Wednesday, February 01, 2006
The French connection and how Bashar created 1559
Let's start with a secret trip to Damascus by Gourdault-Montagne in November 2003 to see Syrian President Bashar Assad. At the time, French-American relations were still in the deep freeze because of Chirac's refusal to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but the French were doing some early damage control.You will remember how Abdel Halim Khaddam (now silenced by the Saudis) held Bashar responsible for UNSC 1559, revealing in his Arabiya interview that Bashar had plenty of opportunities to stop the resolution but went with his plans to consolidate his power in Lebanon by extending Lahoud's term and then blaming the repercussions on Hariri, who was made to look like a traitor, when he was merely Lahoud and Bashar's perceived enemy in Lebanon.
Gourdault-Montagne brought the Syrian leader a message from Chirac and two other critics of the Iraq war, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Russian
President Vladimir Putin. The message to Assad was: The war has changed things in the Middle East, and you have to show you have changed, too -- by visiting Jerusalem or taking some other bold step for peace with Israel. The French were probably hoping to gain diplomatic leverage with Washington by acting as a peace broker, but that's not how Assad took it. "Are you the spokesman of the Americans?" he asked Gourdault-Montagne. Worried that France, Germany and Russia were joining a U.S. pressure campaign, a nervous Assad soon began trying to consolidate his control over Lebanon. He forced the reelection of Lebanon's pliant pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud, and began squeezing Syria's nemesis, Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. That process culminated in Hariri's murder in February 2005.
Gourdault-Montagne began making his quiet trips to Washington in August 2004 to coordinate French-American efforts on U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, calling for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. It was in the midst of a presidential campaign, and the French were obviously hedging their bets. After Hariri's murder, Washington and Paris collaborated in forcing a Syrian withdrawal under Resolution 1559. To discourage mischief by the Shiite militia Hezbollah, Gourdault-Montagne told the Iranians during a secret visit to Tehran in February 2005 to advise Hezbollah to play it cool.
Another important part in the article should silence all those who still think the Syrian regime is scoring victories against the US in the Security Council, or other nonsense about alleged deals.
In framing policy on Syria and Iran, the French and Americans have consciously played a good cop-bad cop routine. The Americans demand tough U.N. language; the French bring the Russians and Chinese on board for a slightly watered-down version. It's a classic diplomatic minuet, but it has probably produced tougher and better resolutions than would have emerged if either side went alone. An illustration is the compromise that came this week -- to refer Iran to the Security Council for its violations of nuclear agreements, but give Iran another month to comply before any formal recommendation. The French argue that it's crucial now to maintain international solidarity on Iran, even at the price of a brief delay. What's interesting is that the Bush administration seems to agree.Bonjour to all from inside the beltway.
…Paris and Washington still disagree sharply on the substance of many issues, but they seem to have concluded that they'll get more of what they want if they collaborate rather than bicker. Indeed, the quiet partnership has probably benefited from the fact that the world still thinks France and America are enemies.
It is my hope that the conclusion of this case will hasten the demise of another dictatorship in the Arab world. If that turns to be the case then the pressures for change in Egypt and Saudi Arabia will only grow. Such a development will be a welcome blowbackto the assassination that set these events in motion.
You are right,France and America were collaborating in their former colonies Haiti and West Africa while they were at odds on Iraq. Maybe Chirac was more sensitive to his anti-war movement or felt that he was being left out of the Bush- Blair partnership.
The Syrians, in their wisdom, have hitched their wagon even more to the Iranians and any "deal" will have to invole Iran . The stakes are now higher for everyone including the Americans.
Ghassan, change is coming regardless of the outcome of the Hariri investigation. All of these regimes you mention have expired and cannot reinvent themselves.
However,the forces opposed to change regionally and internationally are unfortunately more powerfull.
The international economy and exchange system as we know it cannot withstand an oil disruption or another conflict in the Gulf. The imbalances are becoming too great for everyone to sustain.
Bush domesticly cannot afford any worsening of the Iraq war or an increase in gasoline prices during an election year.
Ordinary Lebanese are suffering economically from the political gridlock and instability.
There will be understandings and some resolution of the crisis eventually. Revolution is not in the interests of anyone; not the great powers, the oil "emirs", Bashar, or the sectarian Lebanese politicians.
Everyone's heart is with the people , democracy and freedom but my money is on a deal.