France and the Arabs

France decided to start bombing ISIS in Syria, something that will anger Turkey, and at the same time France decided to bring at the United Nations the issue of war crimes against the Assad regime, which is angering Russia and Iran. However with these moves France is pleasing a lot her allies in the Persian Gulf. There are many Franco-Arab projects in the energy sector, and France is also selling arms to the Arabs of the Gulf in multi-billion dollar agreements. France’s last success was the sale of the two French Mistral warships to Egypt.

Each Mistral can carry 16 helicopters, 50 armored vehicles, and 700 men. The two Mistral warships were initially built for Russia, after an agreement between Sarkozy and Putin, but Francois Holland canceled the deal after the crisis in Ukraine.

Map of the Middle East

Saudi Arabia will finance a significant part of the new Egyptian toys. Saudi Arabia wants to create an Arab Force in order to look Turkey and Iran in the eye. Saudi Arabia and Egypt will be at the core of this Arab force. Egypt is the largest Arab country, and her great importance makes Egypt a very expensive ally. Saudi Arabia is watching a rising Turkish influence over Qatar, and rising Iranian influence over Oman and other small Arab countries, and she desperately needs a strong Arab coalition with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Egypt also bought from France 24 Rafale aircrafts in a 6 billion dollar deal. I guess that Saudi Arabia must have covered a part of this deal too. Qatar bought another 24 Rafale aircrafts, and the United Arab Emirates are discussing with France the purchase of some more. Therefore, no one should be surprised by seeing the French supporting the Arabs against Syria and Iran, but also against Turkey. The French bombing of ISIS is a move that is more important for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, given Qatar’s alliance with Turkey, and Turkey’s influence over ISIS. Besides their alliance with the Arabs, the French have problematic relations with Turkey and Iran, with whom they are fighting for the uranium and other resources of Africa. France was the great power that mostly objected the agreement about Iran’s nuclear program, and I do not thing her alliance with the Arabs was the only reason. France is also fighting with Iran and China for the uranium of Niger, and if Iran expands its nuclear program, this struggle will become more intense.

The funny thing is that France’s relations with the Arabs were very problematic until the 1960s, because Algeria was a French colony, and there was a war between France and the Arabs. There was also the issue with the socialist dictator of Egypt, Gamal Nasser, who was a Russian ally and who wanted to close the Suez Canal. As a result, France had many problems with the Arabs, and she was very close to Israel. France was Israel’s main arms supplier until the special relation developed between Israel and the United States in the 60s under President Kennedy. Once France lost her colonies, and the United States became the dominant power of the Middle East, France normalized her relations with the Arabs. France wanted to cooperate with the Arabs in the energy sector and also in order to sell arms to them.

However until recently the Islamist Arab dictators of the Persian Gulf were mainly buying arms from the United States, and the socialist Arab dictators were buying arms from the Russians. But after the Arab-Chinese rapprochement and the American-Iranian rapprochement, the Islamist Arabs of the Gulf started feeling less comfortably about by purchasing arms only from the United States. After all, they know that the Americans will have to adopt a more neutral stance between the Arabs and their new friends the Iranians. To make things worse, they cannot go only for Chinese or Russian arms because China and Russia have much stronger ties with Iran than they have with Saudi Arabia. Russia is also Saudi Arabia’s main competitor in the oil markets.

Map of the Middle East

With the French on the other hand, the Arabs do not have such a problem. The French are fighting with the Iranians and the Chinese for the raw materials of North and Central Africa, and the Arabs know that the French will not be neutral between the Arabs and the Iranians. That’s what it is meant by the following Time article, titled “The Real Reason Egypt Is Buying Fighter Jets From France”, February 2015. According to the Time, the real reason the Egyptians want to buy French weapons is because they want to diversify their supplies. That is also true for the Arabs of the Gulf as I already said. Especially now that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt want to form an Arab Force, which will be able to withstand the Turks and the Iranians. They need to buy weapons from a source a bit hostile towards the Iranians to have support in case of a potential crisis.

I must also say that the further strengthening of the Franco-Arab relations should generate a strengthening of the German-Iranian relations. It is true that there is the issue of Israel which is a thorn in the German-Iranian relations. Iran is openly asking for the extermination of Israel while Germany has been protecting Israel after World War 2. Germany has asked Iran to cool its position on Israel if Iran wants to bring the German-Iranian relations where they were in the past. For the last 60 years, the Germans have put Israel above their economic interests, and they have backed Israel both financially and diplomatically.

But can the Germans afford to keep protecting Israel in a period of deep economic crisis, with so many opportunities in Iran? The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that Germany will never be neutral towards Israel, as you can read at the following Jerusalem Post article, titled “Merkel: Germany will never be neutral on Israel”, September 2013. Only time will tell.

Relevant Articles

“France makes first air strikes against Isis in Syria”, September 2015

“France ‘opens war crimes inquiry against Assad regime’ in Syria: UN debate”, September 2015

“Egypt to buy Mistral-class warships France originally built for Russia”, September 2015

“Qatar agrees to buy 24 Rafale fighter jets from France”, May 2015

“UAE Restarts Rafale Talks With France”, May 2015

“The Real Reason Egypt Is Buying Fighter Jets From France”, February 2015

“Merkel: Germany will never be neutral on Israel”, September 2013

“The Iran deal puts Germany between a rock and a hard place”, July 2015

“France’s Relentless Hostility to the Jewish State”, February 2016

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