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Cablegate: Goam Support for Iraq Mission Unlikely To

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

UNCLAS YEREVAN 002166

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CACEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MARR MOPS IZ AM
SUBJECT: GOAM SUPPORT FOR IRAQ MISSION UNLIKELY TO
UNRAVEL

REF: YEREVAN 2018

(U) Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) GOAM commitment to deploying troops in Iraq
remains strong despite recent media statements and
public opinion against the mission. Opposition groups
have not strongly attacked plans for deployment, and
Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs
officials continue to make consistent statements in
support of the mission, indicating unwavering resolve
within the GOAM. The GOAM sees clear benefits from
participation that can only be realized through troop
deployment. End Summary.

--------------
PUBLIC DISSENT
--------------

2. (SBU) Immediately after Armenian President Kocharian
signed an agreement with the president of Poland laying
the groundwork for deployment on September 6, several
opposition newspapers criticized the decision (reftel).
Articles cited a disgruntled general's criticism of the
deployment and several editors worried that the move
would negatively affect Armenia's relations with
Russia, jeopardize Armenian national security, and
endanger ethnic Armenians in Iraq. Several small NGOs
such as "Soldiers' Mothers" and "Republican Women's
Council" have since stated their opposition to
deployment, and on October 1, the news weekly "Iravunk"
published an informal (small and unscientific) public
opinion survey in which six percent of Armenians stated
their support of Armenian deployment to Iraq, while
sixty percent stated their strong opposition.

3. (SBU) Despite the initial media outcry, only one of
the major opposition figures, Artashes Geghamian,
issued a statement against the deployment at the time
the agreement with Poland became public, and none of
the opposition leaders has made public statements on
the issue since. The disgruntled general has softened
his public statements, and while some newspapers
continue to question why Russia was not consulted in
this matter, their coverage has become less shrill and
even, on occasions, balanced.

------------------
STAYING THE COURSE
------------------

4. (SBU) In a September 30 interview, Defense Minister
Serzh Sargsian reasoned that if the GOAM wants Western
military assistance and argues that this assistance
must be equally distributed among the nations of the
South Caucasus, then Armenia must shoulder an equal
burden along with Georgia and Azerbaijan by deploying
troops in Iraq and possibly Afghanistan. He further
sought to reassure the public that Russia remains
Armenia's most important international partner and key
to Armenian national defense planning. These arguments
are consistent with views expressed to us over the past
month by diverse sectors of the GOAM including the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense.
This unity of message within the GOAM usually indicates
a strong resolve at the highest levels.

-------
COMMENT
-------

5. (SBU) The GOAM perceives a genuine need to send
troops to Iraq. The MFA NATO desk officer has often
stated his concern that the West too often views
Armenia as a friend of Russia and Iran at the expense
of Western relations. He fears that Armenia would be
"left behind" as Georgia and Azerbaijan integrate more
closely with the Europe. Along with recent agreements
to pursue an Individual Partnership Plan with NATO, the
GOAM sees cooperation in Iraq as an important means to
remain politically linked to the West.
GODFREY

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