Sarko’s been trying hard to re-establish France as a power in the Middle East, and has plans for a French naval base in Abu Dhabi.
First, there are the nuclear deals with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Libya, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco:
Sarkozy Pushes Nuclear Energy in Mideast
Currently the world’s most aggressive salesman for nuclear power, Sarkozy has visited multiple Muslim states in the last six weeks — including the globe’s biggest oil producers — to peddle French nuclear technology or make multibillion-dollar deals.
“Why should Arab countries be deprived of the energy of the future?”
Why indeed, when they have the mullahs breathing down their necks? Especially if companies that develop and build the nuclear power plants are owned primarily by the French government?
Sarko’s nuclear proliferation plans don’t stop with a vision of a Mediterranean cooperation council (whatever that may mean),
Argentina, Chile, Vietnam and Indonesia also are reportedly discussing the possibility of buying French-designed reactors.
May I indulge in a little speculation? Let’s say that Hugo persuades the FARC to release French-Colombian citizen Ingrid Betancourt. Woudln’t Venezuela be included in this group?
But I digress.
As part of Sarko’s Middle East vision, he’s signed a deal with Abu Dhabi for a permanent French naval base:
This projects France into the complex politics of the Gulf, identifying it even more closely with Gulf Arab countries which have expressed concern about the future policies of Iran.
President Sarkozy appears willing to accept that this exposes France to the risks involved in such a sensitive area, highlighted by the confrontation between Iranian speedboats and US naval ships recently. There is also a dispute between Abu Dhabi and Iran over three small islands in the Strait of Hormuz. The president said the base was agreed at the request of the Emirates.
That’s in addition to the two nuclear power reactors that the French will build in Abu Dhabi.
Nuclear proliferation, and military expansion, a la francaise.
Never mind a mild whiff of realpolitik
The French base agreement coincides with a major visit to the region by President Bush, during which he has criticised Iran.
France might be seen as aligning itself more openly with the US, which maintains its own large base in Bahrain for the Fifth Fleet and which has also been selling arms to Gulf countries.