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Cablegate: Dnsa Abrams' 11/22 Meetings with Senior French Mfa

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

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 PARIS 008072


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/26/2015

Classified By: Political Minister-Counselor Josiah Rosenblatt, reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: November 22 discussions between Deputy
National Security Advisor (DNSA) Elliott Abrams and senior
French officials focused on Syria/Lebanon, Iran, and
Israeli-Palestinian issues, with Morocco, Iraq, and BMENA
discussed in passing. Presidency officials predicted Syrian
non-cooperation with Mehlis, and suggested sanctioning
individuals and possibly Syrian institutions, while ruling
out economic or civair sanctions. French officials were
unenthusiastic about a possible UNSCR on the recent Larsen
report, and suggested a PRST instead, citing Syria/Lebanon
"fatigue" in the UNSC. GoF officials viewed Hizballah's
position as hardening, condemned Hizballah's recent Blue Line
attack, and sought U.S. intervention with Israel to seek
return the bodies of Hizballah fighters, with the French FM
making a parallel approach to FM Shalom. French officials
stressed the need to keep avoiding Lebanese President Lahoud,
while conceding that his removal appeared unlikely in the
near term. On Iran, French MFA Political Director Laboulaye
said an EU-3 meeting with Iran was possible in early
December, with active Russian participation. Laboulaye
stressed that Russia could not just play a mediator and had
to choose sides, and described Beijing as more
forward-leaning than Moscow on UNSC referral. French
officials were largely in listening mode on
Israeli-Palestinian issues, and confirmed GoF plans to
contribute to the EU monitoring mission, while praising the
U.S. role in brokering the Rafah agreement. Presidency
officials shared concerns on potential instability in
Morocco, citing economic/demographic problems, an ascendant
Algeria, and weak leadership by King Mohammed VI. On Iraq,
French officials praised the recent Arab League
reconciliation meeting, and confirmed that Iraqi FM Zebari
would pay a first visit to Paris November 28. Meanwhile, MFA
officials explained lack of French ministerial participation
in the Bahrain Forum for the Future as due to suburban unrest
in France, and repeated familiar concerns on creating new
BMENA institutions and labeling the Foundation and Fund for
the Future as G-8 initiatives. End summary.

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2. (SBU) DNSA for Global Democracy and Deputy Assistant to
the President Elliott Abrams met separately November 22 with
Presidential Advisor for Middle East/Americas Dominique
Boche, MFA Political Director Stanislas de Laboulaye, and had
a working lunch with MFA A/S-equivalent for North
Africa/Middle East Jean-Francois Thibault and other senior
GoF officials. Outgoing MFA A/S-equivalent for IO/UN Affairs
Jean-Maurice Ripert, Thibault, and MFA DAS-equivalent for
Egypt/Levant Herve Besancenot attended the Laboulaye meeting.
The DCM-hosted lunch with Thibault included PM Diplomatic
Advisor Christophe Farnaud, MFA S/P-equivalent Pierre Levy,
and Middle East/UN advisor to FM Douste-Blazy Christophe
Guilhou. Also on November 22, DNSA Abrams had a working
breakfast with French opinion leaders and a media
backgrounder with leading French and Arab journalists, during
which questions focused on U.S. policy on Syria, Egyptian
elections and the U.S. approach to the Muslim Brotherhood,
the U.S. role in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and U.S.
domestic opinion on Iraq.


3. (C) Elysee Middle East advisor Boche was convinced that
Bashar al-Asad would not cooperate with Mehlis. Such
cooperation would call into question regime stability, with
there being no separation line between the Syrian security
services and Bashar's family. At the same time, Boche
predicted the Syrian president would exercise maximum effort
to give the appearance of cooperation, continue to make
unworkable proposals to Mehlis, and seek to mobilize
pro-Syrian elements within Lebanon and Arab world solidarity.
Boche suggested it was likely that Mehlis would come back to
UNSC before his December 15 deadline, and stressed that if
the UNSC did nothing in response to SARG non-cooperation, the
UNSC would lose credibility. He suggested UN sanctions
targeting individuals named as suspects by UNIIC, and going
beyond that to include higher-level officials as well as SARG
institutions, such as the Ba'th party, army or security
services. Boche ruled out economic sanctions, citing
negative impact on the Syrian people, and described civil
aviation sanctions as likely to destabilize Lebanon. Boche
reported the GoF was undecided whether consensus for a second
UNSCR was absolutely necessary. Abrams agreed with Boche
that a follow-up UNSCR to 1636 should go beyond the four or
five individuals to be named by Mehlis, and said we were now
reflecting on what additional targeted sanctions might be
imposed on selected individuals or institutions.

