A datapoint on France.

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NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, all translations to English are the work of this site's contributors.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003  

According to Le Journal du Dimanche (which lacks an Internet presence), Libya approached France in 2002 in order to discuss abandoning its WMD program. However France allegedly refused and directed Libya to talk to the British. The reasons for this French behavior are unclear; however a reference to the incident can be read in this recent French Ministry of Foreign Affairs press conference.


Tuesday, December 30, 2003  
Religious Minorities:

"The French bank Société Générale said yesterday one of its security guards had been 'over-zealous' in turning away from a branch in Paris a Muslim woman who was wearing an Islamic headscarf."

--via the Telegraph


Monday, December 29, 2003  
French "Journalism:"

Alain Hertoghe deserved applause. Instead, he was given a pink slip.

Who is Hertoghe? He was the assistant editor of the Internet site of La Croix, a French Catholic daily whose print version dates back over 100 years. However Hertoghe has been fired for writing La guerre à outrances : Comment la presse nous a désinformés sur l'Irak (A War Carried to Extremes: How the Press Misinformed us of Iraq). In his detailed book, Hertoghe examines the Iraqi war coverage in March and April of le Figaro, Libération, le Monde, and Ouest-France, and his conclusions damn the French media for their biases. Writes Hertoghe, “To read the French dailies, one would assume that America was, with the exception of a handful of admirable pacifists, overrun with disagreeable, scatterbrained, egotistical and violent ‘patriots.’” But Hertoghe goes further. He says that Le Monde became “Saddam’s Gazette” and accuses the French media of exaggerating the scale of anti-war protests in European capitals and of trying to fulfill, through its coverage and editorials, its wish for an American defeat. This included frequent comparisons between Baghdad and Stalingrad and between Iraq and Vietnam. Furthermore, Hertoghe claims that the French media ignored examples of Coalition progress in the war and its aftermath that did not fit the French media’s framework for an American defeat. Hertoghe summarizes the French media’s coverage—which he attributes to anti-Americanism—as a demonization of the Bush administration, fidelity to Chirac-Villepin’s strategy, and an unwavering adherence to antiwar public opinion.

According to the International Herald Tribune, La Croix fired Hertoghe because his book allegedly "damaged the reputation of the newspaper and the authority of its chief editors and questioned the professional ethics of some of the paper's staff members." This reaction is reminiscent of Le Monde’s response to a book critical of that newspaper, La Face Cachée du Monde, by Pierre Péan and Philippe Cohen. Le Monde attempted to block the publication of that book and then proceeded to sue the journalists for defamation. Although one would think that a journalist’s dismissal for well-document analyses would raise the ire of fellow journalists, the French media’s response to Hurtaghe’s dismissal has been anemic. Writes the IHT, “Despite the book's appearance under the imprimatur of a leading publisher, Hertoghe said he was invited to discuss it on only one radio and one television broadcast…The only extensive review in print of the book, he said, appeared in a free newspaper available to commuters in Paris.” A search today on Google’s French news site (news.google.fr) of “Hertoghe” pulled up only 6 relevant articles (and none of them were from papers that Hertoghe criticized with the exception of Libération).

Writes Daniel Schneidermann in Libération, “The French press is in a crisis for several reasons. Notably, its readers complain that they are not informed in a complete and honest fashion. Quietly firing those journalists who provide support for readers’ assessments will not restore the French media’s credibility.” (Douglas Gillison has provided an English translation of Schneidermann's article over at WATCH) Contrast La Croix's head-in-the-sand attitude with that of The New York Times, which has a public editor (currently Daniel Okrent) who is "charged with publicly evaluating, criticizing and otherwise commenting on the paper's integrity."

Part of the media's job is to question out loud the authority and claims of those in positions of power. Yet when the media insulates itself from criticism--when it reserves the right to question but refuses to be questioned in turn--it becomes an inquisitor with unknown motives and loses the credibility necessary to fulfill its vital role of facilitating public debate and decision-making. The French media seems to have a lot to learn.

For more information in English on Hertoghe's firing, go to LoFIP.


Sunday, December 28, 2003  

Lost amidst the news of Libya’s apparent, new-found willingness to limit its weapons program was another North African event: the failure of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) to meet as scheduled. Established in 1989, the AMU comprises Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. Its purpose was to create a political, social and economic entity in the oil and gas-rich northern Africa on the model of the EU, and the AMU has discussed agricultural treaties, a free trade zone (the North African Common Market) and a common defense system. However, the AMU meeting scheduled for December 23 and 24 has been indefinitely postponed. The causes include the long-running dispute between Algeria and Morocco over Western Sahara (see archives) which led Morocco’s King Mohammad VI to pull out; tension between Mauritania and Libya over the latter’s financing of a coup d’état in the former country; and hurt feelings over the fact that Maaouiya Ould Taya, the president of Mauritania, had reestablished diplomatic ties with Israel without first consulting its Maghreb neighbors. The AMU meeting would have been the first one in nine years, and this summit shared the same fate as the one scheduled for June 2002, which Libya requested be cancelled.

The dysfunctional nature of the AMU is a blow to pan-Arab unity (if that concept isn't already extinct) and the hope for stronger regional African organizations, but it also further ensures that these North Africa countries will align themselves with greater powers in an effort to support and define themselves. Given the dearth of strong African regional associations, these countries will look either north to Europe and/or west to the United States. Around the time that Algeria was pulling out of the AMU meeting, that country’s president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was visiting Chirac. That was Bouteflika’s seventh trip to France since his election in 1999, and 2003 was commemorated as France-Algeria year in both countries. However Khadafi’s seeming cooperation with the US and UK contrasts starkly with his continued failure to cooperate with the French in the UTA affair. And don’t think that Colin Powell’s recent visit to North Africa was just a photo-op. While the Maghreb may be as disunited as ever, the French can no longer assume that francophone Africa lies solely within their influence.


Saturday, December 27, 2003  
United States:

2003 marked the 200th anniversary of one of history’s best real estate bargains: the Louisiana Purchase in which 800,000 square miles of American frontier were purchased from France for $15 million. While the Purchase seems a remote historical point, it offers parallels between French and American leaders of then and now.

