The trouble arose from Iceland's killing of 120 whales this year despite its agreement to abide by a moratorium on whaling by the International Whaling Commission. Iceland said it had killed the whales for scientific research-an acceptable reason under the commission's rules.
Icelanders and Americans agree that the issue is more emotional than economic: Even before the ban, when Icelanders killed 400 to 500 whales a year, the export of whale meat accounted for no more than 1% of the total value of Icelandic exports of sea products. But American pressure on a fishery issue offends the sensibilities of Icelanders, for they are fiercely proud of their political independence and deeply aware of their economic dependence on the sea.
Under a treaty with Iceland, the U.S. government stations 3,000 American military personnel-known as the Iceland Defense Force-at Keflavik. They operate several communications stations in Iceland and fly 18 F-15 fighter planes, nine Orion submarine-spotter planes, two airborne warning and control system (AWACS) radar planes and several other aircraft from the base. The base's main mission is to monitor air and submarine operations in the North Atlantic.