Middle East

Arab-French Diplomacy and the Iraqi Crisis

France and the Arabs

Lebanese commandos prepare for the Francophone Summit in Beirut
Lebanese commandos prepare for the Oct. 18-20 Francophone Summit in Beirut (Photo: AFP).

Two trends are now forming in international affairs, reflected in the developments of the Iraqi crisis and the different positions that the parties involved are taking.

The United States and Britain are leading the trend of a new colonialism that posits using military force, pressure, and coercion, to the extent of making plans to invade Iraq and change its ruling regime by force without recourse to international bodies. On the other side, there is France—supported by some European countries and to some degree by Russia and China. [France] is leading the movement that calls for dialogue, avoiding military confrontation with Saddam Hussein, and using the United Nations to solve international problems.

These two trends are even more clearly discernible in the battles being fought in the corridors of the United Nations and in the diplomatic wars underway in a number of world capitals over the text of the resolution that the United States insists on issuing from the Security Council. The United States wants a free hand to launch a military campaign against Iraq without waiting for the results of the international weapons inspectors’ work and to have clauses in the resolution that weaken Iraq and provoke it, clauses that will give America the chance to begin a war in the Middle East, despite the opposition of most Arab countries, on the pretext of removing weapons of mass destruction and fighting terrorism.

The Francophone Summit held in Beirut [Oct. 18-20] offered a chance for countries around the world to support the French effort to stop the attempts of those within the American administration to spread American hegemony and act alone in running the world. Although the Francophone movement has looked upon itself primarily as a means of assuring French cultural and linguistic influence, the Beirut conference had a clear political dimension beyond that when it called for dialogue between civilizations, respect for international law, solving disputes through better understanding, forsaking the use of military force and the methods of moral and material terrorism. This is what led President Chirac to affirm that the Middle East does not need new wars and that France will use its efforts and its influence to this end regarding Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

One can say that France has succeeded up to now in obstructing the American-British onslaught and impeding the hawks of the American administration in their march to war. France may have prevented President Bush from rushing into a war in the Middle East at any price.

But the most surprising thing of all is that instead of strengthening the French efforts and standing with France, some Arab parties have criticized Chirac and accused France of playing a double game to obtain its share of the war spoils in Iraq. The worst thing of all about some of our Arab brothers is that they are sitting on the sidelines like clueless old women at a wedding while their countries and their wealth are being split up.