One would not have guessed prior to Jefferson’s presidency that he would be responsible for the near doubling of America’s size. The third President of the U.S. was a staunch anti-federalist who had opposed a powerful central government. He had been against Hamilton’s National Bank, and, during his presidency, Jefferson reduced the federal budget by downsizing the army and navy. However foreign control of the Port of New Orleans—with all of the restrictions that this allowed on American commerce on the Mississippi River—posed a threat to America’s merchants and American settlers west of the Mississippi. Under the 1795 Treaty of San Lorenzo, Spain had granted American ships certain privileges on the Mississippi, such as shipping goods through the mouth of the river without paying duty. However, increasing French influence in the region menaced American interests. After Spain’s King Charles IV ceded the Louisiana territory to France in 1801, American privileges in the Port of New Orleans began to be revoked. There were fears that the French intended to shut off the Mississippi from Americans all together. That is when Jefferson—despite the fact that the Constitution did not explicitly authorize the federal government to purchase territory—instructed Robert Livingston and James Madison to offer Charles Maurice de Talleyrand $10 million for the Port of New Orleans. Facing military setbacks in the Caribbean, the need for cash to finance his military campaign, and the likelihood of a renewed war with Great Britain (as well as American threats to side with Great Britain), Napoleon ceded the entire Louisiana Territory for $5 million more than was offered for the Port of New Orleans alone.

As the details above suggest, the story of the Louisiana Purchase involved a president who came to power on a platform of limited government but ended up, in the interests of national security, expanding the federal government’s powers and America’s influence. On the other side of the Atlantic was a leader who embraced a vision of a Europe dominated by France. He at first made threatening gestures to the American government followed by a crude and hasty miscalculation that vastly underestimated US power. In their haste to extend their influence, the French accidentally helped to create a larger and more influential United States.

On December 20, 1803, the Louisiana Territory was officially transferred to the United States. On December 20, 2003, neither Bush nor Chirac were present in New Orleans to commemorate the event. Perhaps there could have been no more fitting commemoration than these men’s absences—the testimony to a French-American relationship long characterized by alternating indifference and mistrust.


Friday, December 26, 2003  
Religious Minorities:

Several noteworthy articles focus on France’s North African and Muslim communities and their relations with France’s Jewish population. First, Le Monde offers a piece on Tariq Ramadan, one of the most influential Islamic intellectuals among French Muslims. Ramadan teaches philosophy at a Geneva high school and Islamic studies at the University of Fribourg, and he annually sells around 50,000 audiocassettes of his discourses. He is the grandson of one of the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has sought to place Egypt under shari'a (Islamic law) and has been banned in that country since 1954. Ramadan, however, denies any links with the Brotherhood.

Ramadan moves in the same political circles as Jose Bové and the “alter-globalists,” such as Attac. However, he has attracted additional attention because of his calls for a “moratorium” on the stoning of adulteresses in the Islamic world—not a ban, but merely a pause on this practice while mentalities evolve. Ramadan has also criticized French Jewish intellectuals for focusing too much on the needs of their religious communities and not enough on the needs of society as a whole (a critique in English of this latter comment can be found here). Ramadan has vehemently denied any charges of anti-Semitism.

My impression is that Ramadan's statements regarding Jewish intellectuals would have been uncontroversial if written by a member in good standing of the secular French Left in the pages of Le Monde. Le Monde makes similar implications with respect to American Jews and Israel on a frequent basis. However, the fact that a Muslim would utter such words incenses some individuals. With respect to the statement regarding the moratorium--of course, it seems odd to call for a pause rather than a flat-out ban on something as barbaric as stoning adulteresses. However, Ramadan is in no way endorsing stoning. He has stated that "husband-wife violence is unacceptable from the standpoint of Islam." Ramadan's point merely seems to be that eliminating stoning may be more palatable to certain communities if it is presented as a moratorium followed by debate, rather than a ban imposed from on high.

Next up, the International Herald Tribune reveals that Paris prosecutor, Yves Bot, may bring charges against the French comedian, Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala. Born in France to a Cameroon father and French mother, M'Bala M'Bala recently appeared on French television with “a Jewish skullcap and made a Nazi salute… As he made the salute he invited ‘youths watching today from suburban high-rises to join the American-Zionist axis.’ He then cried ‘IsraHeil’ - an apparent reference to the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute of Nazi Germany.” In my opinion, any successful prosecution of M’Bala will only make him more of a hero to certain Muslim French youth. Combat the ideas, not the messenger of them.

Finally, Haaretz has a piece on the changed nature of Jewish-Muslim relations in France. What was once a peaceful co-existence between the two religious minorities in the immigrant neighborhoods north of Paris changed when “the Palestinian intifada erupted and the local Arabs vented their wrath on their Jewish neighbors. They spat on Jewish passersby in the street, scrawled graffiti on the walls of their shared apartment buildings, harassed children wearing skullcaps, calling them "sales Juifs" - "dirty Jews" - and even tried to burn down the neighborhood synagogue.” The article also comments on the increasing radicalism of French Muslim youth: “The wave of return to religion by the Muslims in the past few years is obvious everywhere. There is hardly a woman or young girl without a head covering, and the immigrant shop owners have added an Arabic name to the French one. The living conditions are harsh and the unemployment rate among the migrants is 2.5 times the national level.” However the article places anti-Semitism in France in perspective, noting, “Three of the five candidates of the Socialist Party who are leading in the presidential polls are of Jewish origin. The leading candidate of the right wing to replace Chirac, Nicola Sarkozy, has never hidden the Jewish part of his family on his father's side….[I]n the past three years, which were studded with anti-Semitic attacks and incidents, not one Jew has been hospitalized, not one Jew has been injured or has required medical treatment of any kind against this background.”


Thursday, December 25, 2003  
Save us from the great evils which rend humanity
in these first years of the third millennium.
Save us from the wars and armed conflicts
which lay waste whole areas of the world,
from the scourge of terrorism
and from the many forms of violence
which assail the weak and the vulnerable.
Save us from discouragement
as we face the paths to peace,
difficult paths indeed, yet possible and therefore necessary;


Secular Fundamentalism:

Madeleine Bunting offers an interesting piece in The Guardian on the flaws of liberalism in addressing aspects of faith. She turns the traditional framework of rational secularists vs. religious fundamentalists on its head, questioning whether it is not the secularists who, in their arrogance, are not the close-minded radicals. Bunting writes:

"Liberalism has always regarded religious faith as irrational and emotional, and as something that must be corralled into safe irrelevance. By the latter half of the 20th century, it was within sight of achieving its goal, as European Christianity crumbled. Nowhere was this more true than in France. That victory only reinforced the French liberal tradition's sense of its own superiority and historical inevitability; the assumption was that wealth and time would between them kill off the last vestiges of religious faith. But this has not proved true of France's Muslims, and now, disastrously, liberalism has resorted to the full force of the law to buttress its supremacy."

