Photo: P5+1 and Iran talks | Image: Press TV - Photo: 2013

Iran Talks: France Anxious About Competition With the Other Five

By Jaya Ramachandran | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

BERLIN | TEHRAN (IDN) – France is concerned about its declining influence in the Middle East and fears economic competition from the U.S., Britain and Germany if relations between Tehran and the West are normalized for the first time since the 1979 Iranian revolution. This, according to a senior Iranian analyst, is the reason French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius appeared to adopt a tough stance in Iran’s talks with the P5+1 – the UN Security Council’s permanent members, the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China along with Germany – on November 9-10 in Geneva.

Abdolreza Faraji-Rad, University Professor of Geopolitics and International Analyst, said in an interview with the Iranian Diplomacy (IRD): “The French politicians are concerned that the foreign ministers of Iran and the United States may engage in bilateral talks through which the two countries would achieve certain agreements which will boost the influence of the United States on Iran’s economy in the first place. This will restrict the maneuvering room for the French companies, in general, while reducing the influence of the European countries on the Islamic Republic, in particular.”

Faraji-Rad said in the interview translated and published by the Iran Review on November 11: “Looking back to history of Iran-Germany relations, we will see that Germans have generally had fewer problems with Iran. Also, following the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Tehran and Berlin have maintained a suitable level of economic cooperation. On the other side, Germany is an ally to the United States while France and the United States are strategic rivals. Of course, under the rule of [the former French president] Mr. Sarkozy, the cooperation between France and the United States was more positive. However, at other junctures, Paris and Washington have been strategic rivals.”

Another reason for the opposition of France to a nuclear agreement with Iran is about France’s sphere of influence, said Faraji-Rad. “Due to their colonial past, the French sway high influence over the Levant region – which consists of the present-day Syria and Lebanon. However, the increasing influence of Iran in both Lebanon and Syria has been to the detriment of France.”

Regional clout

According to Faraji-Rad, if Iran managed to strike a successful deal with the P5+1, the natural consequence would be a tangible increase in Iran’s regional clout. “This means that Iran will be playing a more influential role with regard to the situation in Iraq and Syria. Tehran will even become more active in Afghanistan as well as certain parts of the Persian Gulf, including in Bahrain. Perhaps, the French government is not very sensitive about the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they are very concerned about the Levant region (comprising Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Israel, and part of southern Turkey, the Aleppo Vilayet).”

With Iran playing the role of a regional power and the West confirming that Iran is an important regional player, Faraji-Rad said, France will have less maneuvering room in the region. “In the meantime, France will be facing fierce economic rivalry in the region from Iranian competitors. As a result of such a competition, France will not have the wide economic space it already had in the region through presence of such major French companies as [the oil giant] Total and the automaker, Peugeot.”

In that case, the Iranian analyst said, priority will be given to the U.S. companies which can export better goods to the region, followed by their German, Italian and British counterparts. “Those countries were previously faced limitations for exporting their goods to Iran, but French companies did not have to deal with such limitations. Therefore, the French officials are concerned both in economic and geopolitical terms because they see that their power and influence in the Middle East, in general, and the Levant, in particular, is on decline.”

Precisely for this reason, “they consider Iran as a strategic rival in that region and, to be realistic, they have already lost their ground both in Syria and Lebanon, to Iran,” Faraji-Rad went on to say. “This is why the French politicians want Iran nuclear issue as well as the current differences between Iran and the West to remain unresolved. In this way, they aim to further weaken Iran – by taking more points from the Islamic Republic – in order to make up for great advantages that they have already lost in the region and reclaim, at least, part of their past sphere of influence.”

Israeli lobbies’ influence

Asked whether France’s effort to gain more advantages is influenced by the Israeli lobbies, Faraji-Rad averred: “This is exactly true. . . Although the French politicians apparently do not repeat (Israeli Prime Minister) Netanyahu’s remarks, there is a certain level of coordination behind the scenes between the Israelis and the French. I even believe that such coordination exists between the French officials and the radical politicians in the United States.”

He added: “The U.S. administration – considered separate from the Senate and the Congress – actually seeks an agreement with Iran. They believe that stability should be restored to the Middle East because, otherwise, the regional interests of the United States will be at stake. The U.S. administration is of the opinion that its allies in the region have not been successful in fulfiling their duties.

“An example was the atmosphere created for Turkey the United States after Islamic movements started to sweep through the region. The situation in Syria and the failure of Saudi Arabia and Qatar [in toppling the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad] was another example.

“On the other hand, Washington believes that although Iran was alone in the region, it has been successful in meeting its interests to a large extent. Therefore, Iran is a regional power and they should learn to get along with it. On the contrary, there are certain factions in the U.S. Congress and the Senate, in addition to pro-Israeli lobbies, which believe that Iran is still a major threat to the U.S. interests and should be handled accordingly.

“The minimum they seek is to make Iran give up its uranium enrichment activities, which will both appease Israel, and put their own minds at ease. In the meantime, France has been working with these two groups. I mean, a single front has been formed by France, the UK, and the radical factions in the United States. Of course, at certain junctures, the British government has been running this show.” [IDN-InDepthNews – November 12, 2013]

2013 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

Photo: P5+1 and Iran talks | Image: Press TV

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