January 18, 2008
Don't Worry, the French Military is En Garde Duty in the Gulf
France just announced plans to establish a military base in the UAE.
At one level, this does little to change the strategic balance of the region. While the French government may have publicly quarreled with Washington over Iraq, the pair see eye-to-eye over the rest of the Gulf. No one in the State Department is likely to have sleepless nights on account of the United States no longer being the only outside power to have bases in the Gulf. The base is fairly small, and it seems unlikely that it was created to give France the power to project enormous extra force in the region. So what purpose could it serve? Well, it could add to Paris' prestige, if the French government is determined to increase the same. Or perhaps act as a tripwire in the event of an Iranian attack. Either of those would represent a fairly important shift in France's policy towards the Gulf.
A particularly unusual development was the public nature of the announcement, which came during a visit to the region by French President Sarkozy. As Saudi Arabia can attest, foreign military bases and personnel are not particularly popular in the region. The American presence at Abu Dhabi's Al Dhafra Air Base remains very low key, and does not get coverage in the local press. Admittedly, France's foreign policy towards the Middle East isn't radioactive like its American counterpart. But it is still very curious that the two disclosed their deal at all, leave alone allowed the UAE press to report that it came in response to an Emirati request.
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This is most probably a gesture from France to the US, which represents a Sarkozian shift of policy and a departure from the tradional Gaullist ones on the right.
Couldn't it be an attempt by the Emiratis to begin to broaden their base of foreign support, to create a longterm alternative to exclusive reliance on the US? Or at least to give the US that impression...?
Something somehow Iran-related sounds most likely, but who knows.
Posted by: alle at January 20, 2008 09:11 AM
Marketing, State Marketing for Dassault, etc.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 20, 2008 09:44 AM
Marketing too indeed.
Iran? Not quite imo.
A good post & discussion @ Abu Aardvark:
Posted by: MSK at January 21, 2008 06:33 AM