December 15, 2003

Quai D'Orsay Watch There may

Quai D'Orsay Watch

There may be some reading of the tea leaves (more on that below) going on in Parisian precincts.

Dominique de Villepin is saying that some significant Iraqi debt forgiveness may be in the offing.

That said, there are early signs of the predictable grandstanding and folie de grandeur (both phenomenon, of course, virtually synonymous with Chirac and de Villepin's governing style).

"France, together with other creditors, believes there could be an agreement in 2004," the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin told reporters after a meeting with members of Iraq's interim Governing Council. He said that if various conditions regarding Iraq's sovereignty and stability were met, his country "could then envisage cancellation of debts in line with Iraq's basic financing capacity." [emphasis added]

There's a lot of perfidious Villepinian wriggle room in this supposed olive branch, isn't there? "Various conditions." "Envisage." Gauging "Iraq's basic financing capacity."

Then a little theater:

"But by announcing its intention to the Iraqis today, Mr. de Villepin avoided the appearance of answering to Washington's call.

"This way he can say, `I'm not doing it because the Americans are asking for it but because I believe it's the responsible thing to do for the Iraqis,' " said Dominique Moisi, an American expert at the French Institute for International Relations."

Some shameless hypocrisy too (that degenerates into farce):

"The arrest of Saddam Hussein constitutes a chance that we all must take advantage of," Mr. de Villepin said. "France is ready to play a full role in these efforts and to follow the action already undertaken on a bilateral basis as Europeans in the humanitarian domain, of course, and in the cooperative domain, whether it be education, health or even archeology." [emphasis added]

Ready to play a full role in what efforts? Those completed two nights ago in the environs of Tikrit that brought this bloody dictator to justice after decades in power?

After hundreds of U.S. soldiers have been killed in action, in good part, to achieve said goal, over the past many months?

These are the efforts that France is now ready to "play a full role in" at this, er, late hour?

How breathtakingly hypocritical. You can't make this stuff up.

Oh, and thanks much for the offer of help on "archeology". It's quite a high priority right now.

But can we start digging up the precious artifacts after we've exhumed the bodies of hundreds of thousands of victims of Saddam's murderous crimes, if you don't mind, Mr. de Villepin?

Sorry to sound so much the cultural buffoon and philistine, but it's just a little matter of priorities.

D'accord?

Note too the reference to bilateralism as between the U.S. and the "Europeans."

Was de Villepin at the recent EU summit that capsized because of quibbles over voting right formulas?

Put differently, who are these "Europeans" that France (and prospective "union" mate and fast friend Germany) will ostensibly lead into bilateral accords with the U.S.?

More:

"He did not, however, offer to send French troops to help secure Iraqi stability, but instead repeated France's offer so far ignored by the United States to build a police school in Iraq."

La gendarmerie is coming! Ooh la la. Send them to Bed-Sty and the South Bronx next.

And then the tea leaves:

"Mr. Moisi said the French offer might reflect the country's realization that in the wake of Mr. Hussein's capture, President Bush appeared to have a stronger chance of winning re-election next year and so Paris would most likely have to deal with his administration for the next five years. "It's better to set the record straight now," Mr. Moisi said."

I think the record is pretty straight. There will be no significant rapprochment between France and the U.S. unless either: a) France makes very serious concessions on debt restructuring (without hogging the limelight by gallivanting about Turtle Bay for show, making grossly unreasonable demands (turn sovereignty over today, all will then be swell!), and talking about the "logic of occupation" and such ) or b) a new French government comes into power.

Option B, of course, more likely (if further away).

Though James Baker, arriving in Paris tomorrow, will do his best to make Option A a reality.

Posted by Gregory at December 15, 2003 10:21 PM
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