DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis November 16, 2013
French President Francois Holland and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius arrive in Jerusalem Sunday, Nov. 17. Their talks with Israel’s leaders are likely to determine how France, Israel and Saudi Arabia respond to the Obama administration’s current Middle East moves, with critical effect on the next round of nuclear talks taking place in Geneva Wednesday, Nov. 20 between six world powers and Iran.
France will be given the option of aligning with the Middle East powers - Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt - which challenge President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry’s race for détente with Tehran.
If he accepts this option, the next decision facing President Hollande will be whether, how and when this grouping is willing to consider resorting to military action to preempt a nuclear-armed Iran. This option has been abandoned by Washington, a decision succinctly articulated Tuesday, Nov. 12, by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney:
“The American people do not want a march to war,” he told reporters. Therefore: “…spoiling diplomatic talks with Iran would be a march to war.”
Ergo, opponents of a US-Iranian deal – Carney omitted mention of Iran’s military nuclear program to leave US negotiators a free hand for easy terms – are pushing for war.
Hollande and Netanyahu will have to decide between them whether to create a joint French-Arab-Israeli military option to fill the gap left by Washington’s abdication from the war choice and, if so, whether, how and when to exercise it.
Foreign Minister Fabius, whose vote torpedoed the original US proposal for Iran at the first Geneva conference, analyzed the implications of Obama’s policy in a lecture this week marking the 40th anniversary of the French Policy Planning Staff, which largely shapes Paris government foreign and defense policies.
He said: “The United States seems no longer to wish to become absorbed by crises that do not align with its new vision of its national interest. Because nobody can take the place of the United States, this disengagement could create major crises left to themselves. A strategic void could be created in the Middle East, with widespread perception of Western indecision.”
The self-evident corollary to this diagnosis is that by foregoing resistance to the US-Iranian understanding, France, Saudi Arabia and Israel would share America’s responsibility for the major crises erupting in the region, which none of them would be able to control.
France would always love to regain its rightful status as the leading Great Power, but it may well be feeling the need for a partner in its challenge to the U.S. In the long run, France reviving its 1890-1917 alliance with Russia might make sense, especially as a Russia-Israel alliance is not wholly implausible. For example, the Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, a Moldovan-born leader of ex-Soviet Israeli voters, is a huge admirer of Vladimir Putin.