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Cablegate: Media Wrap-Up: Suburban Unrest; Iran's Reach Into Shiite

VZCZCXRO2630
RR RUEHIK RUEHYG
DE RUEHFR #7090/01 3001617
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271617Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2638
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEHMRE/AMCONSUL MARSEILLE 1387
RUEHSR/AMCONSUL STRASBOURG 0219

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 007090

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/PPD, EUR/WE, INR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KPAO OPRC FR
SUBJECT: MEDIA WRAP-UP: SUBURBAN UNREST; IRAN'S REACH INTO SHIITE
MOVEMENTS; IRAQ AND U.S. MID-TERM ELECTIONS. OCTOBER 27, 2006

PARIS 00007090 001.2 OF 002


Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

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SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) A number of media outlets commented on recent vandalism and
violence in the Paris suburbs in conjunction with the anniversary of
last year's suburban unrest and discussed the undercurrents of
lingering tensions. Commentators analyzed the situation in the
light of a confidential intelligence report leaked to
right-of-center Le Figaro, while they portrayed Interior Minister
Sarkozy and PM Villepin as vying for the lead role of pacifier.
Left-of-center Le Monde looked into Iran's reach into Shiite
movements across the globe and right-of-center Le Figaro
characterized Iran as "ever more dangerous." Reports on Shiite
tension in Iraq and ongoing conjecture about a new Iraq strategy
were linked to speculation about the upcoming U.S. mid-term
elections. End Summary.

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PARISIAN SUBURBAN UNREST IN PRE-ELECTION CLIMATE
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. (SBU) Police officials commented on two bus-burning incidents in
separate Paris suburbs, referring to the "violence" and
"premeditation" of the perpetrators. In a supplement to the
left-of-center Le Monde entitled "Suburbs: One Year Later,"
researcher Claude Jacquier argued that the French system of politics
and administration was partly to blame for the deterioration of the
situation in urban areas. Right-of-center Le Figaro noted that
Interior Minister Sarkozy and PM Villepin were "fighting over the
'banlieues' and working on their visibility in difficult
neighborhoods... it is a parade of candidates." Left-wing
Liberation claimed that PM Villepin was "playing on the concept of
cohesion, while Sarkozy was reinforcing repression."
Right-of-center Le Figaro leaked the contents of a "confidential"
report by the Renseignements Generaux (in charge of domestic
security) which pointed to the existence of "new risks of suburban
rioting." FR2 television argued that the "risks were all the more
real because political officials had failed to implement effective
solutions to last year's problems." A separate FR2 commentator
suggested that "the youth appeared to be manipulated by adults and
parents" with "an axe to grind" against the government. Popular
tabloid Le Parisien quoted a riot police officer (CRS) who was
convinced that "bus-burning incidents were a deliberate strategy to
force police to intervene in order to trigger a confrontation."

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SHIITES ACROSS THE GLOBE -- IRAN'S REACH
----------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Left-of-center Le Monde focused on the growing hold of
Shiites, after having gained "power in Baghdad and in Tehran," and
claimed that "America's [Iraq] war had clearly 'liberated' Shiite
communities previously held in check by a secular authoritarian
regime or Sunni Islamists." The in-depth analysis pondered Iran's
"reach" within these communities and pointed to America's "attacks
against Iran and its support of the Shiite militia in Iraq."
Despite this widespread Shiite presence, Le Monde concluded, through
Middle East expert Olivier Roy, that "Tehran does not aim to create
a 'Greater Shiitestan.'" Roy is convinced that "Iran is not in a
position to rally a Shiite force against the U.S.," not even were
there to be a genuine threat of war. In its analysis,
left-of-center Le Monde asked whether the Pentagon's strategists,
"had already pinpointed Iran as the next target, or whether theirs
was mere pre-election gesticulation."

4. (SBU) In right-of-center Le Figaro, senior editorialist Renaud
Girard contrasted the time when "American deterrence was at its
highest, in February 2003" with today, when "U.S. failure in Iraq
had strengthened Iran," and concluded: "With the Iraqi invasion,
the U.S. needlessly put itself outside its traditional position of
effective deterrence." On October 26, reactions to Iran's renewed
nuclear threats led Yves Threard in right-of-center Le Figaro to
characterize Iran as "ever more dangerous" and to argue that "while
it was imperative to prevent the development of weapons of mass
destruction, efforts need to be made to weaken and isolate
belligerent regimes from within."

--------------------------------------------- ---
IRAQ -- A FLEXIBLE NEW POLICY PRECEDES ELECTIONS
--------------------------------------------- ---

5. (SBU) FR2 television cited President Bush's October 25 press
conference, noting that "the American President was shouldering full
responsibility for the situation in Iraq." The commentator affirmed

PARIS 00007090 002.2 OF 002


that the President was trying to "reverse the negative impact of the
war" on the Republicans, in view of the coming mid-term elections.
Left-of-center Le Monde claimed that "President Bush was taking full
responsibility for the U.S. commitment in Iraq" but was not
"announcing any changes to his Iraq policy." Right-of-center Le
Figaro argued that the sending of additional troops, "if General
Casey were to ask," illustrated the White House's "new rhetoric of
tactical flexibility" after having promised to "stay the course."
Earlier in the week left-wing Liberation warned that internal Shiite
militia rivalry in southern Iraq, "which the British had secured two
months earlier," could spread throughout Iraq "if American and
British troops were to begin a partial pullout." The commentary
concluded that the root causes of Iraqi Shiite rivalry "lay in the
American fiasco and the rumors of a possible new strategy."
Right-of-center Le Figaro argued that "the Iraqi authorities shared
similar concerns about the debate in the U.S. and the UK over a
possible withdrawal of troops."

6. (SBU) Senior Editor Nicolas Barre also in right-of-center Le
Figaro editorialized that "showing flexibility" was the only way to
"deflate" the Democrats' attacks on the Administration's policy of
"staying the course" and called the President's "tactical
adjustments" his "October surprise" -- a classic maneuver in U.S.
domestic policy aimed at swinging just enough votes in favor of the
Republicans." Left-of-center Le Monde proclaimed that "the
Republican Party, in the throes of self-flagellation, had lost
America's trust." In right-of-center La Tribune, Lysiane Baudu
argued further that the "the fact that the Iraqi disaster had
eclipsed economic concerns in the minds of U.S. voters must be a
huge frustration for the Republicans."
HOFMANN

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