Friday, August 25, 2006

Chirac's Foreign Policy : Yes... No... Maybe... Don't know.... !

When Italy announced a few days ago that it would send 3000 troops to Lebanon, would even take the lead in the force and then when they won backing from other Western capitals, you could be sure Chirac would react. He is a man with a pretty big ego, in the tradition of De Gaulle. As The Times puts it, it “has ruffled feathers in France”, or shall we say, of Chirac. After all, France is on the Security Council, helped write 1701, and considers itself the natural leader of the international community in the region as the former colonial power in Lebanon and Syria, or as Chirac put in a great understatement, because France is “historically close” to Lebanon.

So now, the French president has announced on TV that France would send an additional 1,600 troops which will make a total of 2,000 – still less than the Italians. but the Italians seem pretty cool about the decision:

The premier later told state broadcaster RAI that if the UN chooses another country to lead the force, expected to number up to 15,000 troops, this would also be acceptable to Italy . (ANSA)
Granted that Chirac has consistently said that he would send more soldiers only if the UN strengthened the force's rules of engagement, as well as clearly defining its mission and providing guarantees that Hizbollah would be disarmed, but still the French government helped write the initial cease-fire resolution, 1701 which called for 15,000 UN peacekeepers and another 15,000 Lebanese army troops to deploy to southern Lebanon and did not pressure for new rules of engagement then. Well, so now, it seems that the rules of engagement are about to change - something that should have happened years ago. (after Rwanda and Bosnia)

Troops would be allowed to use "deadly force" in order to impose the August 11 cease-fire resolution, according to these rules. They would also be mandated to defend themselves, protect civilians and - most critically for the Israelis - provide backup for the Lebanese Army in its effort to stop Hizbullah-bound arms from leaking over the Syrian border.

These officials say the draft rules distributed last week are the closest they have gotten to a consensus position among the countries that are serious about contributing to the force.

The proposed rules seem to strike a middle ground. Though "predominantly defensive in nature," the draft rules mandate "use of force, up to and including deadly force, while assisting the government of Lebanon, at its request to secure its borders and other points of entry to prevent the entry into Lebanon, without its consent, of foreign forces, arms or related material." This falls just short of confronting Hizbullah head-on, but still has the potential to set up a clash between UNIFIL and the militia. (The Jerusalem Post)

And maybe between UNIFIL and Israel…who knows.

The reaction in Lebanon seems rather positive:

The Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, said in an interview with French radio: "The Lebanese want France to have a strong presence which could push other contributing countries to do the same and which could encourage the Lebanese too."

Trad Hamadé, the Lebanese employment minister and a member of Hizbollah, told Libération: "I say to the French, soyez les bienvenus (be welcome)." (The Times)

However, Chirac is still very ambiguous and continues to defend his initial position:

"My feeling is that the figure that was given at the beginning, of 15,000, ... is a figure that is completely excessive," Chirac told a joint news conference with Merkel."I don't know who mentioned this figure but it doesn't really make sense. So what is the right number, 4,000, 5,000 or 6,000? I don't know." (Reuters)

So why co-drafta resolution which calls for 15,000 troops in the first place? It's about time for Chirac to go on retirement. Indeed, France probably needs a new president who knows a little more and can make some decisions! Thank God, just a few more months to go...

It is find of funny to consider the different kinds of leadership between France and the US. In many ways, Chirac is the antinomy of Bush, when one should be less certain, the other should know more, when one is too prone to hasty action, the other should... act, when one does not gauge the consequences of his actions, the other is paralyzed by reflection. It's too bad - they could have actually made a good pair- good cop / bad cop type, but their egos prevented that.

In any case, it’ll be interesting to see if this is finally going to give the necessary strength to the UN forces and give them some credibility.


At 10:48, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Il ne me paraît pas si criticable que cela que Chirac ait désiré des règles dengagement plus précises que celles dont disposait la France quand la résolution 1701 a été votée. Qu'il n'envoie pas des soldats français au casse-pipe aussi facilement que Bush et Blair l'ont fait me semble une attitude plutôt respectable et sensée. Que l'on se souvienne des déboires et humiliations de l'armée française en Bosnie... Il reste qu'en définitive la France envoie 2.000 hommes, c'est l'essentiel. Peu importe au regard de l'Histoire les 15 jours qui ont été nécessaires pour mettre au point ce qui devait l'être.


At 20:36, Blogger Joker & Thief said...

Well, then why sponsor a UN Resolution that talks about 15,000 troops? Why leak information that French is ready to make a large contribution and then promise 200 troops? Why not put the condition of better rules of engagement on the table when drafting the UN resolution? What it looks like from outside is that the French want the honor and the command while others go and get killed. It is pretty clear to me that Chirac's flip-flop attitude hurt the French credibility in its future diplomatic actions - including with the Iranians who must be ROFL (Rolling on Floor Laughing) right now when the French talk about taking actions!


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