Iran Audio Analysis: Is France the Biggest Obstacle to a Nuclear Agreement?


PHOTO: French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius

I joined Monocle 24’s The Daily on Wednesday night to consider the nuclear talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers, specifically evaluating why France is taking such a hard line — to the point of causing tension within the 5+1 and leading to adjournment of the discussions last week — in the negotiations.

Listen from 4:51:

I discussed the background, including France’s last-minute objections to the interim nuclear agreement in November 2013, and the current state of the talks while assessing:

Both sides have made concessions. Both sides have made moves to get the talks this far. The Iranians have come down significantly from the number of centrifuges they have asked for and, in principle, have agreed to move almost all their enriched uranium out of the country. The Americans and the other 5+1 Powers have allowed for more centrifuges than they originally asked for. There have been concessions on both sides over Iran’s nuclear facilities…and over inspections.

It is sanctions relief. That is the key issue involved here for a resolution….

What could be troublesome — I hope it’s not — is that Israel has sent high-ranking officials to France telling the French to get tougher. It is possible — that the French — are running cover for the Israelis, and this could unsettle the talks.

There is also inadvertent comedy in the discussion, after Burzine K. Waghmar of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies took a line solely blaming Iran for pursuit of a bomb and “complete nonsense” in its position on its uranium enrichment program.

I challenged Waghmar’s supposed evidence, including recent false propaganda that Iran has a “secret nuclear facility”.

His reply? Just like US right-winger Joshua Muravchik, the advocate of war on Iran whom I encountered on Monocle 24 last week, he invoked the Rumsfeldian defense for lack of facts: “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

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  1. Casuistry, not comedy, is evident in the aforementioned blurb accompanying the recorded discussion. Because my declarative, ‘complete nonsense’, was not towards the position posited by Tehran generally, but, singularly, its disingenuous contumacity about future R&D on centrifuges. Admirable to foster Persian scientific temper but not inadmirable to temper by recalling Persian perfidy — I am an orientalist, not futurist. Also, I presently stated a qualifier, when raising the MKO Lavizan-3 claim, that it had been adduced by ‘not the most honourable Iranian opposition in the diaspora’. The report has been challenged and I am cognisant, as are western intelligence agencies, that it may well be doctored: Persian perfidy is not an isolated misgiving. Dr. Lucas, admittedly, concurs albeit not vehemently. There may be comfort in the thought that apprehensions are harboured by not only some of his brusquer brethren as Joshua Muravchik. Interdum vulgus rectum videt. But greater comfort may be obtained from Robert Einhorn, having served on the American delegation to these negotiations during the years 2009-13, and who proposed (‘How to stop an Iranian nuclear breakout’, Int. NY Times, 27 Feb. 2015, p. 6), that only by ‘rigorous monitoring measures’ will Tehran appreciate that ‘any attempt to violate and break out of the agreement at either declared or covert sites would be detected very quickly’ for which ‘intrusive verification provisions that go beyond the measures contained in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s additional protocol, including frequent access to centrifuge production facilities, detailed reporting of nuclear-related procurement and robust inspection procedures’ merit no compromise. What is disputable, but not dismissible out of hand, is the operation of surreptitious sites, present or future. None of us would share anxieties of a nuclearised Iran, whether royal or republican. The former for they could be counted as clients but also the latter, had the course run differently, who would have been amenable, not apocalyptic, Persians.


    “به گزارش خبرگزاری ایسنا، وی افزوده است: «ما باید در جهت منافع ملی و بین‌المللی حرکت کرده و اجازه ندهیم این فرصت استثنایی که بر فتوای رهبر معظم انقلاب به صلح‌آمیز بودن فعالیت‌های هسته‌ای‌اش متکی است، به آسانی از دست برود».”

    “…rouhani asks david cameron not let this golden opportunity pass now that khamenei has issued fatwa against nuclear arms…”

    Is that another way of saying khamenei can issue fatwa FOR nuclear arms if he wants to?

    • Yes kinda. But more in the line of that this man will not live forever and the next men in power might think otherwise.

      • The point you make about a take over by irgc is certainly the clearest path in view. But, one mistake all military dictatorships make is to count on brute force and other forms of manipulation to run a country. Well, it takes more than that to even survive never mind to thrive. A country has to be viable in many ways, most importantly economically. And if irgc has shown one thing is that they are really lousy, and corrupt money managers. They have become masters of corruption, but that in itself is an excellent reason for their downfall.

        • You are fully right about power alone not being enough. As well you are right about the economy. But that part can be achieved with a deal with the west and opening up a bit.

          The main challenge however is that to take over you need to oust the current power (the mullahs) which means go more secular. The only thing strong enough with roots going deep enough in Iranian souls is Patriotisme and a hatred toward Arabs.

