Why Did France Thwart The Iran nuclear deal?

Story Transcript

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

France is widely being either praised or blamed for scuttling talks over Iran’s nuclear program in Geneva last weekend. The talks between Iran and the P5+1 countries suddenly collapse after French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius joined the peace talks in Geneva and warned against accepting what he called “a fool’s deal”.

Now joining us to discuss France’s role in this is Robert Parry. He’s a renowned investigative journalist, founder and editor of ConsortiumNews.com.

Thank you so much for joining us, Robert.

ROBERT PARRY, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Thanks for having me.

NOOR: So let’s just start off by talking about what France actually did, what they actually accomplished. Do you think they may have succeeded in thwarting these talks completely? Or did they–or was this just, like, a delaying tactic in order to curry favor with Saudi Arabia and Israel?

PARRY: Well, obviously, we’ll see what happens in the next couple of weeks. The Obama administration seems to still be thinking it can pull this one out of the fire. But certainly it was a setback and rather serious diplomatic setback for Secretary Kerry and for President Obama when this expectation of getting this interim deal fell apart when the French showed up with their objections, and then went Secretary Kerry was unable to get them to not push those points they were making. And then the Iranians rejected the proposal as it was revised. So it now has to be reworked a bit more. And we’ll see whether or not the French and these other parties will continue trying to obstruct it.

NOOR: And you write about the core issue, what drove France’s move. And, you know, for example, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute notes that over the last four years, France has been the fourth-leading weapons exporter in the world. They just signed a number of weapons deals with Saudi Arabia. Can you talk about–let’s start with Saudi Arabia. What is the relationship there? And what do you think is motivating France’s hand?

PARRY: Well, the important thing, I think, to understand about the way the regional politics in the Middle East has gone in the last several months, and maybe more than that, has been this remarkable alliance that has evolved between Saudi Arabia and Israel two long-time adversaries. But the two countries now share a great many interests. They have taken the same side on the Egyptian coup. They both see Iran as their principal adversary. They are both in support of the rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria. So you have this merging of interests.

And then you have the role of the intelligence chief for Saudi Arabia, Prince Bandar, a longtime U.S. ambassador to the United States. And what we’ve seen is a more sophisticated alliance between these two countries, much of it done still sub rosa behind the scenes, but increasingly coming out into the public.

And the key part of this is the two countries have sort of complementary characteristics in terms of how they carry out their foreign affairs. The Israelis have excellent lobbying and propaganda skills, and the Saudis have access to, of course, oil reserves and a great deal of money. So those two factors can turn a lot of heads around the world.

And what happened to some degree over the summer was that Prince Bandar and other Saudi officials began trolling through Europe, trying to figure out if they could pull away some of the countries of Europe in favor of the Saudi position, and essentially the Israeli position, on issues like Syria and Iran. They seem to have had great success with the French, who, of course, have a serious economic problem. They have been struggling trying to get out of this recession. They’ve had a recent credit downgrade. They’ve had high unemployment. And so when the Saudis began to flash some of their petrodollars around, it was certainly something of interest to the French. And the Saudis have recently been signing up contracts with the French for military assistance. There’s a one-and-a-half billion dollar plan for the French to help refurbish some of the Saudi Navy. And you’ve had other Gulf states making other deals with France in terms of buying their equipment, especially their military equipment. So what you’ve got here is the French having a very clear economic incentive to help the Saudis and the Israelis as much as possible.

NOOR: And if we can just talk a little bit more about France’s role, even going back in the last few decades, have they been–do you think their foreign policy is motivated by humanitarian goals? Or is it just imperialism in the Middle East?

PARRY: Well, I think, like all countries, they have a multitude of different interests that play into this. There is of course the historical colonial role that the French have played in places like Syria. There is this desire to sort of reclaim some of that big power status that they once had to be considered major players on the international scene.

The French economic interests, of course, have also been important for them. When–as you say, they have become a fairly important arms exporter. And so they need to have as many markets as they possibly can for that those goods. And so I think you see with the French there’s a mix of wanting to restore some of their old glory and also wanting to make money for the present.

NOOR: So some analysts have made a lot over the French role in Syria, in Libya, especially in Syria with the U.S. kind of–actually, with France kind of being the biggest proponent for action in Syria in the West.

PARRY: Right. This again fits with this idea of the friends trying to perform at the behest of the Saudis and the Israelis. That’s–the Saudis in particular, but the Israelis as well, have supported the idea of overthrowing the Assad regime. Both Saudi Arabia and Israel see the Syrians as allied closely with Iranians. They see the Iranians as their principal adversaries for somewhat different reasons. But it’s the case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. So in this case, the Saudis and the Israelis have both teamed up to see what they can do about keeping the military pressure on the Assad regime, as well as keeping the economic and to some degree military pressure on the Iranians.

NOOR: Now, you can’t just–you can’t really prove that it’s–that France is being motivated by monetary interests. They’re not going to come out and say this. Can you talk a little bit about how France has been portraying their agenda and their policies?

PARRY: Well, the French obviously have publicly acknowledged that they’ve had these various deals with the Saudis and with other Saudi-allied Persian Gulf states. So the fact they have an economic interest is not secret.

What ultimately motivates a person is always hard to know exactly. You can always–each person, each country has both secret agendas and more public agendas. So, yes, you probably can’t say 100 percent that this–that it’s all about them getting concessions, economic deals with the Saudis, but that certainly is something that can turn a politicians head, especially given France’s economic troubles.

NOOR: Robert Parry, thank you so much for joining us.

PARRY: Thank you.

NOOR: You can Tweet The Real News @therealnews. You can Tweet me questions and comments @jaisalnoor.

Thank you so much for joining us.

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