Transatlantic Security Initiative Assistant Director Robbie Gramer and Middle East Peace and Security Initiative Program Assistant Owen Daniels write for Politico on new French defense contracts with Gulf states in light of strained negotiations between the United States and its partners in the region:
The Dassault Rafale, France’s premier fighter jet, headlined the International Paris Air Show last week, showing off its state-of-the art maneuvers before a crowd of 300,000 defense industry leaders. While the air show ostensibly exhibited advances in aviation technology, France also brandished the Rafale as the centerpiece of major new diplomatic strides. Through a series of recent sales worth billions, most recently a $12 billion deal with Saudi Arabia announced Wednesday, the Rafale has become the backbone of Paris’s realpolitik economic diplomacy aimed at sustaining its global stature and capitalizing on recent rifts in the United States’ relations with its partners.
Gulf states are signing defense contracts with Paris to express their discontent with American policies in the wake of the Iran nuclear negotiations. The fact that the Iran talks have excluded Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partners while ignoring Tehran’s regional meddling has led Gulf partners to question the American commitment to their security, especially after the administration’s backtracking on a Syrian chemical weapons red line. Spotting an opportunity, France has stepped in to fill the void.