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France’s Iran Blunder

Christopher Dickey explains why France should be faulted for its sabotage of negotiations with Iran:

But France insisted that operations of a nuclear reactor at Arak—which is not online yet—be halted, and that current stockpiles of enriched uranium be reduced.

These were the sorts of measures that the other negotiators expected to ensue at future stages of the normalization process [bold mine-DL]. The urgent need right now is to stop the enrichment program that exists—freeze it and inspect it—since if it continues Iran soon will be only months, if not weeks, from procuring sufficient material for a bomb.

As a result of the French posturing, that enrichment probably will continue, at least for the moment. And it’s unlikely the next round of talks later this month, at a technical level, will have the momentum or the authority to stop it.

Iran hawks in the U.S. are predictably pleased with French interference, but no one else should be fooled into thinking that France has done itself or other Western countries any favors. It can’t be emphasized enough that Western actions that block an agreement with Iran on the nuclear issue benefits no one except Iran hawks and Iranian hard-liners, since it makes it more difficult to resolve the issue through diplomacy, and that in turn makes both armed conflict and a nuclear-armed Iran more likely. Perversely, France has given Iran an opening to agree to fewer concessions than it otherwise would have, and by demanding so much in the first stage France has made it less likely that Iran will agree to anything. Colum Lynch and Yochi Dreazen report:

Beyond the rhetoric, France’s opposition to the deal carries clear risks. The U.S. negotiators and their Iranian counterparts have both warned that the window for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue won’t stay open forever. Not too long from now, Iran will have enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. If the talks fall apart, France may have effectively scuttled any option of ending Iran’s nuclear program without using military force, something no country — including Israel — wants to do.

The good news is that so far the U.S. and Iran do not seem to be dissuaded from continuing negotiations and working towards a deal. Negotiations with Iran may still succeed in spite of the transparent, short-sighted attempts of some governments to derail them. If diplomacy with Iran were to fail, no one should forget who was responsible for wrecking it.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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