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courage is contagious

Viewing cable 07PARIS4685, YOUR DECEMBER 16-18 VISIT TO FRANCE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07PARIS4685 2007-12-11 15:03 2010-11-29 12:12 SECRET Embassy Paris
VZCZCXRO8936
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHFL RUEHIHL RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV
DE RUEHFR #4685/01 3451512
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 111512Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1429
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHMRE/AMCONSUL MARSEILLE PRIORITY 1933
RUEHSR/AMCONSUL STRASBOURG PRIORITY 0514
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 PARIS 004685 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FOR THE SECRETARY FROM AMBASSADOR CRAIG STAPLETON 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/10/2017 
TAGS: OVIP PREL PGOV PINR KPAL EU FR LG SY IS IR
SUBJECT: YOUR DECEMBER 16-18 VISIT TO FRANCE 
 
PARIS 00004685  001.2 OF 004 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Craig R. Stapleton, for reasons 1.5 (b) and ( 
d) 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
1.  (C) That the first international follow-on to Annapolis 
is taking place in Paris reflects the new confidence and 
greater cooperation that characterize our relationship with 
France seven months into the Presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy. 
France's support for our efforts to achieve peace in the 
Middle East contrasts sharply with its previous preferred 
role as a side-line critic.  It is just one example of the 
broader re-positioning of France vis-a-vis the U.S. which we 
have been quick to recognize and take advantage of. 
Sarkozy's desire to maximize France's influence by working 
with the U.S. to address common challenges is the 
international component of a larger ambition for his 
five-year Presidency: to renew France though deep reform at 
home and resumption of its leadership in Europe.  With an 
exceptionally long political honeymoon behind him, Sarkozy is 
now pressing ahead with his domestic reform agenda.  He has 
met with predictable opposition (most dramatically in the 
form of transport strikes), and some questioning among 
political allies of his strategy of undertaking sequential, 
calibrated reform rather than a Thatcherite big bang at the 
outset of his term.  Despite the difficulty of the challenge, 
including an unsettled international economic context, and 
little budgetary room for maneuver, Sarkozy remains 
determined to see his program through.  Given his dominant 
political position, that remains a realistic prospect.  An 
activist on the international scene, with an opportunistic 
eye for grabbing attention and credit, Sarkozy will remain a 
challenging partner despite his desire to improve the 
bilateral relationship.  He has concentrated responsibility 
for foreign affairs in the Presidency to an unprecedented 
degree, while Foreign Minister Kouchner has focused on 
selected policy issues.  This message also addresses the 
specifics of France's Middle East policies.  While under 
Sarkozy the French are more supportive, our collaboration 
(and intra-GOF coordination) on Lebanon has of late not been 
as close as it should be, as Sarkozy's team in the Elysee has 
focused single-mindedly on electing a President while 
squeezing the democratically-elected majority and weakening 
its ability to deal with post-election challenges.  End 
Summary 
 
THE RELATIONSHIP 
---------------- 
 
2.  (C) Madame Secretary, The seven months since Nicolas 
Sarkozy became President of France -- and the six months 
since your last visit -- has been a remarkable period in 
three respects.  First, our relationship with France has 
undergone a significant qualitative change.  Sarkozy has set 
in place a new paradigm for French foreign policy, one more 
favorable to our interests.  Scrapping Chirac's worldview, 
which equated French leadership with containing U.S. 
hegemony, Sarkozy has articulated the need for France to work 
closely with the U.S. -- in order to address common 
challenges, but also as the surest way to increase France's 
global influence.  France's increased involvement in and 
commitment to Afghanistan, the beginning of a French interest 
in Iraq, and France's consideration of a full return to NATO, 
are the most symbolically powerful examples of France's 
policy reorientation.  Second, we have ratcheted up our 
cooperation with France across our foreign policy agenda, 
particularly on Middle East issues, but also on Kosovo, 
Burma, Sudan/Darfur and elsewhere.  In Lebanon, Sarkozy's 
more activist foreign policy has already put the new 
cooperative relationship to the test.  Third, over the past 
seven months, Sarkozy has begun to implement the ambitious 
platform of domestic reform he had promised as a candidate. 
 
