Is Paris winning the war of words?

Is Paris winning the war of words?

Is Paris winning the war of words?

What the foreign papers are saying.
Feb. 17 2003 12:25 PM

Is Paris Turning?

It's been a good weekend for those opposed to war in Iraq. Friday's Security Council session, during which a large majority of member states supported granting weapons inspectors more time, was followed this weekend by massive worldwide anti-war demonstrations.

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Though breast-beating on both sides of the Atlantic remains deafening, the tendency among French officials was toward de-escalation as divided European countries prepared to meet today in Brussels to discuss Iraq. This was plain in an interview French President Jacques Chirac gave Time magazine, where he insisted that France was "obviously not anti-American." The popular tabloid Le Parisien focused on the interview, headlining the story "Chirac Calms the Game." It also spoke to former Socialist minister Pierre Moscovici, who remarked that while Chirac's position on the war does not seem to be changing, "The Americans suffered a stinging defeat … but we should not push our advantage too far: A humiliated America might react in a self-righteous way."

On Sunday, the weekly Journal du Dimanche published a poll that revealed how deep French animosity toward war is: Eighty-one percent of respondents said they are either partly or totally favorable to France's use of a veto against any new Security Council resolution authorizing force. The paper also reported that British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Spanish counterpart José María Aznar seemed less assertive after the weekend's demonstrations. Blair said weapons inspectors would get more time, Aznar called Chirac after a distinctly cool hiatus, and even an Italian minister, speaking for the pro-American Berlusconi government, said, "If the United States were to decide to wage war on Iraq alone, then we would say no."

In an editorial, London's Sunday Times noted that Blair, "as he surveyed the wreckage of Friday's United Nations Security Council debate … could have been forgiven for thinking that his Iraq strategy was in tatters." However, in a front-page story the paper reported that by Wednesday Britain might send a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council to prepare for possible war—a draft that, the London-based Al-Hayat reported, would seek to set a time limit on inspections and make resort to war implicit if Iraq failed to disarm. London must walk a linguistic tightrope and find middle ground between Paris' reluctance to greenlight war before inspections are completed and Washington's refusal to issue yet another warning to Iraq. However, fighting in February now seems improbable, with the Sunday Times quoting U.S. officials as saying, "President Bush would lose patience if no agreement is reached at the U.N. by the first week of March."

In an op-ed in the left-wing Paris daily Libération, Patrick Sabatier, an associate editor of the newspaper, pulled out his volume of Cato the Elder to make the case that the Bush administration has imperial yearnings and seeks "to establish in the eyes of the world a new global order—from Pax Romana to Pax Americana." It is to prevent this, Sabatier argued, that many oppose an Iraq war. This might be to Washington's advantage, since the administration will recognize "it cannot hope for hegemony based solely on the use of force without increasing the threats to its security." To affirm that opposing Pax Americana did not mean supporting Saddam Hussein, Libération published a cartoon showing a praying Saddam with a peace sign on his shirt and four victims hanging in the background.

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In an interview with the Paris' Le Figaro, analyst Laurent Murawiec had no doubts that France's opposition to war "protects Saddam's power in Baghdad." Murawiec, a U.S.-based Frenchman, got his 15 minutes of fame six months ago when, before the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, he described Saudi Arabia as "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" in the Middle East. He is now at the Hudson Institute, after being ejected from the Rand Corp. for calling the Saudis "a bunch of lazy assholes that are arrogant, too big for their shoes, which behave in a consistently disgusting manner." Untamed, Murawiec described the weekend's anti-war rallies as "the sacred union of John Lennon and Neville Chamberlain" before explaining that "for several years the American decision-making elite has developed a project whose aim is to change the rules of the game in the Middle East. … They realized that an Arab country ruled by a dictatorship directly or indirectly fosters terrorism and increases regional instability."