France should be confronting, not appeasing, Iranian regime
When the nuclear agreement was reached with Iran, the US was the most important player behind the deal. Without the unprecedented level of convergence of interests between the Islamic Republic and the Barack Obama administration, the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) would not have been possible. Nevertheless, the political situation has shifted and now another member of the P5+1 — France — has been investing significant political capital in maintaining the deal.
Last week, Iran’s state-controlled Persian news outlets and politicians put significant emphasis on the French government’s efforts to save the nuclear deal. A headline in Abrar Eqtesadi stated: “Iran to receive $15 billion line of credit.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian proposed offering Iran this $15 billion in credit lines until the end of 2019 in exchange for the Iranian government fully complying with the terms of the nuclear deal. Le Drian hoped “to exchange a credit line guaranteed by oil in return for, one, a return to the JCPOA… and, two, security in the Gulf and the opening of negotiations on regional security and a post-2025 (nuclear program).”
This is exactly what the Iranian regime has been hoping for. Tehran has been blackmailing the EU to provide it with the financial means that would enable it to skirt the US sanctions.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week made it clear that, if the EU does not assist his government, Tehran will further violate the terms of the JCPOA. Rouhani warned: “If Europeans can purchase our oil or pre-purchase it and we can have access to our money, that will ease the situation and we can fully implement the deal… otherwise we will take our third step.”
Iran has already breached the 300-kilogram limit on its stockpile of enriched uranium, which is a blatant violation of the JCPOA and is also contrary to the shared international desire to de-escalate regional tensions. Washington rightfully classified the development as “nuclear blackmail.” In July, the Tehran regime also began enriching uranium to 4.5 percent concentration so it could make fuel for its Bushehr power plant — beyond the 3.67 percent cap enshrined in the nuclear deal. And, on Saturday, Iran said it has now further breached the deal by using new advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium.
Paris is submitting to Iranian demands to do more to keep the deal alive, while Tehran is clearly doing less.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Meanwhile, France has been attempting to effectively implement a special purpose vehicle that will allow countries to continue trading with Iran, despite US sanctions. Its implementation, however, has been fraught with difficulties.
And, at last month’s G7 summit, French President Emmanuel Macron also attempted to bring the American and Iranian leaders to the negotiation table. US President Donald Trump has said on numerous occasions that he is willing to meet with the Iranian leaders with no conditions, but the Iranian authorities have declined, insisting that sanctions must be lifted before any negotiations could take place.
The French government’s Iran policy is misguided for several reasons. First of all, the French authorities do not seem to see beyond what they consider to be the value of the JCPOA. But the agreement was never “comprehensive,” rather it was a compromise. France is failing to recognize the fact that the nuclear deal never contained or adequately addressed Iran’s multifaceted threats, which include but are not limited to: The arming and financing of terror and militia groups in the region; intervening in the internal affairs of Arab countries; pursing a sectarian agenda by tipping Shiites and Sunnis against each other; carrying out cyberattacks against other nations; and committing human rights violations inside Iran and abroad through its proxies.
Second, by offering Tehran billions of dollars of credit, which is a compromise too far, France appears to be bowing to Iran’s nuclear extortion. Paris is submitting to Iranian demands to do more to keep the deal alive, while Tehran is clearly doing less.
Third, France seems to have forgotten that the Iranian government was behind a major bomb plot on French soil, which fortunately failed. The terrorist plot targeted an Iran opposition rally in Paris in June 2018. The French authorities acknowledged that Tehran was behind the planned attack, with a French diplomatic source telling Reuters: “Behind all this was a long, meticulous and detailed investigation by our (intelligence) services that enabled us to reach the conclusion, without any doubt, that responsibility fell on the Iranian intelligence ministry.”
Iran’s destabilizing behavior and terrorist activities demand a strong response from Paris. By surrendering to Iran’s extortion attempts, France is failing to curb the regime’s regional and global ambitions and is, in effect, giving it the green light to continue its march toward becoming a destructive nuclear force.
Rather than appeasing the ruling mullahs, it is time for France to focus its diplomatic and political efforts on countering the clear and present threat the Iranian regime’s aggressive policies pose across the region.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh