Jewish World Review Feb. 5, 2003 / 3 Adar I, 5763
France: Saddam's ally
Critics of President Bush say he
has failed to rally our "traditional allies" - like France - to
support his aggressive efforts to disarm Saddam Hussein.
But since the Gulf War, in which France had token
involvement, Paris has never been our ally where Iraq is
concerned. Indeed, it has been more allied with Iraq than
Throughout the '90s, France constantly pushed for the
lifting of economic sanctions against Iraq. Bemoaning the
fate of the Iraqi people, the French pushed to allow
Saddam to sell oil on the global market (the so-called
oil-for-food program). When America and Britain
demanded tough controls on the funds from oil sales to be
sure they did not go for arms, France objected that such
controls would undermine Iraqi sovereignty.
Largely as a result of French pressure, the oil-for-food
program was implemented, allowing Saddam to sell
500,000 barrels per day on the open market (about a sixth
of his pre-war production).
But Saddam couldn't do much rearming with the oil money,
because U.N. inspectors were looking over his shoulder.
So in November 1997, he announced that he would bar
Americans from the 77-member inspection team. The other
inspectors withdrew in protest and solidarity with their
American mates. The world was plunged into crisis. Once
again, France took Saddam's side.
President Bill Clinton sent two aircraft carriers to the gulf
and vowed that Saddam "must comply unconditionally with
the will of the international community." French Foreign
Minister Hubert Vedrine criticized Clinton for giving
Saddam the impression that "there would never be a way
out of the tunnel [of sanctions]," even if he got rid of all his
France demanded an end to all sanctions and called for
unlimited oil sales by Iraq. Then suddenly Saddam seemed
to back down in the face of Clinton's pressure and
admitted the U.S. inspectors back in.
Had there been concessions to Saddam? Oh no, said
Deputy National Security Adviser Sandy Berger: "There's
no deal. There's no concessions."
But the French knew better. As Vedrine said, "The
Americans bent a little." Pushed by France, the United
States agreed to let Saddam increase his oil sales,
ultimately letting sales grow to 2 million barrels per day. A
concession to Iraq? No way, said Clinton's people: It was
a concession to France; we were not giving in to Saddam.
Then, the next year, Saddam barred all U.N. inspectors.
The final nail in the coffin of controls on Iraq came in 1999
when, again as a result of a French initiative, all limits on
Iraqi oil sales were lifted. With no U.N. inspectors to inhibit
him and $20 million a day in oil revenues, Saddam could
build whatever weapons he wanted. Courtesy of France.
The only consistency in French policy toward Iraq since the
Gulf War has been support for Saddam Hussein to weaken
U.N. and U.S. measures against him. To hinge U.S. action
on Iraq on French acceptance is like asking for the
approval of the old Soviet Union before we moved against
Why is France so pro-Saddam? It's the motive (wrongly)
ascribed as behind U.S. enmity toward him: oil. French
commercial deals with Middle East terrorist states
dominate its foreign policy. It was a French company that
risked U.S. sanctions by investing in Iranian oil production
and it is French interests that benefit from the tie with
Eventually, France will cave to the U.S. position: To fail to
do so would be to consign the Security Council, France's
only forum for the exercise of global power, to irrelevance.
Bush's people said as much over the weekend, noting that
a new U.N. resolution approving force was OK with them,
but it's not high on their agenda.
France needs the United Nations to appear to be in charge,
so that the French veto can appear to be important - and
France can appear to still be a world power.
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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, Dick Morris