President Sarkozy has reversed course on Iraq and is offering to help mediate political reconciliation (via Big Lizards). He even declared Chiraq’s policy “arrogant.”

The new French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, is a long opponent of Saddam’s regime and is now offering to help mediate between the Iraqi factions.

President Chiraq used Iraq as an excuse to engage in great power diplomacy. He tried to place France as the leader of the European Union. Chiraq also opened the possibility of a big three alliance – France, Russia, China – as a counterweight to balance the American “hyperpower.” This was the realization of decades of French policy towards the US.

Except everyone ignored France. This they did not like.

Now Sarkozy is abandoning Chiraq’s grand gallic fantasies, and approaching the issue in a more realistic way.


After years of shunning involvement in a war it said was wrong, France now believes it may hold the key to peace in Iraq, proposing itself as an “honest broker” between the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions.

The shift was one of the most concrete consequences yet of the thaw in French-American relations following the election in May of President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose administration no longer feels bound by the adamant refusal to take a role in Iraq that characterized the reign of his predecessor, Jacques Chirac.

During a three-day visit to Baghdad that ended Tuesday, the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said that the time had come for France, and Europe, to play a greater role in Iraq.

Honest brokers? Really? Whatever makes them feel good.

Amir Taheri argues that this reflects a more significant change.

Kouchner’s visit, full of symbolism, shatters one of the key points in Al Qaida’s analysis: that the Western powers will never find enough unity to develop a common strategy against terror.

At one point, when Chirac invited German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Russian President Vladimir Putin to a gathering to forge an anti-American triple alliance, Al Qaida’s analysis appeared to have some basis in reality.

Now, however, both Chancellor Angela Merkel and Sarkozy understand the stark fact that the perception of Western disunity may be one of the factors that prolongs the conflict in Iraq.

As long as Al Qaida and the Ba’athist bitter-enders believe that Western divisions might destroy the US-led coalition in Iraq they will have a clear incentive to continue the fight.

There’s also another factor: an increasingly authoritarian Russia

Russia’s growing hostility to Europe and its control over the fuel lines to Europe has left the French and Germans uneasy. Great Power rivalries are a bigger issue than any skirmish in Iraq. The French are probably willing to throw America a bone on a trifling concern like Iraq.

I do hope Kouchner helps at any rate. He will be of more use than the UN diplomatic team, which is heavily staffed by Palestinians and Sunni Arabs who are hostile to the Shia-led Iraqi government.