Feu vert ou faux pas?

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L’affaire de la déclaration du vice-président US Joe Biden, interprétée d’abord comme un “feu vert” à une attaque israélienne de l’Iran, lors de son interview à ABC.News par George Staphanopoulos, le 5 juillet 2009, a déclenché une succession d’interventions diverses, bref une sans doute brève tempête diplomatique que d'autres qualifierait de “tempête dans un verre d'au médiatique”. Nous en parlions hier 7 juillet 2009. La chose mérite une clarification technique, ou une tentative de clarification technique.

Voici d’abord, restitué tel qu’ABC.News l’a communiquée, la transcription du passage incriminé.

«STEPHANOPOULOS: And meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu has made it pretty clear that he agreed with President Obama to give until the end of the year for this whole process of engagement to work. After that, he's prepared to make matters into his own hands.

»Is that the right approach?

»BIDEN: Look, Israel can determine for itself… it's a sovereign nation… what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else.

»STEPHANOPOULOS: Whether we agree or not?

»BIDEN: Whether we agree or not. They're entitled to do that. Any sovereign nation is entitled to do that. But there is no pressure from any nation that's going to alter our behavior as to how to proceed.

»What we believe is in the national interest of the United States, which we, coincidentally, believe is also in the interest of Israel and the whole world. And so there are separate issues.

»If the Netanyahu government decides to take a course of action different than the one being pursued now, that is their sovereign right to do that. That is not our choice.

»STEPHANOPOULOS: But just to be clear here, if the Israelis decide Iran is an existential threat, they have to take out the nuclear program, militarily the United States will not stand in the way?

»BIDEN: Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination, if they make a determination that they're existentially threatened and their survival is threatened by another country.

»STEPHANOPOULOS: You say we can't dictate, but we can, if we choose to, deny over-flight rights here in Iraq. We can stand in the way of a military strike.

»BIDEN: I'm not going to speculate, George, on those issues, other than to say Israel has a right to determine what's in its interests, and we have a right and we will determine what's in our interests.»

D’autre part, il nous a semblé intéressant de signaler un commentaire très “technique”, également, sur la façon dont Biden a été interrogé, sur ce qu’il a répondu dans ces conditions, en gardant à l’esprit que Biden est un spécialiste des “faux pas”, des gaffes dans ses déclarations publiques. Le commentaire vient de The Washington Note, de Jon Weinberg, le 7 juillet 2009 et il s’agit bien de la description “technique” de l’entretien, notamment comment Biden a été “enfermé” dans un coin sous les questions de Stephanopoulos, et en position très difficile pour répondre sur ce sujet extrêmement sensible

«Perhaps Biden did not provide a suitably diplomatic answer to Stephanopoulos' core question on Israel's right to attack Iran, and his bluntness seemed to run counter to President Obama's recent clarification: “What is also true is, it is the policy of the United States to try to resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear capabilities [...] through diplomatic channels.”

»Biden spoke of a sovereign nation's right to protect itself. After all, even the most dovish Israeli administration – and, for that matter, many Arab governments – would inevitably fear a nuclear Iran under the leadership of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

»Looking through the show's transcript, what I find most striking is that rather than giving Israel the “green light” to attack Iran, as international and even the Israeli press have been quick to assert, Biden was surprisingly measured given that Stephanopoulos had backed him into an extraordinarily tough corner.

»And his answer was straightforward enough, even too straightforward: Nowhere does he actually suggest that Israel would have American support for attacking Iran. Instead, Biden repeatedly emphasizes and reiterates that America does not single-handedly dictate Israel's interests, regardless of accusations to the contrary. He even refers to the national interests of Israel and the US as “coincidentally” aligned. I'm no linguist, but I do know that an alliance of coincidence implies a less than rock-solid relationship.

»Perhaps most strikingly, the vice president tactfully avoids Stephanopoulos' most loaded question: whether the US would stand in the way of an Israeli military strike by denying Israel the use of Iraqi airspace. Biden responds, “I'm not going to speculate, George, on those issues, other than to say Israel has a right to determine what's in its interests, and we have a right and we will determine what's in our interests.”»

»Unlike what many have taken away from the interview, this latter statement alongside that of the “coincidental” interests of the US and Israel seems to actually suggest, however vaguely, that the Obama administration does not tacitly approve of Israel acting unilaterally, but understands that Israel may do so – that currently, the two country's interests are somewhat aligned, but that they could diverge.

»Short of evading these questions completely – which, if executed skillfully, would probably have been the best option – Biden had little choice other than to remain as ambiguous as he could. His task was to simultaneously project the president's “unclenched fist” policy of prospective reconciliation with Iran alongside continuing support for Israel, which is no easy task.

»Biden completed this task, but did a messy job. He did make clear that the US does not dictate policy to Israel, but that that does not mean that the US would support an Israeli strike against Iranian targets. This is not the green light, yellow light, or red light that many understand it to be. Rather, it is yet another of many repeated announcements to stay tuned.»

Donc, pas de “faux pas” et pas de “feu vert”… Mais il est certain que, lorsqu’on connaît la personnalité de Biden, sa propension aux fameux “faux pas” verbaux, on est tenté de s’acharner dès lors qu’on sent qu’on le tient sur une question sensible et que lui-même, Biden, n’a pas tranché assez nettement en donnant une réponse définitive, éventuellement abrupte (y compris : “Je ne spécule pas sur ce genre de choses, point final”). Il devient alors tentant de le coincer dans un coin, rhétoriquement parlant, et de le presser comme un citron jusquà ce que, dans ses réponses ambiguës, sorte une phrase ou l’autre qui puisse prêter à interprétation ou à confusion. Or, l’ambiguïté est le domaine même de l’interprétation oi de la confusion. Biden n’a pas fait de “faux pas verbal” mais sa réputation, et sa faiblesse rhétorique à cet égard, ont fait que tout s’est passé comme s’il l’avait fait à cause de l'acharnement somme toute normal (à cause de la réputation de Biden et des conceptions de cette sorte d'activité du talk-show) du journaliste.

Pour le reste, l’ensemble donne bien l’impression d’une manœuvre classique de communication dans le cours d’une interview, pavée d’évidence (“Israël est un Etat souverain”) qui prêtent aussitôt à interprétation lorsqu'elles sont exploitées comme il faut par un enchaînement de questions marquées par l' insinuation. Ni “feu vert” ni “faux pas”, plutôt une aventure de plus dans un processus de communication qui est devenu en soi une idéologie de l’extrémisme, qui est bien la principale caractéristique d’une époque.


Mis en ligne le 8 juillet 2009 à 06H06