President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Tuesday that France would establish a military base in the United Arab Emirates, making it the only Western power other than the United States to have a permanent defense installation in the strategic Persian Gulf region.
Sarkozy signed the deal in Abu Dhabi with Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, president of the U.A.E., describing it as "a sign to all that France is participating in the stability of this region of the world."
French officials said the U.A.E. military base, coupled with an agreement to help the Emirates build two nuclear reactors for energy production, is intended in part to warn Iran against taking aggressive steps toward any of its neighbors.
France is a major arms supplier to the U.A.E. and other Middle Eastern countries and stages regular joint military exercises with the Emirates.
In two of the largest weapons sales to the U.A.E. in recent years, France signed a $3.4 billion deal involving 63 Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft and a $3.4 billion agreement to supply 390 Leclerc tanks.
The French base will be set up in Abu Dhabi, the largest and wealthiest of the seven emirates, and will become operational in 2009, according to French officials. Officials declined to provide specifics of the base's operations. Abu Dhabi is just across the Persian Gulf from Iran.
French Vice Adm. Jacques Mazars, who will head the project, said that in addition to the 400-plus people at the base, as many as 150 French navy personnel would be assigned to a U.A.E. naval base in Abu Dhabi, according to news service accounts from the region.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
I don't care too much for the nuke plant deal, but on balance I think this is welcome news.