Thursday, August 30, 2007

Meanwhile, in the Mediterranean ...

I realize that the GAO leak is going to dominate the news and blogosphere, although it isn't exactly new or unexpected information.

But the rest of the world moves on too. And so I'm bucking the trend by trying to look at other news stories that slip through the cracks but could have ramifications for U.S. foreign policy.

Starting with this one:

The headline is a bit dramatic: France, Libya in secret defense pact. The Xinhua report then notes that its source is a French satirical newspaper, Le Canard Enchaine—although this paper is well-known for its investigative journalism and for featuring “leaks” from inside the French government.

The gist of the report is that France has agreed to train Libyan Special Forces and will work to equip the Libyan military. This follows announcements earlier this month that Tripoli would purchase Milan anti-tank missiles and the Tetra communications system from the European defense consortium EADS and a deal inked by French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi for France to build a nuclear reactor to power a Libyan desalination plant.

So France is moving ahead to fully rehabilitate Libya at a pace faster than Washington may want. While France's actions seem very consistent with the recommendations made by Amitai Etzioni as part of his Security First propositions, they may not sit well with those who wanted to continue to pressure Tripoli to move on other areas.

France seems intent on asserting its position in the Mediterranean—but it also means that Paris is not going to automatically accept the U.S. characterization of other regimes and countries. My guess is that the French see the forthcoming transition of power from Qadhafi to his son Seif al-Islam as akin to the transfer from Geydar Aliev, former KGB general and then president of Azerbaijan, to his son Ilham. Everybody after all has their useful authoritarians.

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