Geopolitics

“You Must Name Your Enemy” — The Marine Le Pen Interview

A return to national borders, a fight against radical Islam, a rejection of the EU and its asylum policies. France's Far-Right National Front leader Marine Le Pen answers questions in the wake of the Paris attacks, and ahead of Sunday's re

Le Pen, an anti-EU member of the European Parliament.
Le Pen, an anti-EU member of the European Parliament.
Olivier Francey

STRASBOURG â€" Our interview with Marine Le Pen had been planned for a long time. But in the meantime, Paris suffered its deadliest attacks since World War II, a gruesome twist of fate that are contributing to surging popularity of her National Front party, which a growing portion of the electorate considers most fit to respond to the terrorist threat. Just before the French regional elections, whose first round is Sunday, the populist party is well ahead in the northern Nord-Pas-de-Calais and southern Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur departments. In her small European Parliament office in Strasbourg, Le Pen agreed to 25 minutes of questions, no more.

LE TEMPS: You demand a return to automatic controls at national borders. Yet most of the terrorists in Paris had French passports. Isn't the problem above all within France?

MARINE LE PEN: Let's be clear, there's not just one measure, but a whole array of measures that need to be set up immediately. Even though some had French nationality, the fact remains that they left to buy weapons abroad. We need to control our borders to know who comes in, who leaves and who stays on our territory. Controlling our borders is an absolute emergency. Secondly, we need to fight Islamist fundamentalism that is proliferating and recruiting in the radical breeding ground that was able to see the light of day because of the cowardice of our rulers and the mass immigration that our country has been going through for years.

Everyone claims to be fighting terrorism nowadays. But terrorism is a weapon. What we need to do is fight the one holding the weapon. The third lever consists of breaking with the politicians who caused chaos in Libya, Iraq and Syria. Finally, we need to put the European Commission in its place. It's up to countries to determine their priorities, especially on a budgetary level. It's not up to the European Union to order us to cut 60,000 troops, 20,000 police officers or I don't know how many border officials.

So you don't see any benefit whatsoever to free movement in Europe?

No, nothing. Except maybe for the bobos upper-class leftists who find it fantastic to spend a weekend in Italy without having to go through customs or change currency. I'm the defender of the greater majority of French people who no longer even have enough money to spend a weekend somewhere else. And if they could, you can be sure that changing currency or going through customs wouldn't cause them the slightest problem. The benefits of free movement are ridiculous compared to its downsides.

Isn't there a response to terrorism based on something other than security? France also has social problems.

It's not a social problem! (French President François Hollande) told me after the Charlie Hebdo attacks that the idea that poverty and unemployment leads to terrorism was wrong. No, it is ideology that leads to terrorism. France has many poor places where you don't see terrorists appearing.

Asylum seekers at the border between Macedonia and Greece â€" Photo: Dragan Tatic

Isn't pointing fingers at the excesses of Islam exactly what ISIS wants? A great clash of civilizations in France and a national cohesion smashed to pieces?

I think it's the exact opposite. It's by not singling out Islamist fundamentalism, by not attacking it, by not cutting its financing, by not pointing fingers that stereotyping could appear. By indicating ideologies preached by Wahhabism, by Salafists and by the Muslim Brotherhood, you name the enemy. Who's good? Who's bad? Who's who? We need to answer these questions. It's the government's responsibility to be extremely clear in stating who is the enemy we need to fight.

You call for a freeze on accepting refugees in France. But doesn't refusing to take in people fleeing war pose a moral problem for you?

No. Because we're not suggesting to leave them in distress or to abandon them. What I'm proposing is another choice and I've made it from the start. I didn't wait for Islamist fundamentalists to infiltrate themselves among the migrants â€" which I had already denounced at the European Parliament in September â€" to say that these insane policies that were imposed by the European Commission were going to generate extremely heavy consequences for our security.

What should have been done?

Humanitarian camps under control of the international community should have been built in Jordan, Lebanon or Syria.

And by supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad?

I don't support him in particular. I support the stability of the Syrian state, whoever leads it. The question can be summarized in a choice: Do we prefer an already existing state or an Islamic state?

Let's get back to our continent. In Europe, anti-establishment forces are gaining power. They're sometimes right-wing (you, UKIP, Geert Wilders), sometimes left wing (Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Syriza, Podemos). Is what unites you, anti-capitalism, stronger than what divides you, a left-wing/right-wing division?

I've stopped believing in the right/left division since at least Methuselah. I think the current division is between nationalists and globalists. There are those who consider the nation â€" with everything it includes in terms of budgetary, economic, monetary, territorial and legislative sovereignty â€" as being the most efficient structure to guarantee security, prosperity and defend the identity of people. And there are those who believe that globalism, anti- or pro-liberal, is the only possible future. We are consistent, unlike the far left, which defends a completely incoherent project.

Why?

Because you cannot be against ultra-capitalism and for immigration.

Really?

Yes, for a simple reason. Immigration is the weapon of choice of the capitalists. The far left has never been able to respond to this dilemma. I think the only legitimate sovereign force in a democracy are the people.

And the people are always right?

The people are always right even when they're wrong. Because if they're not right, who will be right for them? The oligarchy? Well, no thanks.

Le Pen in 2012 with her father, National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Penâ€" Photo Blandinelc

There's a process you started long ago to make yourself seem kind.

We don't have to seem kind. We have to show ourselves how we are. I accept that people hate us, but not for the caricature people want to make of us.

Everyone predicts you may arrive at the second-round of the presidential election in 2017. Your father seemed more comfortable contesting than governing. Is the National Front now ready to govern?

To be honest, Jean-Marie Le Pen was always contesting because he was never in a governing situation. He was at 15%. We're higher today. At the regional elections, we will prove that it won't start raining frogs or that there will be no locust invasion when we win. I'm not afraid of governing. We will be glad to reach power and be judged on what we do. I'm anxious to show what we can do.

And to soften what you say to represent all the French people?

I don't have to soften what I say because I don't think it's excessive. It's the caricature that people make of it that's excessive. Once again, what do we do in the face of danger? Well, we implement the measures of the National Front. Like economic patriotism, for instance, which is forbidden by the EU. Our greatest strength is coherence.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3

-Analysis-

LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.


Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

commons.wikimedia.org

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