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Viewing cable 07PARIS257, FRENCH NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR'S VIEWS ON MIDDLE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07PARIS257 2007-01-22 17:05 2010-11-29 12:12 SECRET Embassy Paris
VZCZCXRO4762
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV
DE RUEHFR #0257/01 0221722
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 221722Z JAN 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4369
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 1101
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 000257 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/MARCHESE 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/22/2016 
TAGS: FR KDEM LE PGOV PREL SY
SUBJECT: FRENCH NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR'S VIEWS ON MIDDLE 
EAST 
 
REF: PARIS 170 
 
Classified By: Political Minister-Counselor Josiah Rosenblatt, reasons 
1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (S) Summary: French NSA-equivalent Maurice 
Gourdault-Montagne (MGM) told the Ambassador on January 22 
that "some" are calling for France to freeze plans for 
establishing an international tribunal on Lebanon until next 
autumn, in the hope that this delay would allow Lebanese PM 
Siniora to break the political deadlock in Beirut.  MGM said 
that President Chirac did not espouse a delay, but suggested 
(more than once) that the Lebanese themselves might request 
one.  Turning to Iran, he provided a somewhat unpersuasive 
explanation of Chirac's rationale for contemplating the 
dispatch of a high-level envoy to Tehran, saying such an 
envoy might help to dispel misunderstandings of French policy 
aims on a number of regional questions, and indicating that 
he himself would not serve as an envoy to Tehran and neither 
would FM Douste-Blazy.  On Iraq, MGM said that France wanted 
to see Iraq serve once again as a buffer against Iranian 
expansionism, but doubted that the West had sufficient 
resources to end Iranian influence in Iraq while 
simultaneously solving the country's economic problems.  On 
Afghanistan, he reviewed the achievements of the Riga 
Conference with satisfaction but said no European country was 
prepared to send additional troops at this time. End summary. 
 
Lebanon: Putting the Tribunal on Ice 
------------------------------------ 
 
2. (S) The Ambassador hosted French NSA-equivalent Maurice 
Gourdault-Montagne (MGM) for breakfast on January 22.  MGM 
cheerfully reviewed preparations for the January 25 Lebanon 
Conference, saying France would announce a contribution of 
500 million euros, while Germany would pledge somewhere in 
the neighborhood of 80 million euros.  He observed with 
pleasure that British FM Beckett was now planning to attend 
(a reversal he gratefully attributed to U.S. encouragement). 
The only disappointment, he said, was Russia, which would be 
represented by Special Middle East Envoy Saltanov, even 
though FM Lavrov's schedule could have permitted him to 
attend at least the opening session. 
 
3. (S) MGM said he saw little chance of resolving Lebanon's 
domestic political crisis prior to the Lebanese presidential 
election in November 2007.  Consequently, some had raised the 
idea of "putting the tribunal in the freezer" until that 
time, in hopes that a delay in setting up the tribunal would 
aid PM Siniora to break the political deadlock.  "Of course, 
we (neither he nor Chirac) are not advocating this idea," MGM 
stressed at several points.  Nevertheless, he continued, the 
Lebanese themselves might ask the French and the U.S. to put 
the tribunal on ice, in part because Siniora would need the 
opposition's help in order to deliver the economic reforms 
that the GOL is promising at this week's conference.  The 
only other option, MGM continued, would be to change the 
scope of the tribunal itself -- something France found 
unacceptable.  When pressed on why the French were 
contemplating a change in their approach to the tribunal at 
this point -- especially when it was unclear that Lebanon's 
opposition had the upper hand -- MGM made another (and 
somewhat jumbled) reference to the need to obtain the 
opposition's support for economic reform. 
 
Chirac's Iran Envoy: Is the Idea Dead or Not? 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
4. (S) Turning to recent media reports concerning President 
Chirac's plans to send a high level envoy to Iran, MGM said 
he was strongly reminded of how a few years ago internal USG 
discussion of possible changes in Iran policy had been leaked 
to the Wall Street Journal, thereby killing the proposed 
discussion before it had a chance to take place.  He said 
Chirac's envoy proposal had suffered much the same fate after 
those opposed to any change in the French approach to Iran 
(MGM did not speculate on who they might be) leaked the 
content of sensitive MFA-Elysee discussions to Le Monde. 
(Although Le Monde approached him for comment before running 
with the piece, MGM said the journalist already had "the 
whole story.") 
 
5. (S) MGM acknowledged that the Elysee had two concerns 
about sending an envoy to Tehran.  First, one could argue 
(and Saudi King Abdallah did, in the strongest terms) that 
sending an envoy to engage the Iranians on Lebanon would 
merely consecrate Iran's role in Lebanon.  (The 
 
PARIS 00000257  002 OF 003 
 
 
counterargument, MGM said, was that Iran's influence is a 
fact, like it or not.)  The second concern was that the 
Iranians might try to parley the overture into an invitation 
to attend the January 25 Lebanon Conference.  "But even if 
they had asked, we weren't going to invite them," MGM assured 
the Ambassador. 
 
