Condoleezza Rice is to come to Tokyo, too early to watch
the blooming cherry trees, but right in time to notice
that French president Jacques Chirac also is in town, in
a not yet announced scheduled visit to Japan at the end
Both will meet Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro. J
Chirac will visit 2005 Aichi Expo and lecture on
sustainable development at a Nikkei seminar. Jacques
would also grumble how to reduce Japanese tension
regarding the lift of EU embargo on the sales of weapons
One really hopes that no collision is expected and that
both, at their level, will have dual missions and
messages to deliver to Japanese and world leaders.
French media used to describe Condi as the most hostile
anti Chirac among the hawks of the Bush administration.
Maybe not the case if one remembers how the French
Sherpa (and former French Ambassador in Japan) Maurice
Gourdault-Montagne repeatedly spent time in Condi's
anteroom between January 2003 and the last weeks...
Here is an Op Ed of Andre Fontaine, ex Le Monde
director. His view is too much linked to the Syria deal
between J Chirac (a closed friend of former Lebanese
Premier Rafik Hariri) and G Bush.
In this Op Ed, unfortunately or politely, nothing on the
massive US recomposition of the Middle East region
undertaken by the Bush administration, especially
regarding Iran leadership.
"PARIS -- "Forgive the Russians, ignore the Germans,
punish the French." U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice didn't appreciate being reminded of this famous
statement, which she made in 2003 while serving as U.S.
President George W. Bush's national security adviser.
The purpose of Rice's recent visit to Europe, and that
of Bush a few days later, was to end the trans-Atlantic
quarrels ignited by the Iraq War and restore a climate
of confidence between Washington and its European
It would be an exaggeration to say that, as a result, a
trans-Atlantic "partnership" will be fully achieved and
operate harmoniously. Still, the climate has greatly
Considering that an overwhelming majority of Europeans
would have preferred to see Sen. John Kerry win the
2004 battle for the White House, few would have bet
trans-Atlantic ties could improve this much so quickly.
The turnabout can be attributed to several factors.
First, there was the magnitude of Bush's election
victory. Unlike in 2000, Bush won a clear mandate in
November despite the ongoing conflict in Iraq and his
failure to prove that former Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein had possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Europe quickly concluded that Bush wasn't likely to
change his Iraq policy.
Furthermore, Europe realized that a rapid withdrawal of
coalition forces would likely lead to a civil war
between Iraq's Shiite and Sunni communities. This left
it with little choice but to back the U.S. plan to hold
Iraqi elections. The success of the elections appeared
to validate Bush's policy.
Whatever their stance at the time of the invasion,
European leaders now have little choice but to back
Washington in Iraq. This doesn't mean that France or
Germany will send troops there, but they will take part
in training -- outside Iraq -- Iraqi army and police
officers, and write off most of the huge debt Baghdad
accumulated during the Hussein era.
Second, rather than criticize his European hosts for
their past behavior, Bush turned on the charm. He and
Rice praised Europe's contribution to the war on
terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and promoted
democratization as the panacea for most of the world's
The death of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is
a third factor. Neither Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon nor Bush ever trusted Arafat, but most Europeans,
including the British, thought that supporting him would
help to soften the anti-Western feelings of most Arabs,
including those in Iraq.
New Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is
eager to end decades of bloody confrontation between two
peoples that are sentenced to live side by side. The
outcome of the Palestinian election and Sharon's
decision to end Israel's occupation of the Gaza strip
and several West Bank cities has helped to narrow the
gap between U.S. and European policies on the
A final factor was the Feb. 14 assassination of former
Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri. In the past the U.S.
and France disagreed on how to deal with Syria in
relation to Lebanon. But the killing of Hariri, for
which some have implicated Syria to some degree, has
brought their policies in this area closer together.
by Andre Fontaine, formerly editor in chief of Le Monde.
Op Ed in Japan Times"
end of quotes.