Monday, November 11, 2013

Saved by French Socialists

Who would have thought it?

The French government is giving America and Great Britain a lesson in how to stand tough.

Yes, indeed, friends, we are living in the Age of Obama.

Last weekend a strange scene unfolded in Geneva. Led by America and Great Britain the great powers had decided that it was time to give in to Iranian demands. The world would lift economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iranian promises about nuclear proliferation.

The deal was done. Secretary of State Kerry—apparently trying to out-French the French—flew to Geneva. At the last minute the French government, led by the Socialist Party, said Non. For now, the deal is off.

Liberal opinion makers like Christopher Dickey and Roger Cohen were outraged at the French. So were the Iranians.

The Financial Times reported the Iranian reaction:

Iran’s negotiating team was blessed last week with the strong support of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader and ultimate decision maker, who urged hardliners not to weaken the diplomatic team during nuclear talks and said they were “children of the revolution”.

But the top leader’s official Twitter account on Sunday reposted his comments from a speech earlier this year in which he had condemned France’s alleged enmity toward Iran. “The officials of French government in recent years have shown explicit hostility toward the Iranian nation. This is a thoughtless and imprudent move,” the tweet said.

The Ayatollahs loved the deal. The Americans were lusting for a deal. Only the French, and, incidentally, the Israelis and the Saudis thought that the deal was a sellout.

The Wall Street Journal editorialized:

While the negotiating details still aren't fully known, the French made clear Saturday that they objected to a nuclear agreement that British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Barack Obama were all too eager to sign. These two leaders remind no one, least of all the Iranians, of Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. That left the French to protect against a historic security blunder, with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declaring in an interview with French radio that while France still hopes for an agreement with Tehran, it won't accept a "sucker's deal."

And that's exactly what seems to have been on the table as part of a "first-step agreement" good for six months as the parties negotiated a final deal. Tehran would be allowed to continue enriching uranium, continue manufacturing centrifuges, and continue building a plutonium reactor near the city of Arak. Iran would also get immediate sanctions relief and the unfreezing of as much as $50 billion in oil revenues—no small deliverance for a regime whose annual oil revenues barely topped $95 billion in 2011.

In return the West would get Iranian promises. There is a promise not to activate the Arak reactor, a promise not to use its most advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium or to install new ones, a promise to stop enriching uranium to 20%, which is near-weapons' grade, and to convert its existing stockpile into uranium oxide (a process that is reversible).

And so on.

Obviously, the French are going to come under intense pressure to cave in. Imagine how much face the Obama administration lost this weekend. It looks bad when the French have to step up to show you how not to "go wobbly."

As the Journal recommends, it’s time for Congress to pass a resolution:

… the U.S. Congress could help by strengthening sanctions and passing a resolution insisting that any agreement with Iran must include no uranium enrichment, the dismantling of the Arak plutonium project and all centrifuges, and intrusive, on-demand inspections.

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