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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07PARIS170
2007-01-17 14:18:00
SECRET
Embassy Paris
Cable title:  

CHIRAC'S ENVOY TO IRAN -- WHAT'S PROMPTING THIS

Tags:   FR  IR  LE  PGOV  PREL 
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VZCZCXYZ0002
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHFRA #0170 0171418
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 171418Z JAN 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0000
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
						S E C R E T PARIS 000170 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/17/2017
TAGS: FR IR LE PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: CHIRAC'S ENVOY TO IRAN -- WHAT'S PROMPTING THIS
AND WHAT WE SHOULD DO ABOUT IT


CLASSIFIED BY: POLITICAL MINISTER-COUNSELOR JOSIAH ROSENBLATT, REASONS



PAGE 02 RUEHFRA0170 S E C R E T
1.4 (B) AND (D).



1. (S) LE MONDE'S JAN. 17 EDITION RAN A FRONT-PAGE STORY ON
CHIRAC,S INTEREST IN PURSUING A DIALOGUE WITH IRAN ON
LEBANON, THUS CONFIRMING WHAT MFA POLITICAL DIRECTOR GERARD
ARAUD TOLD THE AMBASSADOR DURING THEIR JAN. 15 MEETING. WE
FACE THE PROSPECT OF UNTOWARD POLICY INITIATIVES BY CHIRAC
DURING THE WANING MONTHS OF HIS PRESIDENCY. (THE FIRST ROUND
OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION WILL BE HELD APRIL 22; IT IS
WIDELY ASSUMED THAT CHIRAC WILL NOT BE IN A POSITION TO RUN
FOR A THIRD TERM.) WE MAY HAVE ENTERED A PERIOD IN WHICH THE
DOMESTIC POLITICAL CONTEXT WILL IMPACT DIRECTLY ON FOREIGN
POLICY DECISIONS, PARTICULARLY WITH REGARD TO LEBANON AND
IRAN.



2. (S) FIRST OF ALL THE FACTS, AS WE KNOW THEM AND AS
CONVEYED TO AMBASSADOR STAPLETON BY ARAUD. CHIRAC FAVORED
ENLISTING IRAN IN AN EFFORT TO BREAK THE STALEMATE IN
LEBANON. TO THIS END, THE PRESIDENCY PROPOSED SENDING
FOREIGN MINISTER DOUSTE-BLAZY TO TEHRAN TO SOUND OUT THE



PAGE 03 RUEHFRA0170 S E C R E T
IRANIANS ON THEIR PLAYING A CONSTRUCTIVE ROLE IN LEBANON --
WITHOUT REFERENCE TO THE NUCLEAR ISSUE. THE FOREIGN
MINISTRY, UNCONVINCED THAT THERE WOULD BE ANY IRANIAN
INTEREST, AND CONCERNED ABOUT APPROACHING IRAN AS A
DEMANDEUR, OPPOSED THE INITIATIVE. SAUDI ARABIA AND EGYPT
BOTH VOICED STRENUOUS OBJECTIONS. U/S BURNS RAISED USG
CONCERNS DIRECTLY WITH ARAUD. THE ELYSEE THEREFORE BACKED
OFF "FOR NOW" ACCORDING TO THE MFA SPOKESMAN YESTERDAY.
WHILE ARAUD DID NOT MENTION THE POSSIBILITY OF A VISIT TO
TEHRAN BY A LOWER-RANKING ENVOY, LE MONDE HINTED THAT MIDDLE
EAST TROUBLE-SHOOTER JEAN-CLAUDE COUSSERAN, WHO VISITED THE
IRANIAN CAPITAL IN JULY, DURING THE ISRAEL/HIZBALLAH WAR,
COULD BE DISPATCHED AGAIN IN THE NEAR FUTURE.



3. (S) REPORTING IN OTHER CHANNELS INDICATES THIS IS INDEED
POSSIBLE. THE DECISION NOT TO SEND DOUSTE-BLAZY COULD WELL
BE DEFINITIVE. EVEN IF A LOWER-LEVEL EMISSARY IS SENT TO
TEHRAN, THE MAKINGS OF A DEAL ON LEBANON ARE NOT OBVIOUS.
HOWEVER, THIS EPISODE HAS HIGHLIGHTED A NUMBER OF CONTEXTUAL
FACTORS AND HYPOTHESES THAT GIVE RISE TO A FEW CONCERNS.



PAGE 04 RUEHFRA0170 S E C R E T



4. (S) THE FIRST IS THAT THE DISTORTING EFFECT OF CHIRAC,S
"OBSESSION WITH LEBANON" (ARAUD,S WORDS) MIGHT ONLY BE
FURTHER ACCENTUATED AS HIS PRESIDENCY DRAWS TO A CLOSE.
CHIRAC,S FOCUS COULD BE NARROWING IN ON ONE SINGLE
OBJECTIVE: TO ENSURE THAT THE SYRIAN REGIME, WHICH HE REGARDS
AS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ASSASSINATION OF RAFIK HARIRI, DOES
NOT GAIN A NEW FOOTHOLD IN LEBANON. THIS COULD TRANSLATE
INTO A WILLINGNESS TO WORK WITH IRAN TO FIND SOME SORT OF
ACCOMMODATION WHICH STRENGTHENS HIZBOLLAH IN LEBANON, BUT
PREVENTS THE STRATEGIC RETURN OF SYRIA. NO MFA OR ELYSEE

INTERLOCUTOR HAS POINTED US TO SUCH A CONCLUSION, BUT WE ARE
LEFT WITH FEW OTHER EXPLANATIONS FOR CHIRAC'S APPARENT
DETERMINATION TO REACH OUT AT THIS TIME TO HIZBOLLAH,S MAIN
REGIONAL SPONSOR.