The dangers of secular fundamentalism are often ignored by the French, as they focus on the menace of religion, whether Islam or evangelical Christianity. Although communism and fascism should have taught us this, Bunting's piece reminds us that certain secular religions breed as much fanaticism as any deity-based one. And while Bunting claims that British liberalism turns religion into a pale shadow of its former self by "trimming" it into a system of ethics with a divine underpinning, it seems to me that the British approach and, even more so, the much-maligned American one in which religion exists as a necessary complement to government and society, create a much more balanced picture of humanity's multifaceted nature, with all of its rationale and faith-based dimensions.


Middle East:

Together with Germany and Japan, France is planning to train Iraqi police in Germany. According to the Japan Times, "Germany will teach criminal investigation techniques, including fingerprint and footprint identification methods, while France will provide the knowhow to create a police riot squad. Japan will supply equipment necessary for police activities such as patrol cars and radio transmitters..."


Wednesday, December 24, 2003  

Update: The Pakistani courts have released the French journalists Epstein and Guilloteau on bail. Their trial is scheduled for January 10.



The French media has been reporting that Vice President Cheney may be criminally liable for corruption. Here are the details:

Technip is a French engineering and oil & gas company that has recently caught the eye of the French government. In the great tradition of such corrupt French oil companies as TotalFinaElf, Technip is being investigated by the French government for questionable business practices in Angola, Congo, Uzbekistan and Venezuela. Technip joined forces in the early 1990’s with Kellogg Brown and Root (a subsidiary of Halliburton) as well as with an Italian and a Japanese company to build a gas liquefaction factory in Nigeria. As this translated Le Figaro article points out (the original Le Figaro article has been stuffed in that newspaper’s expensive archives), $180 million dollars was then paid to a shell company whose only official was a lawyer with close contacts to both Halliburton and influential Nigerians. The implication is that the $180 million went to line the pockets of Nigerian officials in exchange for help with the gas liquefaction project. Since Cheney was CEO of Halliburton from 1995 to 2000, the idea is that he may be implicated in this whole affair.

However what I don’t understand is how the French judge (who, incidentally, has the very un-French name of Van Ruymbeke) could ever claim jurisdiction over Cheney. The Le Figaro article refers to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. The US ratified the Convention in 1998, and France did likewise in 2000. The act encourages its adherents to make it a crime “for any person intentionally to offer, promise or give any undue pecuniary or other advantage, whether directly or through intermediaries, to a foreign public official…” The Convention also has a section entitled “Jurisdiction” which states, in pertinent part:

“1. Each Party shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the bribery of a foreign public official when the offence is committed in whole or in part in its territory.

2. Each Party which has jurisdiction to prosecute its nationals for offences committed abroad shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction to do so in respect of the bribery of a foreign public official, according to the same principles.

3. When more than one Party has jurisdiction over an alleged offence described in this Convention, the Parties involved shall, at the request of one of them, consult with a view to determining the most appropriate jurisdiction for prosecution.”

Even assuming that Cheney were implicated, his company’s alleged bribery did not take place “in whole or in part” on French territory. And Cheney is clearly not a French “national.” Moreover, a recent International Court of Justice opinion immunized sitting foreign ministers from a foreign state’s authority. In short, don't count on Cheney being dragged into French courts any time soon.


French-American Relations:

Le Monde offers several articles today on the strained nature of French-American relations. One article is simply a hit list of allegedly anti-French comments made by U.S. government officials (presumably a comparable French list would have been too long to put on Le Monde's website). Here is an excerpt from one piece by Patrick Jarreau:

"The official tone is that of appeasement but when, for one reason or another, the role of France is raised, the American government seeks to diminish this role. Colin Powell's recent trip to North Africa should be placed in this framework as well as the American support to European countries hostile to the French-German alliance. It can be expected, according to Mr. Mead [Walter Russell Mead from the Council on Foreign Relations] that the U.S. will try to prevent French candidates from assuming leadership roles in international organizations.

When the American policy was desperately failing in Iraq, some American analysts reevaluated the French position. Now that Saddam has been captured, Paris's gloomy predictions have lost their edge and are perceived more than ever in the U.S. as an expression of anti-Americanism."

The French paper goes on to note:

"In Paris, the 'virulent anti-French nature' of the Bush administration is presented as proof of American hegemony that threatens Europe--a Europe that has, since the end of the Cold War, refused to be America's handmaiden. In this context, several ex-Soviet bloc countries' 'alignment' with the U.S. makes Eastern Europe truly the 'Old Europe.' "


Tuesday, December 23, 2003  

French nationalism takes a new form in this movement: Les Identitaires. Its adherents describe their ideology as:

--A disgust of materialism, consumerism, and the exploitation of workers by international shareholders;
--Total opposition to interacial mixing and to never-ending guilt-trips for Europeans;
--Hostility to imperialism, whether it be of North American or Muslim origin.

The movement is directed at French youth, and it publishes a magazine called "Youth Resistance" (Jeune Résistance) whose past issues have denounced globalism, immigration and cultural diversity.

This is the point at which the far right meets the far left, and France's tolerance and encouragement of an anti-American and anti-Other discourse grows out of control. Despite its opposition to "Muslim imperialism," the site links to Islamiya, which provides the time in Paris and "Occupied Jerusalem" at the top of its web page.


Middle East:

British diplomacy is on a roll. Jack Straw & Co. was involved in the IAEA's agreement with Iran, the negotiations with Libya, and now The Guardian reports that Blair is pushing France and Germany to put the squeeze on Syria to reign in its WMD programs and stop its sponsorship of terrorism. Syria has never signed the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction. However Syria has signed but not ratified the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction. Although a signature is sufficient, given the right circumstances, to bind a state to a treaty under Article 12(1) of the Vienna Convention, the Biological Weapons Treaty explicitly states in Article XIV that the Convention "shall enter into force on the date of the deposit of their instrument of ratification or accession." Therefore the treaty's application to a signing but non-ratifying member is suspect. However Article 18 of the Vienna Convention makes clear that a "State is obliged to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty when...it has signed the treaty." Syria clearly seems to have violated the purpose of the Biological Weapons Convention. Article I of the Convention states: "Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never in any circumstance to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain...Microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes." In contrast, Syria is suspected of having offensive bioweapons capabilities, including anthrax and botulinum toxin. Moreover, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "Syria currently has a significant stockpile of the nerve agent Sarin and is working to develop the more deadly VX.1 Syria produces SCUD ballistic missiles of various ranges capable of carrying chemical warheads as well as air-dropped bombs. According to the London Times, Syria tested a SCUB B missile fitted with a warhead carrying VX in 1999." However the only remedy that the Biological Weapons Convention provides against a breaching party is for a country to lodge a complaint with the UN Security Council.