4. (C) In the interim period before the expected December 15
issuance of Mehlis' next report, Abrams proposed a narrow
UNSCR citing conclusions of the Larsen report on UNSCR 1559
implementation, as a way to express support for Larsen's
efforts and maintain pressure on Damascus. Boche suggested
GoF disappointment with the Larsen report and noted there was
not a lot in it to use against Syria, adding that time had
passed since the report's issuance. Boche concluded that any
UNSC reaction to the Larsen report should be modest and not
complicate the UNSC response to the next Mehlis findings,
expressing a preference for a PRST. MFA Political Director
Laboulaye, in later discussion, stressed "Syria/Lebanon
fatigue" in UNSC, the need not to overextend ourselves, and
reiterated the suggestion of a PRST (vice UNSCR) in response
to Larsen report. MFA IO A/S-equivalent Ripert noted that
Larsen had told French officials in New York October 31 that
he did not see need for a UNSCR in response to his report.
Abrams agreed to follow up with Larsen, and offered to send
the French a draft text of a Larsen UNSCR shortly for further
discussion between our delegations in New York. Abrams
conceded that if Mehlis reported back to the Council before
his deadline, we could run out of time for separate UNSC
action on Larsen's report in the interim.

5. (C) French officials agreed with Abrams on the need to
press SYG Annan to offer greater support to Mehlis, and
counter the negative advice of Brahimi and others. Boche
noted Chirac had spoken by phone with Annan on November 19
and stressed the need for Annan to support Mehlis. Boche
opined that Annan did not want to be isolated from his "Arab
electorate," and suggested that Annan's tour of Arab capitals
had made the SYG rethink his view that Arab governments did
not support pressuring Syria. Boche noted that Annan made a
point of complimenting Mehlis during the Chirac conversation.

6. (C) MFA officials and PM Diplomatic Advisor Farnaud, in a
separate working lunch with Abrams, expressed greater caution
on Syria next steps, including on a new UNSCR to respond to
the next Mehlis report. MFA NEA A/S-equivalent Thibault
stressed the difficulty in achieving unanimity on UNSCR 1636,
and expressed uncertainty whether such an outcome could be
repeated, even in the aftermath of a tougher Mehlis report
more directly implicating Syria. Farnaud evoked the
possibility that Asad might hand over Asif Shawkat to UNIIC
investigators -- a prospect ruled out by Elysee Advisor Boche
-- which he said would open the door to a more easily
achievable UNSCR pressing for Syrian cooperation without
punishing the Syrian people. Farnaud also stressed the need
to consider the dynamics within the UNSC as well as regional
stability, namely the positions of Egypt and Saudi Arabia,
before rushing to action on a resolution to follow up on
UNSCR 1636. Abrams reminded Farnaud and others that Saudi
King Abdullah had essentially washed his hands of the SARG
and that Egyptian President Mubarak was not far behind.
Farnaud agreed that Bashar was clearly disliked by the Saudi
and Egyptian leadership, but concluded that both governments'
desire to maintain stability in the region could keep them
from moving "too fast, too far" to avoid excessive pressure
on the SARG.

7. (C) Exchanging views on SARG regime stability, both Abrams
and his GoF interlocutors agreed that there were no signs of
Alawite or Sunni conspiracies against the regime, though no
one could rule out a surprise coup, and that fears of
widespread Muslim Brotherhood (MB) influence in Syria
appeared to be overblown. PM advisor Farnaud concluded that
the MB was probably not a threat to the regime and would not
attempt to overthrow the government, though it would want a
role in a successor government. Asked for clarification on
GoF contact policy with the MB, Farnaud (who served
previously as French DCM in Cairo) admitted that the GoF was
in contact with the MB in Egypt, but said the GoF had no such
contacts with the Syrian MB in exile in Europe.


8. (C) On Lebanon, Boche described Hizballah as becoming more
hard-line and susceptible to Syrian and Iranian pressure. He
concluded that we should avoid provoking a Hizballah crisis
with the GoL. MFA NEA A/S-equivalent Thibault cited GoF
condemnation of Hizballah-instigated Blue Line attack, and
said the French embassy in Washington would make a high-level
approach to ask Secretary Rice to intervene with Israeli FM
Shalom, to urge Israel to return the four bodies of four
Hizballah militants killed November 21. Thibault confirmed
that FM Douste-Blazy would make similar appeal to FM Shalom.

