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Viewing cable 06PARIS1236, 2/21 STAFFDEL TALWAR VISIT: IRAN, IRAQ,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06PARIS1236 2006-02-28 11:11 2011-02-25 00:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
Appears in these articles:
http://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/250211/boris-boillon-selon-les-cables-wikileaks-vantard-et-pas-toujours-compet
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PARIS 001236

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2/28/2016
TAGS: PREL IR PARM IZ SY LE KPAL IS KDEM PTER SU
FR
SUBJECT: 2/21 STAFFDEL TALWAR VISIT: IRAN, IRAQ,
SYRIA/LEBANON, NATO/DARFUR, HAMAS, REGIONAL REFORM,
COUNTERTERRORISM

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

1. (C) Summary: Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Professional Staff Members Puneet Talwar and Tomicah Tilleman
met a series of senior French officials February 21, in
discussions that addressed Iran, Iraq, Syria/Lebanon,
NATO/Darfur, Hamas, regional reform, and counterterrorism.
On Iran, Chirac's Middle East advisor assessed that
international sanctions would pose real hardships for the
Iranian regime, and suggested that sanctions should be
gradual, consensus-driven, and target the regime. MFA policy
planning staff confirmed that Iran sanctions options under
GoF consideration included bans on travel, investment, and
students. On Iraq, Chirac's Middle East advisor called for a
"perspective" for a departure of foreign troops to help split
terrorists from Sunni resistance. On Syria, Elysee officials
emphasized French support for behavior change (vice regime
change), and criticized former VP Khaddam. MFA officials
suggested willingness to consider a NATO contribution in
Darfur, while strongly emphasizing resource concerns and the
need for the U.S. to offer a commitment. On Hamas, French
officials reaffirmed the GoF's no-contact policy, while
stressing the downsides of a cut-off in international
assistance to Palestinians. MFA officials voiced familiar
views on protecting EU equities in the BMENA efforts. A
senior Ministry of Interior advisor revealed details of a
new, values-based and pro-American foreign policy platform
for presidential hopeful/Interior Minister Sarkozy, while
praising U.S.-French cooperation on counterterrorism. End
summary.


ELYSEE ON IRAN, IRAQ, SYRIA/LEBANON
-----------------------------------

2. (C) On Iran, Elysee Middle East advisor Dominique Boche
assessed that the Ahmadinejad regime was going through an
initial phase of "militancy" built on unrealistic
assumptions. In this initial phase, Iran would pose problems
on several fronts, through its obstinacy on the nuclear
issue; efforts to exercise influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon
and the Palestinian territories; and a broader attempt to
gain sympathy in the Islamic world via statements denying the
Holocaust or calling for Israel's destruction. The latter
Iranian strategy, Boche observed, was intended to appeal to
Muslims' widespread resentment of a perceived
"double-standard" vis-a-vis Israel, and thereby put moderate
Arab governments in great difficulty.

3. (C) Boche voiced optimism on middle term prospects for
Iran, concluding that Iran would come to realize that it
needed external support and would face international
sanctions with difficulty. In the case of petroleum
sanctions, Boche observed that Iran remained vulnerable due
its low refinery capacity, which forced it to import oil from
India. On possible civair sanctions, Boche noted that some 2
million Iranian travelers could be affected by such a ban.
Once the Iranian population saw the isolation provoked by the
regime's policies, Boche concluded, moderates would have a
window to assert a voice. Asked for further detail of
French thinking on sanctions, Boche observed that no
decisions had been made and that the GoF had found economic
sanctions, in past experience, to be "rarely effective."
For sanctions to be successful they would have to proceed
gradually, reflect consensus and P-5 unity, and target the
Iranian regime, not the population at large. Boche added
that diplomatic overtures to Tehran would continue in the
weeks leading up to the next BOG meeting, as seen in meetings
underway 2/21 in Moscow. He voiced confidence in Russian
negotiating efforts, noting Russia would not accept a nuclear
Iran on its southern border. Boche voiced skepticism on IAEA
DG al Baradei's proposal for Iran to retain a small research
capacity under international supervision, and concluded that
the only objective guarantee that Iran's nuclear program
remained peaceful would be suspension of enrichment.

4. (C) Asked by Talwar to assess U.S. policy towards Iran,
Boche noted that the U.S. had done what the EU-3 had asked in
supporting EU-3 proposals which were later dismissed out of
hand by Tehran. On the U.S. offer to provide 75 million USD
for reformers in Iran, Boche opined that the GoF was not
averse to efforts to encourage political openness in Iran,
though it did not support the U.S. goal of regime change in
Iran. The GoF preferred an Iran approach similar to that
pursued by the West with respect the USSR -- accept the
existence of the other side, while not refraining from
actions which encourage political evolution, as seen in the

PARIS 00001236 002 OF 004


Helsinki process.

