In the Gulf, French values ​​up for auction

Editorial of the “World”. Emmanuel Macron is visiting particularly infertile lands for the values ​​that France prides itself on defending. Of the three stages involved in his trip to the Arabian Peninsula, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Saudi Kingdom, three authoritarian monarchies long allied with France, the last is undoubtedly the most delicate.

The President of the Republic has the regrettable privilege of being the first major Western leader to meet there the Crown Prince, Mohammed Ben Salman, alias “MBS”. The latter, de facto master of the kingdom, is forever marked with an infamous seal, that of having ordered in 2018 the assassination in appalling conditions of the dissident and Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, also an American resident.

The CIA concluded its responsibility in a report declassified by the President of the United States, Joe Biden, upon his arrival at the White House. The latter, who promised the prince a destiny of “pariah”, did not however decide other sanctions than to keep him at a distance, for the benefit of his father, Salman, the reigning sovereign. This half-measure did not make “MBS” renounce his methods, and it also risks being extinct at the same time as the king, weakened by years and declining health.

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The defense of the interests of France can be put forward by whoever is in charge to justify this form of icy realpolitik. First of all, military and economic interests. It is mainly a question of arms sales to oil principalities which hardly feel the financial difficulties of the other customers of France. The historic contract for the supply of 80 Rafale concluded in the Emirates illustrates this.

Huge share of risk

Strategic interests then, due to the confirmation of a lasting American erasure and the outlines of readjustments underway between the main regional powers, including Turkey and Iran. The latter’s spheres of influence may indeed overlap with those of France, one of the only countries to have a military base in the critical Gulf area, in Abu Dhabi.

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No one can doubt that everything must be tried, as France promises, to find a way out of the humanitarian catastrophe caused by the war waged since 2015 by the Saudi heir against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Nor will anyone blame a French president for responding to Lebanon’s deadly implosion by striving for minimal Saudi financial re-engagement, provided it is not negated by corruption and carelessness. evidenced by the current bankruptcy.

However, playing with symbols involves a huge amount of risk, as illustrated by the precedent of the Legion of Honor awarded by the French president, in 2020, to his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi, a perfect example of a potentate. brutal. This honorary gesture did not prevent the embezzlement for shameful ends by his regime, revealed by the site Disclose, a precious French aid in terms of intelligence.

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In a world where authoritarian regimes are constantly gaining ground, the detestable telescoping of values ​​and interests is constantly found, it is true, at the heart of diplomacy, especially for a middle power like France. Falling back on the former, on which a country is based, should only be considered with one yardstick, those of the results obtained. Emmanuel Macron’s visit cannot be measured otherwise.

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In the Gulf, French values ​​up for auction

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