Ever since the United States became actively involved in the Middle East after World War II, French foreign policy has been at odds with this involvement. France’s divergence with American arrangements in the region marked the Fourth and Fifth Republics . But this became even more pronounced during the era of General Charles De Gaulle , and continued all the way up to President Chirac’s term in office. Thanks to this position, the French won the appreciation and esteem of all the people of the region and were able to play an active and influential role in the policies of the region’s nations.
But as of the early days of Sarkozy’s presidency, a different approach has been adopted. France’s position has become almost identical to the American position with regard to the issues and proposed solutions to the region’s problems. Sometimes, the French even act as America’s frontline bulldozer, preparing the ground for U.S. policies. Sarkozy’s position on Lebanon, Libya and Iraq could be cited as examples for these changes in French foreign policy, although the reforms are so glaring that no zoom lens is needed to spot them.
But the most prominent of these changes is what might be called France’s flagrant abandonment of the European Troika [Britain, Germany and France] in regard to Iran, which has relied on diplomatic pressure to persuade Tehran to making its nuclear program compatible with international standards, with a view of dismantling these programs and terminating the sources of weapons of mass destruction. This is particularly true given the undeniable success with Libya and North Korea, where dialogue and diplomatic pressure, coupled with a package of various types of aid, made all the difference.
Sarkozy recently called on Iran to stop uranium enrichment at its nuclear facilities as a condition for a more comprehensive dialogue, including in regard to Tehran’s wish to more fully benefit from the latest technologies. According to Sarkozy, this would be a step toward freeing the region from nuclear weapons and preventing an open and frantic nuclear arms race amongst other countries. From the Western point of view, such a race would make this strategically important region vulnerable to an endless series of crises, threatening civil peace and in this way, jeopardizing the interests and influence of the major powers.
Sarkozy also hinted that the use to force against Iran would become more likely in the event that Iran continues to ignore the will of the international community. This strategic about-face was also a political and diplomatic coup for Sarkozy within the European Troika, which has given the impression that the change is welcomed by France’s European Union partners. This promises much clearer wording in any future U.N. Security Council resolution in regard to the Iranian nuclear issue.
Sarkozy’s new policy which mimics the overall American position on the issue, has prompted many analysts and opinion makers in the United States to suggest that France presents the most effective alternative to its lukewarm British partner [Gordon Brown].
It is hoped that this new partnership will offer the United States a cooperative dynamism that the former partner now lacks, since its obligations toward the U.S. are fading by the day in the wake of Tony Blair’s forced departure and Gordon Brown’s intent to cut Britain’s losses, most prominently its military contribution in Iraq.
Therefore, the complete accord of Paris and Washington will give American policy a boost that it badly needs, as the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to deteriorate.