From the pages of the Wall Street Journal: a compelling article regarding the current state of Iranian nuclear ambitions by Jay Solomon and Laurence Norman:
"France Takes Toughest Line at Iran Nuclear Talks -- Negotiations move closer to March 31 cutoff without a breakthrough"
Updated March 20, 2015 5:40 p.m. LAUSANNE, Switzerland
—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.
President Barack Obama called French President François Hollande on Friday to discuss the Iran diplomacy and try to unify their positions. The presidents “reaffirmed their commitment” to a deal “while noting that Iran must take steps to resolve several remaining issues,” the White House said.
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 U.N. 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. Obama administration officials have said that expected moves by the U.S. Congress to put new sanctions on Iran as soon as April limit their ability to extend the diplomacy.
But French officials took exception.
“Making the end of March an absolute deadline is counterproductive and dangerous,” France’s ambassador to the U.S., Gérard Araud, said via Twitter 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.French diplomats, however, say their strong stance against nuclear proliferation has been a central foreign policy tenet for years. By remaining one of the world’s few nuclear powers, France can maintain an independent role in global affairs.
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Nearly ten years hence, I suppose there's a bit of amusing irony involved in John Kerry being revealed as the softie, vis-à-vis the French national delegation, even in the context of the international negotiations over the control of Iranian nuclear weapons ambitions!
During his ill-fated Presidential run back in 2004, Kerry was repeatedly stigmatized with the moniker "Frenchie" for his perceived lack of resolve and repeated flip-flopping when it came to serious matters of war and peace. Sadly, that inclination has apparently not changed one bit! Back then, he was even taunted with the suggestion that his real middle initial -- F. -- stood for "Frenchie" rather than the actual "Forbes."
But the French connection now appears to be decidedly inapt! Enter François Hollande, stage right!
Kerry's current objective, on behalf of the Obama Administration, seems to be to meet the upcoming deadline and thereby obtain whatever deal he can get in the current round of Iranian negotiations, as opposed to securing a tough substantive agreement that will firmly prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capacity.
The disturbing appearance is that Mr. Obama is legacy hunting, with Sec'y Kerry carrying the water bucket for the semi-retired President. Having frittered away his first four years shamelessly, as his critics have repeatedly suggested, conducting an apology tour ostensibly on our behalf, and then utterly misreading the political circumstances, especially in the Middle East, via his enthusiastic endorsement of the ill-fated Arab Spring.
The truth is that Obama and his first Sec'y of State Hillary Clinton accomplished nothing positive of a substantive nature anywhere, least of all anywhere in the Middle East, and in particular on the critical matter of preventing Iranian nuclear weapons capability.
And disturbing details are even beginning to be reported in liberal publications about how the curiously well-traveled, but decidedly unaccomplished former Sec'y of State, may have been simultaneously pursuing a personal fundraising agenda (raising funds from individuals closely aligned with foreign governments she was dealing with as Secretary of State) on behalf of the Clinton Foundation, whilst so actively traveling hither and yon, ostensibly conducting State to State business on behalf of the United States government! Conflicts galore, knocking on Hillary's door!
And, no Clinton Foundation annual reports on health-related matters have been issued since 2010, though they were expressly promised by her.
Now her replacement, the former Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, is being seen as pressing hard for closure on a squishy deal over Iran, one that is even causing the French national delegation very serious concerns!
So, during the course of these critical negotiations, the Obama Administration, via the President himself and now through John Kerry, have managed, among other achievements, to:
1.) seriously alienate our strongest ally in the region, Israel (thereby arguably cementing the strong reelection of Benjamin Netanyahu as the Israeli Prime Minister), and then continuing the antagonism toward Mr. Netanyahu even following his recent reelection;
2.) signal the international community at large that Mr. Obama can indeed be played when it comes to achieving results in international diplomacy, having had nothing positive to show for his first six years in office;
3.) alienate the leadership of the constitutionally coeval and coequal branch of the United States government in matters regarding the securing of international agreements -- the United States Senate. He has done so via the manner in which he has recently threatened to obtain a "final" agreement, i.e., by bypassing the express "advise and consent" provisions of our Constitution -- the treaty clause -- and he is even signaling that he may try instead to sign a final agreement on Iran exclusively under the auspices of the United Nations.
One thing that seems pretty certain in all of this is that no one will likely be reviving that specific "Frenchie" taunt when it comes to John Kerry, or his equally squishy boss.
Indeed, France, our oldest international ally seems to be stepping up and taking a hard line when it comes to Iran. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it . . . even if he (Hollande) is a socialist.
So, on this particular point at least, Félicitations, Monsieur François Hollande.
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UPDATE, 3/24/2015, posted at 2:30 pm: More proof of the tougher French stance published by ABC News, which is reporting that Israel is seeking an ally in France to oppose the Iran deal in the context of the rapidly approaching deadline.
From the AP story written by Greg Keller:
Unable to find support from its U.S. allies, Israel is turning to France to help head off what it sees as a bad and dangerous nuclear deal with Iran.
In an interview with The Associated Press in Paris, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said Monday that dialogue with France over Iran's nuclear program "has proven in the past that it was productive" and makes this week's last-minute diplomatic mission to Paris worthwhile.
France played a key role strengthening an interim agreement with Iran in late 2013 that froze key parts of the Islamic republic's nuclear program in exchange for some relief from Western sanctions.
The so-called P5+1 group — Britain, China, France, Russia the United States and Germany — is attempting to reach a final nuclear deal with Iran before a deadline expires at the end of the month.
. . .
France has been more hawkish than the U.S. at the negotiating table, reportedly demanding more stringent restrictions than other Western delegations.