September 9, 2004

MORE ON THE FRANCE-IRAQ CONNECTION, and why it led the French to oppose U.S. intervention:

The intelligence reports showing French assistance to Saddam ongoing in the late winter of 2002 helped explain why France refused to deal harshly with Iraq and blocked U.S. moves at the United Nations.

“No wonder the French are opposing us,” one U.S. intelligence official remarked after illegal sales to Iraq of military and dual-use parts, originating in France, were discovered early last year before the war began. . . .

U.S. intelligence would not discover the pipeline until the eve of war last year; sensitive intelligence indicated that parts had been smuggled to Iraq as recently as that January. . . .

As of last year, Iraq owed France an estimated $4 billion for arms and infrastructure projects, according to French government estimates. U.S. officials thought this massive debt was one reason France opposed a military operation to oust Saddam.

The fact that illegal deals continued even as war loomed indicated France viewed Saddam’s regime as a future source of income.

Nice to be reminded of this. Meanwhile, Chirac isn’t exactly living up to the spirit of Kyoto: “The answer was simple: the French air force, which operates the presidential Airbus 319, was ordered to tack another 1,200 miles on to its flight so that Mr Chirac could sleep undisturbed.”