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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Week 5: Chrac on Iran; French internal presidential struggle; Europe and the Near East.

Chirac and the Iran Bomb
The best commentary I have seen on the incident around French president Chirac's declaration on Iran, is in @foe (A Fistful of Euros) by Alex Harrowell: Chirac has a transient dishonesty malfunction (4.2.07). The title is more cynical than the content is.
Basically, the author says, Chirac was right in what he said first, i.e., that Iran, having one or two bombs, wouldn't be a disaster:
"This is a pretty basic statement of nuclear deterrence, with the further point that in a sense, having one or two nuclear bombs makes you weaker than having zero nuclear bombs but the capacity to make them. Once you fire the one bomb, you have no further deterrent, and you’re definitely going to be nuked."
For, as he says, The US, Israel, but also France, Britain and Russia have the capability to retaliate. And do not forget Pakistan and India. He also mentions Jordan, Egypt and Saudi-Arabia as countries who have perhaps already nuclear capabilities, or who should be able to have them within short notice. Especially S.-Arabia, that, probably, financed the Pakistani bomb, could buy it (or, already have bought it) instantly.

It is strange however, that he forgets Turkey. One cannot suppose, that the Turks, surrounded in the West, the North and the South (Israel) by nuclear powers, and seeing them coming up in the East, should not have thought at obtaining an independent nuclear deterrent for themselves. It is more than possible, that the CIA frontstore in Istanbul, manned by the team of Valerie Plame, was observing those efforts and their possible collusion with Israel. It makes the 2003 denunciation of Plame by Cheney & Co. all the more suspect.

Was it part of the French presidential candidates' dance around the poll position?
Remains the enigma, if it was the old fox Chirac, who staged a short incident in order to see what happened and at the same time stress, for a moment, the independent French thinking, or, if it is senility that has overtaken the outgoing president?

The Financial Times, echoing US analysing, opts for the "senility" explanation. It goes as far as to discuss the legal (constitutional) possibilities of declaring the French president "inapt" and to be replaced by the French Senate president. But it also admits that it might have been a moment of undiplomatic "honesty":

Yet most experts said Mr Chirac’s gaffe sounded less like a mental aberration and more like an unguarded moment of honesty. “Jacques Chirac said what many experts in the world are saying, even in the US,” said Hubert Védrine, former Socialist foreign minister.

“He sounded like a man who knows it is almost over for him and was saying what he really thinks,” said Patrick Moreau Defarges, analyst at the French institute of foreign relations.

The worry for some analysts is whether Mr Chirac’s new free-speaking style will do more damage to France’s diplomatic relations in the short time left before his expected departure from office. “These were very irresponsible comments for a head of state to make,” said Mr Moreau Defarges.

But I bet on my first supposition. Chirac is subtly undermining his rival Sarkozy's position. He did so, with the apparently staged homeless manifestations at Christmas and his subsequent order to give them housing. That was a defeat for Sarkozy. Diverging so manifestly from the US-imposed policy regarding Iran, is another blow to Sarko, who suggests regularly a more "Atlantic" approach in international policy. On both issues, Chirac can be sure, to have the French public opinion at his side.

If I am right, one may expect a third intrigue from the old fox against Sarkozy on the economic field, where he could force the latter, as a member of the government until the end of March, to execute some symbolic anti-market measure.

And the French Socialists and their candidate Ségolène Royal? - They are nowhere, at this moment. They had no reply on the homeless issue and still less on the Iran bomb question.

Europe, Israel and the Bomb.
We should also link this to the Herzliya conference held recently in that Israeli bathing resort. There, a subtly composed mix of neoconservatives and mainstream US politicians have been brainwashed over the Iranian Bomb and its' dangers for Israel. There was no effort, as far as I have seen, to imply a significant European audience into this conference. An appeasing German, British or French intervention has been avoided. All seems to be set, to obtain a maximum US belligerence in face of Iran. Nonetheless, an Iranian nuclear capacity regards directly Europe and the Russians. Much more directly than the Americans.
In my opinion, this is a costly error, seen from the Israeli point of view. Europe and most of the rest of the world, will not accept another Iraq-like scenario. I am even sure, that the orthodox conservative mainstream US community is more and more against this eventuality. Israel should, in my view, accept, that it has to compose with its neighbours in order to safeguard its existence, and not rely on its nuclear blackmailing capabilities.

Could it be, that Chirac, who thinks that he might have found a restoration of French influence in the Near East through the shift of power in Lebanon and the (outgoing) French commandment of the UN troops in South Lebanon, was vexed, that he was not heard in Herzliya?

The growing European weight upon the Near and Middle East, caused by the American-British failure in Iraq and the dissociation of Turkey from the US policies, as well as the Afghan morass, doesn't express itself diplomatically, commonly and promptly. That is why, I think, an incident like this, ridiculous at first view, could produce itself.

On of the stumblings that will unheroically, but inevitably, lead to a common EU foreign policy.

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