The Magazine

The French Connection

Why they're being so helpful in Lebanon.

Aug 7, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 44 • By OLIVIER GUITTA
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Then last year, Iran threatened to reactivate its deadly proxy, Hezbollah, if France were to take a harsher stance against it at the U.N. Security Council. This may explain why President Chirac delivered a speech on terrorism on January 19, 2006, in which he declared that in case of a terrorist attack against French allies (most likely the Gulf monarchies) and/or national interests (including oil facilities), the French response might be nuclear. The message was clearly intended for Iran--and Hezbollah.

Since the current fighting in Lebanon began on July 12, after Hezbollah fighters killed eight Israeli soldiers and abducted two more, France's reactions have been a mixed bag. While Chirac has criticized Israel for using "disproportionate force," he has also said there is "no other long-term solution" than to disarm Hezbollah "as soon as possible."

While visiting Haifa on July 23, Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy had to take cover from Hezbollah-launched Katyusha rockets, an event that may have reinforced France's resolve. Said Douste-Blazy, "The first condition for a cease-fire is of course the disarming of Hezbollah." The war of words continues. Now let's see what France does.

Olivier Guitta is a foreign affairs and counterterrorism consultant in Washington.