The French politician Roland Dumas is perhaps the most famous foreign minister in the history of the Fifth Republic. Dumas was the life-long friend of François Mitterrand and served with him as European affairs minister and then foreign minister.
I met Minister Dumas in Paris in 2008. Dumas, who was 86 years old at the time, was strikingly alert and confident. The veteran politician stood at the window of his home and pointed to the River Seine saying, “I am seeing the horizon clearly as I am seeing Paris from behind this glass. I am telling you: the Arab world has gone through tough years and will undergo tougher years. The future isn’t in your region’s advantage. Big players know what they want and your region doesn’t want to be engaged in any match.”
Ten years after meeting Dumas, the man was standing by his vision. In 2019, at 97 years old, Dumas remains a politician going his own way, clashing with Europe and the US and attacking Israel. Dumas didn’t change since I met him more than 10 years ago, despite all the water that has passed under the bridge of politics.
Dumas was a member of the French National Assembly during France’s participation in the Tripartite Aggression on Egypt in 1956. When I asked him about his standpoint on the aggression, Dumas said: “Of course, I was against the aggression and I objected to the French government’s decision when I was in the assembly. It was totally a wrongful war. However, I and those who objected ... couldn’t stop it.”
I said to the former French foreign minister: “You’ve been close to Saddam Hussein and was a member of his defence team after his arrest. There is a prevalent idea in the Arab world that Washington insinuated to Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait ... How do you see this theory?”
Dumas replied dismissing the theory and said: “I met President Saddam Hussein more than once when I was foreign minister. He wasn’t an easy man at all. However, he should have been granted a fair trial. A former US official came to visit me here in this house and asked me to join him in a committee he formed for the defence of Saddam Hussein. I participated with him in preparing the defence case. But we weren’t granted the entry visa."
I don’t believe the story that the US ambassador was the one who suggested to Saddam that her country gave its consent to go ahead with the invasion or turning a blind eye to it. The American conspiracy narrative isn’t a true narrative. Saddam possessed a great deal of guile and he was the person who propagated this narrative to defend his standpoint towards invading Kuwait. As a matter of fact, he had previously envisioned annexing Kuwait for reasons concerning oil and authority.
I said to Mr Dumas: “There is another theory regarding the Israeli bombing of the Osirak-Tammouz Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981; it is based on a premise that France at the time colluded with Israel in its execution. The narrative is based on two points: the first point is that the assassination of the Egyptian nuclear scientist Yahya El-Mashad, the most prominent scientific figure within the Iraqi nuclear programme, took place in Paris. The second point is that Israel possessed detailed drawings of the reactor. This roused suspicion that maybe France had given them to Israel."
Roland Dumas said: “This is untrue. France was extremely furious. Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor a few days before François Mitterrand’s inauguration. Mitterrand was deeply affected. France was the country that helped Iraq and constructed the reactor. There was a French engineer who got killed in the Israeli air raid. Israel didn’t apologise to us and this increased our anger. We can’t make such a deal. Israel executed this through coordination with other parties. As for France, it remained furious for a long time due to the raid on the reactor.”
I said to Mr Dumas that another bombing occurred on Syrian sites and Israel claimed that they were nuclear sites and that was long years after the Israeli bombing of the Iraqi reactor. Was Syria on the nuclear track also, as has been propagated? He said: “There is a conspiracy on Syria. I don’t know its dimensions now, but it is real and dangerous.”
In June 2013, Dumas returned to this topic and talked to Arab and international media saying: “The conspiracy against Syria began before the Arab Spring. British officials visited me and told me, ‘There is something prepared for Syria.' I definitely refused to participate, but France did."
Roland Dumas has spoken about Bernard Henri Lévy, who was one of the big agitators of intervention in the Arab world. He wondered, “How come a contemptible intellectual like Bernard Henri Lévy plays an important role within the French Republic?”
Roland Dumas’s standpoint extends to saying there is Jewish influence in French decision-making circles. In February 2015, Dumas accused Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who called for security consolidation to confront “Islamist Fascism”, of acting under probable Jewish “ nfluence." He said: “Everyone knows he is married to someone who has an influence on him,” in reference to Valls's Jewish wife. The French Socialist Party subsequently released a statement declaring that Dumas's claims were "unworthy of a socialist decorated by the Republic."
Roland Dumas is still loyal to Mitterrand and his book, titled “Blows and Injuries: 50 Years of Shared Secrets with François Mitterrand,” which was published in 2011 attracted avid attention.
Our discussion went in various directions, and Dumas said to me laughingly, “You have to drink the orange juice, some of the ice has melted and the juice has become hot."
I still remember my meeting with Mr Dumas and I am still thinking about his vision that war in Syria is just a stage in a number of steps to isolate Iran. How is that destroying a civilisation and evicting its people from its geography to the margins of history is just a tactic or a transient step?
I am still thinking about what Roland Dumas mentioned on exposing Iran to huge and continuous pressure, even if a war wasn’t waged. It is the model that I may call the “No-War war” — creating the state of war without fighting. Iran stands behind the Arab world crisis and it also stands, with its failed ideology, behind a civil war in the Islamic world. However, the danger of the “No-War war” is that it is a new and fearful innovation and it can be replicated with any state, even those today counted among friends.
The “No-War war” is a new model in managing international conflicts: political blockade, economic destruction and a pressing psychological war, all without firing a single bullet. It is the slow death of the state and society without aircraft or tanks. No battles and no peace, no security and no life. Victory without fighting and defeat without war.