kamp and
Foreign Minister Bot. During the session (attended by POL
FSN) all parties expressed support for the supplemental
security measures noted above. The major political parties
that endorsed the cabinet decision in June to extend Dutch
participation in the multinational force in Iraq until March
2005 also took the opportunity to reiterate their support
for the mission, with only the conservative Liberal (VVD)
party expressing support for continuing the mission until
December 2005. Several party representatives stated for the
record that an earlier withdrawal should be considered a
possibility if the security situation deteriorated to the
point where Dutch troops could no longer adequately do what
they were sent to Iraq to do. The majority agreed with
Kamp's assertion, however, that Dutch troops are able to
function effectively under current conditions. (Note: As is
usual in parliamentary sessions called to ask questions of
ministers, no votes were taken. End Note.)

Kamp: Challenges Increasing, but Mission Still Relevant
--------------------------------------------- ------------

4. (U) In response to questions from members, Kamp conceded
that the ability of Dutch troops to gather accurate
intelligence had decreased with the turnover of sovereignty
(along with primary responsibility for security) to Iraqi
authorities. Kamp stressed that the key to protecting Dutch
troops was maintaining positive relations with the local
population. Although the majority of Iraqis remain "well-
disposed" towards the Dutch, he said, attitudes were
changing. Foreign troops are often held responsible for the
lack of economic development in their areas, for example.
The developments in Najaf have also been manipulated to turn
many Iraqis against any foreign presence. Despite worsening
relations with the local population Kamp said that morale
among the Dutch troops remains high. Dutch troops will
continue to look for opportunities to convey to the
population that their mission is to help promote stability
and security and to offer the Iraqis the prospect of a
better life. They are not there to occupy the country, he
stressed, but to help reestablish Iraqi authority so that
they can leave as soon as possible. Kamp noted that the
situation in Al Muthanna was much better than elsewhere in

Bot: EU Active; US Keeping Dutch Well-Informed
--------------------------------------------- --

5. (U) Foreign Minister Bot provided a detailed overview of
the political situation in Iraq for the parliamentarians.
In this context he mentioned that there are indications that
"supplies" are being moved from Iran to Iraq, but declined
to elaborate on Iran's possible role, saying merely that he
could not confirm what exactly Iran may be involved in. Bot
also briefly reviewed EU initiatives that the Dutch, as EU
president, were actively pursuing. These included sending
an exploratory mission to Iraq to assess possible areas of
increased EU involvement, inviting Iraqi Prime Minister
Allawi to address the European Council meeting in November,
and holding an EU Troika meeting with the Iraqis on the
margins of the UNGA in New York in September.

6. (U) Asked if the Netherlands is kept fully informed by
the U.S. about all the developments relating to Iraq, Bot
unhesitatingly confirmed that this was the case. The
Netherlands is informed and consulted every day, he said,
through a range of fora, including regular consultations
among troop-supplying countries in Baghdad, with the USG in
Washington and at CENTCOM, through diplomatic channels and
conference calls.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: The August 24 parliamentary debate
underscored both the Dutch government's commitment to
continuing its mission in Iraq, and the broad level of
political support the mission enjoys. At the same time,
press coverage of Iraq has been relatively critical in the
wake of the August 14 attack. Several recent opinion pieces
have questioned whether Dutch troops should remain in Iraq
in the face of apparently increasing Iraqi hostility; some
newspapers have also published emotional letters from the
family members of Dutch servicemen serving there.

8. (SBU) While there is clear majority support for
completing the current Dutch mission in Iraq, there is much
less support for an additional extension (beyond March 2005)
under current circumstances. Kamp himself, although a
member of the only political party (VVD) calling for a
longer mission, told a Dutch newspaper on August 24 that
Dutch troops would leave at the end of their current mission
because "the Iraqis will then be able to take over; if not,
we should be replaced." According to press reports, Kamp
also reportedly told a visiting Japanese parliamentary
delegation on August 26 that a decision to extend would be
"extremely unlikely."



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