Sarkozy’s Obama Gamble

More proof that France really, really, really wants to be Barack Obama’s privileged EU interlocuter:

France, currently chairing the six-month rotating European Unionpresidency, is pushing for the bloc to engage more and “without delay”in Iraq, a working paper seen by Financial Times Deutschland reads. . . .

The timing of such a move serves the interests of the new U.S. president,as he is set to shift the U.S. focus in its War on Terror from Iraq toAfghanistan and Pakistan.

The easy punchline here is obviously that “serving the interests of the new U.S. president” is not how you’d normally expect to see French foreign policy described. Except that historically, that’s pretty much always been the case. And in the case of the EU and Iraq, the elements seem to be in place: Arab countries are increasingly establishing a diplomatic presence, and the signing of a SOFA between the U.S. and Iraq would change the optics considerably. This is also a possible compromise solution to the thorny issue of Obama’s calls for increased NATO deployments to the Afghanistan theater.

Given the possibility of a downturn in the Iraqi security situation, though, it’s still a considerable risk. And in politics, like in the market, the amount of risk an investor is willing to take increases with their expectations of potential payoffs. So suffice it to say that Nicolas Sarkozy probably has very high expectations for the Obama presidency. And say what you will about Sarkozy, he’s got a nose for picking winners.

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