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Cablegate: Media Reaction Report - Iran Nuclear Threat Katrina

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 006471

SIPDIS


DEPT FOR INR/R/MR; IIP/RW; IIP/RNY; BBG/VOA; IIP/WEU; AF/PA;
EUR/WE /P/SP; D/C (MCCOO); EUR/PA; INR/P; INR/EUC; PM; OSC ISA
FOR ILN; NEA; WHITE HOUSE FOR NSC/WEUROPE; DOC FOR ITA/EUR/FR
AND PASS USTR/PA; USINCEUR FOR PAO; NATO/PA; MOSCOW/PA;
ROME/PA; USVIENNA FOR USDEL OSCE.

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR FR
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION REPORT - Iran Nuclear Threat Katrina
and Iraq - Impact on Bush Presidency Iraq - Basra Incident
PARIS - Thursday, September 22, 2005

(A) SUBJECTS COVERED IN TODAY'S REPORT:

1. Iran Nuclear Threat
2. Katrina and Iraq - Impact on Bush Presidency
3. Iraq - Basra Incident

B) SUMMARY OF COVERAGE:

Two of today's front pages (Le Figaro and France Soir) are
devoted to Hurricane Rita and the state of alert declared in
the Gulf of Mexico. Inside, related stories report on the grim
consequences for oil production and on the evacuation of
coastal regions. One story in Le Figaro by Arnaud de La Grange
notes the "Franco-American cooperation" between French and
American divers in Louisiana after Katrina: "There was no
problem of adaptation between the teams. thanks to previous
interaction within NATO. And the French were cordially
received by the Americans, `who assigned us our first missions
immediately after our arrival.' Beyond the technical
assistance, the military aid accepted by Washington stands as
a symbol which reflects what General Bentegeat said: ` French
and American relations are back to their normal cruising speed
of before the Iraqi crisis.'"

Thierry de Monbrial of IFRI analyzes the impact of Katrina in
a front-page column in Le Monde, titled "The Lessons of
Katrina." Weekly Le Nouvel Observateur devotes its editorial
to President Bush and the effects that Colin Powell's recent
declarations about Iraq may have on his popularity. Iraq and
the situation in Basra are analyzed in Liberation. Le Monde
devotes its editorial to the Iranian nuclear crisis. (See Part
C)

(C) SUPPORTING TEXT/BLOCK QUOTES:

Iran Nuclear Threat

"Iranian Escalation"
Left-of-center Le Monde in its unsigned editorial (09/22):
"The Iranian nuclear crisis is turning into something serious
and it is tempting to establish a comparison with the crisis
which preceded the war in Iraq. At first glance, the same
causes could produce the same effects. Exasperated by what
they consider to be fruitless negotiations, the Iranians have
unilaterally reverted to uranium conversion. The Americans and
the Europeans feel they have no other choice but to put the
issue in the hands of the UNSC. But nothing indicates that a
consensus could be reached: Teheran has the support of Russia
and China who have a right of veto. Herein lies the danger. If
the Iranian crisis causes a stalemate at the UN, the U.S.
could decide to annihilate Iran's nuclear program with
military strikes. At this stage such a scenario is improbable.
President Bush must still have in mind the Iraqi precedent.
First, because the `proof' about the WMD turned out to be
false. Second because the U.S. President would probably lack
the support of his people to launch a new military adventure.
But the President's popularity is at its lowest, which could
lead him to do something drastic. The Europeans meanwhile
should not be fooled by Tehran's denials, nor ignore the
Iranian arguments: uranium enrichment is not prohibited by the
NPT. And it is not false to say that in closing its eyes to
Israel, India and Pakistan's nuclear programs, America is
indeed practicing a policy of double standards. A firm warning
from the UN is desirable in order to show Iran that the
international community will not tolerate an atomic bomb built
by the mullahs. But the Europeans must also remain wary of war
mongers."

Katrina and Iraq - Impact on Bush Presidency

"Bush: The Real Trial"
Jean Daniel in left-of-center weekly Le Nouvel Observateur
(09/22): "The real historic trial of President Bush has just
started with Colin Powell's testimonial on ABC. where the
former Secretary of State calmly acknowledged that the
information he was given on WMD was false. He also criticized
the peace operations in Iraq that immediately followed the
military successes. And he is doing it in exactly the same way
as foreign commentators who at the time were accused of anti-
Americanism. Powell's implacable self-criticism justifies
retroactively the firm approach adopted by the then FM,
Villepin. I contend that if Katrina had not unleashed such bad
press for the President, Barbara Walters would not have asked
Powell to talk. Hurricane Katrina has in fact liberated the
American media and it is no coincidence if since the tragedy,
the conservative U.S. press is calling for a pullout from
Iraq. Americans accepted with surprising resignation their
President's lies about WMD. But Americans do not like to be
lied to. If Iraq had turned into a military success, they
might have forgotten. Under the present circumstances,
President Bush's historic trial has begun. The American people
will not forgive itself its own leniency."

"The Lessons of Katrina"
Thierry de Montbrial in left-of-center Le Monde (09/22): "With
Katrina, it is the world's number one power that was hit, not
a third world country. And the U.S. found itself as unprepared
as Thailand after the Tsunami. The first lesson to be learned
is that, faced with a brutal emergency situation, the ability
to respond is commensurate with the level of preparation. This
is true of natural disasters, but it is also true of wars.
Another lesson is that nature will continue to cause ravages
and some will be due to human activity. While Katrina was
probably not in that category, it should serve as a warning,
especially for countries like the U.S. and China which tend to
treat climate changes with contempt. Globalization triggers
global problems and requires global solutions. Since the U.S.
holds a leadership position. it is its responsibility to
exercise its leadership in this area. In the short term, one
of the lessons from Katrina is that it will put President Bush
in a difficult position during his second term. Americans are
finding that not only are their boys in Iraq for unclear and
unrealistic reasons, but even worse, that the mobilization for
Iraq has seriously compromised domestic security.
Consequently, the pressure to bring back the troops from Iraq
can be expected to intensify."

Iraq - Basra Incident

"Blair Is in Denial"
Armelle Thorval in left-of-center Liberation (09/21): "The
British government refuses to acknowledge that the situation
in Iraq is getting worse, and not only in Baghdad but also in
the South. For Blair, the riot in Basra is an `incident' which
does not reflect the real situation. This attitude of denial,
this exercise which is aimed at proving to the British people
that the British are in Iraq for a good cause, is beginning to
be a source of national irritation. In reality, the Basra riot
is making British `propaganda' difficult. For the British
government, the Basra region has symbolized a zone of relative
calm proving the political effectiveness of the British in
rebuilding an independent Iraqi police force." STAPLETON

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