Monday, January 31, 2005

Man bites dog = Chirac says something positive

Useless French president Jacques Chirac came out with a stronger statement in support of the Iraqi elections than any Democrat left of Joe(mentum) Lieberman:

Chirac spoke to Bush in a telephone call, said the French leader's spokesman, Jerome Bonnafont.

"The participation rate and the good technical organization of the elections were satisfactory," Bonnafont quoted Chirac as saying.

"These elections mark an important step in the political reconstruction of Iraq. The strategy of terrorist groups has partly failed," Chirac said, according to the spokesman.

Chirac's positive - if nuanced - comments were echoed by his foreign minister and by French media, although some newspapers also pushed for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Foreign Minister Michel Barnier hailed Sunday's vote as "an initial victory for the Iraqi people" and "a first important step which was indispensable for democracy and for the political process."

"We won't get out of this tragedy other than by democracy and elections," Barnier said on Europe-1 radio. "When democracy is there, when people express themselves at the ballot box, it is always a defeat for terrorism.

Is Chirac going wobbly in his anti-Americanism or is he trying to cover France's collective assets in the Arab world? After all, most of the Arabs (as opposed to their respective totalitarian governments) are hopeful for democracy and would love to have the franchise themselves. France's foreign policy has been Arabist since De Gaulle. If the Iraq elections start the dominoes falling toward democracy throughout the Middle East, France will need to be perceived as on the right side of the issue for the Arabs in French client states and Arab allies (Algeria, Syria, Tunisia, the Gulf states) who've suffered under the France-supported totalitarian regimes for 40+ years. In other words, heads you lose, tails we win for the French.

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