Why France Obstructs Iran Nuclear Talks?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Amin Dorosti

Given the participation of world powers in the ongoing negotiations over Iran's nuclear program and given the strong relationship between the negotiations and other important issues in the world, positions taken by countries participating in the negotiations can give clues about their political and economic approaches and plans. This is especially true about France. Since the inception of the nuclear talks, French politicians have been trying to, while appearing independent of other member states of the P5+1 countries [the United States, the UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China], make the course of the negotiations as difficult as possible and make the achievement of a final agreement quite hard for the involved countries.

The latest example of such efforts was remarks by the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in a media interview. Speaking in an interview with the BFMTV television channel and the RMC radio on June 11, he said, “We want a deal with Iran but ... the deal must be verifiable, solid, robust and today we don't have guarantees on this…. A deal that cannot be verified cannot be implemented.

Ten day before that interview, Fabius had taken part in another interview with the Wall Street Journal, saying, “The best agreement, if you cannot verify it, it’s useless…. Several countries in the region would say, OK, a paper [has been signed] but we think it is not strong enough and therefore we ourselves have to become nuclear.” There is no doubt that by “several countries in the region,” Fabius was making a clear reference to Saudi Arabia and Turkey and perhaps Egypt and the Sunni Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

Before Fabius made those remarks, a top French diplomat had noted that parties to the nuclear talks would “most probably” not be able to reach a final agreement during the coming weeks and even after that. He added that a lot of technical details have remained to be settled and this, as he claimed, would mean that even if an agreement were reached, it would be still full of ambiguities.

Coupled with other policies pursued by France, especially its vast military relations with countries in the Persian Gulf region, such remarks easily betray dishonesty of France. In fact, one can say that taking such positions by France – in addition to measures that were taken by this country at the time of the Geneva agreement last November, which actually amounted to obstruction of the negotiations – does not seem very strange because France will be benefited by delay in the achievement of a final deal with Iran.

The biggest benefit that the French officials seek in delaying or even aborting the nuclear negotiations is the hefty economic profits that their country will earn through selling military hardware to Arab states in the Persian Gulf. By aggrandizing the Iran threat, France is actually encouraging Arab states to buy more military equipment. During recent years, France has been a major source of military equipment for the Arab countries around the Persian Gulf and petrodollars spent by those countries have been more lavishly poured into the pockets of French officials than any other country. During the past two years, Paris has concluded military agreements worth over USD 15 billion with the Persian Gulf states.

A few days ago, the French Defense Ministry published a report announcing an increase of 18 percent in sales of arms by this country during 2014. The report noted that the total volume of weapons sold by France in 2014 increased by 18 percent compared to a year before to hit 8.2 billion euros, which has had no precedent during the past 15 years.

According to the same report by the French Defense Ministry, the most important customers of the French weapons between 2010 and 2014 included countries in the Middle East, which accounted for 38 percent of Paris’ arms sales. Among the Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia has topped the list of customers of French weapons by purchasing 12 billion euros of weaponry from the European country. According to the report by French Defense Ministry, the United Arab Emirates has purchased more than 4 billion euros of arms and other military equipment from France during the same period of time.

In addition, France has signed four major contracts with Egypt, India, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates since the beginning of 2015 in order to sell those countries Rafale fighter jets. A few days ago, France announced that Kuwait has also indicated its interest in buying 24 Caracal military helicopters from the Airbus Company and the relevant contract for the deal would be signed in the near future.

However, apart from economic profits, the French officials are also trying to make the most of the present gap that has been created between the United States and Arab countries in the Persian Gulf as a result of the nuclear talks with Iran. Since the beginning of the nuclear negotiations and due to relative thaw in Iran's relations with the United States, the Persian Gulf countries have been more indignant with the United States’ policies than any time before. These countries, which have been always scared of the ever expanding power and influence of Iran in the region, have even sensed the threat that the United States policy in the region may turn toward Iran in the long run and Washington may be willing to bank on Iran's regional power and influence to establish stability in the region.

Under these conditions when Arab countries believe that they have lost their past source of support, namely the United States, France is apparently trying to feel the void of Washington among Arab countries and turn into the sole source of military support for the countries in the Persian Gulf in the absence of the United States. In fact, the change in French policies toward countries in the Persian Gulf region started under the former French president, Nikolas Sarkozy, and has finally born fruit under his successor, François Hollande.

This French approach reached its acme in recent months through the presence of the French President Francois Hollande in the meeting of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council [(P)GCC]. This was the first time that a Western head of state took part in such a meeting. It was at the end of that meeting that Fabius made fiery remarks about nuclear negotiations with Iran. He said that an agreement with Iran should include access to the country’s military sites by foreign inspectors. He noted that a possible deal with Iran would risk a nuclear arms race across the region unless that deal would ensure access to Iran's military and other secret facilities by inspectors. The French foreign minister stated that if Tehran closed its military sites to inspections, any agreement would be useless because any agreement would be only possible if Iran allowed inspections of its military sites.

At the end of the meeting, as was expected beforehand, the participating officials announced that there would be more talks between France and the member states of the (P)GCC over bilateral military and trade ties.

Key Words: France, Iran Nuclear Talks, P5+1, Sunni Arab States, Persian Gulf, Geneva Agreement, Saudi Arabia, François Hollande, (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council, Dorosti

Source: Iranians' Nuclear Hope
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Photo Credit: Japan Times