France, Israel, and Geneva Negotiations

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sha’ban Shahidi Moaddab
International Affairs Analyst; Iran's Former Ambassador to Indonesia &
Former Deputy Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance for Press Affairs

Iran's nuclear negotiating team returned home last week after taking part in three days of intensive and breathtaking negotiations with the representatives of the P5+1 group of world powers in the Swiss city of Geneva. The Iranian negotiators are to continue negotiations with the P5+1 in the same venue on November 20, 2013.

The main outcome of the aforesaid negotiations, which were conducted by [Iranian Foreign Minister] Dr. [Mohammad Javad] Zarif and his accompanying delegation with the representatives of six major world powers, was taking another important step toward reaching a final agreement. That agreement most probably will be reached in the future and following more sessions of negotiations. It would be simplistic to assume that the negotiating sides will be able to reach a final agreement over a short period of time. Although negotiations between the Iranian foreign minister and the representatives of Western and Eastern powers took place behind the closed doors, most analysts believe that the Iranian side has taken good steps to defend the national interests of the Islamic Republic through a successful show of diplomatic competence and a strong will power. The opposite negotiating parties were also determined to obtain necessary guarantees from the Iranian delegation despite the apparent conflict of interests that existed among them.

A review of similar negotiations, which have taken place at an international level in the past few decades, will clearly prove that instead of trying to reach a hasty conclusion in the negotiations, all the involved parties should take a comprehensive approach to multilateral talks and avoid sticking to illogical and unfounded presumptions. For example, nobody should assume that the Eastern and Western parties to the negotiations have been pursuing common interests in all fields, nor it should be assumed that they will pass over their own interests during negotiations with the representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Of course, another important point here is that if the negotiations are approached from a psychological standpoint with the changing international relations in mind, the Iranian negotiators would be able to obtain necessary concessions through separate and multilateral negotiations.

Sitting at the negotiating table is similar to being present at a war front. The more support every negotiating team receives from within their own country, the more powerful they will appear in the negotiations and their positions will be taken more seriously by the opposite parties. Therefore, the Iranian foreign minister has frequently warned that when negotiations with the P5+1 group are under way, political factions inside the country should avoid remarks or deeds which may undermine the position of the Iranian negotiating team in the face of the opposite parties. Any support accorded to the Iranian negotiating team by the high-ranking officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran will certainly strengthen the position of the Iranian foreign minister and his accompanying team.

With this introductory statement in mind, it is now time to point out essential notes with regard to the nuclear negotiations process:

1. During the latest two rounds of nuclear negotiations in Geneva, the Iranian negotiating team has avoided any haste in reaching the conclusion while resorting to rationality, taking the existing realities of the changing international system into consideration, and taking advantage of experienced and skillful diplomats. Through this approach, the Iranian team has been able to get the respect of the international community. In addition, the frankness, honesty and strength shown by the Iranian foreign minister and his negotiating team, has proven to the opposite negotiating sides that although the approach of the Iranian team to the nuclear negotiations  has changed, they are still adamant in defending the national interests of their country as their first and foremost priority.

2. Although the Iranian side is sitting at the negotiating table with six major world powers, let’s not forget that in addition to representing their own global interests, each and every one of those powers represents other, less discernible, forces and powers as well. It is simply the common sense that in addition to sending a high-ranking delegation to take part in the nuclear talks in Geneva, the Iranian diplomatic apparatus should, in parallel, dispatch other delegations or emissaries to the different parts of the world. In this way, Iran will be able to make those countries – which the six negotiating powers claim to be trying to protect their interests and address their concerns – understand that a final resolution to Iran's nuclear issue will not do any harm to their interests. Of course, this general rule does not apply to Israel.

It is a reality that despite all the domestic problems facing Iran, the country is still in such a position of power that other states, especially the regional countries in the Middle East, should take Tehran’s role in creating and maintenance of regional stability quite seriously. The recent remarks of the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in his address to the lawmakers at the Islamic Consultative Assembly reemphasized the fact that without Iran, there would be not stability in the region, or the cost of establishing such a regional stability would be quite hefty.

3. The past experience has shown that enemies of Iran may embark on certain provocations or acts of sabotage, and may even encourage assassinations in the country in order to weaken the domestic solidarity in support of the nuclear negotiating team. Avoiding of any remarks or actions which would directly or indirectly embolden the enemies in doing such acts, will be a sign of national awareness and vigilance.

