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Viewing cable 06REYKJAVIK187, ICELANDIC ACADEMIC CLAIMS U.S. BASE SHUTDOWN TIED

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06REYKJAVIK187 2006-05-26 18:06 2011-01-13 05:05 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXYZ0002
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRK #0187/01 1461806
ZNY CCCCC ZZH (CCY ADXD604CA MSI1461 640A)
P 261806Z MAY 06 ZFF4
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2780
INFO RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0218
C O N F I D E N T I A L REYKJAVIK 000187 
 
SIPDIS 
 
C O R R E C T E D  C O P Y:  QUOTATION AND APOSTROPHE SIGNS 
    CORRECTED THROUGHOUT TEXT 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/25/2016 
TAGS: MARR PREL KPAO ECA IIP IC
SUBJECT: ICELANDIC ACADEMIC CLAIMS U.S. BASE SHUTDOWN TIED 
TO FORMER PM ODDSSON,S RETIREMENT 
 
Classified By: DCM Philip Kosnett    Reason: 1.5d 
 
1. (C) Summary: An Icelandic historian's assertion that the 
U.S. would not be shutting down Naval Air Station Keflavik 
(NASKEF) had former PM and FM David Oddsson not retired from 
politics has excited the media and driven the country's 
leading politicians into a round of recriminations.  The 
suggestion that Haarde "lost the Americans" will put 
pressure on the GOI to adopt a tough stance at upcoming talks 
on base closure issues, and to continue to push the U.S. for 
"robust, visible defense arrangements" in the post-NASKEF 
era. End summary. 
 
2. (SBU) Icelandic politicians of every stripe have rushed to 
respond to the publication this month of an article by 
historian Valur Ingimundarson in an Icelandic literary 
journal.  Ingimundarson concluded that the personal 
relationship between President Bush and Iceland's David 
Oddsson (Independence Party Prime Minister until 2004 and 
then Foreign Minister until his resignation from politics in 
September 2005) was responsible for the retention of U.S. 
military forces in Iceland until this year.  Oddsson's 
successors (Progressive Party PM Halldor Asgrimsson and 
Independence Party FM Geir Haarde) lacked the Washington pull 
to save NASKEF, the historian hypothesized. Ingimundarson, 
who interviewed Washington officials on a December 2005 
Voluntary Visitor trip, sourced his story in part to unnamed 
USG officials. 
 
3. (SBU) Key politicians, comments: 
 
-- Asgrimsson told the media, "I would find it strange if 
the U.S. makes decisions like that.  If they work like that 
they wouldn't be very credible in the eyes of other 
countries... I have met the U.S. President a few times, and 
he has always been friendly to us Icelanders.  Personal 
connections always matter in that context, but in the files I 
have nothing that indicates such a personal commitment..." 
 
-- Haarde acknowledged that Oddsson's good relationship with 
the U.S. had been important but, asked if he were upset that 
he did not have comparable connections, replied, "I don,t 
lose sleep over it."  Bilateral discussions continue, he 
added, and the Government's job now is to deal with what 
emerges from them. 
 
-- Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, chair of the main opposition 
Alliance, drew attention to the article's mention (not 
previously widely known in Iceland) that the U.S. had 
informed Oddsson in December 2002 of its decision to withdraw 
U.S. fighters from Iceland, and that the GOI had not gone 
public with this until after May 2003 elections.  (In the 
end, Oddsson persuaded the White House to reconsider 
withdrawal of the aircraft, effectively delaying the 
withdrawal until this year.)  Gisladottir said that the 
Icelandic Government's support for the invasion of Iraq 
could now be seen in a completely new light.  (Comment: 
Gisladottir seems to suggest that Oddsson's support for the 
U.S. on Iraq was not a matter of principle but a bid to 
reverse the U.S. decision to withdraw the fighters.  End 
comment.) 
 
-- Gisladottir's party colleague Ossur Skarphedinsson, Left 
Green Party Chair Steingrimur Sigfusson, and Liberal Party 
Chair Gudjon Arnar Kristjansson have called for a 
parliamentary investigation of how the 2002 notification was 
"covered up" and of how the notification (may have) 
influenced Iceland's Iraq policy. 
 
4. (SBU) Ingimundarson told POLOFF May 26 he was surprised at 
the uproar, reflecting that the GOI is "of course wounded 
about (the closure of NASKEF)" and that the media had 
exaggerated and sensationalized his arguments.  The tempest, 
he mused, is symptomatic of politicians, (and their media 
friends,) anxiety about the future of U.S-Iceland defense 
ties. 
 
5. (C) Comment:  Ingimundarson's thesis bears a striking 
resemblance to that put forward to POLOFF March 17 by 
Oddsson's son, Thorsteinn Davidsson, political advisor to 
Minister of Justice Bjorn Bjarnason (Independence Party). 
Davidsson, Bjarnason, and others in the IP's right wing are 
furious at the ascendance of the moderate Haarde as IP 
Chairman and likely next Prime Minister.  They are privately 
frustrated at the conciliatory tone Haarde has taken toward 
the U.S. since the base drawdown announcement March 15.  It 
is possible they encouraged Ingimundarson (son of an Oddsson 
ally) to burnish their hero Oddsson's legacy and pressure 
Haarde into taking a tougher negotiating stance. 
 
6. (C) However the author came to develop his thesis, the 
public discussion of whether Haarde "lost the Americans" will 
 
bring pressure on the GOI to adopt a tough stance at upcoming 
talks on base closure issues and to continue to push the U.S. 
for "robust, visible defense arrangements" in the 
post-NASKEF era.  End comment. 
 
VAN VOORST