138117 1/22/2008 14:11 08BUCHAREST52 Embassy Bucharest CONFIDENTIAL 08BUCHAREST41 VZCZCXRO7824 PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK DE RUEHBM #0052 0221411 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 221411Z JAN 08 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7802 INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L BUCHAREST 000052
STATE FOR EUR/NCE A. JENSEN AND NEA/I S. EPSTEIN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/21/2018 TAGS: PREL, MOPS, MARR, IZ, RO SUBJECT: DEFENSE MINISTER: A "CHANGE OF FOCUS" FOR ROMANIA IN IRAQ?
REF: BUCHAREST 0041
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Mark A. Taplin; Reasons 1.4(b) a nd (d)
1. (U) Defense Minister (and acting Justice Minister) Teodor Melescanu on January 18, predicted that Romania would begin this year "the process of disengagement from the Iraqi theater." Romania, he said, would use the period after the April NATO Summit to begin a consultation process with the "international coalition allies on changing the focus and working out a withdrawal calendar."
2. (U) Melescanu's remarks were made to reporters during the departure ceremony for Iraq of the Iasi-based "Black Wolves" 151st Battalion. Melescanu described his proposal as a shift that would provide for increased attention to "training, organizing and preparing the Iraqi armed forces," including through the continued use of military advisors. He hoped that Romania would be able to participate in Iraqi military procurement and modernization programs, and to focus less on what he labeled "direct missions." He affirmed that the eventual withdrawal of Romanian forces would depend on a calendar to be developed with allies by the beginning of 2009.
3. (C) Comment: Melescanu's remarks are unsurprising, in view of past efforts by the Tariceanu government to call into question Romania's continued military presence in Iraq. Other political figures, such as Chamber of Deputies President Bogdan Olteanu and Social Democrat opposition leader (and former Foreign Minister) Mircea Geoana, have also expressed a view that Romania needs to have a calendar for an Iraq withdrawal. To what extent these views reflect wider thinking within the national security establishment in Bucharest, and especially at the Presidential palace, remains to be seen. Strikingly, Ministry of Defense State Secretary Dobritoiu did not reference at all the Minister's Friday remarks during a meeting on January 22 with Embassy officials. Nor was the value of the Iraqi missions lost among uniformed officers if the comments from the 151st Battalion Commander, Lt.Col. Dan Cislariu, are indicative. At the Iasi ceremony, Cislariu described the Iraqi Mission as "an extremely valuable experience," adding "we are serving a righteous cause" against global terrorism. End Comment. TAUBMAN