- During her visit to Paris, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "stunned" some Frenchmen
- "It was scary", said one of France's main pundits, not of Iran, but of the fact that Condi would call the latter a totalitarian country. "She gave no proof that Iran was totalitarian, because she didn't have any."
- "She didn't give us a practical path", said another intellectual. "It was very disturbing."
- Instead, a third pundit said that if the West ought to fear anything, it was …an ally of Uncle Sam (Pakistan)
The left-leaning daily Libération ran a headline that read, "Condi's Great Game: To Seduce Paris." … But Ms. Rice, who was once called "the princess warrior" by the weekly magazine Le Point, is still regarded with a degree of suspicion here.A "degree of suspicion". As usual, the New York Times quotes foreign officials, media, and citizens and their negative views of Uncle Sam, without ever bothering to even begin looking into the possibilities that the "opinions" may be self-serving, that they may be based on double standards, or that they may deride from incomplete information (deliberate or not).
Personally, I would say it is a combination of all three, which serves to form an evil circle which becomes self-propagating.
Notice that degrees of suspicion are never levelled at countries such as Russia, China, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, or (Saddam Hussein's) Iraq, nor are the leaders of same ever subjected to the newspaper editorials and the pundit deliberations that greeted Condi (see below).
"Can We Trust Rice?" asked the popular daily France-Soir. Jacques Lang, the Socialist former culture minister, told France Inter radio that while he recognized Ms. Rice's "charm and seduction," she is still the "Madame Hawk of yesterday" who had been "aggressive and fanatical" on "Iraq in particular."Ever so lucides to the treacherous Yanks, the French are.
On Wednesday, Le Monde ran a cartoon of Ms. Rice perusing a menu in a restaurant as the waiter asks, "We can also heat up some French fries for you." It was a not so subtle reminder of moves in the United States to rename the fried potatoes "freedom fries" to protest France's opposition to the war in Iraq.And how about reminding the French (subtly or not) of their policies during that same time that would have allowed a dictator to remain in power? (I am asking the question both of the French and of the New York Times…)
Indeed, at a private breakfast on Wednesday with six French intellectuals at the American ambassador's residence, Ms. Rice revealed her steely, deeply ideological side.How about the "steely, deeply ideological side" of the French (pundits or other) and their resistance to seeking out opinions that show the Yanks in a positive light, if only partly so?
She shocked at least some of her guests by branding Iran a "totalitarian state," said four of those who took part. She added that the free world was wrong to accept the Soviet Union on its terms during the cold war and must not make the same mistake now with Iran, they added.The "give", as well as the soul-searching, always has to come from the clueless Yanks, doesn't it? And the evidence available is never proof enough, when it comes to autocrats opposed to Uncle Sam, n'est-ce pas?
A number of guests challenged her assertion, but Ms. Rice is not the type to back down. She called her characterization of Iran deliberate. A year ago, she said, she would have called Iran's Islamic Republic authoritarian. But after flawed parliamentary elections last spring that produced a conservative majority, she said, it moved toward totalitarian, a term that historians tend to use restrictively to define violently absolutist regimes that govern through terror.
"I tried to explain that Iran was not like the Soviet Union, that the mullahs were deeply unpopular but unlike their predecessors over the last 150 years they were not in the hands of the British or the Russians or the Americans," said François Heisbourg, director of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. "She gave no proof that Iran was totalitarian, because she didn't have any. It was scary. Unless there is some give on the American side we are heading for a real crisis."
Ms. Rice also expressed deep skepticism about the European-led initiative to persuade Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment programs in exchange for economic and political rewards, participants said.No she isn't as aware (aussi lucide) as the French, n'est-ce pas, and their European brethren?…
France, Britain and Germany, Iran's negotiating partners, know that any meaningful benefits for Iran depend on American support, something that Ms. Rice made clear would not be forthcoming. Such an approach, she said, would only help sustain the hard-liners' grip on power.
"I told her that it is my sense that public opinion in Europe, and maybe even elected officials, are ready to accept the idea that Iran may have some kind of nuclear weapons capability with some limitations," said Nicole Bacharan, an expert on the United States at the Institute of Political Studies. "She was startled. She wasn't quite aware of what she is up against."
For his part, Mr. Parmentier said he told her, "We in Europe believe that it is more likely the regime would fall if we are opening up to Iranian society rather than closing off."Yes, isn't that what your predecessors told Ronald Reagan about the USSR a generation ago? (I wonder why so many Eastern Europeans are allied to the Americans in the Iraq crisis, rather than to the bien-pensant members of the "peace camp"…)