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January 17, 2007
French Diplomat Puts An End To Latest Appeasement

Despite the involvement of Iran in both sides of the sectarian strife and their development of nuclear weapons, France's Jacques Chirac decided that Iran could partner with him to settle the troubles in Lebanon -- troubles that Iran has deliberately fomented. He resolved to send his diplomats to Teheran despite the sanctions that the UN had just voted to impose on the mullahcracy. It fell to his chief diplomat, Phillipe Douste-Blazy, to tell Chirac that he needed his head examined:

At a time when most world powers have forged a united front against Iran because of its nuclear program, President Jacques Chirac arranged to send his foreign minister to Tehran to talk about a side issue, then abruptly canceled the visit earlier this month in embarrassing failure.

Mr. Chirac’s troubles stemmed from his deep desire to help resolve the crisis in Lebanon before his term runs out in May. To that end, he decided to seek the support of Iran, which, along with Syria, backs the radical Shiite organization Hezbollah, three senior French officials said in describing the effort.

So he planned to send Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy to Tehran, only to call off the trip two days before it was to have taken place, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly on diplomatic issues.

Both Mr. Douste-Blazy and senior Foreign Ministry officials concluded that such a trip was doomed to fail and that it would send the wrong signal just weeks after the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved sanctions intended to curb Iran’s nuclear program, they added.

That put Mr. Douste-Blazy in the uncomfortable position of having to tell Mr. Chirac that he did not want to go, one senior official said.

Being rebuked by one's foreign minister is bad enough, but let's remember that it was Douste-Blazy who insisted last summer that Iran was a 'stabilizing force" in Southwest Asia. His Road to Damascus moment came days after that particularly embarrassing statement, when Douste-Blazy retracted his earlier endorsement after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on Islamic nations to destroy Israel.

In fact, it's difficult to understand why Chirac wanted to try this new Iranian appeasement policy. Other Arab nations in the region made clear to the French government their opposition to it. The Saudis dropped all of the flowery language of diplomacy, and of Arab culture, and told Douste-Blazy "Do not go." Egypt told Douste-Blazy the same thing, and the French knew better than to ask the US, which registered a diplomatic protest when the State Department found out about the trip.

And it's not over yet, either. Instead of Douste-Blazy, Chirac will send a lower-ranking diplomat and intelligence officer to Teheran, if the French diplomatic corps cannot convince him to drop this folly altogether. It may not be easy, because Chirac, nearing the end of his term, is apparently obsessed with Lebanon and finding some way to create stability there. He wants the Syrians prosecuted for Rafik Hariri's murder, and for some reason thinks the Iranians would be interested in assisting that process, even though Teheran has made clear their support for Bashar Assad. Hariri wanted independence for Lebanon, free of both Syria and Iran through their joint proxy Hezbollah, and the notion that Iran would drop their strategy for control through terror for a dinner with Phillipe is laughable, and somewhat deranged.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 17, 2007 7:46 AM

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