Man Without Qualities

Sunday, February 02, 2003

The French Games Continue Further

The Financial Times reports that Tony Blair hopes to obtain French backing for an attack on Iraq:

On the flight back from Washington on Friday night, he confidently told reporters: "I think there will be a resolution [from the Security Council authorizing an Iraq incursion]." However, British officials are not taking Mr Chirac's backing for granted. ... France's position is crucial.

As noted in prior posts, American action against Iraq becoming inevitable should trigger intense internal commercial pressure on the French government to support the incursion. This means that the best way for the United States and Britain to garner French support in obtaining a new Security Council vote is to make it clear and credible to the French that Iraq will be invaded regardless of whether a new United Nations resolution is forthcoming. That approach would maximize pressure on the French government from internal French interests who fear loss of existing commerical relationships under a new Iraqi government.

While some quarters of the media and Blogosphere have long viewed such an incursion as inevitable, it is fairly clear that Messrs. Schroeder and Chirac at least believed they could stop or postpone an incursion on the hope that American political resolve might eventually fade or be subject to distraction - by political dusts-up following in the wake of disasters such as the Columbia loss, for example. But many factors are now converging to make an incursion truly inevitable: the unexpectedly hard Blix report, release of American intelligence showing Iraqi dissembling, and the letter of support from eight European leaders - with a ninth (Ireland's) indicating that he would sign it if asked.

The official story being put out by Mr. Blair's aides is that the Prime Minister's "confidence" is based on the theory that Mr Blair's aides think Mr Chirac would have to think hard about defying the US at this critical moment, possibly being branded as the man who broke the UN's authority to act. But this explanation is unconvincing in the extreme. If Mr. Chirac opposes an invasion and thinks one would be a bad thing, then he would want to be known as the man who stopped the United Nations from authorizing one. It is much more likely that Mr. Blair simply knows that he can probably get the French on board by convincing Mr. Chirac that France is not necessary. Indeed, France had all but agreed to take part in an invasion before German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder convinced Mr. Chirac to try to obstruct the American plans. An aggrevating factor is that Mr. Schroeder is looking more and more like a serious, long-term, dead-weight loser inside of Germany itself. The opportunistic Mr. Chirac is probably wondering now if he really wants to tie his ship of state to a German one apparently close to foundering.

It's not hard to see why Mr. Blair might be reasonably confident that he will obtain French support notwithstanding the current public position of the French government.

UPDATE: Slovakia, Slovenia and Latvia have now added their support to the letter from Europe's leaders supporting the Iraq incursion.

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