by Bill O’Grady
Earlier this month, negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (U.S., U.K., France, China and Russia, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany) failed to reach an agreement despite great hopes that one was near. In fact, on expectations that a proposed nuclear deal was in the offing, U.S. Secretary of State Kerry cut short his talks with Israel and the Palestinians to join the discussions. However, near the end of the talks, France raised objections to the proposed agreement and its concerns could not be resolved. And so, the parties agreed to meet later this month but with lower level officials manning the discussions.
U.S. and French relations have seen many twists and turns since the end of WWII. France refused to join NATO and opted for its own nuclear arsenal. It tried to hew a line between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War, upsetting both sides at times. France was a reluctant ally during the Gulf War and was strongly opposed to America’s war to oust Saddam Hussein in 2003. However, France strongly backed the effort to protect Libyans from the wrath of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and also pressed to use military force against the Assad regime for deploying chemical weapons. France is one of the best examples of Lord Palmerston’s famous quote, “Nations have permanent interests but no permanent friends.”
In this report, we will examine the reasons behind French objections to a nuclear deal with Iran. We will begin with an examination of France’s relations with the Middle East, focusing on its relations with Israel. Using this history as a guide, we will analyze why the French scotched the potential agreement. A short discussion will follow of the impact of France’s objection on the evolution of U.S. policy with Iran. As always, we will conclude with market ramifications.