In an interview with French daily Le Monde, Philippe Douste-Blazy, French Minister for Foreign Affairs, doesn’t say that France insisted Hezbollah not be disarmed by force, but couches his words around the notion. In question #5 below, he says that France’s two conditions for the ceasefire agreement were
1.that once Lebanon would agree to deploy 15,000 troops to South Lebanon, there would be no multinational force.
2. and that no one was talking about an army with a mandate to forcibly disarm Hezbollah.
Phillipe knows how to couch his terms.
Belmont Club has an excellent post with the machine translation. Please read it all.
Here’s my translation of the interview. Note that I kept the original French text on questions 3-5, so those of you who know French can read the original text
Q. 3: Cette résolution porte de 2 000 à 15 000 les effectifs de la Finul. La France va-t-elle envoyer des troupes au Liban ?
La France estime indispensable que de nombreux pays puissent contribuer au renforcement de la Finul. Nous examinerons avec nos partenaires européens l’éventuel soutien supplémentaire que nous serons en mesure d’apporter, et le président de la République en décidera. Nous voulons le faire dans un esprit européen. Nous participons déjà à la Finul, nous sommes tout à fait d’accord pour participer à la Finul renforcée.
This resolution might involve 2,000 to 15,000 Finul [UN] troops. Will France send troops to Lebanon?
France believes that it’s essential that many countries contribute to Finul’s [UN troops’] reinforcements. We will examine with our European partners the possible additional support which we will be able to bring, and the President of the Republic [Chirac] will make a decision. We want to do it in a European spirit. As we already participate in Finul, we agree completely to take part in Finul [UN troop] reinforcements.
Q. 4: Le mandat vous convient-t-il?
Ce n’est pas un mandat d’imposition de la paix. La Finul assistera le gouvernement libanais dans plusieurs de ses missions : le déploiement de son armée au Sud, l’assistance humanitaire, l’aide au retour des déplacés. En même temps, elle surveillera la cessation des hostilités et observera le respect par les parties du cessez-le-feu permanent et de la “ligne bleue”.
Do you believe this mandate is appropriate?
It is not a mandate for imposing peace. Finul will assist the Lebanese government in several of its missions: deployment of its army in the South, humane assistance, assistance with the return of displaced people. At the same time, it will supervise the suspension of the hostilities and will observe how each party respects the permanent cease-fire and the “blue line”.
[My comment: Interesting wording, that: ‘will observe how each party respects the permanent cease-fire’; they won’t be enforcing the cease fire. They’re there just to look]
Q. 5: La France disait pourtant ne vouloir déployer des troupes qu’en appui d’un accord politique, après une cessation des hostilités. Ce texte prévoit un déploiement avant un tel accord.
Nous n’avons pas changé d’avis. Il y a eu deux éléments nouveaux. Le premier, c’est que plus personne n’a parlé de force multinationale, dès l’instant que l’armée libanaise a décidé de déployer 15 000 hommes au Liban sud, ce qui est un élément politique majeur. Et plus personne ne parle d’une force qui serait dotée d’un mandat offensif, pour désarmer le Hezbollah. Ce sont deux faits nouveaux, c’étaient nos lignes rouges.
France, however, said it only wants to deploy troops in support of a political agreement, after a suspension of the hostilities. This text forsees a deployment before such an agreement.
We didn’t change our minds. There were two new elements. The first is that nobody any more spoke about multinational force, once the Lebanese army decided to deploy 15 000 men in southern Lebanon, which is a major political element. And no one was talking about an army with a mandate to forcibly disarm Hezbollah. These two new facts were our red lines [i.e., their bottom line].
The rest of the interview went like this:
Q. 6: You think that Hezbollah will accept this resolution?
It involves sevent points of the Siniora government, and thus of the ministers from Hezbollah. The authors of the text spoke with the various parts and considered their red lines. I am persuaded that they will cooperate on the ground with the implementation of this resolution.
Q. 7: Did you obtain assurances from Syria?
We did not have contacts with Syria.
Q. 8: And Iran?
I had the occasion to talk to my counterpart, which I met in Beirut, about how much we believe that it’s important that Iran, which wants to play an important part in the area, can take its responsibilities within the framework for the Israeli-Lebanese conflict.
Q. 9: Do you regret having said that Iran played a stabilizing part?
No, I was misunderstood. I said that Iran was to play a positive part in this area. It is important for the stability of the area. On another issue, that of nuclear power, we’ve said that, if Iran does not take the hand that we tend to him, we’ll adopt sanctions. It is at the same time a language of firmness and opening, by hoping that Iran plays a positive part, and not opposite. It would be then for Iran to decide whether to insulate itself.
Q. 10: The negotiation was sometimes involved the United States and the United Kingdom. Will it have a long-term effect?
We worked in close cooperation with the Americans since the beginning of the crisis, each one with our specificities and in a spirit of confidence. But we never thought that a purely military solution could regulate the problem of Hezbollah. We agree on the objective, disarmament, but for us the means are purely political. It is a French approach.
Nothing can justify the destruction of Lebanon. Democracy was reinstalled in Lebanon thanks to the work which did with the Americans. No one can call that into question.
As Wretchard concluded,
Like experienced consumers we will have learned to read the labels on the packaging and achieved a certain level of “sophistication” the exact opposite of which is the “naivete” that Americans, especially from the Midwest, are said to be incorrigibly afflicted and for which they are roundly reviled. Of course, sophistication is another one of those words which in this context doesn’t mean what it’s supposed to — “knowledgeable” or even “complex” — it simply means the ability to engage in double-talk and coded conversation with the intent to deceive and get paid well into the bargain.
Now go and read Belmont Club‘s final word on this interview.