Intensive negotiations between Iran and the West over Iran’s nuclear program have failed to produce an agreement. The parties will try again on November 20.
Reports during the past few days had indicated that a deal was imminent. The deal would have eased sanctions against Iran considerably. In exchange, Iran would have promised to freeze parts of its nuclear program for six months. But it would not have halted all uranium enrichment during this period.
Why wasn’t the deal consummated? Apparently, because France didn’t sign off. According to the Washington Post:
Reports from inside the closed meetings and public statements by the foreign ministers throughout the day indicated that France had been most adamant in refusing to agree to the proposal.
“There are still some questions to be addressed,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said as he left the final meeting. . . .
Fabius also offered more pointed commentary:
Officials said that some of the strongest objections to the draft agreement that is the basis for the talks came from Fabius, who said the six nations should avoid falling for a “fool’s game” that was advantageous to Iran.
Fabius was particularly concerned about Israel’s security, which he said must be taken “fully into account.” In a telephone call on Friday, President Obama tried to reassure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he had called the draft “a very bad deal.”
Netanyahu was unmoved by Obama’s assurances, and so was France:
“There is an initial draft that we do not accept,” Fabius told French radio.
France, it appears, is now more committed to Israel’s security than the United States is.
In fact, this is the second time in the space of a few months that France has demonstrated significant more steadfastness in the Middle East than the U.S. Recall that France was fully prepared to help attack Syria’s chemical weapons capability until President Obama backed down at the last minute, leaving French Prime Minister Hollande hanging out to dry.
And France didn’t just take a harder line against Assad/Hezbollah/Iran than Obama did. It took a harder line than a clear majority of Republicans.
What is driving Hollande, a man of the left, to take a hard line? Primarily, I think, it’s a robust sense of reality in the Middle East. Then too, the French seem to have an instinct for (1) reacting contemptuously to displays of American naivety and (2) pouncing whenever the U.S. leaves a power vacuum in world affairs.
Hollande doesn’t have much in common with Nicolas Sarkozy, the man he defeated in last year’s election. But both appear to share a disgust at Obama’s policy in the Middle East. That disgust has been well-earned.