PARIS (AP) — When Iran appeared close to a preliminary deal with world powers over its
France, analysts say, was motivated by factors including its tough stand against the spread of nuclear weapons, skepticism about Tehran's trustworthiness, and the longstanding French tradition of speaking out on the world stage. Critics faulted France for alleged grandstanding and seeking closer ties with Iran's foes.
After the Geneva talks ended early Sunday with no deal, diplomats including U.S. Secretary of State
After the failure of European-led talks with Iran over the nuclear program in the mid-2000s — when America gave Iran the silent treatment — Paris has staked out a hard-line stance. While President
In Geneva, the U.S., Britain, Germany, Russia, China and top EU diplomat Catherine Ashton were looking for initial caps on Iran's ability to make an atomic bomb, while Tehran sought some easing of sanctions stifling its economy. But French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius broke the near-uniform silence of the diplomats during the talks by using French radio to express reservations about Iran's enrichment of uranium and prospects of producing plutonium.
"You know, the French are very irritating. When the Americans absolutely want to do something, the French have this terrible habit of somewhat disagreeing," said analyst Francois Heisbourg of the Foundation for Strategic Research think tank in Paris. "We actually have experience in dealing with the Iranians directly. There used to be negotiations between the Europeans (and the Iranians) between 2003 and 2005."
"The Americans haven't spoken to the Iranians since 1979. And the Americans are telling us how it should be done," Heisbourg said. As for the Americans, "maybe they just want a deal — it happens all the time in history: People badly want a deal and end up by negotiating against themselves."
Kerry said the United States has "serious and capable" experts who have dealt with Iran for years.
"We are not blind, and I don't think we're stupid," he told
France has had deep ties to Iran over the years, notably striking business deals and hosting reformist former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami in the late 1990s — when the biggest sticking point was whether to serve wine at dinner. (It was not.)
France was a major partner of the shah, and also harbored Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei in exile before he returned home to lead the Islamic Revolution. Today, the outspoken opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, has its base in the Paris suburbs.
The bite of sanctions against Iran in recent years has left dangling billions of dollars worth of French investment there, including from companies like oil giant Total and car maker
This month, French President
Criticism of France emerged on a Twitter account widely believed to have the approval of the office of Iran's Supreme Leader —
Salman Shaikh, director of The Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, pointed to a French role reversal from a decade ago when
"For France to have the contrary view now, it shows just how far Iran's nuclear program has advanced," he said.
U.S. Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, who has taken a tough stand against Iran's nuclear program, applauded France's position, telling CNN: "Thank God for France and thank God for pushback. ... The French are becoming very good leaders in the Mideast."