US rescue bid: still support from W. Europe, Japan but US prestige drops in Mideast as tensions rise; France stays aloof
Paris contributor William Dowell reports: Shortly after the bungled attempt at freeing the Iran hostages, an American diplomat strolled into UNESCO's Paris headquarters and was coldly informed by a third-world colleague, "We aren't even speaking English around here anymore." The American went home, badly shaken.
Another American moaned to her friend, "I don't even want to go out on the street anymore. I'm just too ashamed."
While the failure of the rescue humiliated and angered Americans living abroad, its effect on Europeans has been far more subtle. In a positive sense, it will very likely convince the heads of state of the nine European Community countries now holding a summit meeting in Luxembourg to overlook their individual differences in order to forge a united European front -- something they were unable to do when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.
In a negative sense, it will be a long time before any European government is able to put faith in the Carter administration again. Most European diplomats candidly maintain that the economic sanctions and pressure they recently threatened against Iran were intended more to keep President Carter from resorting to military action than to protect the hostages.
When President Carter decided to resort to military force anyway, there was a definite feeling here that he had violated an unwritten agreement. The impression now is that the Carter administration cannot be trusted.
Most French diplomats are actually relieved that President Carter did not inform them of the operation in advance. Not knowing has spared France responsibility for the fiasco in the eyes of the Middle Eastern countries it depends on for oil.
The military aspects of the failure have also cast doubts on the reliability of the US as a protector in Europe.
The growing conviction here that the Carter administration is incompetent has been steadily driving France and Germany closer together in order to form an independant European force. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's support for Mr. Carter has tended to isolate England from the group. Squabbles over England's share of the budget have added to that isolation.
The rescue failure has added an urgency to working out differences in the European Community, and France may be willing to make concessions to England over the budget in the interest of unity.