January 23, 2022

Emmanuel Macron and his embarrassing Gulf allies

French President Emmanuel Macron undertakes, Friday, December 3, a two-day visit to three Gulf monarchies, with which Paris maintains a double-edged relationship. This trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Saudi Arabia comes about ten days after the site’s revelations Disclose on the excesses of Franco-Egyptian anti-terrorist cooperation, accused of leading to extrajudicial executions.

Customers of the French arms industry, considered at the Elysee Palace as useful interlocutors in the fight against terrorism, the regimes visited constitute three key partners of Paris in the Middle East, but they are also embarrassing allies due to the fact that of their propensity to abuse human rights.

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The President of the Republic will begin his tour on Friday morning with a stopover of a few hours in Dubai, the tourist and commercial capital of the UAE. There he will meet the de facto boss of the Emirati federation, the very authoritarian Mohammed Ben Zayed, known as “MBZ”, crown prince of the neighboring emirate of Abu Dhabi. The trip will continue the same day with a dinner in Doha, the capital of Qatar, with the local ruler, Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani. The city-state faces numerous criticisms on the working conditions of migrants assigned to the preparation of the Football World Cup, organized on its soil, from November 21 to December 18, 2022.

The trip will end on Saturday with a stopover in Jeddah, the great port of Western Saudi Arabia, where Mr. Macron will meet with the sulphurous Mohammed Ben Salman, “MBS”, the crown prince, on whom still hovers the shadow. of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist assassinated in October 2018, in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

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Contract race

Officially, the tour should make it possible to deepen the convergences between Paris and its Gulf partners in three areas: the fight against terrorism and the financing of radical Islamist movements; the stabilization of the Middle East, with expected discussions on the Lebanese economic debacle, the next presidential election in Libya, and the Iranian nuclear issue; and finally the traditional commercial questions.

Emmanuel Macron should start his journey with this component. Several contracts, of which the Elysee has taken care not to reveal the nature, should be signed Friday in Dubai. In particular, it would be a question of completing the purchase by the Emirates of thirty or even sixty Rafale, the fighter aircraft already sold to Egypt and Qatar. Asked about this by journalists, Anwar Gargash, a close adviser to Mohammed Ben Zayed, replied in a cryptic tone: “I don’t want to give away the Christmas present. “ The French delegation will include several bosses, including those of Safran and Thales, two flagships of the French defense industry.

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