Friday, September 25, 2009

Presidential Temper

For some reason, the press seems more interested in the spat between Nicolas Sarkozy and Arlette Chabot than in the dressing down of Bernard Kouchner that precipitated it. Convergent accounts suggest that the president, immediately after his less-than-stellar performance in a televised interview, attacked his foreign minister for telling the NY Times that he had serious reservations about imposing sanctions on Iran. Since France is about to join the US and Britain in accusing Iran of concealing a nuclear facility from inspectors, a move that is almost certain to issue in a call for sanctions and heightened tensions with Iran, Kouchner's defection is a serious matter, which will provide ammunition to the Chinese, who oppose the Western powers on this issue. After all of Obama's work to bring the Russians closer to the US position, Kouchner's article was no doubt a major irritant to the Americans, though nothing has yet leaked publicly about any reproaches to France from the American side, as far as I know.

So it is rather astonishing to discover that a) Kouchner apparently did not clear his statement with the president's staff and b) that Sarko would dress him down in public, before an audience of journalists. It is frequently said that Sarkozy is his own foreign minister and Kouchner merely window-dressing, which makes it all the more surprising that Sarkozy would tear away the curtains and expose the family quarrel to public view.

Given the seriousness of the issue involved, Sarko's subsequent carping to Chabot about the deterioration of the state TV news service, justified or not, seems trivial.