6. (S) As for the virtues of engaging with Tehran, MGM argued 
that it would be useful to dispel Iranian misperceptions of 
France's policy aims in the Middle East without engaging in a 
debate on those aims.  Hence, Chirac had mulled the 
possibility of arming his envoy with a letter to Supreme 
Leader Khamenei, which would spell out France's position on 
Israel (i.e., that it has a right to exist), on UNSCR 1701 
(that all states are obligated to work toward its full 
implementation), and on Iran's need to promote regional 
stability (code for stop interfering in Iraq).  In addition, 
Chirac and his advisors reasoned that an envoy's visit might 
strengthen the hand of President Ahmadinejad's critics. 
 
7. (S) MGM stressed that the idea of sending Foreign Minister 
Douste-Blazy was no longer an option, not only because of the 
Le Monde leak but also because of vehement opposition from 
Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  MGM also made it clear that he 
himself would not be an envoy to Tehran, given the likelihood 
that the Iranians would try to oblige him to see President 
Ahmadinejad (which neither Chirac nor his advisers will do, 
given Ahmadinejad's public declarations on Israel).  However, 
MGM did not categorically exclude the possibility that Chirac 
would not send someone else (e.g., Jean-Claude Cousseran) as 
an envoy. 
 
UNIFIL: A Solution on Drones? 
----------------------------- 
 
8. (S) MGM indicated that France was searching for a solution 
to the problem of operating UAVs (i.e., "drones") over 
southern Lebanon in the wake of recent statements by 
Hizballah claiming that France would share with Israel any 
intelligence collected by the drones.  MGM said France would 
not allow Hizballah to draw red-lines impinging upon the 
operations of French peacekeepers; Hizballah had attempted 
this once before with respect to the deployment of Leclerc 
tanks, and the French had deployed the tanks anyway. 
However, he confirmed a difference of opinion between the 
Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs: the military was 
determined to operate the drones (which were shipped to 
UNIFIL at the request of UNDPKO), whereas the diplomats 
advised caution.  Consequently, MGM said the French were 
leaning towards a "demonstration flight" held in the presence 
of members of the Lebanese Armed Forces with "maximum 
transparency" so that it would be clear to the Lebanese 
public that the UAV flights would not be used as a source of 
intelligence for Israel.  The final decision, he emphasized, 
would only be made by Chirac himself. 
 
9. (S) Noting that on the ground cooperation between Lebanese 
civilians living in UNIFIL's area of operations and French 
peacekeepers ended overnight following FM Douste-Blazy's 
ill-considered declaration that Hizballah was an enemy to 
France, MGM said France "must walk a fine line" while not 
allowing Hizballah to dictate terms to UNIFIL.  If necessary, 
France could reinforce its military presence by deploying the 
second of two battalions pledged to UNIFIL last year.  MGM 
confirmed that in February, the French would conduct a 
6-month review of their participation in UNIFIL.  While he 
foresaw no change in France's participation as a result of 
this review, he conceded that any attack against French 
peacekeepers would likely lead to further evaluation of 
France's role.  Moreover, he admitted that the French are 
deeply concerned that Hizballah might attempt to kidnap 
French peacekeepers in the run-up to the French presidential 
elections this Spring. 
 
Syria 
----- 
 
10. (S) Noting ruefully that a velvet revolution does not 
appear to be in prospect any time soon in Damascus, MGM 
expressed mild concern over the future of France's Syria 
policy once Chirac leaves office.  "Any new government will 
be tempted to think that talking to the Syrians is the 
answer," he said, adding that while Socialist Party candidate 
Segolene Royal had indicated her agreement with the general 
thrust of current French policy, Interior Minister Sarkozy 
remained somewhat vague on the issue.  MGM noted that FM 
Muallim has summoned the French ambassador in Damascus to a 
 
PARIS 00000257  003 OF 003 
 
 
meeting on January 25, in what the French were regarding as a 
sign of Syrian anxiety about the success of the International 
Conference for Lebanon. 
 
Afghanistan 
----------- 
 
11. (S) MGM expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the 
NATO Summit in Riga, and, looking ahead to the informal 
ministerial on January 26, he emphasized that no EU country 
was prepared to send additional troops to Afghanistan at this 
time.  However, he said there was a willingness to undertake 
further consultation on how to combine civil/military 
objectives in Afghanistan (e.g., counternarcotics).  While 
offering a justification for France's proposed contact group, 
MGM did no press the point. 
Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm 
 
STAPLETON