PARIS – At the start of the latest round of nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany), many believed that an interim agreement – which would freeze Iran’s nuclear program while a longer-term deal was negotiated – was within reach. Indeed, hopes had been rising since the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a reputed moderate who seemed ready to bring a new level of openness and flexibility to negotiations. But, far from producing a breakthrough, the talks yielded only a promise to hold further discussions.
Many observers claim that France’s intransigence stymied a compromise that the other parties would have considered acceptable. Some even go so far as to say that France’s resistance reflected a desire for Israel’s approval.
As is often the case, there is no smoke without fire. Bernard Kouchner, during his stint as foreign minister, stated publicly that France’s position on Iran sent a positive signal to Israel. And French national-security officials, who refuse to budge on non-proliferation, have clashed with those who claim that a nuclear-armed Iran could enhance regional stability by counterbalancing Israel, the Middle East’s sole nuclear power.
Likewise, French President François Hollande has assured Israel that France will oppose easing international sanctions until Iran has definitely halted its pursuit of nuclear weapons. With Hollande set to visit Israel in just a few days, the press there has been heaping praise on France’s resolute stance. US Senator John McCain and the Wall Street Journal – not usually France’s biggest fans – have joined the chorus.