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Cablegate: Weekly Media Wrap-Up: Missile Defense; Iraq--Four Year

VZCZCXRO3935
RR RUEHIK RUEHYG
DE RUEHFR #1146/01 0821412
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231412Z MAR 07 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5903
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEHMRE/AMCONSUL MARSEILLE 1607
RUEHSR/AMCONSUL STRASBOURG 0369

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 001146

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: MISSILE DEFENSE; IRAQ--FOUR YEAR
ANNIVERSARY; PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN; LE MONDE COVERAGE OF SARKOZY.
MARCH 23, 2007.


PARIS 00001146 001.2 OF 002


Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

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

1. (SBU) Most media outlets portrayed the issue of U.S. missile
defense installations in the Czech Republic and Poland as splitting
Europe on its 50th anniversary. The four year anniversary of the
beginning of the war in Iraq was also cause for reflection on the
status of the conflict and the U.S. troop surge strategy. The
presidential campaign and President Chirac's official announcement
of support for UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy dominated domestic
election news. End Summary.

--------------------------------
MISSILE DEFENSE AND "NEW EUROPE"
--------------------------------

2. (SBU) In the weekend edition of right-of-center Le Figaro (March
17-18) Isabelle Lasserre wrote that "Washington defends its
anti-missile shield." Lasserre's report, based on DOD U/S Edelman
and LTG Obering's March 16 Paris press briefing, highlighted Obering
and Edelman's assurances that the American plan for a missile shield
"will not spark a new arms race." An Agence France Presse wire
story on March 16 emphasized "Mr. Edelman's praise for the quality
of his meetings with the French Ministers for Foreign Affairs and
Defense." Left-of-center Le Monde's weekend front-page story, based
on its interview with Edelman, further highlighted the missile
shield issue, but focused on the transparency of the U.S.
consultations.

3. (SBU) Right-of-center Le Figaro (March 21) featured a series of
articles on missile defense, underscoring that the issue is dividing
"Merkel's Coalition." "The American project reenergizes divisions
between old and new Europeans... France is less concerned than
Germany about Russia's mood swings, but nonetheless refers to the
missile defense plans as a "unilateral American initiative." Le
Figaro went on to argue that former communist countries had
supported the U.S. in 2003, in the face of Franco-German-Russian
resistance to the 2003 Iraq invasion. According to right-of-center
Le Figaro, a recent poll in Polish Rzeczpospolita shows that 51
percent of Poles are opposed to the installation of the interceptors
in Poland.

4. (SBU) The editorial in weekly news magazine l'Express (March 22)
by Christian Makarian insists that it is "time to stop commemorating
treaties and... move forward... The problem of unity of the
twenty-seven is... visible today with the issue of the American
missile defense shield... With a budget of 154 billion euros for
defense spending, that is to say the second largest budget on the
planet, the EU cannot reach operational unity. Yet the state of the
world is such that a demand for an involved Europe is greater than
ever."

-----------------------------
IRAQ - FOUR YEAR ANNIVERSARY
-----------------------------

5. (SBU) The editorial by Dominique Jamet in popular France Soir
(March 19) comments that "The cost of this war in terms of morale is
high... There is the original sin of lies to justify going into
war... and there is the evidence, stronger everyday that the Iraqi
people are, as they were once already, victims. First of
dictatorship, now of a war... A war without an end... But today
what is the most disturbing to Americans is that their president
intends to send even more troops... to a place where their presence
is unjustified."

6. (SBU) Right-of-center Le Figaro carried a prominently featured
article (March 20) entitled "Four Years Later, the 'Liberators' are
Trapped in Iraq." The daily suggested that Iraq is in the grips of
civil war and cited civilian and coalition casualty figures to make
the case that the current "surge" is sparking a "battle that is not
a classical military campaign, but a struggle to stop the murders
and the division of the city." Right-of-center Le Figaro's
editorial, "Iraq, One War too Many," made a bleak assessment of the
situation noting that "America's friends, among whom we count
ourselves, do not have an easy task [these days]."

7. (SBU) Left-of-center Le Monde carried a series of articles on the
occasion of the fourth anniversary of the invasion, citing
Republican "regrouping" around the President's strategy... with
"figures believed to be gone from the political scene, such as
Richard Perle, one of the principal architects of the war, or the
former Texas Representative indicted for corruption, Tom Delay."

PARIS 00001146 002.2 OF 002


Business daily Les Echos mentioned "the patina of reconstruction
four years after the American invasion," noting that the immediate
relief of the Iraqis following the downfall of Hussein's
particularly bloody regime has been replaced by a "profound
pessimism."

8. (SBU) Right-of-center Le Figaro (March 21) included an article on
continuing violence in the capital following the hanging of former
Iraqi vice president Ramadan. Le Figaro also carried an analysis by
journalist Adrien Jaulmes on "The United States' Mission Impossible:
To Win the Four Wars of Iraq." According to Jaulmes, "the U.S. is
starting to realize that the crisis in Iraq is no longer a simple
confrontation between U.S. forces and Sunni insurgents, too
simplistically labeled as terrorists... U.S. efforts to curb the
Sunni insurrection against the new Shiite institutions feed the
religious war, as well as the Al Qaida war, without achieving more
than tactical and temporary success. Washington's attempts to
include neighbor countries such as Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia in a
negotiated settlement, risk having no influence at all on the Sunni
insurrection and the religious war... A U.S. disengagement from
Iraq, as recommended now by a majority of the U.S. Congress, would
do nothing to calm down the Sunni insurgents, but this withdrawal
would be welcomed by Al Qaida as a resounding victory."

-------------------------
CHIRAC "ANOINTS" SARKOZY
-------------------------

9. (SBU) Right-of-center Le Figaro (March 22) devoted a full page to
President Chirac's "natural support" for and "anointment" of UMP
candidate Sarkozy. "The Elysee opted for a formal and traditional
method for the president to make his support public... The
intervention was taped as opposed to live and as it was not in the
form of an interview was able to sidestep embarrassing questions
such as Sarkozy's desire to create an immigration ministry." The
editorial in right-of-center Le Figaro (March 22) by Alexis Brezet
suggested that "of course Chirac's resentment towards Sarkozy did
not magically disappear... The fact is that Sarkozy, who for a long
time was a symbol of contradiction, has succeeded in rallying his
camp behind him. Meanwhile the Socialist candidate continues her
shilly-shallying with the Party's 'elephants.'"

--------------------------------------------- ----
LEFT-OF-CENTER LE MONDE/RIGHT-OF-CENTER CANDIDATE
--------------------------------------------- ----

10. (SBU) Left-of-center Le Monde's marked lack of criticism of
right-of-center presidential candidate continues as the election
draws nearer. Le Monde's major shareholder, businessman Arnaud
Largardere, is a close friend of Sarkozy. Largardere made headlines
last year when he removed Alain Genestar from his position as editor
of glossy weekly magazine Paris Match following Lagardere's decision
to run photos of Sarkozy's (now reconciled) wife with her
then-boyfriend in New York. Right-of-center Le Figaro's clearly
pro-Sarkozy editorial line contrasts sharply with left-wing
Liberation's pro-Royal bent, with left-of-center Le Monde leaning
more toward Sarkozy than might otherwise be expected, and leaving
readers of the major dailies unlikely to encounter stories or
editorials that might differ from their already established
political inclinations.
STAPLETON

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