Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, What Next?

Singer-songwriter, former model and novice actress, Carla Bruni has lately mostly been known for being married to now outgoing French President Nicolas Sarkozy. When she became the First Lady, she may have lost her left-wing Bohemian fans. What's

Save her from early retirement!
Save her from early retirement!
Sascha Lehnartz

PARIS - Polling stations had barely closed on Sunday evening when the jokes started on Twitter. "Carla Bruni just changed her Facebook relationship status from ‘married" to ‘it's complicated…""

One wise guy using the moniker Kim Jong Un posted that he'd just received a text message from the soon-to-be former French First Lady saying that she found men with nuclear weapons irresistible. (Bruni is purported to have once stated: "I want a man who has nuclear power.")

Nasty jibes; not interesting per se -- except that in Carla Bruni-Sarkozy's case the basic question is legitimate: what is the next act for the former top model, on-again off-again singer and actress, and French First Lady?

Now 43, the then Ms. Bruni was first thrust onto the French political stage as Nicolas's Sarkozy new partner during a visit to Disneyland Paris just a few weeks after the French President's separation from his wife Cécilia in late 2007. A few months later, in February 2008, the pair married in relatively low-key fashion.

The French did not exactly reach out and collectively hug their Italian-born First Lady, but she did chalk up points on official occasions, truly elegant in all circumstances, whether she was with Queen Elizabeth or Michelle Obama.

Teaching Sarko the classics

Bruni-Sarkozy also collected kudos for having a positive cultural influence on the chief of state. It was reported that on some evenings she sat him down on the sofa in her posh 16th arrondissement townhouse, to view cinema classics on DVD.

The First Lady often said that she had an entirely un-political personality, and over time this became an effective means of focusing public attention on what her husband was doing.

"When I see what's happening in Greece, it frightens me," she said in February, adding that under such worrying circumstances she could only stress the importance of her husband's re-election: "He's good," she said. "He has experience and courage."

Once again she surprised the French public during the election campaign with her assertion that "we are modest people," cementing this claim to being ordinary by appearing in public less than impeccably coiffed, even a tad sloppy on occasion and, after the birth of her daughter, demonstratively showing off some remaining post-natal pudginess.

As the campaign wore on, and polls were suggesting she wasn't gaining in popularity, Bruni-Sarkozy began to fear more and more that her days as the République's Decorative Element might be reaching an end. This week's Le Point magazine features a phone interview it held with the First Lady a few days before the first round of voting last month.

In a "quiet voice," Bruni-Sarkozy stated that she knew that "the media want the other candidate to win, but I believe we'll win anyway -- and this will demonstrate how estranged you the media are from the French people."

Then, half-jokingly, she added: "You must realize that if my husband loses and the other candidate wins you won't have anything to write about? What will you possibly say? You're going to have to come up with something." It was more than a hint that a certain amount of journalistic creativity would be called for to find something interesting to say about "the other candidate."

And now Carla Bruni is the one who's going to "have to come up with something" – and whether she can return to her old pursuits remains to be seen.

Next autumn, her first record in four years will be released. Ten years after the spectacular success of her first album "Quelqu'un ma dit" (Somebody Told Me), which sold over two million copies, the new record will show whether she can still count on a benevolent fan base.

At the start of her singing career, she was a favorite of the left-leaning Bohème crowd in Paris Saint-Germain. Her chansons provided a pleasant musical background for intellectuals as they smoked at Left Bank café terraces. But her marriage to their arch-enemy may well have wiped out that old fan base.

Music critic Bertrand Dicale believes that, with Bruni-Sarkozy's old fans feeling "betrayed," and her not having created a new base, a comeback might prove to be very difficult. "Carla Bruni-Sarkozy will find it very hard to exist as an artist," he says. "There will be a tendency to confuse the political person with the singer."

Early retirement?

Louis Bertignac, former guitarist with the rock band Téléphone who worked with Bruni on her first album, says he fears that the fans "could hold the fact that she was First Lady against her." But that would be "silly," he said. "She has genuine songwriting talent; she proved that with her first album. If I were her, I'd continue writing songs."

Bruni-Sarkozy's spokesperson and former manager Véronique Rampazzo, with whom she has worked for over 20 years, pooh-poohs talk of Bruni's career coming to an end: "She didn't stop during Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency, she kept on composing, and if she didn't give any concerts it was for purely pragmatic reasons. She will start giving concerts again now."

Her acting career, which basically consists of a cameo in Woody Allen‘s "Midnight in Paris," appears to be on the back burner for the time being although there are rumors that she is to appear in the new movie her sister, actress and director Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, is filming. Rampazzo, however, told the "Nouvel Observateur" magazine that there was no truth whatsoever to the rumor.

Starting next week, Bruni-Sarkozy should have some time to think about her future career. After turning over the keys to the Elysée Palace on May 15, she, her husband, and their nine-month old daughter Giulia are headed for the Bruni summer home at Cap Nègre on the Côte d'Azur for a holiday.

Read the article in German in Die Welt.

Photo- Fondation Carla Bruni-Sarkozy

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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


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

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.

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