5. (S) MOREOVER, THIS ANALYSIS IS CONSISTENT WITH OTHER
INDICATIONS OF LATE THAT FRANCE IS FIXATED ON LOWERING
TENSIONS IN LEBANON. THESE INCLUDE, INTER ALIA: THE
RELUCTANCE (THUS FAR) TO OPERATE FRENCH UAVS OVER SOUTHERN



PAGE 05 RUEHFRA0170 S E C R E T
LEBANON; THE MFA'S DECISION IN LATE DECEMBER TO "TAKE A
BREAK" FROM PUSHING FOR THE RAPID ESTABLISHMENT OF THE
INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL FOR LEBANON; AND THE FACT THAT MFA
DESK OFFICERS ARE CAREFULLY SCRUBBING PRESIDENT CHIRAC'S
PROPOSED INTERVENTION AT THE JANUARY 25 LEBANON CONFERENCE TO
ENSURE THAT THE PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE DOES NOT ANTAGONIZE THE
LEBANESE OPPOSITION. IN ADDITION, CHIRACS NEW-FOUND CAUTION
ON LEBANON AND HIS PROPOSED OVERTURE TO IRAN MAY BOTH REFLECT
THE FRENCH PRESIDENT'S FEAR OF INCURRING FRENCH CASUALTIES IN
LEBANON IN THE FINAL MONTHS OF HIS PRESIDENCY.



6. (S) ANOTHER CONCERN RELATES TO CHIRAC,S FOREIGN POLICY
LEGACY, WHICH HINGES SIGNIFICANTLY ON TWO ACHIEVEMENTS, HIS
LEADERSHIP IN OPPOSING THE U.S. OVER IRAQ, AND IN RESTORING
LEBANON,S INDEPENDENCE. THE LE MONDE REPORT WHICH BROKE THE
NEWS OF THE ABORTED DOUSTE-BLAZY MISSION CLOSES WITH
SPECULATION THAT CHIRAC IS INCREASINGLY ALARMED BY U.S.
INTENTIONS VIS A VIS IRAN. CHIRAC COULD BE TEMPTED BY POLICY
INITIATIVES THAT SERVE TO BOLSTER HIS LEGACY ON BOTH COUNTS:
PROTECTING LEBANON,S INDEPENDENCE WHILE AT THE SAME TIME



PAGE 06 RUEHFRA0170 S E C R E T
STANDING STRONG AGAINST ANY PERCEIVED DANGEROUS DRIFT IN U.S.
MIDDLE EAST POLICY, A REPRISE IN GENTLER FORM OF THE GLORY
DAYS OF 2003.



7. (S) FINALLY, CONVENTIONAL WISDOM HERE HAS IT THAT THE
ONLY CONCEIVABLE SCENARIO WHEREBY CHIRAC COULD BECOME A


VIABLE CANDIDATE TO SUCCEED WOULD BE IN THE CONTEXT OF AN



PAGE 02 RUEHFRA0170 S E C R E T
INTERNATIONAL CRISIS. MIGHT CHIRAC BE POSITIONING HIMSELF TO
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF AN IRAN-CENTERED CRISIS THAT WOULD OFFER
HIS ONLY TICKET BACK TO THE ELYSEE?



8. (S) CHIRAC MAY CHOOSE TO MOVE FORWARD WITH HIS ENVOY IDEA
BEFORE WE CAN GET FULL CLARIFICATION. IF HE DOES, IT SEEMS
OBVIOUS (TO US AND TO MANY WITHIN THE FRENCH FOREIGN POLICY
ESTABLISHMENT) THAT THE IRANIANS WILL SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY
TO ADVANCE THEIR OWN AGENDA IN LEBANON WHILE TRYING TO DRIVE
A WEDGE BETWEEN FRANCE AND THE REST OF THE INTERNATIONAL
COMMUNITY WITH RESPECT TO IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM. WE WILL
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OUR INTERACTIONS WITH SENIOR FRENCH LEADERS
OVER THE COMING DAYS TO MAKE CLEAR OUR CONCERNS, AS WE ASSUME
WASHINGTON AGENCIES WILL DO AS WELL. HAVING NOTED THE
COALITION RAID ON THE IRANIAN OFFICE IN IRBIL, THE DEPLOYMENT
OF A NEW CARRIER BATTLE GROUP TO THE PERSIAN GULF, AND RECENT
STATEMENTS ON IRAN BY SECDEF GATES AND OTHERS, THE FRENCH ARE
AWARE OF THE GROWING PRESSURE ON TEHRAN. MAINTAINING OUR
FULL AND FRANK EXCHANGES WITH THE FRENCH ON IRAN WILL BE
PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT IN THE COMING DAYS.



PAGE 03 RUEHFRA0170 S E C R E T


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