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Cablegate: Weekly Media Wrap-Up: Tripartite Summit On the Middle

VZCZCXRO6566
RR RUEHIK RUEHYG
DE RUEHFR #0702/01 0541829
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231829Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5127
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEHMRE/AMCONSUL MARSEILLE 1556
RUEHSR/AMCONSUL STRASBOURG 0337

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 000702

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/PPD, EUR/WE, INR, R

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC PREL KPAO FR
SUBJECT: WEEKLY MEDIA WRAP-UP: TRIPARTITE SUMMIT ON THE MIDDLE
EAST; BRITISH WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAQ; IRAN; AIRBUS WOES. FEBRUARY 16,


PARIS 00000702 001.2 OF 003

2007.

Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) The leading international story was the tripartite meeting
in Jerusalem between Condoleezza Rice, Mahmoud Abbas and Ehoud
Olmert. Media called it a "summit for nothing," achieving only the
goal of agreeing to meet again. The announcement from London of the
upcoming British troop withdrawal from Iraq prompted commentary
throughout the week. Editorials and reports suggested that the
announcement is the only way for PM Blair to "halt the drop in his
approval ratings" and that the "decision isolates George Bush even
further and makes the road ahead even more arduous." With the
impending release of the International Atomic Energy Agency report
expected to stipulate that Iran has expanded uranium enrichment
efforts instead of meeting international demands to halt those
efforts, commentaries theorized about the possibility of an American
military intervention in Iran. Restructuring at Airbus elicited
laments from dailies over fate of the "one of the truly European
company." Airbus's plans to cut 10,000 jobs and the pending layoffs
are expected to be at the top the agenda during a meeting between
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Jacques Chirac
on Friday. End Summary.

------------------------------------
TRIPARTITE SUMMIT ON THE MIDDLE EAST
------------------------------------

2. (SBU) On February 20, left-of-center Le Monde reported the
Israeli media's characterization of the meeting as the "Blah blah
Summit, the Summit of Despair or the Summit for nothing." The daily
noted that there "was not even a press conference organized at the
close of the meeting... What Secretary Rice had called in January a
meeting designed to open the political horizon between the Israelis
and Palestinians" was aborted. For Catholic La Croix on February
20, "the expectations for yesterday's meeting in Jerusalem were so
low that no one was disappointed by the outcome."

3. (SBU) Bernard Guetta on state-run France Inter radio on February
20 discussed what he called the "American intransigence." Guetta
told listeners that the only thing to come out of the summit was the
promise to meet again. Nonetheless, "in spite of the fact that
Hamas is moving in the right direction, Americans continue to refuse
to acknowledge this evolution and Europe is incapable of urging it
to."

----------------------------
BRITISH WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAQ
----------------------------

4. (SBU) On February 21, broadcast media widely reported the UK's
intention to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq. State-run France 2
television's morning news report noted that "this is a maneuver for
Tony Blair to halt his drop in approval ratings." In his February
21 broadcast, state-run France Inter radio commentator Bernard
Guetta praised President Chirac for his decision not to involve
France in the intervention in Iraq. "He had a premonition about the
consequences of the intervention, that it would tear the country
apart, foster terrorism, give Iran more power and generally upset
the region... He had the courage... to try to mobilize the world
around a refusal to take part in the Iraqi intervention and it is in
large part thanks to him that this war did not turn into a clash
between Christianity and Islam."

5. (SBU) In the February 22 edition of right-of-center Le Figaro,
Pierre Rousselin's editorial, entitled "A Very Political
Withdrawal," observed that "Tony Blair, armed with good intentions
and a messianic vision like George W. Bush, wanted to convert Iraq
and the Middle East to western-style democracy. Four years later,
Blair is pulling out of a country that is in the throes of civil
war, where the reconstruction effort has never gotten off the ground
and where Iran will obviously take advantage of the vacuum left
behind by the British troops. George W. Bush, no doubt, tried his
best to delay a British troop withdrawal while trying to convince a
hostile Congress to approve a troop surge in Iraq. Tony Blair's
decision isolates George Bush even further and makes the road ahead
even more arduous."

6. (SBU) Left-wing Liberation's report on February 22 suggested that
"On the international scene, the UK's image has been damaged...
While in the U.S. Tony Blair looks like a hero, leading a country
that is perceived to be a trustworthy ally, in his own country as
well as in France, Germany and Russia, Blair is seen as the American
President's lap dog... Will Blair be forever stigmatized by the

PARIS 00000702 002.2 OF 003

2007.

