Why is France building a base in the Gulf?

Lost in the shuffle of the U.S. primary election, the new season of American Idol, the ten-year anniversary of the Monica Scandal, and other assorted irrelevancies, we see this curious news

France and the UAE have signed a deal allowing France
to set up a permanent military base, the first in the Gulf for a
Western power other than the US.

The deal allows for the stationing of up to 500 permanent military personnel in the UAE's largest emirate Abu Dhabi.

Further details about the agreement were not immediately available.

Correspondents say the base will give France new ability to project its forces into a strategic oil-producing region.

Mais pourquoi?

Really, this is a big question.  The U.S. has been the sole western power in the Gulf since a nearly bankrupt Great Britain abandoned the last vestiges of the old empire in the late 60s.

Does French president Nicholas Sarkozy suspect the U.S. empire is getting shaky and he'd better start hedging his bets?  Or is he doing a favor for Bush and Cheney to help pick up the slack from a U.S. military stretched to the limit in Iraq and Afghanistan?  And how will the presence of French troops on Muslim lands go down with France's own Muslim population?

No one is U.S. media is asking these questions.  Come to think of it, I doubt anyone is asking these questions in French media either, seeing as Sarkozy is a never-ending soap opera, what with his model girlfriend and the claims of death threats against his young son. 

The Daily Reckoning