A rather intriguing little masthead over at Le Monde.
C'est un combat d'arrière-garde qui illustre le dilemme de Jacques Chirac : ne pas s'opposer à la reconstruction d'un Irak "souverain" sans pour autant se renier. C'est aussi une position d'attente qui est censée permettre de coopérer avec John Kerry, s'il gagne l'élection présidentielle, mais n'empêchera pas de vivre avec George W. Bush, s'il est réélu.
Translation: It's a rear-guard action that illustrates Jacques Chirac's dilemma: to not oppose the reconstruction of a sovereign Iraq while not disavowing [his previously held positions on Iraq]. It's also a 'wait and see' position that is meant to allow him to cooperate with John Kerry, if he wins the presidential election, but wouldn't prevent him from living with George W. Bush, if he is re-elected.
Well, no big surprises there.
But there's more from Le Monde.
Per their narrative, the U.S. has wanted two things of late: 1) international legitimacy for the Iraq project and, relatedly 2) more NATO involvement there.
Chirac gave Bush "1" via the recently passed U.N. resolution on Iraq.
But, on "2", he's treading very carefully--giving Bush just enough (likely training Iraqi gendarmes in Paris suburbs or such) to not totally piss Bush off--but not so much as to cut into his street cred with the anti-war crowd in France.
Chirac's current popularity levels are depressingly low (depressingly for him, at least)--so he likely hopes his neo-Gaullist bluster (don't tell me whether I need to let the Turks into the E.U.; no NATO "flag" in Iraq etc) will play well to the crowds.
There is a problem with all this calculus, however.
Chirac is increasingly isolated within NATO (the masthead is, ironically doubtless, entitled "Splendid Isolation").
In fact, the French are looking more isolated than the Americans (don't expect Paul Krugman or MaDo to clue you in re: this, however).
As I argued in a post yesterday, it's crunch-time for serious players to now forge a trans-atlantic rapprochment.
Even Le Monde, if reluctantly, is coming around to this view. And, more important, I suspect, influential political/business elites in France (think Sarkozy, guys at places like Lazard, Paribas, SocGen etc).
I suspect there is not insignificant frustration in these quarters (senior French bankers/lawyers and rightist, Atlanticist-oriented politicians) that Chirac is proving to engage in such thinly veiled obstructionism now well over a year out from the end of major combat in Iraq.
It looks like, to help Chirac from continuing to make such crude miscalculations, we're going to need to push him along a bit more forcefully.
Not by boycotting French wines (contrary to what you hear, they are better than their Aussie and Chilean counterparts...) or taking the French out of Fries.
Rather, U.S. diplomats should now, as much as possible (and whilst holding their noses) curry favor with Schroder so as to peel him away from Chirac.
Let's get German committments for quite substantial training of Iraqi officers in places like the UAE, Turkey and Jordan (dangle a couple carrots to Berlin if need be, fewer bases and such to be relocated to Eastern Europe, for instance).
Then various actors need to go to Chirac and tell him to step up to bat and keep up with the Germans.
After all, the state of the Franco-German union is strong! Shouldn't these two close friends be operating in lock-step? Committing a similar degree of resources in, respectively, Afghanistan and Iraq?
More than any of this, bien sur, Chirac is looking at Bush's poll numbers. If they start to trend up Chirac will likely start playing ball more readily.
He's used to awkward co-habitations--but doesn't want to make another four years with Dubya too awkward!
Posted by Gregory Djerejian at July 1, 2004 12:57 AM