Sarkozy in Baghdad

Just saw on the news that French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a surprise stop in Baghdad, accompanied by Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Defense Minister Hervé Morin. (No shoes for Nicolas, apparently.)

Obviously there are some contracts — especially defense contracts — to be gained, so the visit isn’t selfless. But I couldn’t help but think this is part of the French effort to get President Obama to walk back the tough love on NATO troop increases for Afghanistan.

According to Le Figaro, Sarkozy is the first Western head of state not part of the invading coalition to visit Iraq. And the symbollism of the French president going to Baghdad is pretty enormous, both for finalizing the Franco-American reconciliation, but also for helping to legitimize the American nation-building effort there. Regardless of how it was seen in America, French opposition to the invasion was widely applauded around the world. And for the progress in Iraq to remain stable, the range of countries engaged and participating in its reconstruction must increase, especially since its own oil revenues will be falling with the rest of the oil-producing world.

Sarkozy seems to be all but begging Obama not to make him just another French president who said no to America. By giving everything Obama isn’t asking for, Sarkozy’s hoping Obama won’t ask for the one thing he can’t deliver.