As admirable as Blair's efforts to address Syria may be, the UK may face problems from France. According to The Guardian, "France, still bristling over the war in Iraq and anxious not to be seen to be doing Washington's bidding, is likely to have the strongest reservations about pressuring Syria."



Dr Eamonn Butler over at the Adam Smith Institute (December 19 posting) has an interesting piece on school choice in Europe. He writes, "In the Netherlands, 70 percent of Dutch kids go to non-state schools. Parents choose the school they want, and the state pays. They change schools, and the money follows the child - exactly the same amount of money that the state would have spent on them in a state-sector school." He notes the rise of school choice in Sweden and Denmark as well. As far as I know, this phenomenon is non-existent in France.


Monday, December 22, 2003  
Religious Minorities:

"The president's decision, just three months before regional elections, is an attempt to placate the right and tamp down a big threat to French democracy - the extreme-right National Front. But it will only further alienate Muslims - stuffed in overcrowded suburbs like St. Denis and afflicted by prejudice, crime, and unemployment - while doing nothing to resolve the real issues separating that community from the rest of France. It may also drive Muslim girls out of state schools into Islamic classrooms, further hindering integration."

--A Christian Science Monitor editorial posted on the Muslim American Society's website

The site is a strange amalgam of rarely heard thoughts such as these: "Mr. and Mrs. American Muslim, what are you doing for your faith? Are you doing good and preventing evil; are you an activist in our nation for the betterment of society and the world, are you voting, donating your time and money; or are you simply content with the polite "e-mails" to your congressmen? Are you feeding the poor; sponsoring the orphans; are you reaching out to Christians, Jews, and others to inform them of Islam; are you learning the language, culture, and civics of America; are you volunteering in charitable organizations; are you condemning Muslims when they perform evil acts? Are you living for today, or preparing for tomorrow? If you are, God bless you, if you are not, may God have mercy on your soul when you meet Him."

...And then there are more commonplace thoughts such as these: "Why the sudden schism and animosity between Christians and Muslims, between Americans and Arabs? It's Israel, it will always be Israel..."

(from Mohamed Khodr's posting)



A post on Sunday mentioned the arrest of the French journalists, Marc Epstein and Jean-Paul Guilloteau, in Pakistan on charges of unauthorized travel. They were denied a release on bail and had planned on beginning a hunger strike in prison in order to protest the actions of the Pakistani government. However, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the journalists' magazine (L'Express) have dissuaded Epstein and Guilloteau from undertaking the hunger strike, presumably to avoid increased publicity and antagonizing the Pakistani authorities.


International Law & Nuclear Technology:

Amidst the reports of Pakistan's possible sales of nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran, one might ask whether Pakistan's alleged actions, if proven, have violated its international legal obligations. While Pakistan has, in the past, denied selling nuclear weapons technology, these public lies were not binding promises. The most pertinent document would be the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons which does not allow a signatory "to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices." However Pakistan, together with India, Cuba and Israel, is not a party to this treaty. Were one of the countries whose nuclear weapons program Pakistan has assisted to actually use a nuclear weapon, then Pakistan may have violated the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (which prohibits helping a state "to engage in military or any other hostile use of environmental modification techniques having widespread, long-lasting or severe effects"). However Pakistan has not signed this convention either. Of course, no one would want to wait for the fallout necessary to invoke this provision.

International legal arguments might have to become more creative. For example, one might claim that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty amounts to customary law (opinio iuris)--which is generally viewed (under article 38(1) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice) as one of the sources of international law. However is a prohibition on selling nuclear weapons a widespread practice among nations that is generally viewed as legally binding? On the contrary, the purchase and sale of nuclear information seems to occur, if not frequently, than often enough to frustrate classification as opinio iuris. In the North Sea Continental Shelf case, the International Court of Justice stated with respect to international custom that "an indispensable requirement would be that within the period in question, short though it may be, State practice, including that of States whose interests are specially affected, should have been both extensive and uniform." Moreover, Pakistan has a strong argument that it is a "persistent objector" since it never signed onto the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and it seems to have consistently acted in a way that denies any custom against the transfer of nuclear technology.

A final attempt to find Pakistan violative of some international legal obligation might turn to the Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons from the International Court of Justice dating back to 1996. However no one is accusing Pakistan of using nuclear technology--only of selling it (although selling such technology for the purposes of warfare may be viewed as violating the spirit of the ICJ's holding).

In short, I don't think that Pakistan's alleged sales of nuclear technology to Iran or North Korea violate any specific obligation under international law.

This entire line of reasoning might strike many as absurd. "A world in which each crackpot leader has nuclear weapons is to be avoided. Who cares what international treaties or opinions hold?" I agree that the United States government and its allies have an interest in ensuring that the transfer of military nuclear technology is as limited as possible. However these international texts provide a point of departure for international negotiations as well as criteria for objectivity and credibility far greater than invocations of American security interests (which might not be too convincing to a Pakistani). That is why it is troubling that Pakistan's sales--with all of the threats that they pose to international security--seem to be permissible under international law.


Sunday, December 21, 2003  
Religious Minorities:

3000 protesters marched in Paris on Sunday against Chirac's efforts to ban veils from public schools.



In keeping with its much vaunted reputation for freedom of the press, Pakistan has imprisoned Marc Epstein and Jean-Paul Guilloteau of L'Express. The alleged reason is that the two journalists were traveling in a region of Pakistan for which they did not have authorization. The journalists had visas for Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore but not for Quetta, where they were found. The journalists argue that they were in Quetta merely to travel to Afghanistan. Epstein and Guilloteau were producing a story on the Taliban.

On December 16, Khawar Mehdi Rizvi, a Pakistani journalist who was working with Epstein and Guilloteau, was detained by Pakistan intelligence agents and has not been heard from since. Rizvi was accused of "tarnishing Pakistan's international reputation." Frankly, there is not much to tarnish.


Saturday, December 20, 2003  
My apologies for the limited posts and very delayed e-mail responses over the past several days. I've been in the process of moving and have finally emerged from beneath a mass of cardboard boxes. Posting will not be as heavy as before because I'm still dealing with a 56K connection.