9. (C) Although Boche conceded that we could accomplish
"nothing" with Lahoud in place, he concluded there was little
likelihood he would be removed in the near term. Lahoud's
removal remained a Lebanese decision, and one on which the
Maronite Patriarch must pronounce, though he was not ready to
do so. Boche also cited divisions within the Lebanese
Christian community on a possible replacement, with the
"Qornet Shehwan" faction still humbled by its electoral
defeats, and Aoun remaining unacceptable to Lebanon's
Shi'a/Sunni majority. In the interim, Boche counseled
continued isolation of Lahoud; he noted that French
Ambassador Emie did not attend Lahoud's November 22 national
day reception, while President Chirac sent "the Lebanese
people" a one-line congratulatory letter on the occasion.


10. (C) Political Director Laboulaye described recent London
meetings between the EU-3, U.S., Russia and China as very
constructive. He stressed the EU-3's message to Russia that
it couldn't just play mediator and had to choose sides.
Laboulaye described China as more forward leaning than Russia
on UNSC referral, citing the relative openness of the PRC
representative at the London meetings, in contrast to the
"Soviet style" Russian representative, Kislyak. Laboulaye
described China as more outspoken that the Russians at
London, and more understanding of the need to tell Iran that
the UNSC is an option to be considered, though the time may
not be right now. Laboulaye confirmed that an EU-3 meeting
with Iranians was possible in early December (possible venue
Switzerland); Russia would have to take more active part in
such a meeting and could not be a mere go-between. Laboulaye
described two camps in Tehran: those who want to start
enrichment tomorrow, and those who want to start it slightly
later, giving time to build international, especially NAM,
support. The EU-3 would try to deliver the opposite message
to Tehran, to show that the international community,
especially China and India, were on our side. The main
challenge, in Laboulaye's view, was to avoid losing momentum
from the September 24 IAEA resolution. Laboulaye commented
that India had asked the GoF not to seek an IAEA vote
November 24, citing domestic pressure. He added that
Pakistani officials, during a visit he made to Pakistan last
week, had concluded that Iran will continue to lie about its
nuclear program and go ahead with development, just as
Pakistan had done. Laboulaye expressed great interest in
what President Bush had told PRC leadership on Iran/EU-3
during the his recent visit to Beijing.

11. (C) Presidential Advisor Boche, in more brief remarks on
Iran, stressed the need to be realistic and build consensus
for UNSC referral, which would not coalesce by November 24.
Boche conceded that there was no evidence Iran was willing to
resume talks and described Iranian rejection of the Russian
proposal, contained in a letter from Iran State Security
Advisor Larijani, as profoundly negative. Boche reported
that Presidential Diplomatic Advisor Gourdault-Montagne had
traveled to Moscow the previous week and found the Russians
highly vexed by the Iranian rejection of their proposal. At
the same time, Boche stressed that there was an internal
debate going on in Iran, and advocated letting the Iranian
government fall into isolation so that the more moderate camp
of former officials could improve its standing. DNSA Abrams
stressed the need to avoid actions that in fact encourage
Iran's hard-liners, which was why the U.S. continued to
declare Iran as in violation of its commitments and to call
for UNSC referral. Abrams emphasized the need to consider
how we might influence the ongoing debate in Iran, and at
what point UNSC referral might strengthen internal opponents
of the hard-line Ahmadinejad government. Boche, meanwhile,
stressed the need for unanimity in sending the Iran file to
the UNSC. Abrams also emphasized to his GoF interlocutors
pending Congressional legislation which could tighten
sanctions on Iran and its trading partners, stressing the
need to be able to show tangible results from the EU-3
effort, which were not evident.


