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Viewing cable 09PARIS1162, WHY FRANCE CLAIMS SYRIA HELPED CONVINCE IRAN TO

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09PARIS1162 2009-08-25 15:03 2010-12-02 15:03 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Paris
VZCZCXRO0670
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL
DE RUEHFR #1162/01 2371540
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 251540Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7029
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 001162 

SIPDIS 
NOFORN 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/24/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL FR
SUBJECT: WHY FRANCE CLAIMS SYRIA HELPED CONVINCE IRAN TO 
FREE FRENCH PRISONER 

REF: A. PARIS POINT AUGUST 18 2009 
B. PARIS 1097 

Classified By: Political Minister-Counselor Kathleen H. Allegrone, for 
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 

1. (C) SUMMARY: Despite their proactive media blitz 
proclaiming Syria's "important" role in persuading Iran to 
release French citizen Clotilde Reiss from prison, French 
officials admit in private they do not know what Syrian 
President Assad, or his government, actually did. The French 
have deliberately publicized Assad's role in order to 
encourage Assad to play a more constructive intermediary role 
in the region, and to sew seeds of discord between Syria and 
Iran. This French media effort also aims to validate 
Sarkozy's policy of early engagement with Syria. In 
addition, French officials provided a few more words of 
advice on handling the American hostages in Iran, and 
described the compromises they made to secure Reiss's 
release. END SUMMARY. 

SYRIAN ROLE: THE SPIN 
--------------------- 

2. (SBU) Since August 11, when a French Presidency press 
release first singled out Syria for appreciation, French 
government officials, journalists, and academics have 
pondered the "important" and "influential" role Syria played 
as "mediator" between France and Iran in the conflict 
surrounding the July 1 arrest by Iranian security officers of 
French citizen Clotilde Reiss (see ref 1). U.S. mainstream 
media have followed suit. Time magazine published a story on 
August 17 that quoted a French diplomat (who wished to remain 
anonymous) describing Syrian President Assad's advocacy as 
vindication of President Sarkozy's 2008 outreach to Syria, 
viewed at the time as premature and unmerited by many critics 
at home and abroad. "There's some genuine (Syrian) gratitude 
at work right now," proclaimed the unnamed diplomat. 

SYRIAN ACTIONS: THE JURY IS STILL OUT 
------------------------------------- 

3. (S/NF) How did Assad's purported gratitude manifest 
itself in this sensitive issue? Despite their laudatory 
pronouncements, French officials claim to have only a vague 
notion of what the Syrians actually did. President Sarkozy's 
Strategic Affairs Advisor Franois Richier told Political 
Minister Counselor on August 11, and again on August 19, that 
when the French released their statement, thanking the 
Syrians, they did not know what message the Syrians might 
have sent to Iran, nor by what channels. MFA Syria Desk 
Officer Patrick Durel on August 18 confirmed that President 
Sarkozy called Syrian President Assad August 5 to ask for his 
assistance in persuading the Iranians to release Clotilde 
Reiss from prison. Assad agreed to raise the matter with the 
Iranians, and shortly thereafter he told Sarkozy that he had 
placed a call to Tehran. Assad did not, however, name his 
interlocutor or interlocutors. "I'm doing what I can to 
help" was the message he sent to Paris, Durel explained. 

NEW PUBLIC POSTURE FROM ASSAD? 
------------------------------ 

4. (S/NF) Richier and Durel suggested that the GOF has 
sought to exaggerate the Syrian role deliberately, in order 
to demonstrate to Syria the praise they might win for playing 
a constructive role in the region, and in order to create 
tension between Syria and Iran. And the French believe they 
have succeeded on both fronts. As a sign that Syrians 
welcomed the praise they received for playing a helpful part 
in Reiss's release, Durel cited the absence of a public 
denial by Assad. In the past, Assad disavowed such activity. 
Durel explained, for instance, that Assad had agreed in 
private during July of 2008 to pass a message from Paris to 
Tehran about the dangers of the Iranian nuclear program, but 
he publicly denied having done so, declaring he did not want 
to play the role of intermediary. Moreover, according to 
Richier, the French believe their reference to Syrian 
intervention has sewn some discomfort among the Iranians, 
whom the French hear from various sources want them to "stop 
this stupid Syria business." In advance of Assad's August 19 
visit to Tehran, the French continued to tout Syria's role 
and encouraged him to raise the issue of Clotilde Reiss's 
still-pending court case. 

ADVICE ON U.S. HOSTAGES IN IRAN 
------------------------------- 

5. (S/NF) Both Richier and MFA Middle East DAS Ludovic 

PARIS 00001162 002 OF 002 


Pouille told us that other countries also sent messages to 
and applied pressure on the Iranians -- most notably, EU 
member states, Qatar and Turkey. It is unclear if Reiss 
would have been freed without such interventions, Pouille 
commented. Richier made the same point, noting that public 
and private messages helped shame and embarrass the Iranian 
regime. He also argued that the French success in painting 
Reiss as simply a young student/teacher with a keen interest 
in and love of Iran proved a key to their success. 

FRENCH MAKE COMPROMISES TO SECURE RELEASE OF REISS 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 

6. (S/NF) Now that Reiss is at the French Embassy in Tehran, 
the GOF plans to decrease their public pronouncements about 
her, according to Richier. In the discussions with the 
Iranians on her release, the French made some concessions to 
Iranian demands, but stayed firm on certain principles. 
Richier said they agreed to pay of bail and to comply with an 
anticipated court order for Reiss to appear at subsequent 
judicial hearings. They also elected not to contest Reiss's 
court-appointed lawyer, but rather to accept him and use him 
to carry messages. On the other hand, they rejected all 
attempts at blackmail or negotiation. Richier confirmed that 
the Iranians did at one point raise the issue of Iranian 
national, Majid Kakavan, to suggest a trade, but the French 
refused. (NOTE: Majid Kakavand is an Iranian national whom 
the French arrested March 20 at Charles de Gaulle airport on 
the behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice on proliferation 
issues (see reftel 2). END NOTE.) 
RIVKIN