On Macron’s Possible Visit to Iran: Assumptions and Requirements of Iran-France Cooperation

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Interview with Ali Khorram
Former Diplomat; Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Q: Experts and analysts believe that a possible future trip by French President Emmanuel Macron to Iran will be focused on discussing the Islamic Republic’s missile activities as well as what the West calls “Iran's regional activities.” They believe that these negotiations, on the one hand, will be aimed at appeasing US President Donald Trump, who seeks Europe’s increased pressure on Iran. On the other hand, Iran-France talks will seek to convince Tehran to give concessions in order to keep its nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of countries, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), going. In your opinion, what grounds and options are there for negotiations with France within this framework and is it logical for Tehran to accept preconditions for negotiations with Paris?

A: First of all, I believe that we must accept a number of assumptions with regard to these negotiations:

  1. If we assume that Iran and France really intend to cooperate, these cooperation will have its own requirements for both Iran and France;
  2. The Islamic Republic of Iran is currently faced with a US president called Donald Trump at the White House, who does not fit within framework of wisdom and logic and a behavioral model that would conform to expert views. This reality is evident to all, including the French and Iranians;
  3. Iran and France must not imagine that the world is at its best conditions and everything is ready for Iran and France to engage in cordial interactions and close cooperation. In other words, Iran and France must accept that both at global level and at regional level, there are parties that are opposed to this cooperation and closer relations between Tehran and Paris;
  4. These opponents can exist in both countries as well. Therefore, one can expect that the pro-Zionist lobby in France will try to prevent Macron from getting close to Iran. There are also people in Iran, who based on their own views, are opposed to further closeness between Iran and France, including through exchange of diplomatic meetings between the two countries’ high-ranking officials. These opponents are basically averse to any expansion and improvement in bilateral relations between Tehran and Paris.

After accepting these assumptions, we can enter into negotiations. At the present time, Macron is playing three different roles. One of them is to maintain and protect France’s interests in its relations with Iran. The second role is to meet regional interests of France in Syria and Lebanon, which are very important to Paris. The third role played by the French president is to project an image of his own character as an independent leader vis-à-vis Donald Trump, and it seems that he is even trying to steer the US president. In other words, it is totally clear that part of Macron’s measures are aimed at steering Trump, whose behavior and actions are not those of a logical and wise politician. One can claim that the third role played by Macron is especially considered as very important due to its direct effect in maintaining the nuclear deal with Iran. This role, however, could be successful if Macron was able to remain committed to legal obligations that his country has accepted with regard to the nuclear deal while not making Trump think that he has been let down by France. In my opinion, at the present time and generally speaking, this approach that has been adopted by Paris will shape the policy of all European countries, including German and the UK, with regard to Iran's nuclear deal and the position that Trump's administration may take on its fate. In other words, European countries are trying to stop Trump from taking radical and uncalculated measures, such as quitting the JCPOA and practically rendering it null and void. European leaders are well aware that the nuclear deal was a very suitable formula, which bore fruit under former US president, Barack Obama, and according to assessments by all signatories to the nuclear deal, there is no better alternative for it. This is why Macron, like other European leaders, is trying to take steps to prevent Trump from undermining the JCPOA. From the viewpoint of European leaders like the French president, this goal can be achieved through giving a concession and an appealing gift to Trump, so that, the US president would be able to claim both outside and inside his country that he has fulfilled his promises regarding Iran's nuclear deal and also with respect to other issues related to the Islamic Republic. Therefore, the French president is trying to steer his American counterpart, who has proven not to be good at listening to experts’ views and has always sought to disturb the existing order through ending agreements reached and commitments accepted by his predecessor.

Q: What concession should Macron give Trump, so that, he would achieve what he wants?

A: This point must be also taken into account that Iran, on the other hand, is also concerned about this situation and wants to know whether Macron’s statements and the goals that France pursues are a threat to its national interests and security or not? Can cooperation with France help Iran achieve its goals? Will Iran be able to convince the Iranian people about improvement of relations and cooperation with France? These are questions that have been raised in Iran and the government of the Islamic Republic has been observing them with high sensitivity and thinks about them. As a result, we have witnessed that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, are facing a series of limitations in their effort to get the two countries closer together.

Macron knows that there is no possibility of making any change and alteration to the nuclear deal. Therefore, in order to appease Trump, he must focus on other issues and disputed fields such as Iran's missile program, allegations about Iran’s support for terrorism, and of course, “the regional role of Iran.” In my opinion, the issue that is worth noting here is that through cooperation with France, in addition to its cooperation with Russia and Turkey, Iran will be able to emerge as a more powerful country. In other words, if Iran could get France’s viewpoint on the resolution for the Syria crisis close to its own, it would be able to modify the United States’ role as well. As a result, if France chooses to support Iran's position in the face of Trump, it would become very difficult for Washington to oppose Iran's role in Syria.

Q: So, in your opinion, what solution could be found through negotiations with France?

A: France must know that if Tehran’s interests and national security are met, it will be ready to work with Paris. If the two sides seriously believe that they are able to sit at the negotiating table and start cooperation to come up with a formula, which would meet Iran's national interests while being acceptable at international level, it would be appealing to Washington as well. If France could obtain Iran's trust in the role that Paris is playing through this process and if Tehran believed that the French mean to protect its interests and national security, then the way would be paved for further cooperation between Tehran and Paris and, in my opinion, we would reach agreements on certain issues, such as Iran's regional role. I also believe that Macron’s visit will be a positive development in the two countries’ relations and will benefit the nuclear deal as well.

Q: What is your opinion about Macron’s recent remarks on the necessity of putting Iran's missile program under international supervision?

A: These remarks by Macron cannot be considered as an expert view based on international regulations. The French themselves are aware of this. However, the general concept of what Macron wants to say can be assessed in an understandable manner, because by making these remarks, the French president is sending a signal to his American counterpart, telling him that cooperation with Iran, even at international level, is possible. The details and the formula for any possible negotiations between Iran and France should be hashed out through talks between the two countries’ presidents, so that the final outcome will be satisfactory to both sides.



*Photo Credit: Express

*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.

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