August 22, 2007

French Plan Engagement In Iraq

The visit from the French Foreign Minister to Baghdad signaled a new policy of engagement in Iraq and not just a one-off, the Times of London reports today. Nicolas Sarkozy has decided that a failing Iraq serves no one's interests, especially France, and wants to push the UN into taking a larger support role in stabilizing the country:

France proclaimed its desire to help restore peace in Iraq after a visit yesterday to Baghdad by its Foreign Minister ended the four-year diplomatic freeze that followed the US-led invasion.

As Paris media hailed “The French return to Iraq”, Bernard Kouchner concluded his three-day trip with a pledge that under President Sarkozy, France would no longer sit on the sidelines saying “we told you so”.

The position had changed since President Chirac led an international coalition against the invasion, he said. “The world knows that the Americans cannot get this country out of its troubles all alone. The more the Iraqis seek the intervention of the United Nations, the more France will help them,” he added.

This did not inspire universal acclaim in France. Critics accused Kouchner of becoming America's "poodle", an epithet used against Tony Blair since the 2003 invasion. The Greens and the Socialists claim that engagement in Iraq will only "get [French] hands dirty," rather than assist in stabilizing a crucial part of the Middle East.

Kouchner did not remain silent. He noted that one of the critics, former Socialist minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement, actively backed Saddam Hussein before the invasion. (Chevènement also once accused America of wanting "the organized cretinization of our people.") Kouchner has written of Chevènement's affection for Saddam in his The Black Book of Saddam Hussein, pointing out that France served as Saddam's enabler for many years, helping to enable the destruction of Iraq before the invasion ever took place.

France will have a difficult time moving past that history as it finally tries to find its footing in the post-Saddam Middle East. Certainly they want a piece of the oil contracts they lost when the US toppled Saddam, and they will need to beg some forgiveness from the Iraqis formerly oppressed with the help of French money flowing into Saddam's pockets. The UN route will likely be the only way in which Sarkozy can provide assistance to the US due to France's domestic politics, which will do little in practical terms. The benefit will come from a broadened sense of support, which may allow the rest of the world to climb down off of the remaining high horses and deal with the situation as it exists today, rather than cluck their tongues about how much better things were for everyone but the Iraqis in February 2003.


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Comments (11)

Posted by Lightwave | August 22, 2007 6:42 AM

If Paris decides to send several thousand French Foreign Legionnaires to form the backbone of a EU/UN force to help the US stabilize Iraq, great.

Otherwise, it's too little, too late. If Old Europe hasn't figured out by now that a billion Muslims want to drown the EU out of existence by sheer numbers and the key to stopping that is to stabilize the Middle East, then they never will (until it's far too late).

We need action to back up those words. It's only as difficult as political will.

Posted by docjim505 | August 22, 2007 7:01 AM

"Taking the French to war is like taking your accordion hunting."

Donald Rumsfeld (attributed)

Posted by patrick neid | August 22, 2007 7:38 AM

a french leader who jogs in a NYPD t-shirt is off to a good start.........

Posted by Fausta | August 22, 2007 7:55 AM

You can knock me over with a feather, Ed! We're certainly winning

Posted by Jim | August 22, 2007 8:24 AM

Now that the U.S. Military have done the heavy lifting in Iraq, and the French have observed from the sidelines and occasionally thrown a rotten tomato at our efforts, they want back in.

Some of this can be attributed to the change in PM, but it is also a regonition that if we actualy win in Iraq and they are not there, the French stand to loose financially as the country is rebuilt and the occupants remember who rescued the country.

Posted by rbj | August 22, 2007 8:53 AM

"The Greens and the Socialists claim that engagement in Iraq will only "get [French] hands dirty," rather than assist in stabilizing a crucial part of the Middle East."

The Greens & Socialists main goal is the defeat of the US. They would rather make common cause with those who'd take the world into a 7th century theocracy rather than see a capitalist country win.

Posted by swabjockey05 | August 22, 2007 10:38 AM

Just when things may be looking up...we have the UN and French trying to "help" us? Oh, woe is me.

Posted by Neo | August 22, 2007 10:38 AM

"Going to war without France is like going duck hunting without your accordian" — Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense

The "accordian" has arrived.

Posted by Dean Esmay | August 22, 2007 1:43 PM

This is the best sign yet that recognition is slowly dawning that defeatism doesn't accomplish anything constructive.

Posted by viking01 | August 22, 2007 3:40 PM

From the headline my first question was about who is getting married.

Sarkozy certainly is a welcome change from his recent predecessors.

Posted by always right | August 24, 2007 8:41 AM

Now the fwanch want in. What do they expect? We are so craving the "legitimacy", they will be red-carpeted in? Sadly they probably will be.

Tell me again they can be trusted because...? Is there another UN free-for-all program in the making?

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