While Americans are fretting about the drama between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, France has stepped forward to take a leading role in the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
I posted about this a few days ago. This morning the story is on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
What does France have that Obama does not have?
It should give us pause.
The Journal reports:
France is again adopting the toughest line against Iran in negotiations aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program, potentially placing Paris at odds with the Obama administration as a diplomatic deadline to forge an agreement approaches at month-end….
French diplomats have been publicly pressing the U.S. and other world powers not to give ground on key elements—particularly the speed of lifting United Nations sanctions and the pledge to constrain Iran’s nuclear research work—ahead of the March 31 target.
Paris also appears to be operating on a different diplomatic clock than Washington, arguing that the date is an “artificial” deadline and that global powers should be willing to wait Tehran out for a better deal if necessary.
The story continues:
“Making the end of March an absolute deadline is counterproductive and dangerous,” France’s ambassador to the U.S., Gérard Araud, said viaTwitter after the latest round of negotiations in Switzerland concluded Friday.
“No agreement without concrete decisions on issues beyond the enrichment capability question,” he said a day earlier, specifically mentioning the need for extensive monitoring and clarity on Iran’s past research work. Western officials believe they included the pursuit of nuclear-weapon capabilities.
In a sign of France’s determination, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called his negotiating team in Lausanne on Thursday to insist no deal could be forged that allowed for the rapid easing of U.N. Security Council measures, according to European officials.
France worries the quick repeal of the U.N. penalties could lead to a broader collapse of the West’s financial leverage over Tehran, according to these officials.
Paris is demanding Tehran address evidence that it has conducted research into the development of nuclear weapons to get those U.N. penalties relaxed. Iran has for years denied the allegations and some officials fear that forcing Tehran to publicly reverse itself could break the diplomacy.
The story suggests that France is taking firmer position because it wants to maintain good ties with Israel and because it has extensive business dealings with the Saudis and the Emirates.
One notes that the Saudis and the Emirates have sided with Netanyahu against Obama. Last week the Emirate media even suggested that a Netanyahu victory was best for the region.