Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hard Times for Gaullist Pride from Mideast Miscues to German Unification

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hard Times for Gaullist Pride from Mideast Miscues to German Unification

Article excerpt

ALTHOUGH it is not in the character of French leaders to admit it, they arehaving a bad year. The imminent reunification of Germany and Iraq's invasion ofKuwait have shaken France's twin claims to the political leadership of Europeand a special relationship with the Arab world. France's daily tacticaloscillations over the course of the current Middle East crisis provide tellingsigns of a nation facing a strategic quandary.

One of the many ironies in this crisis is that France, which is dependent onthe Persian Gulf for a high percentage of its oil, has played such a crucialrole in tilting the regional balance in Saddam Hussein's favor.

While most of the Western Community quietly supported Iraq during its warwith revolutionary Iran, France, along with the Soviet Union and China,continued to arm Saddam with sophisticated systems even after that ugly strugglehad ground to a halt. As any Kuwaiti or surviving crew member of the USS Starkcan attest, the efficacy of French-made weapons should not be underestimated.Saddam now threatens Western and Arab interests in ways that cannot justify theprofits French companies earned on these sales. So much for France's claim to anintimate understanding of regional politics. By undermining the very assumptionsupon which French Middle East policy has been erected, Saddam has been to Francewhat Khomeini was to the United States.

The French government has had to reassess its posture, quickly cut off armssales to Iraq, embrace the trade embargo, and deploy French warships to theregion.

But throughout the crisis, the French have continued their pretensions ofinternational autonomy. President Francois Mitterand initially raised strongobjections to American calls for a blockade of Iraq and Kuwait. Ostensibly toavoid raising the specter of a Western crusade against the Arab world, Mr.Mitterand vowed to withhold French military assets to the multinational forcebeing assembled in Saudi Arabia. But with at least 27 French hostages servingSaddam as a human shield and hundreds of others unaccounted for, the Frenchgovernment, in conjunction with the Western European Union, has announcedsupport for the naval blockade and its intention to send troops to the Arabianpeninsula. …

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