SARKOZY 
------- 
 
3.  (C)  Before addressing the Middle East issues that will 
be the focus of your visit here, a word on the domestic 
context.  Sarkozy enjoyed an exceptionally long political 
honeymoon, one which extended well into the Fall.  His 
election -- representing the victory of a new-generation 
leader, one with unmatched communication skills and a 
detailed and ambitious program for renewing France -- led to 
a season of national elan and optimism.  The return to normal 
 
PARIS 00004685  002.2 OF 004 
 
 
in the political life of the country over the past two months 
was predictable, as Sarkozy's efforts to implement difficult 
domestic changes have run into opposition from those -- such 
as rail workers -- who stand to lose, and many others who 
fear change of any kind.  Sarkozy has disappointed some in 
his own camp for not immediately embarking on radical, 
deep-rooted, pervasive reform, taking advantage of his 
electoral mandate.  Instead, Sarkozy has decided to carefully 
pick his battles, gaining momentum from each piecemeal 
victory.  All in all, Sarkozy remains in a politically 
powerful position, operating as the hands-on leader of a 
largely unchecked executive branch, unencumbered for now by a 
political opposition worthy of the name.  He is determined to 
make his mark during his five year term (which he insists may 
be his single term of office), but has demonstrated greater 
caution than might have been expected, mindful of the 
international economic and financial environment, and severe 
budgetary constraints at home. 
 
KOUCHNER 
-------- 
 
4.  (C)  Sarkozy's foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, was 
the prize catch in Sarkozy's opportunistic effort to appoint 
figures of the center and center-left to his government, 
thereby increasing its legitimacy and political heft (and 
depleting that of the opposition) as he waged the domestic 
reform battle.  While rumors circulate of a cabinet 
re-shuffle early in the new year or following municipal 
elections in March, Kouchner's position appears secure for 
now.  (Defense Minister Morin and Interior Minister 
Alliot-Marie are among those thought most imperiled.)  He 
enjoys a personal chemistry with the President based on 
Sarkozy's long-time admiration of Kouchner's personal and 
political courage and humanitarian accomplishments.  Kouchner 
remains very popular -- consistently scoring at or near the 
top of the polls measuring the popularity of France's 
political leaders.  But even his star quality (that he alone 
in the government can claim) has not kept him from being 
eclipsed by his hyper-active and media-savvy president. 
Surely more of a concern to Kouchner, Sarkozy has 
concentrated foreign policy decision-making and 
implementation to an unprecedented degree in the Elysee, with 
Secretary-General Claude Gueant and Diplomatic Advisor 
 
SIPDIS 
Jean-David Levitte accruing as much if not more influence 
than Kouchner.  Kouchner has largely focused on the issues 
with which he has the greatest experience and level of 
comfort -- Lebanon, Kosovo, and Darfur among them.  While he 
has of late curbed his penchant for off-the-cuff, 
undiplomatic public comments, the thin-skinned Kouchner has 
shown irritation over the involvement of Elysee officials in 
the delicate negotiations over Lebanon's presidential 
elections, and he may be uncomfortable with Sarkozy's 
increasing willingness to downgrade human rights 
considerations in his dealings foreign leaders, as 
demonstrated by the way he has kept his distance from the 
ongoing five-day visit to Paris of Mu'ammar Qadhafi. 
 
Middle East 
----------- 
 
5.  (S)  Under Sarkozy, France's Middle East policies have 
become more supportive of and congruent with U.S. interests, 
but we are concerned that in the past few weeks our 
collaboration (and intra-GOF coordination) on Lebanon has not 
been what it should be, as Sarkozy's Presidency team has 
focused single-mindedly on electing a President in such a way 
that squeezes the democratically-elected majority and weakens 
its ability to deal with post-election challenges. 
 
--Arab/Israeli peace:  The French remain major supporters of 
our efforts focused on supporting the Israeli/Palestinian 
negotiations.  Their eagerness to make Annapolis a success 
and to host the Paris conference on assistance to the 
Palestinians underscored this.  Sarkozy and Kouchner both 
want France to be a key player in what they hope will be a 
strong and successful push in 2008 to the creation of a 
Palestinian state.  In many ways, France aspires to be a 
favored additional partner to the Quartet.  Syrian 
participation at Annapolis has also sparked hopeful 
commentary in the French media that a larger dynamic -- in 
which France can participate -- is underway that inter alia 
would foster an unraveling of the Syrian/Iranian relationship 
and halt Iranian inroads through support of Hizballah in 
Lebanon.  Sarkozy and Kouchner will listen attentively to any 
 
PARIS 00004685  003.2 OF 004 
 
 
vision you may outline of how you expect the negotiations to 
unfold and whether there is a reasonable expectation of them 
broadening to include Syria. 
 
