Le Figaro is reporting that France included its nuclear protection of the UAE as part of the agreements for the opening of its military base in Abu Dhabi last month. President Nicolas Sarkozy personally attended the formal opening of “Camp Peace” on May 26. The base attracted a great deal of world attention as France’s first permanent military base in the Persian Gulf.

The establishment of the base included revising the defense agreements signed by France and the UAE in 1995. According to Le Figaro, the revisions include a secret clause which commits France to defend the UAE by all means necessary in case of attack. Le Figaro credits a diplomat who has seen the text of the secret agreement as the source for this report.

A member of mahjoob.com pointed out the diplomatic nuances involved in the wording of the secret agreement.

The word “nuclear” is not at all mentioned in the text, but the formula used usually means that nuclear weapons are not excluded.The diplomat says the formula used “is a very strong one”. Much stronger than the one in the old accord of 1995, which “was rather vague” concerning an eventual French military intervention in case of attack against the UAE. Now the vagueness is removed, and a French riposte “is now almost automatic” in case of attack. Of course the decision on whether or not to use a nuclear riposte “is exclusively in the hands of French authorities”. The base in Abu-Dhabi “is not nuclearised” — i.e., will not have any nuclear weapons, but that is not needed. This accord in effect means extending the French nuclear umbrella to the UAE.”

Le Figaro reports that the new defense accord “does not offer the Emirates an unlimited nuclear guarantee,” and that the wording in the secret clause is “more restricted” than France’s commitments in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty to its NATO allies.

By declaring in the first line of the article that, “The containment (the encirclement) of Iran has begun,” Le Figaro clearly sees this extension of French nuclear deterrence directed toward the nation just 150 miles north of its new base in the UAE. In fact, the leaking of this story to Le Figaro may be a clarification of what the Independent reported back during the opening of the base in May;

officials at the Elysée Palace concede that France is “deliberately putting itself into a position of dissuasion” against an Iranian attack on the Gulf states. “If Iran was to attack, (France) would now in effect also be under attack,” an Elysée spokesman said.

This raises questions over the timing of this controversial revelation during a period when Iranian attention is focused on internal troubles. On the one hand, Teheran should be too busy with its domestic instability to be thinking of attacking any of its neighbors. On the other hand, Paris may have had some reason to deter the regime from considering the use of a foreign security crisis to gain public support and distract world attention from internal pacification. (photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images)