          The scenario for the latter has been in writing for almost 10 years now. Dont forget the famous Iran first or the Iran school of A.N.

          The deep Patriotisme of Iranians and the deeper resentment towards Arabs and Clerics is enough to allow IRGC to take over and to establish an ultra nationalistic almost Fascist like goverment

          • Sorry Afshin but I’ll take the elecsecasicy regime over an Aryan supremacist one, any day. Also if they Iranians become more nationalist, could they then maybe reject Shiiteism for a return to the indigenous Zoroastrian religion, if they see Islam as an Arab invention? Like how the Nazis saw Christianity as Jewish plot to weaken the Teutonic race and some like Himmler, Goebbels and Rosenberg wanted to return the country to Wotonism (the worship of the Viking Gods-Woton is German for Odin and where the English word Wednesday [Woton’s day] comes from)

            • Unfortunately what you and I take or not take has little to nothing to do with it. Im not jumping joy either at the thought.
              Still history shows though that as bad as it maybe it is usually a step in the right direction if it leads to separation of church and state.

              On your second question the answer is flat out NO. Islam it will be all the way. Except that Mullahs place will be preaching from Qom not in the goverment. Even if they allow full freedom of religion (which they most certainly will not do) most Iranians would stay Muslim I think. Arabs planted that seed very deep. Except that it will be a Iranian version of it which it already is in a way.

              But I do think that unlike now it will be more of an IRAN FIRST, ISLAM NEXT thing…

              • @afshin

                The thing about deal with the west, they either make a perfect deal with the west within next couple of months that not only relieves them from immediate sanctions but also teaches them how to manage the limited benefit of the promised sanction relief. Or, the sanction relief(if it happens) will be just dragging of the miserable current condition,the relief just delay the inevitable collapse of the system. Again, even a semi-good-mamagement of economy is not something that you can fake. If you are not viable, your own money scape from you, foreign investment goes to your rivals, talent goes to rivals, your brain drain out, your enemies get stronger, your youth get demoralized beyond any sense of patriotism(I believe this already has happened, money is the motive for the youth today), and what you are left with is a bunch of constant propaganda that you have to trumpet to keep things not sink.

                I can think of a couple of scenarios that patriotism card could work, If they turned iran to something like north korea. I don’t think that is possible, I think that cat has fled the bag, the youth are too economically demanding. Or, if they could maybe beat the patriotic drum for a very limited number of people in the short term if iran was attacked by someone other than US(yes, I think a good portion of population will secretly cheer for the US if that were the case). Today’s iranian youth are different than those in 80s. And so they should be.

              • i quite disagree. Patriotism card going hand in hand with some basic social reforms and opening up to the west would easily get them enough support and room for growth

                A.N hinted at both Iran school as well as major reforms before they shut him up.

                The major challenge for them wont be selling the above. The country is so thirsty for change that they buy anything (atleast short term) The major issue will be their own infighting and cannibalisme that usually occurs at situations like that. First its IRGC setting aside the rest then its internal struggles where different groups of IRGC With different ideas would end up fighting each other. Who wins there is key. If the more liberal pragmatic group comes on top they will have an easy ride during the first 10 years or so.

              • PS. In not thinking or refering to a North Korea style patriotisme or even like the early 80’s. But more like 1930’s Germany.

              • I think we are debating this to different end game. I suggest iran and anyone wanting to lead it needs to make some *substantive” change in order to make the country anything close to viable. I have no doubts that different factions will play whatever card they can, patriotism, shiiaism, khomenism, etc to grab power. But to make substantive change you need to have “baa savaad”(knowledgeable statesman) people and truely “delsouz”(caring) who are willing to make the country the priority(this happened once with reza shah). And that, you can not make up or fake with slogans. during the ahmadinezhad they used those slogans everyday, but when you look at what they did to the economy, to the industry, to the agriculture you see nothing but empty words. The scenario you describe is quite possible but it will only be beginning of mess on a different scale.I don’t think there is any irgc commander that can stand for a week without some mullah’s support.

                I don’t know how islamic republic compares to 1930s germany in this debate, and it doesn’t matter. Nobody has managed to mobilize people like that again.

    • @Incyprus

      Agreed the Pahlavis were true patriots and they served their people very well. Both father as well as his son, although Reza khan could hardly be called ‘basawad’ he was very capable and extremely patriotic in the right way. His son was extremely knowledgeable and man did he love his country. Both were great men.

      I think we are also debating this from a different angle, you seem to be more focused as to whats good for Iran and how Iran can achieve success and make good progress. I’m not talking about what is ideal or what is the best way forward for Iran but am stating what is most probable.

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