5. (C) In brief comments on Iraq, Boche called for maximum
international efforts to avoid Iraq's territorial breakup and
Iranian dominance of the country. Though positive trends had
emerged in Iraq, with the mobilization of the population in
elections, a number of negative trends remained, including
increased sectarian divisions, foreign interference, and a
high level of terrorist activity. In order for Iraq to
achieve true national reconciliation, Boche called for
revising the constitution, to give more power to the central
government, as well as a "perspective for a departure" of
Coalition forces, in order to show that Iraq was truly
sovereign. Boche clarified that the GoF was not asking for
an immediate departure of U.S. troops, which would be
catastrophic. However, more definitive U.S. statements,
making clear that the Coalition troop presence was not
permanent, could help divide terrorists from Iraqi
resistance. Asked about French assistance to Iraq, Boche
described the GoF offer to train up to 1,500 Iraqi police
outside Iraq as "still on the table" after 18 months, with
the impasse due to lack of follow-up from the Iraqi side.

6. (C) On Syria/Lebanon, Boche assessed that though a great
deal had been accomplished over the past year, the dynamic
had slowed down more recently, with the pace of the UN
investigation into the Hariri assassination not meeting
political expectations. Boche observed that the
international community had greater control in pushing for
compliance with UNSCR 1559, though accelerated efforts to
push for Hizballah disarmament would put the Lebanese
government in difficulty. Meanwhile, Boche viewed Syria as
still seeking to reassert dominance in Lebanon and using its
overtures to Iran to push Egypt and Saudi Arabia towards
seeking a return to the status quo ante. Boche asserted that
while Syrian behavior must change, the GoF did not advocate
Syrian regime change, which would provoke alarm among Arab
moderates. Boche added that if the Syrian regime fell, it
would come from the inside. Boche described the situation of
former VP Khaddam in Paris as "unfortunate," admitting that
the GoF had asked Khaddam to stop making public remarks from
France after Khaddam called publicly for regime change in
Damascus. Boche dismissed Khaddam as responsible, "more than
anyone," for the Syrian regime's crimes of the past 30 years.
He added that, while uniting the Syrian opposition was a
good thing, Khaddam was not the one to unite them. Boche
voiced greater confidence in unnamed former Syrian MPs
(likely a reference to Riad Seif), but conceded that choices
were limited. He concluded that the best option might be to
keep Bashar al-Asad under international pressure, remaining
in control in Syria but constrained from causing problems
externally.

POLICY PLANNING STAFF ON IRAN, NATO/DARFUR
------------------------------------------

7. (C) Talwar and Tillemann's discussion with Philippe
Errera, Deputy Director-equivalent for the MFA,s Policy
Planning bureau, focused largely on Iran and to a lesser
degree on NATO/Darfur. Errera said he personally believed
that the EU-3,s diplomatic initiative on Iran had not been a
failure, given that the international community has now come
to a basic consensus on Iran, and furthermore, intelligence
agencies and the IAEA have increased information about
Iran,s nuclear program. He believed there was still
potential for diplomatic efforts to bear fruit, although he
acknowledged that the GOF had been brainstorming about
potential sanctions regimes, including targeted sanctions,
travel bans, investment bans, and student bans. He
speculated that Western economies could weather a cutoff of
oil exports from Iran, with a potential per barrel rise in
price of approximately $30. In a separate comment on
NATO/Darfur, Errera said there was a feeling among some in
the EU that some of the people advocating a NATO mission in
Darfur were more interested in building up NATO than in
helping the Darfur situation.

MFA STRATEGIC AFFAIRS DAS ON NATO/DARFUR
----------------------------------------

8. (C) Staffdel Talwar's discussion with MFA DAS-equivalent
for strategic affairs Nicolas Niemtchinow focused on
NATO/Darfur in greater detail. Niemtchinow said that he
understood that the U.S. wanted to foster the process as the
AU mandate ends and the UN mandate begins and that NATO was
an option. He said that the French thinking remained
preliminary and that many questions, particularly ones
related to resources, needed to be answered. He affirmed

PARIS 00001236 003 OF 004


that France would not be averse to NATO involvement if the
U.S. would provide "military means." He added that the
French would like to know what the U.S. is prepared to
provide. Niemtchinow said that France did not envision
Western forces on the ground, not even a small presence
force; instead, he said, the GoF viewed NATO's role more in
the training of officers and providing strategic lift. He
said that the EU had about 15 people already on the ground in
Sudan but that expanding to a force large enough to serve as
a deterrent would be difficult, given the difficulties in
force generation. Furthermore, he added, using the NRF would
not sit well with several allies who are adamant that the NRF
should be used as an emergency force and not as a reserve.
Also, he said, the lack of a peace agreement to enforce would
make it more difficult to argue for the presence of troops on
the ground.