On a more interesting note, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs is praising the American and British success in persuading Libya to abandon--at least in words--its WMD program. However, as evidence of the chasm between US and French perspectives, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated: "This testifies to the efficacy of a diplomatic effort in devising a peaceful response to the major challenge of proliferation in the world." French media is also emphasizing that Libya's declaration is a victory for diplomacy, and the implication is that it constitutes a rebuke to the more aggressive American stance in Iraq. Brian Whitaker makes this point more explicitly in The Guardian when he writes: "The success of the efforts in Libya...raises many questions about the course of action adopted in Iraq, and whether the methods that have worked with Tripoli might not have also succeeded eventually in Baghdad." Whitaker assumes that diplomacy is a one-size-fits-all proposition, and he overlooks the differences between Qadaffi's chameleon-like nature that has enabled him to survive through multiple re-incarnations as well as the Libyan's responsiveness to economic sanctions and Hussein's self-destructive brinkmanship. Moreover, it is interesting how Whitaker and the French are attempting to distance this British and American diplomacy from the Bush administration--as if the American diplomats that dealt with Libya were Foggy Bottom renegades. The French also assume that the US and UK's aggressive stance towards Iran, Iraq and North Korea had little to do with Qaddafi's decision. However, does anyone believe that Libya would have been so willing to comply with American and British wishes if Saddam Hussein were not now in prison and hundreds of thousands of allied forces were not in Iraq (the question at the end of this page from Bush's speech yesterday gets it right)? Blair noted that "Libya came to us in March, following successful negotiations on Lockerbie, to see if it could resolve its weapons of mass destruction issues in a similarly cooperative manner." I wonder if that was before March 19 or after. On the other hand, Qaddafi is still ignoring French efforts to blackmail him to pay more money for Libya's involvement in the crash of a DC-10 over Nigeria years ago.

Unlike the French government and media's words, there is no clear dichotomy between diplomacy and force. Instead, Qaddafi's apparent change of heart bolsters the link between negotiations and the threat of force. A condemnation of "hollow words diplomacy" could be heard from Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, during his appearance last week before the Security Council (hat tip to Last of the Famous International Playboys). Zebari stated: "The United Nations as an organization failed to help rescue the Iraqi people from a murderous tyranny that lasted over 35 years, and today we are unearthing thousands of victims in horrifying testament to that failure." What was the response of Jean-Marc de la Sablière, the Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations? "I don't want to comment on the past."


Monday, December 15, 2003  
European Union:

Chirac criticized over France's heavy-handed position during the EU summit.



The wrap-up of the Executive Life settlement. Note that former Credit Lyonnais Chairman Jean Peyrelevade and former bank director, Dominique Bazy, are not covered in the deal.


United States:

Tyler Cowen over at Volokh Conspiracy has the following thoughts on Hollywood & cultural diversity:

"...movie and broadcast quotas are counterproductive for French culture, and for most other cultures around the world. Hollywood movies, for instance, have financed the multiplex boom that has been so helpful for the domestic production of European movies. Furthermore quotas tend to keep out the more interesting American films. Jurassic Park will get through in any case. So quotas will not only make Hollywood look worse in European eyes, but in the long run they will lower the quality of Hollywood movies. European audiences, on net, improve quality, if only because they are older. They tend to demand more thoughtful and more sophisticated products. They also like 'auteurs' more than American audiences do."


Middle East:

Finally, a constructive proposition from France with respect to Iraq: France proposes Iraq debt relief


Sunday, December 14, 2003  
Middle East:

What is the official French reaction to the capture of Hussein? A spokesman for Chirac stated that the capture was "a significant event that should strongly contribute to democracy and stability in Iraq and should permit Iraqis to regain control over their destinies in a sovereign Iraq." Raffarin emphasized that "the arrest of the former dictator Hussein is good news that will open the door to Iraqi sovereignty." The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared: "France hopes that this arrest will contribute to stability in Iraq, to a return to Iraqi sovereignty in the best conditions and to a reconciliation of everyone involved. France also hopes that this arrest will strengthen the resolve of Iraqis to reconstruct their country." Noticeably absent in the declarations was any recognition of American efforts. Noticeably present was a continued emphasis upon France's position with respect to Iraq: the transition of power to Iraqis is not happening fast enough....The timeline for a sovereign and democratic Iraq should be measured in weeks, not in months or years.


Wednesday, December 10, 2003  
Miscellany (Middle East):

Why is the mainstream press not all over the anti-terror demonstration in Baghdad (scroll down on linked page for links to photos)? HealingIraq writes, "Al-Jazeera estimated the size of the crowd as over ten thousand people." The Washington Times is reporting 4,000 demonstrators.


European Union:

"In the past, when France and Germany pulled together, the rest of Europe followed. But their once-meek neighbours are fed up with being shoved around and have turned negotiations on a landmark EU constitution into a tug of war....'If anyone was expecting that in an enlarged EU, Poland would shuffle off into a corner, keep its head down and deprive itself of the right to vote, they should think again,' Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller warned recently."

--via Forbes


United States:

If you're wondering why Wolfowitz cited "the essential security interests of the United States" in order to justify the limitations on contract bidding in Iraq, look at Article XXI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. It provides an exception to the GATT's free trade principles for "essential security interests." In part, Article XXI states: "Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed...to prevent any contracting party from taking any action which it considers necessary for the protection of its essential security interests.... taken in time of war or other emergency in international relations." Given the recent rebuke over steel tariffs, the US government is trying to preempt any challenge before the WTO. The French government is already analyzing whether the contract limitations in Iraq are consistent with international law.

Invocation of Article XXI does not provide immunity from GATT. For example, the EU was ready to challenge the Helms-Burton law in the late 1990s. However, as this article notes, there is an argument that countries may, under GATT, be able to determine for themselves when Article XXI conditions are satisfied (this process is referred to as "auto-determination"). This would allow a broad reading of the rule, perhaps creating an enormous exception.

For more information on Article XXI, Foreign Policy in Focus has a good analysis. One particularly interesting discussion that is not directly related to Article XXI focuses on the law that Massachusetts passed in the mid-1990s, prohibiting state contracts with Burma's repressive military junta. It turns out that the European Union challenged the Massachusetts law on the grounds that it discriminated against Burmese companies (although I'm not sure what standing the EU had in the matter). Before a WTO dispute panel could hear the issue, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law as a violation of the US federal government's foreign affairs powers.


Tuesday, December 09, 2003  

66% of French citizens oppose another term for Chirac.


Recommended Reading:

This article in Time reminds us that Muslims and Jews are not the only targets of hatred in Europe.


Monday, December 08, 2003  

After a slight hiatus, undocumented immigrants are once again occupying churches in Paris. The group that occupied the Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet on Monday afternoon sought to publicize the plight of such immigrants in France. One spectator who viewed the scene is quoted as saying: "All these people are either Muslims or atheists, and they don't belong in a church."


