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2 THE ROVING
EYE French-kissing the war on
Iran By Pepe Escobar
President George W Bush goes to New York
next week for the annual United Nations General
Assembly to ratchet up the demonization of Iran,
confident that his new French ally is doing "a
heck of a job". President Nicolas Sarkozy - widely
referred to in Paris as King Sarko the First - has
let loose the dogs of war with more panache than a
madame from the chic seventh
parading her miniature Pinscher.
demonization-of-Iran campaign has now begun. Hot
on the heels of Sarkozy coining the ultimate catch
phrase - "the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran"
- it was the turn of his glamorous, dashing,
humanitarian top diplomat.
"We have to
prepare for the worst, and the worst is war," said
Bernard Kouchner, foreign minister and founder of
Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres)
on French 24-hour news channel LCI.
reasoning of the "French doctor", as he is known
around the world, there was always the unspoken
aside during the negotiations with Iran over its
nuclear program that it might proceed "right to
the end". But then came the assumption, set in
stone, that an Iranian nuclear bomb is inevitable
and will pose "a real danger for the whole world".
The Bush White House, opportunistic
Republicans and assorted neo-conservatives
obviously loved it. From Vienna, Mohamed
ElBaradei, the chief of the United Nations'
nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), abandoned his cautious demeanor in
an effort to dismiss all the hysteria set off by
the French comments, saying, "We need to be cool
and not hype the Iranian issue."
has not endeared himself to Western powers led by
the United States and France over the IAEA's
agreement with Iran requiring it to answer
questions about past secret nuclear research but
without addressing its uranium-enrichment program.
ElBaradei's remarks are a reminder to all
the players that only the UN Security Council is
entitled to authorize the use of force against
Iran, and recall events leading up to the US
invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the elusive search
for weapons of mass destruction.
are rules on how to use force, and I would hope
that everybody would have gotten the lesson after
the Iraq situation, where 700,000 innocent
civilians have lost their lives on the suspicion
that a country has nuclear weapons," ElBaradei
A measure of the perplexity in
European diplomatic circles was contributed by
Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik: "I
don't understand why he [Kouchner] resorted to
martial rhetoric at this juncture," she said at
the sidelines of an IAEA meeting in Vienna.
As much as Europe may be divided over the
issue, the problem is there's a looming fatalistic
atmosphere in most European chancelleries, not to
mention the European Union in Brussels, that an
attack on Iran is all but inevitable.
The white man's oil burden Meanwhile, it seems clear that Sarkozy's game
is playing messenger to big (energy) business. He
is well known in Paris as the man of the CAC 40 -
the French equivalent of the Dow Jones index.
The French rapprochement with the Bush
administration - in both Iraq and Iran - could not
but revolve around oil, what has been called "the
entry of France into Mesopotamia and Persia". The
former US Federal Reserve oracle and the world's
most powerful central planner, Alan Greenspan,
finally admitted what even the mineral kingdom
already knew: Iraq was invaded because of oil. An
attack on Iran, if it happens, will also be
because of oil (and gas).
The huge Majnoun
oilfield in southeast Iraq, near the Iranian
border, the fourth-largest in the country with
reserves of more than 12 billion barrels, had been
awarded by Saddam Hussein to Elf of France. The US
occupation obviously nullified all of Saddam's
Then last month US giant
Chevron and Total of France signed an agreement to
prospect and develop Majnoun together. They
already have a partnership regarding the Nahr ben
Omar field in southern Iraq (6 billion barrels).
The recent Kouchner trip to Baghdad had a
non-humanitarian central theme: oil. But there's a
huge catch: the new oil law - the key Bush
"benchmark", meaning a de facto denationalization
of the Iraqi oil industry - has to be approved by
the Iraqi Parliament (the debate has already been
postponed for months).
In June, Chevron
and Total executives met with Iraqi government
representatives to discuss their agreement - but
there was still no new oil law. And even if there
were a law, there would have to be some sort of
security on the ground, what with the Sunni Arab
resistance attacking oil installations on a daily
Meet the charming hot warrior
Former UN secretary general Boutros
Boutros-Ghali described Kouchner as "an unguided
missile". The missile is moved by a lethal weapon:
vanity. There's a lot of murkiness behind the
glowing, vapid, ingratiating profiles of this
charming "humanitarian patriot".
long time since the barricades of May 1968 at the
Latin Quarter in Paris, when he wanted to change
the world by defying the "square" bourgeois order;
a long time since the 1970s when he was sent by
the visionary Jean-Francois Bizot, the founder of
the swingin' countercultural Actuel magazine, all
over the world as a reporter to document the
planet's ills; a long way from a medical