4. The Leader [of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei] said in his recent remarks that the main goal of the latest round of nuclear negotiations is to find a solution to the problem of uranium enrichment in Iran and protection of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear achievements. However, protracted negotiations that have already taken place between the foreign ministers of Iran and the United States should be taken as a good omen. This is true because elimination of the existing misunderstandings between Tehran and Washington will make it easier for an agreement to be reached through the nuclear negotiations. In addition, due to common interests that Iran and the United States have in the Middle East region, any form of détente between the two countries, will greatly help to eliminate the existing tensions across the region.

5. The different position taken on Iran's nuclear issue by the French Foreign Minister [Laurent Fabius] during the recent talks in Geneva should be construed in line with his country’s traditional relationships with Israel and a number of rich Arab countries of the region. Following the independence of Algeria and in view of the increasing isolation of Paris in the Arab world, France tried to get closer to Iran. As a result, the trip by the then French leader, General Charles de Gaulle, to Iran in 1963, was his first trip to the Middle East after he grasped the power at the Élysée Palace. However, close relations that France later developed with Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates concerned Iran's former Shah. As a result, he frequently chided Paris for having established close relations with those Arab countries during the meetings he had with various French officials. Even on one occasion, the Iranian Shah complained, “What has happened that France has become so sympathetic toward the Arab countries?”

Even now, the amount of investment that France has made in various sectors in Qatar is far beyond the conventional figures and even some French political parties have voiced concern about hefty investments that their country has made in Qatar. Their concern was so high that after the French President François Hollande visited Qatar just one day before the country’s previous emir was dethroned, some French parties opined that his presence in Qatar was aimed at making sure about continuation of France’s investments in the Persian Gulf state under its new emir.

6. As for the relations between Paris and Tel Aviv, it should be noted that before the Six Day War between Arabs and Israel in 1967, General De Galle, for certain reasons, was against supplying weapons to Israel and imposed an arms ban on it. Apart from that juncture, France has played a determining part in training and equipping the Israeli armed forces since the onset of the regime. It has also played an effective role in helping Tel Aviv to acquire nuclear technology and build the Dimona heavy water reactor. France was also quite openhanded and generous when supplying that reactor with necessary equipment for separating plutonium from the reactor’s spent fuel. Even when the Protocol of Sèvres was signed in October 1956 among Paris, London and Tel Aviv, according to which the three signatories launched an attack against Egypt, it was France which encouraged Israel to join that protocol. Last but not least, due attention should be paid to the heavy influence that the powerful Jewish lobby in France sways on the French government, which without exaggeration, is no less powerful than the influence that the pro-Israeli lobby sways in the United States. Of course, the French officials have never tried to deny these facts or even to hide them. In addition, Socialists have traditionally maintained closer relations with Israel compared to other political parties in France.

7. France, as a major European power, pursues quite different interests and policies from those of the United States in many fields. At least, during the past half a century, France has not been in line with the United States policies on many occasions. During armed conflicts among Serbs, Muslims and Croats [in the Balkans], the policy adopted by Paris was different from that of Washington. Even during the ongoing crisis in Syria, the French government has been playing a different tune from the White House.

Therefore, the position taken by the French foreign minister on Iran's nuclear issue during the recent Geneva negotiations should not be considered unexpected. This is especially true when taking into account that on frequent occasions, the French government has been actually ignored by the United States. As put by an old French diplomat, Paris is considered a stranger when it comes to the relations among the members of the Anglo-Saxon family; that is, the United States, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Of course, the position taken by Laurent Fabius (the French foreign minister) on Iran's nuclear case [during recent negotiations in Geneva] has evoked harsh criticism from a large number of French diplomats and industrialists. It should be noted that according to an Iranian analyst residing in Paris, the Socialist government of France has not defined a clear doctrine in its foreign policy toward Iran yet. The reality is that France is seriously concerned about the possible détente between Tehran and Washington. Since a long time ago, major industrialists and heads of big French companies had warned the Socialist government to take a more realistic approach with regard to Iran.

To make a long story short, there is another reason, in addition to pressures exerted on Paris by the Israelis and rich Arab leaders, which makes France not to follow suit with the United States policy on Iran. By doing so, the French government is trying to pretend that despite the longstanding relationship with the United States and the historical debt that it owes Washington for the emancipation of France from the clutches of the Nazi occupiers in the World War II, it pursues a more independent policy at international level. In other words, when assessing the Western countries’ position on Iran, we must not mistakenly assume that the Western countries constitute a solid bloc in their confrontation with the Islamic Republic of Iran. On the contrary, we must always bear in mind that big Western and Eastern powers do not necessarily have shared interests in all cases, but in some cases, their interests are even conflicting.

Key Words: France, Israel, Geneva Negotiations, Iran, P5+1, Israel, Uranium Enrichment, Laurent Fabius, Shahidi Moaddab

Source: Fararu News Site
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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