European Union:

"Democratic legitimacy is not mysteriously divined by a group of some 200 self-selected people meeting in Brussels. The details are to be thrashed out and negotiated over by governments at the Intergovernmental Conference. But this is not just a matter for governments. It is also a matter for parliaments and people. We need to make sure that the people agree with the direction their political leaders are taking them."

--Gisela Stuart, Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston and UK parliamentary representative on the European convention on the constitution. Stuart notes that the draft constitution for the EU is 335 pages.

However democracy might not be desirable to those who want to put the formation of a strong EU on the fast track. The Telegraph is reporting that a recent poll indicates that "just 48 per cent of EU citizens viewed membership as a 'good thing.'" What really surprised me though is that this figure was just 54% last spring.

A ridiculously long Eurobarometer report from last spring also indicated that EU citizens trust the UN more than EU institutions or these citizens’ respective national governments (48% vs. 44% vs. 37%). With respect to the United States:

"Positive assessments of the action taken by the USA related to the fight against terrorism, which has taken pride of place in Bush administration speeches since the events of September 2001, have fallen 9 points. Currently, 35% of those interviewed take a dim view of the role played by the USA in this regard, while 45% consider it to be positive. In spite of a decline in almost all countries, more than half of the population approves of the role played by the USA in five of the fifteen Member States, namely, the United Kingdom (68%), Denmark (64%), Sweden and the Netherlands (56%) and Ireland (53%). On the other hand, eight out of ten people in Greece disapproved of the role played by the USA. The Netherlands was the only country in which the image of the United States strengthened (+4). With the exception of Luxembourg (-2), the "positive" option has fallen by 9 points to 18 in the other Member States."

I wonder how these figures have changed since the spring.


Religious Minorities:

"Wearing a veil, whether we want it or not, is a sort of aggression that is difficult for us to accept."

--Jacques Chirac

Does this hijab scare you?



The French government has repeatedly adopted the approach of seeking to integrate trouble-making states into the international community (some would call this appeasement, others diplomacy). Witness its approach, for example, to Iran and Zimbabwe (and contrast this approach with the Commonwealth's continued suspension of Zimbabwe from the organization). France's approach to Libya therefore stands as a glaring inconsistency. Although Libya had already agreed to pay $34 million to the French families of the victims of a 1989 airplane bombing over Nigeria, the French reneged on the deal in August after Libya offered the Americans more money in order to compensate the families of the Lockerbie victims. In its efforts to squeeze as much money as possible out of the Libyan government, France has been threatening the country with further isolation from the international community unless it pays up. In particular, Chirac stated during his recent visit to Tunisia that Libya's failure to pay more money to France "would definitely and unfortunately have negative consequences on the bilateral relations between France and Libya as well as on Libya's full return to the international community."

The UN has already lifted its sanctions on Libya for its role in the airplane bombings; however the EU maintains an arms embargo on the North African country.



"I have taught in five nations on three continents, at universities ranging from Harvard to Haifa, from the Free University of Berlin to Wichita State, from Budapest to Boise. But nowhere, proud and pleased though I am to be a French citizen as well as an American one, have I encountered a system of higher education as inefficient, chaotic, perversely bureaucratic and dysfunctional as the French...France does a magnificent job of educating its students through high school, but at the higher level the goal seems to be the financial security of the academics rather than the education of the young."

--Michael Blumenthal in Time


Sunday, December 07, 2003  

For those who haven't been following the Executive Life problem, here are the background details via ChannelnewsAsia: "US prosecutors claim Credit Lyonnais illegally acquired Executive Life following its [Executive Life's] 1991 collapse through a series of shell companies, violating a law that barred banks and foreign governments from holding more than 25 percent of a US insurance company...Credit Lyonnais then allegedly passed the assets -- mostly lucrative junk bonds -- onto Artemis, a firm owned by French billionaire Francois Pinault -- a close friend of President Jacques Chirac -- as part of a plan to conceal its involvement...The deal reportedly made Artemis a fortune."

Now here's more current news: The French state prosecutor, Yves Bot, is considering pursuing in French courts "judicial officials" and Californian assistant prosecutor Jeffrey Isaacs for "subornation of witnesses" ("subornation:" the crime of procuring a person to take such a false oath as constitutes perjury) in the Executive Life scandal. The specific allegation made by former Credit Lyonnais officials is that American prosecutors offered witnesses significantly reduced sanctions in exchange for favorable testimony (allegedly including false testimony). The French state prosecutor should shortly make the decision whether to pursue these allegations.

Meanwhile, Chirac is in the hot seat as criticism over the French rejection of an Executive Life settlement grows within France. Media reports have suggested that Chirac personally intervened to oppose any settlement that did not include his friend, François Pinault, even against the advice of his Finance Minister who allegedly favored an accord. The Boston Globe notes: "The friendship between Pinault, 67, and Chirac, 71, dates from 1981 when the businessman rescued a bankrupt sawmill in Chirac's constituency, saving 20 jobs. In 1995 Pinault hosted an election dinner for Chirac to celebrate his victory." Eric Besson of the Socialist Party has asked: "Yes or no, is it true that Jacques Chirac personally intervened in this matter in order to give instructions to his Finance Minister (Francis Mer), and, if yes, then what were the goals and interests?" Note that the French Left has been hesitant thus far to raise the Executive Life scandal because François Pinault also has high-placed connections among the Socialists and Credit Lyonnais collapsed when Socialist finance ministers were in power during the early 1990's. Chirac is also being criticized from the Right, with the deputy of the UDF, Charles-Amédée de Courson, calling the rejected settlement agreement "by far the best solution for the French taxpayer." A guilty verdict in American courts could result in the revocation of the American license of Crédit Agricole, one of France's largest banks and the current owner of Crédit Lyonnais.

A public inquiry is being called for into the French government's handling of the affair; however Chirac has denied any personal intervention on behalf of his friend.


Saturday, December 06, 2003  

Although I suggested last week that the lawsuit by a French businessman against the Newmont Company might be retaliation for the Executive Life scandal, a reader pointed out that this could not possibly be correct because the Newmont suit was filed in February 2002. My confusion was due, in part, to the extensive coverage that Le Monde gave the Newmont affair on December 3. The French article quotes the plaintiff who calls the Newmont affair "an Executive Life in reverse." In reality, there have been no significant developments in the Newmont case since early November when the US government opened an investigation into the company's practices. Why did Le Monde devote two articles to the Newmont story shortly after settlement negotiations between French and American officials over Executive Life failed? It seems likely that Le Monde is trying to create an American version of Executive Life in order to show that French businessmen are not alone in their violation of other country's laws. Of course, one fundamental difference between the two situations is that the French institution at issue in Executive Life was government-owned, whereas Newman is a private company. If there ever is a settlement in the Executive Life debacle, most of it will come out of the pockets of French taxpayers.

