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Cablegate: Weekly Media Wrap-Up: Iran -- American Intervention?;

VZCZCXRO3573
RR RUEHIK RUEHYG
DE RUEHFR #0807/01 0611258
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 021258Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5291
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEHMRE/AMCONSUL MARSEILLE 1563
RUEHSR/AMCONSUL STRASBOURG 0342

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 000807

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: IRAN -- AMERICAN INTERVENTION?;
BAGHDAD CONFERENCE; SARKOZY'S FOREIGN POLICY PRESS CONFERENCE;
AIRBUS RESTRUCTURING. MARCH 2, 2007.


PARIS 00000807 001.2 OF 003


Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

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

1. (SBU) Iran and Iraq dominated French media coverage, with
editorialists playing up stories about the possibilities of an
eventual American intervention in Iran (although all coming to the
conclusion that intervention was unlikely for the moment).
Journalists also emphasized what they termed a "shift" in U.S.
policy in regard to Syrian and Iranian participation in the upcoming
Baghdad Conference. French presidential campaign news emphasized
the perceived need for center-right candidate Nicolas Sarkozy to
distance himself from U.S. policy. Airbus job cuts dominated the
economic news, even in a week with a major stock market correction.
End Summary.

---------------------------------------
IRAN: POSSIBLE "AMERICAN INTERVENTION"
---------------------------------------

2. (SBU) The weekend edition of right-of-center Le Figaro (February
25) suggested that "Washington seems to be hedging its bets,
announcing the recent deployment of an aircraft carrier to the Gulf
while saying it has no bellicose intentions... In spite of this,
Washington appears to remain committed to finding a diplomatic
solution to the crisis."

3. (SBU) Bruno Tertrais, researcher at the Foundation for Strategic
studies in Paris gave an interview to the weekly Sunday newspaper Le
Journal du Dimanche (February 25) in which he insisted that "Tehran
is far from having halted or slowed its nuclear program... It could
have the bomb by the end of 2008." Asked about the possibility of a
military intervention, Tertrais cautioned, "For now it is just a
rumor... But if there were to be an intervention, it would not take
place before the Iranian nuclear program was more advanced and
American redeployment has begun."

4. (SBU) On February 26, left-of-center Le Monde reported that "no
one in Iran talks publicly about the possibility of an American
intervention... but in private Iranians are asking themselves the
question... [For Iranians] to criticize the way the nuclear issue
is being handled by the Iranian authorities is risky."

5. (SBU) In the free morning paper Matin Plus (February 27), Claire
Trean charged that "like the Iranians, the American president is
blowing hot and cold and letting doubt set in as to his real
intentions... For the time being, President Bush is trying to look
menacing. The U.S. has sent a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf
and its British ally has doubled its troops in the region. As for
Israel, it is simply waiting for a green light to bomb Iranian
nuclear installations."

6. (SBU) Catholic La Croix's Jean-Christophe Ploquin wrote (February
27) that "While the military option is under discussion, Washington
is continuing its diplomatic ballet with the aim to push forward a
resolution at the UNSC for sanctions against Iran... A meeting in
London yesterday... did not lead to any significant breakthrough on
the issue."

7. (SBU) Left-of-center Le Monde reported (February 27) the
launching of a rocket into space by Tehran "as the next phase in the
Iranian program to place satellites" and on state-run France Inter
radio, Dominique Bromberger wondered if the "Iranian government
really had to proceed with this launch just when the issue of the
nuclear program is being debated at the UNSC?"

8. (SBU) On February 28, free morning newspaper Matin Plus noted
that "in between the U.S.'s coercive stance and Russia and China's
more lenient one, France seems to have a hard time finding its place
and making its voice heard. Rumors of parallel negotiations between
France and Iran have not contributed to clarifying the situation."

------------------
BAGHDAD CONFERENCE
------------------

9. (SBU) On February 28, right-of-center Le Figaro noted that the
government in Baghdad had "called for an international conference on
security to be held in Baghdad. The conference would bring together
the five permanent members of the UNSC as well as Iraq's neighbors,
Syria and Iran. The U.S. has confirmed that it would participate in
such a meeting..."

10. (SBU) March 1, left-of-center Le Monde reported that "the

PARIS 00000807 002.2 OF 003


Baghdad conference aims at discussing means to ensure political
stability in Iraq, [and] is also an open door for Washington to be
able to talk to Syria and Iran..." On March 1, a small piece in
right-of-center Le Figaro noted that while France has confirmed its
participation in an international conference in Baghdad at the
ambassadorial level, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not given a
definite answer regarding a second conference in a neighboring
country to Iraq at the ministerial level.

11. (SBU) On March 1, right-of-center Le Figaro's Washington
correspondent Philippe Gelie wrote that "180-degree turns are a
rarity under the presidency of George W. Bush... But by announcing
that the U.S. is ready to sit at the same table as Iran, American
diplomacy is evidently making a radical shift after weeks of verbal
and military escalation. But the emphasis on a 'new diplomatic
offensive' is in fact part of a global strategy as opposed to a
break from it... The last time that a meeting at the ministerial
meeting took place was in 2004 in Sharm el Sheikh and the context
was different because Tehran was not enriching uranium or on the hot
seat for fueling the insurgency in Iraq. Damascus was not being
accused of political assassinations in Lebanon... Condoleezza Rice
almost made an act of contrition before the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, saying that the decision to take part in the conference
is in keeping with the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton
Report... The aim is clearly to butter up Congress... before it
decides on increasing the war budget by 100 billion dollars... What
has changed from the point of view of the White House... is that the
U.S. believes that it has sufficiently weakened president
Ahmadinejad to be able to speak with Iran from a position of force."


