Geopolitics

New Leader Of Le Pen’s Party Accused Of Gas Chamber Denial

French journalist digs up troubling comments from 17 years ago by Jean-François Jalkh, who was just tapped to head the National Front party ahead of the May 7 presidential election.

National Front supporters rally in Henin-Beaumont on April 23
National Front supporters rally in Henin-Beaumont on April 23

PARIS — Far-right leader Marine Le Pen planned to spend the next two weeks trying to build her base, including more moderate voters, after clearing the first hurdle of the French election on Sunday. To do so, she announced that she would temporarily step down as leader of her National Front party, naming Jean-François Jalkh, the party's vice president, to take her place.

But a story has now surfaced that Jalkh had allegedly expressed doubts in the past that gas was used by the Nazis during the Holocaust. The comments, from an interview in 2000, surfaced Tuesday after a journalist from the Catholic daily La Croix tweeted a passage where Jalkh questioned whether Zyklon B was really used in the Holocaust gas chambers.

I stumbled onto this, concerning the new interim president of the FN!!!

The damning passage was published in Le Temps des Savoirs in 2005:

"... the use of gas, for example, called Zyklon B, I personally consider that on a technical point of view, it is impossible, clearly impossible, to use it in ... mass exterminations. Why? Because it takes days before decontaminating a room ... where one used Zyklon B."

Jalkh describes reading "the works of people who are deniers and revisionists," which surprised him for their "seriousness and rigor." It is unclear whether Jalkh was discussing his own beliefs or summarizing those of others.

Jalkh denies ever having made the comments, and the Le Pen campaign called the story "fabricated."

jalkh national front politics france

Jean-François Jalkh — Photo: Polomartini

However, researcher Magali Boumaza — now living in Istanbul — confirmed the accuracy of the quotes and claims to have recordings of the interview back in Paris: "I met Mr. Jalkh in April 2000 at the headquarters of the National Front," Boumaza told Libération. "The remarks in question represent three minutes of a three-hour interview."

Le Pen's National Front party has tried to distance itself from its anti-Semitism past. Last year, the party's founder (and Marine Le Pen's father) Jean-Marie Le Pen repeated remarks that the Holocaust was a "detail" of history. Le Pen senior, now 88, was subsequently forced out of National Front. In March, Benoît Loeuillet was suspended from the party after saying, "There were no mass deaths in the Nazi camps, as has been said." A month later, Marine Le Pen herself denied the French government's involvement in deporting Jews, saying it was the responsibility of Nazi occupiers.

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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.

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