French President Francois Hollande and FM Laurent Fabius 370.
(photo credit: Reuters)
‘Sucker’s deal” is how French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius referred to the
agreement that began to materialize in negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 a
Thanks to the French, the Islamic Republic will not, for the
time being, get relief from the sanctions regime as it marches – nearly
unhindered – toward nuclear capability. A historic security blunder was
The French are to be praised for demonstrating leadership. Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s harsh criticism of the purported deal turned out
not to be a lone voice. A warmer-than-usual welcome awaits France’s President
Francois Hollande when he arrives this week accompanied by
Fabius’s decision to break with the consensus, break the P5+1’s
informal rules and go public with his reservations regarding the interim deal,
is a sign of the times. Not too many years ago – particularly under the
administration of president George W. Bush – it was a decidedly hawkish and
interventionist US that led international coalitions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
However, US President Barack Obama, in part out of deference to a war-weary
America, has scaled back his country’s dominant role in the region.
US refrained from taking the leading role in the military intervention in Libya,
preferring instead to build a broad coalition. Though the Syrians crossed his
redline with regard to the use of chemical weapons, Obama refrained from
ordering an air attack and then failed to receive congressional support to do
so. And the US has cut its aid to Egypt.
America seems to be less than
willing to maintain pressure on Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry has asked US
lawmakers not to increase sanctions against Islamic Republic. And the US has
failed to maintain a credible military threat against Iran at least since the
Islamic Republic’s new president Hassan Rouhani launched his charm
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin of the Institute for National
Security Studies noted recently that Jerusalem is concerned acceptance of a
nuclear Iran – also referred to using the euphemistic Cold War-era term
“containment” – is taking hold in Washington.
It is in this geopolitical
context that Paris has stepped in to ensure that a serious deal is offered the
Iranians. A number of motivations might be behind the French decision. France,
as one of the few nations with nuclear weapons, wants to retain its exclusive
status and tactical advantage via anti-proliferation policies. France, after
all, has long taken a hard line on Iran’s program, going back to the government
of president Jacques Chirac. As part of a larger strategy to increase its
influence at a time when the US is wavering, the French might be interested in
strengthening relations with Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations in the Persian
Gulf that face big security threats if Iran goes nuclear.
Standing up to the
Americans might win Hollande points among the French people. French pride was
stoked by the thought that for the first time in a while – perhaps since Charles
de Gaulle’s era - instead of the Americans it was the French who were doing the
Whatever the motivation, the French were right on
The semi-official Fars news agency in Iran criticized the
“destructive roles of France and Israel” for the failure of negotiations and ran
a caricature of France as a frog firing a gun. “By shooting a gun he feels
important,” said the commentary.
US Sen. John McCain tweeted that Paris
“had the courage to prevent a bad nuclear agreement with Iran. Vive la France!”
We share McCain’s take on the situation.