Wednesday, June 30, 2004

NATO's decision to help train Iraq's armed forces set off wrangling among the allies Tuesday as more differences emerged between the French and Americans on how to best help Baghdad's new government.

At a summit designed to emphasize NATO's unity, France and the United States also clashed over Afghanistan and Turkey's relations with the European Union.

French President Jacques Chirac stated his forceful opposition to any collective NATO presence on the ground in Iraq.

"It would be dangerous, counterproductive and misunderstood by the Iraqis, who after all deserve a little bit of respect," Chirac said.

American officials insisted the training program should be a centralized operation under a NATO command in Iraq, although they accepted that reluctant countries such as France and Germany could limit their contribution to training outside the country.

With all allies stressing the urgency of sending help to the fledgling Iraqi forces, the debate on how NATO puts its agreement into practice is expected to start when envoys from the alliance meet Thursday in Brussels.
Dangerous, Mr. Chirac? Certainly. But the US forces are no strangers to that, Sir. And frankly, Sir, somethings are worth making an effort that is neither easy nor entirely safe.

Counterproductive, Mr. Chirac? Ya got me on that one. I fail to see how NATO's on-site assistance to the world's most nascent democracy could be counterproductive to anything but your political career, since you staked your position in the wrong corner on this issue.

Misunderstood by the Iraqis Mr. Chirac? Frankly, Sir, I find that assertion to be just the sort of pompous, insulting elitism we've come to expect from you. Are you implying the concepts involved here are too complex for the Iraqis comprehension? Is this a nation of simpletons, Sir, who cannot contextually understand assistance from the one alliance in the world that has built its reputation on the support of liberty and democracy? Are we to understand the French motto of "Liberty, Brotherhood and Equality" does not apply to people trying now to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps, Mr. Chirac?

Sir, you are, and apparently will remain always, a weasel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Chirac is suffering at home, which explains why he's such in a bad mood.

Chirac Tries To Sink Rival

25 June, 2004

The skirmish between France's president Jacques Chirac and his finance minister Nicolas Sarkozy could erupt into full-scale war.

Sarkozy, who as France's most popular politician has made it clear that he has ambitions to take over Chirac's job in 2007, has been issued with an ultimatum by his boss. Chirac says he will not prevent Sarko mounting a campaign for leadership of the ruling UMP party, provided Sarkozy resigns from his job at the ministry of finance.

Chirac, who is a wily and slippery strategist, unveiled this "nuclear option" yesterday when it became clear that leadership of the UMP had become Sarkozy's for the asking. By forcing Sarkozy to make the choice between his presidential ambitions and his plan to reform France's stagnant economy, he has offered his younger rival another "poisoned chalice."

When Chirac moved Sarko from the interior ministry to finance following a round of terrible election results in March, many commentators believed that the President (71) hoped to halt Sarkozy's rise by handing him the impossible task of reforming France's economy.

The President also made it clear in private that his appetite for reform was wearing thin: It is widely believed that the minor reforms to health and welfare pushed through by the previous minister were responsible for the government's defeat at the polls. Chirac hoped that if Sarkozy was trapped between the President's opposition to reform on one side and the noisy and sometimes violent protests of France's far left and unions on the other, the minister would soon become tainted with failure. The fact that it appears that Chirac would be happy to see France's economy sink further into the mire if it meant scuppering his rival demonstrates the President's arrogance, if not his corruption.

However, Sarko defied predictions and set about his new task with characteristic hyperactivity. He balanced reforms designed to cut Paris's budget deficit with measures intended to soothe leftist emotions - such as his much-criticised (outside France) plan to protect French industry from foreign competition.

If Sarkozy abandons his task only three months into the job, rivals will attempt to persuade the public that he put his ambition before the national interest. If he stays as minister, he will miss out on the UMP leadership contest in November. Leadership of the UMP is seen as a vital springboard for election to the presidency: The Herald Tribune reminds us that Chirac himself won his party's leadership prior to mounting his successful bid for President in 1995.

Chirac may be putting his loathing of Sarkozy before his party: While the President claims he will stand in 2007, by the time we reach the elections Chirac will be 74 - almost certainly the only man in France still employed at that age (particularly in the public service, where workers strive to retire at least 20 years before that). It is still taboo in France to speak of the President's age, but many in Chirac's own centre-right alliance would prefer that the old man step down at the next election.

If Sarkozy cannot win UMP leadership, the job may go to a bland party hack, particularly now that Chirac's chosen heir Alain Juppé has been banned for corruption. And faced with a resurgence of support for the once-shamed Socialist Party, Chirac's party cannot afford to ignore its most popular asset