Expressing his thanks to “all those who mobilized” to help the French hostage regain his freedom, Jacques Chirac “thanked the coalition forces that permitted this release”. Dominque de Villepin was more explicit. Thanking “the diplomatic services and intelligence services”, the prime minister also thanked “the US authorities that lent their assistance to this release”. Such expressions of gratitude, which have been rather rare in the Iraqi context over recent years, are a logical consequence of the circumstances surrounded the ending of Bernard Planche’s period of captivity.
Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy confirmed yesterday that the French hostage had been “found at the time of a control operation by the coalition forces”. As US soldiers were the first to find him, it would have been difficult not to acknowledge their role. In any event, the affair shows that, although it is not participating in the coalition, France can have need of its support or at least say it needs it.
Because other reasons than simple diplomatic courtesy may have caused the French authorities to be sweet to the Americans. “In this kind of affair, they are able, thanks to their system of wiretapping and intelligence, to obtain a lot of information that can sometimes be embarrassing. It is better not to incite them to make it public,” said one source who has followed closely the kidnapping of Westerners in Iraq. Freed on Saturday [7 January], Bernard Planche remained about 24 hours in the hands of the Americans before being handed over to the French embassy in Baghdad…
…Anxious to see regional security, Paris also plans to cultivate dialogue with Washington on two key issues: Syria and Iran’s nuclear programme. In the case of both these crises the French, and more widely the Europeans as a whole, know that it is difficult to act without US support.
Hat Tip Larwyn