Thursday, August 2, 2007


It will be interesting to see how Sarkozy responds to the first real challenge of his presidency: the pressure to come clean about the terms of his deals with Libya. Claude Goasguen, who was a Sarko spokesman during the campaign, has now joined Hollande, Loncle, and other Socialists in calling for a clearer explanation of what transpired in the negotiations to secure the release of the Bulgarian nurses. Goasguen has made it clear that he is not satisfied with Sarko's one-word dismissal in an aside to a TV reporter yesterday.

The question of quid pro quo can be broken down:

1. The 400 million euro ransom is not really Sarko's responsibility. The EU had already agreed to do this. Sarko, so far as we know at this point, merely facilitated the payment.
2. The agreement to pay for the training of Libyan doctors in France. And why not? Chalk it up to foreign aid.
3. The military side-payments apparently made by France to clinch the deal, including 100 million euros' worth of antitank missiles, which Libya will pay to buy from France (standard arms horse-trading), and the construction of a military "production and repair" facility in Libya (probably to be paid for by the Libyans and built by the French--more horse trading, profits for arms dealers, etc.).

And then the big enchiladas:

4. Discussions involving Libyan oil and gas rights.
5. Discussions involving Libya's participation in an eventual Mediterranean union, a pet project of Sarko's and a potential substitute for EU membership for Turkey.
6. The nuclear deal: will or will not Areva build 2 European Pressurized Reactors in Libya and for what purpose (desalination or other)? And has Areva been granted rights to Libya's stockpile of uranium?

Elements 4, 5, and 6 would have been subjects for discussion with Libya whether or not there had been Bulgarian hostages, so Sarko may be at once candid and guilty of "parsing" when he implies that these items were not part of any quid pro quo. In relations between states, of course, the game is long-term and multidimensional and the idea of tit-for-tat is simplistic. The real test for Sarkozy will therefore be a matter of presentation. Will he lay out his short-term foreign policy maneuvering in the context of a grand vision and define the principles of that vision, or will he content himself with wriggling out of a minor embarrassment that has allowed the opposition to score some points and disconcerted one of his own lieutenants?

Added later: Le Monde's editorial also takes up this question.
Added still later: Goasguen claims that negotiations with Libya on the antitank weapons and arms plant had been going on since 2004 and had nothing to do with the nurses. He insists that Kadhafi's son deliberately confused the issue in his interview with Le Monde for reasons having to do with internal politics in Libya.


Anonymous said...

Your point is well taken. However, Le Monde's editorial repeats a claim that I've often heard--namely, that Sarkozy has suggested that he and especially his wife played the central role i the liberation of the nurses. Maybe I've missed it, but I haven't seen him saying anything of the kind; on the contrary, he seems to me to have been at pains to stress that this was a victory for Europe, and that many people and institutions had a hand in it. From the outset, it has seemed that this claim involves a lot of projection on the part of Sarkozy's opponents --Incidentally, when you give a link to Le Monde, it is to the subscribers' site. The same things are usually available on the free site (, and you might want to give that link when possible so that people don't end up at a dead end..

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comment. As I've said before, I think the Sarkozys played a crucial role in the final stages, and I think they deserve credit for it. Whether they've taken more credit than they deserve is a matter open to varying judgments.

The point about subscriber's links to Le Monde has come up before, and, alas, once you're a subscriber, all links lead to the subscriber's site. I would have to use a different computer or forgo my subscription privileges to set the links straight, and I'm afraid it's just too time-consuming. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, and it shouldn't be too hard for those who need the links to go to the regular site and search for the article referred to. My apologies.