12. (SBU) Bernard Guetta (March 1) commented on state-run France
Inter radio that the "U.S. is getting down to business." "It took
less than three months for the resounding 'no' to the
recommendations of the Barker-Hamilton Report to turn into a 'yes.'
Slowly, and with small steps, the U.S. is opening to Iran... The
Baghdad Conference, called for by Iraq (which is to say the White
House) will draw a crowd... All eyes will be on Washington and
Tehran... Why did the White House start out by saying no? The
first explanation may be that no government likes to admit that it
has adopted the wrong policy... especially in the case of George
Bush, who suffered a defeat during the mid-term elections. But the
other explanation may be that the U.S. wanted to give itself time to
go into the discussions from a position of strength... While chaos
continues to reign in Iraq, politically speaking the U.S. position
is a bit better than in December. Now it is time to get down to
business."

13. (SBU) Jean-Christophe Ploquin's editorial (March 1) in Catholic
La Croix entitled "Dialogue and Threat" characterized the U.S.
decision to take part in the Baghdad Conference as "better late than
never." Ploquin wrote that "for the past three years, France has
been suggesting that an international conference on Iraq be
organized... the call for a conference in Baghdad is a sign that
diplomatic skill is back in Washington... The Bush Administration
has taken the reins once again... While it is flexing its muscles,
it is also avoiding the temptation to go it alone... In this
context it is impossible to say if George W. Bush could launch an
offensive on Iran. The answer to the question lies in Tehran.
Isolated diplomatically, strangled economically, threatened
militarily, little by little Iran's options are dwindling."

----------------------------------------
SARKOZY DISTANCING HIMSELF FROM THE U.S.
----------------------------------------

14. (SBU) On March 1, right-of-center Le Figaro said that "yesterday
Nicolas Sarkozy presented his vision of the world." Addressing the
foreign press corps based in Paris, UMP presidential candidate
Sarkozy insisted that the war in Iraq was a mistake from the
beginning, "but demonstrated like-mindedness with Washington on the
issue of nuclear proliferation: 'the idea of Iran having nuclear
weapons is unacceptable. It would open the door to an arms race and
it would be a constant threat for Israel and southeastern Europe. I
believe that there should be no hesitations to toughen sanctions
because I think that they can be effective.'" On the subject of
integrating Turkey to the EU, Sarkozy's stance was portrayed as
opposed to that of the U.S.: "'George Bush is very keen to see
Turkey integrated in Europe, for me the answer is no! Turkey is not
a European country.'" Sarkozy also emphasized that "'Our American
friends...' should leave France and Europe 'free' because
'friendship is not submission.'"

15. (SBU) Left-wing Liberation wrote March 1 that "Sarkozy has put
some water in his American wine... 'The Franco-American friendship
is necessary for the balance of the world... it is profound, sincere

PARIS 00000807 003.2 OF 003


and indissoluble.' Sarkozy had said in Washington that France is
not 'above reproach' in its relationship with the U.S.... Yesterday
Sarkozy qualified the military intervention in Iraq as an
'historical mistake...' and warned against NATO 'evolving, as the
Americans would like, to become a competing organization to the
UN...'"

--------------------
AIRBUS RESTRUCTURING
--------------------

16. (SBU) On February 26, left-of-center Le Monde noted that during
the "informal meeting in Blaesheim... President Chirac and
Chancellor Merkel put the accent on their common interest in lifting
Airbus out of its current crisis." For right-of-center Le Figaro
Economie, "Calming things down was obviously the principal objective
of the Chirac Merkel meeting."

17. (SBU) Right-of-center Le Figaro Economie (February 28) outlined
the key points of the "Power 8" plan. In France, two factories
would be expected to be sold. The daily underscored that the "hour
of truth has come for Airbus and its 57,000 employees." The
February 28 editorial in economic daily Les Echos called the Airbus
crisis a "permanent psychodrama... Even if it is well implemented,
the Power 8 plan will not solve all of the problems at Airbus if the
company cannot protect itself from the nationalistic tendencies of
its shareholders... The company today needs investors who are
committed to seeing it succeed... This is the only way that EADS
will be able to break through on the American military market."

18. (SBU) On March 1, left-of-center Le Monde's headline story said
that "France has been the hardest hit with 4300 jobs cut, 1100 of
which are at the headquarters in Toulouse... Airbus is considering
subcontracting more, like Boeing does... 70 percent of the Boeing
787 Dreamliner is subcontracted out. Airbus would like to increase
the subcontracting on the A350 from 30 percent to 50 percent."

19. (SBU) Left-wing Liberations' editorial by Gerard Dupuy on March
1 noted that "Airbus will not be able to survive if it does not
adapt to the cruel rules of business... This means 10,000 job
cuts... Arch-rival Boeing was for a time thrown off course by its
European competitor and decided on a vast overhaul that is beginning
to bear fruit. Turning to subcontractors means having
subcontractors that are capable of doing the job. The Americans
have this; the Europeans have yet to find it."
WHITE

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