Le Monde's choice of articles and timing serves as an example of how the media can create the news in order to frame a story and seek to sway public opinion.

With respect to Executive Life, Instapundit might have had it right when he wrote: "Want to bet that some people who were all for the International Criminal Court will start talking about the importance of sovereignty and the likelihood that international prosecutions might be politically motivated?"


Thursday, December 04, 2003  
Religious Minorities:

The London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has begun a campaign to pressure the French government into halting its effort to ban the hijab in public institutions. The IHRC is encouraging Muslims around the world to write letters to their foreign ministers in which they argue that the proposed French legislation violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

Here is a copy of a suggested letter to Chirac:

"Dear Monsieur Chirac,

Re: French government’s plan to ban religious symbols in public places

I write with regard to the French Prime Minister’s comments on Friday 28th November 2003 regarding his proposed bill to ban religious symbols.

I am shocked that having so recently stood up to the bullying tactics of the USA over the Iraq war, your government now mimics its xenophobia in its treatment of Muslim women. Any such bill would violate all human rights standards including the European Convention on Human Rights and I urge you to arbitrate in this mater and stop this abuse of the function of the Prime Minister’s office.

Any such action on the part of the French government will not simply alienate Muslims in France and world-wide but all those who believe in equal and full rights for women and minorities. Just as you have spoken out in recent weeks against anti-semitism you must tackle this growing Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred in French institutions and indeed the government.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly regarding this matter, in the hope that the Prime Minister’s comments do no become a governmental policy or decision.

Yours sincerely,

Your name"



The French legal retaliation for Executive Life may have already begun. The French businessman, Patrick Maugein (who counts Chirac among his acquaintances), has filed a lawsuit in Colorado, alleging that the Newmont gold company violated RICO by bribing the Supreme Count of Peru in 1998 for rights to the Yanacocha gold mine, the largest one in South America. Newmont beat out the French government's Bureau de recherches géologiques et minières for mining rights. According to Maugein, "This is Executive Life in reverse. They despoiled French interests. My civil suit has caught the interest of the American justice system and may allow France to recover 5 billion dollars with damages and interest."

The former French ambassador to Peru has supported Maugein's claims, claiming in this interview that he is "delighted" by Maugein's suit and that "Newmont bought the judgment." The interview also reveals that Chirac was involved in the affair, having written a letter in 1997 to Alberto Fujimori, in which he presumably advocated on behalf of the Bureau de recherches géologiques et minières.


Wednesday, December 03, 2003  
Religious Minorities:

The NY Times has an article on attacks on Jews in France. Recall that in July of 2002, Chirac called the portrayal of France as anti-Semitic an "insult" that was part of a campaign undertaken by American Jewish groups under Israel's command. The French government now seems to have changed its mind. Here are some choice excerpts from The NY Times article:

--"In a book called "The Lost Territories of the Republic" published last year, a group of French teachers said teaching of the Holocaust was impossible in some classes because students of Arab origin were so hostile toward the subject."

--"Intellectuals who were not used to considering themselves Jewish are now doing so," said Olivier Nora, the publisher of the Éditions Grasset et Fasquelle publishing house. "The tradition in the French Jewish community is to feel French first and Jewish second, but there is more and more pressure to define yourself and to take a position on Israel's policies. You're either in or you're out."

--Jean-Marie Le Pen "called the new measures against anti-Semitism "laughable," adding: "There is no rise in anti-Semitism in France. There are the inevitable effects of an untamed immigration."



Chirac is currently visiting Tunisia. Coincidentally (or not), Colin Powell has been visiting Tunis as well as Algeria and Morocco over the past few days.



The strike at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in full swing. Some details:

--50% of French diplomatic staff abroad are on strike
--33% of French diplomatic staff in Paris are on strike
--the French ambassador to Indonesia is on strike



Although further negotiations are still possible, settlement talks between the US and France over the Executive Life debacle have currently broken down. A French government spokesman has stated, "We are not afraid of a trial." Can the French government really want a California jury to decide the guilt and sanctions of corrupt French businessmen and political cronies? Given that alternative, the 575 million euros and one sacrificial lamb is a bargain.

Meanwhile, Le Monde displays its jingoistic bent. It is trying to turn Executive Life into a national rallying cry and argues for French strength in the face of anti-French backlash among Americans hungry for revenge after Iraq (vive la France!!). An alternative explanation (which never occurs to Le Monde's editors) for US pursuit of this lawsuit is that Americans are fed up with corporate scandals, the California budget can always use more money and federal prosecutors are hungry for high-profile cases to launch their political careers.

The French paper suggests retaliatory judicial strikes against American companies. Unfortunately, Le Monde seems to have forgotten that the French businessmen likely did break US law and that a settlement with Crédit lyonnais would have already happened were François Pinault not Chirac's acquaintance. In reality, Chirac's cronyism and French tolerance of it is the source of the impasse, not America's thirst for revenge. Yet for Le Monde's editorial board, any questioning of Crédit lyonnais or Chirac's acts would perhaps be unpatriotic.


United States:

Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as well as of the newly formed French-American caucus in Congress, recently met with Dominique de Villepin in France. Although de Villepin emphasized the need to include the UN in the Iraq operation, Biden has, in the past, focused more on encouraging NATO's involvement. Given past French objections to expanding NATO's role in Afghanistan (as well as French efforts to create a European Defense Force which will essentially be a competitor to NATO), it is unlikely that the French government would welcome this idea.



"Several hundred hardline youth supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo staged a rowdy demonstration outside the French military base in Abidjan on Monday demanding that 4,000 French peacekeepers patrolling a buffer zone between government and rebel forces leave Cote d'Ivoire.

The demonstrators, belonging to militia style youth groups known as "Young Patriots," lit a fire in front of the base near Abidjan international airport and threw stones at French soldiers inside the perimeter fence after they tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas."

--via the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Despite the increased tensions, the French government has ruled out any retreat from the Ivory Coast.


Tuesday, December 02, 2003  
Recommended Reading:

Christopher Caldwell offers a detailed piece in The Weekly Standard on a myriad of French problems, including the radical French left:

"While the country and its leaders have been spinning theories about globalization and American hegemony, a fresh problem has arisen--the resurrection of a hard left...[T]his European social movement has taken strong root in France, Spain, and Italy. Its motto--"Another world is possible"--promises a Marxist utopia with no program for getting there." However the new European radical left views the socialists as too moderate: "During the November 15 closing march [of the Social Forum], hostile protesters surrounded the Socialist delegation. They accused the party of collaborating with capitalism, threw bottles, and (according to the later account of one Socialist marcher) yelled, "Lynch them!"

