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Viewing cable 07PARIS170, CHIRAC'S ENVOY TO IRAN -- WHAT'S PROMPTING THIS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07PARIS170 2007-01-17 14:02 2010-11-29 12:12 SECRET Embassy Paris
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 
 
 
PLEASE VISIT PARIS' CLASSIFIED WEBSITE AT: 
HTTP://WWW.STATE.SGOV.GOV/P/EUR/PARIS/INDEX.C FM 
 
STAPLETON