Iraqi crisis? Probably; and his role in transforming the Labour
Party or improving the economic situation in the UK will be
minimized."

7. (SBU) In Catholic La Croix on February 22, Francois Ernewein
opined that "The real reason for the withdrawal of British troops
from Iraq lies not in Iraq but in the UK. Ceaselessly torn between
Europe and the other side of the Atlantic, [Tony Blair] made the
choice in 2003 to go into Iraq in spite of international law,
relaying the [U.S.'s] lies as to the imminent threat posed by Iraq,
and in contradiction with the majority of British public opinion.
Four years later the situation in Iraq is such that even greater
mobilization in terms of troops and materiel is necessary. Instead
it is the contrary that Tony Blair has just announced... The
downsizing of the coalition is a green light for disaster... But to
be an ally of the U.S., to share the same values, to stand together
with this great democracy, to hate terrorism does not mean that
every action should be approved... This is what the British PM is
beginning to understand."

-----------------------------------------
IRAN -- POSSIBLE U.S. MILITARY OFFENSIVE?
-----------------------------------------

8. (SBU) According to right-of-center Le Figaro on February 21, "The
Gulf countries are torn between the temptation to see an
intervention in Iran in a positive light, and concern that it would
destabilize the entire region... Defense Secretary Robert Gates
confirmed that all of the deployment in the Gulf is indeed directed
at Iran. Not necessarily for imminent military action, but to
elicit respect throughout the negotiations."

9. (SBU) On February 22, senior foreign affairs editorialist for
right-of-center Le Figaro Renaud Girard explained that "The U.S.
cannot launch a military offensive against Iran." Girard argued
that "too many obstacles make a military intervention improbable.
These obstacles are as much technical as they are political and
diplomatic... In Washington, with the hindsight of Iraq, it is
impossible to predict with any precision what a military strike in
Iran set off in the region... The UNSC would never approve such a
strike. Russia would surely veto... Therefore the deployment of
aircraft carriers to the Gulf should be interpreted as
gesticulation... It is the stick that is being waved in the hopes
that the adversary will go for a reasonable carrot."

10. (SBU) On February 21, state-run France Inter radio's Dominique
Bromberger told listeners that "nothing seems to be able to prevent
an Iranian-American confrontation anymore. Technically it could
take place at any moment, but it appears as though the American
President has not yet made that decision... But little by little,
the measures against Iran that have already been implemented,
compounded with the Iranian president's incompetence are slowly
beginning to produce a reaction. Iranian public opinion is
discontent... So it seems possible that if the powers involved in
the negotiations could tighten the screws another turn on the
Iranian regime, it could obtain results."

-----------
AIRBUS WOES
-----------

11. (SBU) The editorial in right-of-center Le Figaro by Gaetan de
Capele on February 20 claimed that there is "no doubt about it, the
new crisis at Airbus... is extremely serious. Beyond the umpteenth
conflict between the European partners who are paralyzed by economic
patriotism... It is the future of the one of the truly European
companies that is at stake." Also on February 20, Catholic La Croix
noted that "Airbus' turbulence has been salutary for Boeing."

12. (SBU) For centrist business daily La Tribune on February 20, the
crisis at Airbus mostly pointed to the "weaknesses of the French
side" of the company. The editorial by Francois-Xavier Pietri
entitled "Power Flop" laments how "poorly Europe is doing, not just
politically but in business circles as well... The Airbus issue is
turning into a fiasco, at least when looked at from the
Franco-German angle... In the past, Bercy and Matignon have been
much more involved in Airbus' fate... This is because the interests
of the presidential election, only two months away, do not
necessarily coincide with those of the long term prospects of was
once the pride of European industry."

13. (SBU) Left-of-center Le Monde's unsigned editorial on February
21 said that the "Crisis at Airbus is taking a turn for the worse --
it is becoming nationalistic... And yet Airbus is a good company.
The technology is good, its commercial organizational set-up is
good, and its planes are good, in particular the A380. Europe does

PARIS 00000702 003.2 OF 003

2007.

not have that many commercial successes under its belt that it can
afford to leave Airbus in the dust faced with Boeing... Airbus's
problem has to do with costs. The 'Power 8' plan is painful, with
some 10,000 layoffs planned, but it is necessary... If the company
wants to continue to play in the same category as Boeing, it will
have to change its industrial and capitalistic model. It will have
to give up the two-way Franco-German command which has demonstrated
the extent to which it is paralyzing." On February 21, PM Villepin
confirmed on RTL radio the "Power 8" plan for Airbus including some
10,000 layoffs.
STAPLETON

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