Caldwell also notes the relatively poor economic conditions which might give rise to radical ideologies:

"France has the highest youth unemployment in Europe, at 26 percent; only 37 percent of its over-55 population works, a world low. Its employment rate of 58 percent is at the bottom of the developed world. (The figure is 62 percent in the European Union and 75 percent in the United States.)"



Kyoto is in trouble. Not only has Russia rejected it, but France and twelve other EU countries are unlikely to meet their Kyoto commitments. According to the BBC, the EU (which, after the US, produces the most CO2 emissions) "has continually argued for a rigorous application of Kyoto, wanting to limit the use of so-called flexibility mechanisms which allow countries to partially meet their emissions reduction targets by paying for improvements in other countries."

In order for Kyoto to become a legally binding treaty, at least 55% of the countries reporting 1990 emissions in Annex I had to ratify it.



French Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, recently visited Poland to smooth over some ruffled feathers. Poland remains concerned about becoming a second-class state in the European Union (concerns which could only have been exacerbated by recent French and German exceptionalism with respect to the Stability Pact), but Raffarin emphasized EU flexibility and the importance of the Weimar Triangle (an informal, historical relationship between Paris, Berlin and Warsaw). The Polish newspaper, Rzespospolita, is reported as stating: "It seems that France--the largest foreign investor in Poland--understands that a policy of reprimands directed at Poland is not only ineffective but also risks undermining France's economic interests."



Courrier International reports that anti-French demonstrations in the Ivory Coast are growing. French soldiers who are placed on the frontiers between militants and government forces are in a precarious position as all order in the country seems to be breaking down. The extent to which the Ivory Coast president, Laurent Gbagbo, is in control of his forces and is directing the violence against the French remains unclear.

Revue-Politique wonders whether the Ivory Coast will be a new Indo-China for France, and Le Figaro is calling the French position in the Ivory Coast a "trap." The paper offers an interview with Gbagbo in which the latter claims that "war can break out at any moment" but adopts a friendly tone towards the French presence.



An agreement between California and France over the Executive Life scandal is looking bleak. The French government won't accept a deal that doesn't immunize the former head of Crédit Lyonnais and long-time Chirac crony, François Pinault, as well as his holding company, Artemis S.A., from criminal liability. Pinault claims that he is "totally innocent." It also seems the settlement sum being discussed never changed from the approximate figure of 575 million euros, 475 of which would have come from French public coffers.


Monday, December 01, 2003  
France's Islamist Threat:

An interview with Pierre de Bousquet de Florian, the director of DST (Direction de la surveillance du territoire: France’s version of the CIA). Translated from L’Express.

Q: What do you think of the Islamist threat affecting France?

Three types of threats are currently converging that may transform France into a target of Islamist terrorism. The first is the rise of Salafism [a radical form of Islam founded on a literal interpretation of the Koran]. For the past several years, France’s Muslim community has demonstrated a tendency to return to its religion’s sources. The Salafi fundamentalists are the most active in this domain. This results in a community-wide intransigence that is deadly for our secular society that embraces assimilation. I fear that this radicalization that is pronounced among the younger generations will be a breeding ground for terrorists. The second threat comes from our historical ties to the Maghreb that is currently shaken by extremist movements and terrorism. In Algeria this summer, a new emir assumed leadership in the Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). This man, Nabil Sahraoui, is more attuned to the exportation of Islamist violence than his predecessor, and Sahraoui has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda. Finally, the third menace results from the fact that Iraq has become a land of jihad—a convergence point for young militants.

Q: There are rumors of dozens of French Islamists in Iraq…

What we know for certain is that, before the Iraq conflict began, several dozen French wanted to fight in Iraq. Some never made it past the border. Others were rejected by Saddam Hussein’s troops. To the best of our knowledge, no French citizen is a prisoner of the coalition forces today. No French citizen died in combat. However, some French would obviously like to find themselves in Iraq. Consequently, there is a significant risk that France will confront the emergence of a third generation that is returning to Europe and that was formed on the battlefields, after the Bosnian and Afghan-Pakistan generations. The Afghan-Pakistan conflict is responsible for the bulk of the terrorists arrested during the past few years.

Q: There has been no Islamist attack on French soil since 1996. How do you explain that?

Let’s not exaggerate. French soil may not have been targeted, but let us not forget that the French were specifically targeted at Karachi. Others were affected in the attacks on Bali, Djerba and Casablanca. The French oil tanker, Limburg, was the target of a suicide attack in Yemen…

Q: Have attacks on France been thwarted?

Yes, several times. A suicide bomber tried to explode a truck against the American embassy in Paris in 2001. In 2002, we took apart a cell in La Courneuve and at Romainville that was preparing an attack—probably chemical—against a Russian delegation in Paris. This group was linked to another group in the UK that planned to place ricin—that can be fatal even if touched—on door handles in public places. Since September of 2001, the DST has arrested 120 militants. Sixty have been locked away. Today, France may not be on the front lines with the US, Israel, the UK and the coalition members of “Freedom in Iraq;” however we shouldn’t deceive ourselves. The Islamists include us in their hatred of the West and of its “crusaders.” The threat remains.



Troubles continue for the French in the Ivory Coast:

"Hundreds of youths staged a violent demonstration Monday outside a French military base in Abidjan following weekend clashes in central Ivory Coast between French peacekeepers and supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo...On Sunday, armed men wearing army uniforms interrupted Ivorian national television broadcasts to demand that French troops leave the demilitarised zone."

--via Expatica

The Guardian expands:

"French soldiers fired tear gas and blanks to expel a rock-throwing mob of government supporters Monday that attacked the main French military base in Ivory Coast's commercial capital.

Soldiers in riot gear then formed a cordon outside the gates of the base to hold back the crowd of 250 young men. White fumes from the tear gas clouded the air, mingled with black smoke from a roadblock of burning metal drums set afire at the gates by the mob."



Five people worldwide die of AIDS every minute of every day. HIV has hit every corner of the globe, infecting more than 42 million men, women and children, 5 million of them last year alone.


Miscellany (Middle East):

"Syria was a major arms-trading bazaar for the Hussein government, in this case hiding an Iraqi effort to obtain missiles [from North Korea]...If it served as a middleman in this deal, as the documents suggest, Syria was acting in violation of Security Council resolutions even as it served on the Council and voted with the United States on the most important resolution before the war."

--via The NYT


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