Cablegate: Crocker/Petraeus Meetings with Uk Defense

DE RUEHLO #3662/01 2641625
O 211625Z SEP 07

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 LONDON 003662



E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/18/2017


Classified By: Ambassador Robert H. Tuttle, reasons 1.4 b, d

1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: With Prime Minister Gordon Brown set to
deliver a widely-anticipated statement on HMG's policy in
Iraq to Parliament on or about October 10, the UK needs the
USG to define clearly its expectations for the British
presence in Iraq as soon as possible, UK Defence Secretary
Des Browne told U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and
Commanding General of Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) David
Petraeus September 18 in London. Over lunch and a follow-on
meeting, Browne said the UK is frustrated by the lack of
progress in Basrah, both politically and economically. This
frustration has led the British to question the entire
purpose of maintaining a presence there. Petraeus and
Crocker argued that Basrah's position as Iraq's second
largest city, combined with its vast oil resources and a
homogeneous Shi'a community, make its fate critical to Iraq's
future, and that the UK role in securing that future is
vital. Petraeus asked that the UK retain its base of
operations in the south in Basrah, and not move it elsewhere
in the British sector of Multi-National Division-South East
(MND-SE). Petraeus said that he would discuss separately
with UK Chief of Defence Staff Air Marshall Jock Stirrup a
list of critical tasks for MND-SE. On Basrah's transfer to
provincial Iraqi control (PIC), Petraeus said that it could
happen in late fall or winter, depending on how the
conditions in Basrah evolve, including how the situation with
Basrah's governor evolves. END SUMMARY.

U.S. and UK Need to Discuss Expectations

2. (S/NF) Summarizing the U.S. and UK positions on Iraq,
Browne said: "We are on the same page on both path and
message -- although we may have been on different paragraphs
at different times." He assured Crocker and Petraeus that
the UK will see its commitments through: "We are not rushing
for the door." Stressing that he values his close contacts
with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, particularly Gates'
candor, Browne said the time has come for the U.S. and UK to
enter into detailed discussions on U.S. expectations for the
UK in the south. Up to this point, he said, Gates and other
U.S. officials have put off discussions of future Iraq
strategy until the September 10-11 Congressional hearings on
Iraq have concluded. Now that the hearings are over, these
discussions need to take place as soon as possible, to avoid
giving pundits and the media the opportunity to shape the
debate in unhelpful ways.

3. (S/NF) U.S./UK discussions on the way ahead in Iraq are
also vital, Browne said, because PM Gordon Brown will make a
statement on HMG's Iraq policy soon after Parliament
reconvenes on October 8. PM Brown is currently planning to
make the statement on October 10, early enough in the session
to prevent the opposition parties from getting the upper hand
on the Iraq debate. PM Brown will need the statement to
carry a certain amount of substance on issues such as
assessing Iraqi governmental capacity and defining goals and
timelines, Browne stressed. Petraeus said the U.S. would be
happy to work with the UK on this, as it has in the past.
Browne expressed HMG's hope that the policy discussions would
not be limited by U.S. domestic events such as the next
report to Congress by Petraeus and Crocker, currently
scheduled for March. Crocker noted that he and Petraeus had
stressed in their testimony that the situation is not
evolving predictably, or via a timeline, and that the U.S.
would need to be in Iraq for
a long time, so that long term planning should be possible.

UK Role in Basrah

4. (S/NF) The UK needs to continue to base its MND-SE
operations in Basrah, Petraeus said to Browne. Noting the
possibility that the UK might consider moving to Talil Air
Base in Dhi Qar, Petraeus stressed that Basrah itself is
critically important: it is the second largest city in Iraq;
90 percent of Iraq's oil wealth flows through it; its
airfield is critical to MNF-I operations in the south, and it
serves as a base for special forces operations, intelligence
operations, ground and air quick reaction forces, air
medevac, diplomatic elements and PRTs, and manned and
unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri
al-Maliki understands the challenges facing Basrah, Petraeus
said, as he has demonstrated by appointing General Muhan as
Head of the Iraqi Security Forces and Major General Jaleel as
Head of Police. With no sectarian conflict or al Qaida
presence, Basrah represents an opportunity for Maliki to
demonstrate how Iraqi central government can liaise with

LONDON 00003662 002 OF 002

regional governments; UK support will be critical as Maliki
achieves this. Crocker said that Basrah is a metaphor for
the challenges that Iraq faces. Since it has become clear
that Iraq will not be completely centrally controlled, the UK
needs to be on the ground to assist the Basrahwis to find
Basrahwi solutions to Basrahwi problems.

5. (S/NF) The UK has stressed Basrah's importance to Maliki
from the beginning, Browne said. As a fellow Shi'a, Maliki
could have taken advantage of Basrah's relative homogeneity
to reward his people without offending the Sunni. Had Maliki
recognized this from the onset and at strategic points along
the way, notably during Operation Sinbad, it would have
helped enormously, Browne said. Mohan and Jaleel are
excellent, but they are the exceptions. The rest of the
Basrahwi political class is corrupt. The economy is
terrible; young men are joining the Jaysh al-Mahdi out of
lack of any other opportunity. Officials are not moving on
proposed British infrastructure projects. All of these
frustrations have led the UK to question why it maintains a
role in Basrah at all. Petraeus replied that he would meet
with Chief of Defence Staff Air Marshall Jock Stirrup after
the meeting to discuss the list of tasks that the U.S.
envisions remain in Basrah. He also said he would push key
MND-SE projects with the Iraqi government (NOTE FROM BAGHDAD:
General Petraeus met with PM Maliki September 20 and stressed
the need to help Basrah and discussed the same with DPM
Barham Salih as well.)

Basrah Transfer to Provincial Iraqi Control

6. (S/NF) Basrah should be able to transfer to Provincial
Iraqi Control (PIC) by late fall or winter, Petraeus said,
although the decision would have to go through the normal PIC
process first, which could take some weeks. The issue of
Basrah Governor Waeli remains unresolved, and that would need
to be factored in as well, Petraeus said: for example, it
would not be realistic to PIC at the same time that another
governor might be taking over, if the situation comes to
that. Browne pressed for a specific date, or at least
concrete wording that PM Brown could use in his statement to

HMG Attitude Towards Its Performance in Iraq

7. (C) Finally, Petraeus asked Browne why the UK seems to be
beating itself up over its performance in Iraq. Browne
answered that the Labour Government under Tony Blair and now
Gordon Brown have been effectively without domestic
opposition for five years. During that time, the UK media,
which has appallingly low standards, has taken on the role of
the opposition, and the constant barrage of criticism and
misinformation is wearing officials down. Petraeus noted
that the UK has helped with a number of accomplishments in
recent months, including orderly handoff of the Basrah Palace
and State Building and establishment of the Basrah
Operational Command.

8. (SBU) Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus have cleared
this cable.

Visit London's Classified Website: cfm

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