9. (C) Niemtchinow concluded that, ultimately, the question
of a NATO role in Darfur was one of resources. France wanted
to stop the slaughter of innocents in Sudan but European
countries, including France, were stretched thin overseeing
elections in the DRC and providing forces in Afghanistan,
Kosovo, Cote d'Ivoire and elsewhere. For the GoF, the root
of the issue was determining to what extent the U.S. would
provide and/or participate if NATO was to get involved in
Darfur. European governments did not have the resources to
address all of the world's problems and had begun to speak in
terms of an "acceptable level of disorder." He said, though,
that there was room for NATO and the EU to work together to
facilitate the transition of mandates; for example, if NATO
provided training, the EU could provide planning officers.
Niemtchinow insisted that the French argument was "not
theological" but instead about resources. For NATO to take
on the challenge of "intervening everywhere" would be
difficult; for example, NATO involvement in Pakistan, while
good from a moral and political view, taught Europeans that
NATO should not be doing everything. Other organizations, he
concluded, ones designed for developing civilian
capabilities, would have been more cost effective and hence
better suited for missions like the one in Pakistan.

MFA NEA PDAS ON HAMAS, REGIONAL REFORM
--------------------------------------

10. (C) Talwar and Tillemann's discussion with MFA
PDAS-equivalent for Middle East/North Africa Gilles Bonnaud
focused on Hamas and Middle East reform efforts. Bonnaud
emphasized the GoF's no-contact policy with Hamas (though
conceding some "technical contacts" with Hamas municipal
officials had taken place in the past) and GoF insistence
that Hamas must renounce violence, recognize Israel, and
accept past accords with Israel. At the same time, he
cautioned against the repercussions of a total aid cut-off to
Palestinians in the event that Hamas failed to meet the
Quartet conditions. Bonnaud suggested that the international
community should not signal the "door is closed" entirely to
Hamas, and look for ways to continue aid to the Palestinians
after the formation of the new PA government. Bonnaud
observed that PA President Abbas had shown firmness in his
opening speech to the PLC, and that the international
community should seek to help him as well. On BMENA efforts,
Bonnaud repeated familiar GoF concerns on use of EU funding
for the Foundation for the Future, and emphasized a
preference for the U.S. and Europe pursuing distinct, but
complementary reform efforts.


INTERIOR MINISTRY ON SARKOZY FOREIGN POLICY, COUNTERTERRORISM
--------------------------------------------- ----------------

11. (C) In contrast to other GoF meetings, the staffdel's
discussion with Boris Boillon, Deputy Diplomatic Advisor to
Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, focused on internal
politics, specifically Sarkozy's candidacy for the 2007
French presidential elections. Boillon briefed the staffdel
on ongoing efforts to craft a comprehensive foreign policy
strategy for Sarkozy, which the Sarkozy camp aims to publish
in six months. While emphasizing that the formulation of
this strategy remained in preliminary stages only, Boillon
described three main guiding principles: 1) promotion of
values, such as democracy and freedom, in a "total departure"
from past French foreign policy; 2) defending French
security, through responding to terrorism, proliferation, and
other threats, including greater willingness to resort to use
of force; and 3) promotion of French interests. Boillon
noted that Sarkozy wanted to dramatically improve French
relations with the U.S., in addition to focusing on Africa
and the Mediterranean. Asked about traditional French

PARIS 00001236 004 OF 004


preference for multilateralism, Boillon quipped that Sarkozy
did not want to pursue multilateralism for multilateralism's
sake alone. In the past, he observed, the GoF had promoted
multilateralism because it remained a "weapon of the weak."
Boillon added that the policy strategy would, of course,
focus on Europe, though Europe remained "a joke,"
internationally. Sarkozy would seek to strengthen Europe as
a real power, and would seek key partners like Spain, the UK,
and Italy. In Sarkozy's view, the EU had served mainly as a
tool for dialogue and negotiation, but now was the time for
action. Boillon summed up that Sarkozy viewed France as
having fallen behind internationally, perhaps 20 years or so,
and that dramatic, effective action was needed for France to
catch up with the rest of the world.

12. (C) In closing, Boillon commended GoF-USG
counterterrorism cooperation, particularly in the context of
combating Islamic extremism. Boillon stressed the GoF's
close ties with the Arab world and its large Muslim
community, which he described as closely monitored by GoF
authorities. He described a December 2005 anti-terrorism law
which gave the GoF important new tools to combat terrorism,
including increased surveillance powers, reinforced efforts
to freeze terrorist assets and financing networks, and
extended detention periods for suspected terrorists. Boillon
described the GoF as in a never-ending fight against Islamic
radicals, and noted that the GoF had expelled 21 extremist
imams in 2005.

13. (U) This message was cleared by Staffdel Talwar.


Please visit Paris' Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm

Stapleton

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