The Optimistic Horizon About JCPOA Is Still There: Francois Nicoullaud

Sunday, April 9, 2017


Iran Review’s Exclusive Interview with Francois Nicoullaud
By: Tahereh Moghri Moazen

Francois Nicoullaud is international political analyst, former ambassador of France to Tehran. He born on July 24, 1940 in Egypt. He is graduated from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (1961), and he was the former student of the Ecole Nationale d'Administration (1970-1973).
He has an appreciable concern about Iranian Issues, and over time, his impressive efforts helped to provide a more realistic picture of Iran in the West, and above all in France.
In the following, you will find his last analyses on Iran and its environment, as well as on the issues of nuclear proliferation and disarmament. 

Q: In last decade, after experiencing Sarkozy's and Holland's quinquennium, many were convinced that there is a trend or a strategy in French foreign policy, divergent from the past and almost against Iran. This belief consist a very wide spectrum, but the main concern is somehow as same as your friends' viewpoint in "Club des Vingt": Given its history and values, France should be a mediator of peace, not an interventionist or somehow a provoker of tensions. In your idea, what should be the true interpretation of French act toward Iran and whole MENA?

A: The French have obviously turned the page of the negotiation period relating to the JCPOA. The Iranians also, by the way, Laurent Fabius, the then-Foreign Minister, was warmly welcomed in Tehran at the end of July 2015, just a few days after the adoption of the JCPOA in Vienna. So there are no hard feelings lagging behind. It is possible that the Iranians remember that, after all, it was the French, in the person of the then-French Minister, Dominique de Villepin, who took in 2003 the initiative to open a collective negotiation with Tehran, at a time when the dominant mood in the West was rather to confront Iran. This negotiation had its ups and downs, it morphed into different formats, but it never stopped until the final result in 2015. Now, for the future, we will have in France, as you now, a new President, a new government, and a new Assembly by mid-2017. I am confident that the new teams will give a fresh look at the French policy in the Middle East. and engage in favor of progress and reconciliation in the region.

Q: Precisely, as for the elections worldwide, 2017 would be a determinant year, where people can turn the page of their destiny, even if they vote one, for saying "NO" to another one. What is your estimation about dynamics of presidential election in France? Do you expect that there will be a person among the candidates who will change the French strategy toward Iran and MENA? 

A: Experience shows that a country's foreign policy seldom makes in a short time a complete U turn. Whatever the next Administration, there will be elements of continuity and elements of change. We have at the present moment a very unusual presidential campaign, as one can see in the French population a pervasive feeling of distrust of the traditional parties and the old elites. But there is also a fear of overly populist endeavours, like the one advocated by Marine Le Pen. All in all, whoever the next President, I guess that there will be an evolution of the French position in the Syrian crisis, and that pragmatic considerations will take precedence over matters of principle.

Q: You accompanied the optimistic ambiance around JCPOA. The agreement was supposed to allow Iran to continue its civilian nuclear program, and paves the way for normalization of Iran's economic and diplomatic relations with the international community. How do you evaluate the proceeding? In your opinion the optimistic horizon still exists for both diplomatic and economic relations?

A: The optimistic horizon is still there  but it has visibly receded from the place and time it occupied in our original hopes. The observers, in Iran as well as abroad, realize now that it takes quite a while for the economy of a country to be redirected on the right track : in the case of Iran, it will take at least one or two more years, and not the few months that we thought about when the JCPOA was adopted. But there are encouraging signals like, among many others, the significant rise of the Iranian steel production. The same reasoning goes for the opening of international relations. One has to remember that there was a lapse of seven years between the visit of Nixon to China and the reopening of the US and Chinese embassies!

Q: Maybe an important question about JCPOA philosophy is whether it has made any change in European or global view of the Iranian position or not?You saw the future of the agreement with Iran, depending on Europeans just as much as Trump. The idea of Europeans being independent and keeping their rational distance from U.S. is brilliant, but is it a preached for reuniting Europe or it's been said due to the importance of JCPOA? If Trump could leave the agreement regardless of its costs, what will guarantee the continuity of Europeans’ engagement?

A: Up to now, the European Union has demonstrated a strong attachment to the JCPOA in front of the fluctuating positions of the new US President, and this is true also of the United Kingdom, in spite of the looming Brexit. I am convinced that the firm declarations of the European countries issued in the recent months, seperately as well as as together, are playing at this very moment a significant deterring effect on the American temptation to withdraw from the JCPOA. This political pressure must be maintained, as the danger comes from the Congress as much as from the President. It must be clear for the Americans that leaving the JCPOA would open for them a big risk to find themselves isolated in the international community. This is a kind of risk that nobody, even the US, can take lightheartedly. Let us keep up with this line of conduct as each passing day without crisis reinforces the sustainability of the JCPOA.

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