12. (C) The GoF side commended the Secretary's role in
brokering the Rafah agreement, and was largely in listening
mode as DNSA Abrams briefed them on the run-up to the
agreement and next steps. Boche praised Secretary Rice's
engagement and suggested that the parties could not proceed
without the U.S. acting as a third party. Abrams concurred
that the Secretary had intervened successfully at the right
moment, but cautioned against expectations that the Secretary
would become the Palestinian "desk officer" or launch shuttle
diplomacy. Abrams emphasized the urgent need for the PA to
commence dismantling militias immediately after January
elections, emphasizing the Palestinian roadmap commitments
and explaining the differences the USG had with Israel on the
issue of Hamas election participation. Boche suggested that
having Hamas in the PLC would open possibility to change the
nature of Hamas, akin to Hizballah's situation in Lebanon.
DNSA Abrams cautioned against any outcome which envisioned
Hamas remaining a permanent, armed terrorist faction within
the Palestinian government, which would jeopardize U.S.
financial support for the PA, as well as prospects for
achieving a Palestinian state within the next few years.
Laboulaye, meanwhile, raised familiar cautions on pressing
Abbas too hard on security, citing the weakness of the PA
President and the need for Israelis to stop targeted
killings. Abrams emphasized Washington fatigue with
Palestinian excuses for inaction, and stressed that January
elections could bring a reinvigorated PA and new cabinet and
PM, which, combined with successful implementation of the
Rafah agreement, could result in a new, virtuous cycle.
Abrams also cited the imminent arrival of General Dalton to
replace General Ward in the Palestinian security assistance
mission; the French side expressed interest in meeting Dalton
if he stopped in Europe en route to the region. Laboulaye
and other MFA officials stressed the GoF's willingness to
contribute to the EU monitoring at Rafah, which should be in
place by November 25. NEA A/S-equivalent Thibault conceded
that the GoF had encountered difficulty in securing
participation from the French Interior Ministry, which
remained focused on restoring order domestically following
widespread suburban unrest.


13. (C) In response to a query from DNSA Abrams, Boche
confirmed that the GoF had serious concerns on Morocco's
long-term stability, due more to economic than political
reasons. Boche cited Morocco's bad harvest this year, high
oil prices, its youth bulge, and lack of job creation as
factors stretching the GOM's already overextended budget.
Meanwhile, Boche described King Mohammed VI as intelligent,
but surrounded by bad advisors and former schoolmates, who
were "prevaricators of the first order." Boche also
questioned King Mohammed's timidity on the international
scene, noting he had lost the international diplomatic
credibility built up by his father, such as the Al-Quds
committee role, didn't travel to international meetings, and
was the only regional head of state to miss the Mediterranean
Forum. Meanwhile, Boche described Algeria as increasing its
economic means via rising oil prices, which changed the
regional equilibrium and put Morocco on defensive on Western
Sahara. Asked to what degree President Chirac could
intervene with the King, Boche conceded that Chirac retained
a "paternal" role with King Mohammed and even intervened in
family matters. Boche reported that the GoF was trying to
encourage the King to improve relations with Algeria as a
precondition of progress on the Western Sahara; the GoF had
also sought, unsuccessfully, to encourage Morocco to put
forward a new autonomy proposal on Western Sahara which could
divide the Polisario refugees from the Algerian government,
as the interests of the two did not overlap. Thus far, Boche
concluded, the Moroccan government had been too timid and
uninventive about the Western Sahara issue, and the GoF was
not "reassured."


14. (C) In passing, Laboulaye praised the recent Arab
League-sponsored Iraq reconciliation meeting as a "ray of
hope, at last" in Iraq. He also commended Arab League
Secretary General Amr Moussa's visit to Iraq for its symbolic
value and positive impact on Iraqi Sunni engagement in the
political process -- which Laboulaye quipped was perhaps the
first example of the Arab League being useful. Thibault,
meanwhile, confirmed Iraqi FM Zebari would visit Paris on
November 28, his first visit to France as FM. Thibault noted
that Zebari would be Paris after attending the Barcelona
Summit, a UK-issued invitation which privately infuriated the
GoF. Abrams, meanwhile, described the Arab League initiative
as generally positive and indicative of a shift in Arab
views. Arab governments were now convinced they should reach
out to Iraq and encourage Sunnis to engage, having realized
that U.S. failure in Iraq or increased Iranian influence in
Iraq were not in their interest.


15. (C) DNSA Abrams described the Manama Forum for the Future
as resounding success, citing creation of the Foundation and
Fund for the Future and the dramatic increase in Arab
government participation since Sea Island. Thibault
expressed regret that no GoF minister had attended the Forum
in the end, and noted that the French education minister had
to cancel his planned participation at the last minute due to
ongoing suburban unrest. As a result, the GoF delegation at
the Forum consisted of working-level MFA officials, led by
the French Ambassador to Bahrain. Thibault reiterated GoF
support for BMENA, but raised familiar cautions on creating
new institutions or the labeling Foundation and Fund as G-8

16. (U) This message was cleared by DNSA Abrams.

Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: fm


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