WikiLeaks Strikes Again… This time Concerning the Arctic and Afghanistan

Julian Wolfe
May 15th, 2011

Prime Minister Stephen Harper drives an ATV as he visits Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories on the fourth day of his five day northern tour to Canada's Arctic on Thursday Aug. 26, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Americans just aren’t buying Harper’s arctic promises, but instead thinks that it is nothing more than a political joy ride, a WikiLeaks cable suggests. The cable came from the US Embassy in Ottawa and was posted by an online whistleblower.

It turns out that what happens behind the scenes contradicts the public message that the American and Canadian governments are getting along…

The cable exposes thoughts of American officials on Harper’s Arctic plan. The thoughts tended to narrate to the Arctic being an election agenda with no accomplishments or signs of progress.

“Conservatives make concern for ‘The North’ part of their political brand . . . and it works,” says the note, entitled “Canada’s Conservative Government and its Arctic Focus.”

“The message seemed to resonate with the electorate; the Conservatives formed the new government in 2006.”

The cable was dated January 2010 and bears US Ambassador David Jacobson’s signature. The document goes on to make fun of Stephen Harper, stating,

“The persistent high public profile which this government has accorded ‘Northern Issues’ and the Arctic is, however, unprecedented and reflects the PM’s views that ‘the North has never been more important to our country’ — although one could perhaps paraphrase to state ‘the North has never been more important to our Party.'”

The cable also outlines the American view of broken promises in the North.

Once elected, Harper hit the ground running with frosty rhetoric,” the notes says, referring to his 2006 election.

“Harper (who was still only Prime Minister-designate) used his first post-election press conference to respond to the United States Ambassador’s restatement the prior day of the longstanding U.S. position on the Northwest passage.”

The cable said that bringing it up again in 2008 was a continuation of rhetoric, stating, “That the PM’s public stance on the Arctic may not reflect his private, perhaps more pragmatic, priorities, however, was evident in the fact that during several hours together with Ambassador Jacobson on January 7 and 8, which featured wide-ranging conversations, the PM did not once mention the Arctic.”

Americans support Stephen Harper in public on the economy, and foreign policy, but in leaked cables, a new mind set of American officials’ views on Harper are portraying the opposite. The Americans went into damage control as this leak was a hard one for the Canadian Government to swallow lightly.

This is not the only time the Americans were exposed as being critical of Harper. In an earlier leak, the Americans criticized Harper’s handling of proroguing, senate reform, mocked his crime agenda, and criticized his piracy record.

In another recent leak, the Afghanistan mission was viewed as a “political football.” The leak states that Canada reconsidered the Afghan combat end date in 2009 and was released from a US diplomatic cable.
The March 15 cable, marked secret, said that the ministers “agreed that ‘all options are back on the table’ with respect to Canada’s military role in Afghanistan after 2011.”

The cables release more information about conversations that were held between the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

“It will take time for the government’s public rhetoric to catch up to this ‘new reality,’ however, requiring some ‘patience’ on the part of allies,” the senior adviser apparently told U.S. officials on March 16.

He urged that Allies should not “publicly press” Canada to extend its troop deployment past 2011.
A “truly final decision” would have to be made by fall of 2010, with a plan in place by Jan. 1, 2011, due to operational requirements.

The cable acknowledges that an extension to the combat mission in Afghanistan was a “highly sensitive political football.”

“PM Harper and his Cabinet would be venturing into politically sensitive territory to try to re-sell a further extension to an increasingly dubious Canadian public,” the cable said.

The cable also stated that the topic would be a goldmine to recently defeated Michael Ignatieff and his Liberals. “Official Opposition Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff — who has also been firm about the 2011 deadline — has repeatedly accused PM Harper of going back on his word of obfuscating on other issues.”

The Americans allegedly used this weakness on Harper’s part to make sure that he stuck to plan.

“Several weeks later — ahead of an important NATO meeting in France — the United States put forward a demarche, a formal diplomatic request, asking Canada to consider a combat mission beyond the scheduled 2011 end date, another diplomatic cable dated April 3, 2009, shows.

The request, sent April 2, 2009, was delivered to the prime minister’s national security adviser, Marie-Lucie Morin, and senior foreign affairs and privy council staff.

Canadians likely spent night ‘struggling’

The U.S. request asked that Canada “remain open to reconsidering its plan to withdraw combat forces after 2011” or at a minimum, keep reconstruction and training teams in Kandahar past the date.

Morin stressed that Harper in his public comments had so far “been clear on the 2011 position.” But U.S. officials surmised that “intervention at the highest level might get the Prime Minister to show his cards.”

The cable goes on to say that the April 2 request “likely went straight to the Prime Minister’s party in Strasbourg,” where world leaders were gearing up for a two-day NATO summit.
“Canadian officials probably spent the night struggling to formulate a response,” U.S. officials mused.

American officials were also well aware that the very act of issuing the formal request had complicated Harper’s public response on Afghanistan.”

CBC News

The rest of the cable discusses high profile meetings between Harper and NATO and how countries maneuvered themselves to keep the Afghan mission alive.

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