--Lebanon:  Even as the French have become a positive force 
behind our efforts on behalf of Arab-Israeli peace, the close 
collaboration with the GOF under former President Chirac, 
with his single-minded focus on supporting Saad Hariri and 
isolating Syria, has suffered.  This is partly due to the 
extremely fluid situation in Lebanon.  But it also results 
from the tug of war between Kouchner and the Elysee over who 
is in charge of the issue, one that developed after it became 
clear the deadline for electing a new president would pass 
without a new candidate chosen.  There is abundant evidence 
that the Syrians, possibly with help from the Amir of Qatar 
(a friend of Sarkozy and President Bashar al-Asad), lured the 
Elysee into leading a process with far different objectives 
than the one Kouchner began last summer.  Whereas Kouchner 
was focused on helping the Lebanese get out of their 
political deadlock, Levitte and the Elysee have sought a 
resolution of the presidential crisis that would satisfy 
larger geopolitical aims involving Syria.  It is also clear 
to us that the Elysee, given Sarkozy,s obsession with 
achieving results, is focused on electing a president so that 
it can be considered another French diplomatic triumph.  The 
unfortunate net result continues to be the impression that 
French pressure for a deal falls exclusively on the March 14 
majority and not where it belongs -- on the March 8 
opposition that is acting in close coordination with Syria 
intent on wringing key concessions from the democratically 
elected majority.  Even if the presidential crisis is 
resolved by December 17, we would recommend that you discuss 
with Kouchner and Sarkozy how we can more effectively work 
together as we address the multitude of difficult challenges 
facing Lebanon, of which the Presidential election is only 
the first. 
 
--Iran:  The public release of the recent NIE on Iranian 
nuclear capabilities was a shock to all but the highest 
levels of the GOF, which was briefed on its conclusions. 
Although the French have publicly backed our view that Iran 
continues to pose a serious threat and further international 
sanctions are warranted (a line echoed in most of the French 
press), the GOF anticipates a major "communication problem" 
with its EU partners, the Iranians, China, and Russia.  There 
is further the delicate diplomacy France is undertaking with 
different elements in the Iranian regime in order to maintain 
a viable channel that bypasses President Ahmadinejad (who 
appeared to complain about this in a recent letter to 
Sarkozy).  In geostrategic terms, the French see Iran as the 
primary threat to the Middle East and worry about inroads it 
has made in Lebanon and Iraq.  As noted above, there is also 
some thinking, at least among analysts outside the GOF, that 
Annapolis and the NIE betoken a significant shift of U.S. 
strategy in the Bush Administration's last year that involves 
new U.S. thinking about Iran.  Sarkozy and Kouchner would 
welcome anything you could share with respect to how we 
regard Iran in a post-Annapolis Middle East. 
 
--Iraq:  French follow-up to Kouchner's visit to Baghdad last 
August and Iraqi President Talabani's subsequent visit to 
Paris has been slow.  Concern about the security situation, 
despite what the French acknowledge to be marginal 
improvements in some areas of Iraq, lack of coordination at 
the working level among French ministries, and the failure so 
far to achieve a breakthrough on national reconciliation have 
slowed or prevented follow-on French engagement.  Kouchner, 
however, did ask SecDef Gates for a list of specific areas in 
which we thought France could be helpful.  We should use that 
opening to engage the French in a more active dialogue 
between representatives of our respective interagencies.  We 
recommend that you use the opportunity to inquire about 
Kouchner's current thinking about French assistance to Iraq 
and let him know we would like to send an interagency team to 
Paris early in the New Year to begin these discussions.  We 
would further recommend that you ask Kouchner about his 
efforts to rally EU support for and to promote meaningful 
engagement with the Iraqi government.  You might also praise 
his personal commitment to Iraq's success, as demonstrated in 
part by his participation in the recent Istanbul summit.  We 
understand Kouchner may next visit Iraq in February when 
France is expected to open an embassy office in Irbil. 
 
 
 
 
PARIS 00004685  004.2 OF 004 
 
 
 
Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm 
 
 
STAPLETON