|Wikileaks:||View 03OTTAWA917 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||PREL MARR PTER CA|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 000917 SIPDIS NOFORN E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/28/2013 TAGS: PREL, MARR, PTER, CA SUBJECT: CANADA-IRAQ: WHAT NOW? REF: OTTAWA 892 (NOTAL) Classified By: DCM Stephen R. Kelly, Reason: 1.5 (b) and (d) 1. (C/NF) SUMMARY. Ambassador Cellucci's widely reported expression of U.S. disappointment over official Canada's position on Iraq and the military campaign has precipitated a tidal wave of response. While senior Cabinet ministers clearly got the message and want to turn things around in the bilateral relationship (reftel), as does the Liberal Party's heir apparent, it remains unclear whether Prime Minister Chretien - the key decision maker in this case-- is willing to rein in the left wing of his party and buck public opinion, which he sees as solidly in the anti-war camp. END SUMMARY. 2. (C/NF) The world has changed dramatically over the last several years, and Canada has been taking stock of its foreign policy. Canadians are acutely aware of and sensitive to their dependence upon the U.S. for economic prosperity and national security, but are also driven by a historic imperative to assert a Canadian identity that clearly sets the country apart from America. While not visceral anti-Americanism in a classic sense, it does color government foreign policy decisions. In recent months, senior officials from the Prime Minister down have cited "Canadian sovereignty" and "the Canadian way" to the House of Commons as justification for any number of positions, some of them quite contradictory. Moreover, it is unclear that the Canadian leadership and public understand, at a fundamental level, the implications of the 2001 terrorist attacks on America and the depth of U.S. commitment to preventing a recurrence of such attacks. These are some of the factors in Canada's ambivalent approach to Iraq from the beginning. The particular leadership style of Jean Chretien, who has announced he will retire in February 2004, is another element in Canadian waffling on Iraq. 3. (C/NF) The identity confusion notwithstanding, it appears that many Canadian officials assumed that Canada's stance on Iraq did not "really" matter in the larger scheme of things and that our relations would revert to business as usual once the flap over their non-participation in Iraq blew over. Chretien's resolute silence when members of his staff or the Liberal Caucus -- including a Cabinet minister -- publicly made disparaging comments about the United States and the President seemed to play to that assumption. Thus, the Ambassador's March 25 remarks at a Toronto business forum, voicing U.S. disappointment over Canada's position on Iraq and comportment regarding the war, gave attentive observers a much needed jolt and loosed a hail of I-told-you-so media commentary and broad speculation about the consequences of U.S. disappointment. 4. (C/NF) Canadian media have played out the reactions for most of the week, including the interesting conclusion of Liberal pollster Michael Marzolini (CEO of Pollara Inc.) that had Jean Chretien decided to support the United States, Canadians would have swung behind him and accepted military action in Iraq. He told a Toronto audience that in asking whether "Canadians accept war, (albeit) reluctantly and grudgingly," instead of whether they "want" war, he found that a small majority actually favored Canada's participation in the Iraq conflict. This majority was on a par with the 56 percent approval Pollara registered for participation in the Kosovo conflict four years ago, which Canada entered without UNSC approval. The question is whether Marzolini's newly revealed conclusions, in addition to the Ambassador's comments, might stir up public opinion enough to convince the Prime Minister of the need to change tack. 5. (C/NF) On foreign policy PM Jean Chretien calls the shots, and he plays to the polls. He is first and foremost a domestic politician from Quebec, the home of Canada's tenacious and pacifist francophone linguistic minority. His political roots are dug deeply into old-line Liberal Party soil and he is unsympathetic to, and out of touch with, U.S. foreign policy concerns. Moreover, since Chretien's announcement last August that he would quit politics in 2004 -- and the soaring star of Liberal backbencher Paul Martin (expected to win the party leadership in November) -- it has become evident that the PM has lost his ironfisted grip on an increasingly restive Liberal Caucus. His focus since the announcement has been to shape his legacy for the history books, and he crafted his last budget to boost the social traditions of the Liberal party. 6. (C/NF) As Prime Minister, Chretien's modus operandi has been to play to domestic public opinion, which he does even to the detriment of his own Cabinet members attempting to advance Canada's external policy interests. An egregious example was his public admonition of Defense Minister McCallum for stating in Washington what GOC officials had told us privately since December, i.e., that if the UN process should fail and no explicit authorization for force be given, "Canada will at that time decide whether to participate in a proposed military coalition." The PM's outburst in the House of Commons was explained to us as concern for public perception -- at a time, it turns out, when the polls showed a leap in Canadian opposition to military action. The tactic of ceding to public opinion appeared vindicated in the resounding public response to Chretien's March 17 announcement that Canada would not join the U.S. led coalition. That said, the collective body of anecdotal evidence and published opinions over the past year suggest that the Canadian public, though still broadly supportive of Liberal party policies, has become disenchanted with--even embarrassed by--Jean Chretien, and is relieved that he took the hint (from polls) to step down. 7. (C/NF) What now? With the fluid dynamic of Jean Chretien officially at the helm for the next 10 months, we should not expect any change in this government's decision against joining coalition operations in Iraq (even though, ironically, Canada's indirect military contributions to the Gulf region and its upcoming ISAF role, are far more significant than those of most of the coalition members). At the same time, we can hope that Canadians' collective embarrassment over the government's behavior (Chretien himself does not exhibit any sense of shame) might prompt the GOC to focus seriously on post-conflict needs of Iraq. We see some promising signs in the government's pledge this week of CAD 100 million to immediate humanitarian relief and the possibility of future funding. In the House of Commons Question Period this week, Members of the opposition have proposed potential non-military assistance such as a "field hospital." 8. (C/NF) Finally, even the March 28 Toronto Star contained an amazing editorial (given the newspaper's anti-U.S. bias) calling on Chretien to become more involved in Iraq in the reconstruction phase as a way of moving back into the US/British fold. Although it doesn't voice support for the US, it does display a chastened tone (not matched by any of the other opinion pieces) and acknowledges that Canada's breaking with the US on Iraq is not without repercussions. For our part, we should continue to publicize USG efforts to resolve trade disputes-notably softwood lumber-and to tout the progress on border initiatives, but consciously, without diluting the points made by the Ambassador in Toronto. In any case, we believe that once Chretien is gone, there will be an improvement in Canada's policy toward the U.S., at least in tone and perhaps even substantively. CELLUCCI
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