France Crashes the Geneva Party, Scuttles Iran Deal

The Iranian newspaper Tabnak printed a minute-by-minute account of Saturday’s dramatic on-again off-again push toward a diplomatic agreement on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. It contains little editorializing but by the key placement of news items, it tells a story about French and Israeli bad faith.

Catherine Ashton of the European Union and Secretary of State John Kerry had worked for months with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on a text, which put forward a set confidence-building steps. They were careful to have no details leak, but apparently Iran would freeze its nuclear enrichment program for six months in return for very slight, and “reversible” reductions of international sanctions. Further steps would then be pursued.

Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denounced this step as a fool’s bargain, maintaining that Iran was getting something for nothing. Tabnak says that the Israeli Finance Minister warned that even a slight reduction in Iran sanctions would lead to a gold rush on the part of Western corporations seeking business in Tehran (Iran is an oil and gas state with a population of 77 million, so there are trillions to be made there if it is opened up). Apparently the Israelis feel that any chink in the sanctions armor would lead inexorably to their collapse, impelled in part by world capitalism hungry for a major new market and for Iran’s enormous resources. They fear that once the international momentum moves in that direction, Iran would dig in its heels and keep its most significant enrichment capabilities and its breakout capacity whereby it could construct a bomb at will if it wanted to.

There was no sign that any of the diplomats in Geneva were willing to pay the slightest attention to the squawking from Tel Aviv. Indeed, the momentum was toward an inking of the confidence-building measure on Saturday itself. Russian and Chinese representatives were abruptly summoned to Geneva.

Tabnak doesn’t instance the Saudis, but their refusal to take up their seat on the UN Security Council is in part a protest against American diplomacy with Iran, which they fear will leave the kingdom in a weak position vis-a-vis their Persian Shiite rival for power in the Gulf (which they call the Arabian Gulf and Iran calls the Persian Gulf). Some 22% of proven world oil reserves are in that region.

Then French foreign minister Laurent Fabius showed up and threw cold water on the whole process. He clearly was attempting to torpedo the agreement, rejecting the whole notion of a six-month confidence-building period without substantial Iranian concessions. In the French system, the foreign minister doesn’t typically have a lot of autonomy, so Fabius was almost certainly acting at the orders of Socialist President Francois Hollande, who is way down in the polls and may feel the need to seem strong internationally, asserting himself against the US and Iran. The arrogance of the US and the perfidy of the far right religious government in Tehran are two things that both center-right and center-left French can agree upon. Hollande, having intervened in Mali, seems to want to throw his weight around in the Middle East. He may see an opportunity for France to come up in the world now that much of the Arab world and Israel is angry at Washington for its opening toward Iran. The US for decades has pulled off a balancing act of allying both with Israel and Saudi Arabia, in part by pointing to the danger of Iran to both. Since Obama seems to be abandoning that ploy, Paris may think there is a vacuum that it can fill.

Because Iranian president Hasan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif were deeply concerned that their opening toward negotiations with the West would be sabotaged by hard liners in the Revolutionary Guards and around theocrat-in-chief Ali Khamenei, they had stipulated that no details of any agreement be leaked during the negotiations.

Fabius blatantly disregarded this rule. Le Monde reports that he said openly that he had three concerns: Iran would have to mothball its heavy-water, plutonium-producing reactor at Arak, due to go hot in summer 2014 (with a reprocessing plant, which Iran does not have, it would be fairly easy to construct a nuclear weapon from the plutonium). Then, Iran would have to export from the country its stock of uranium enriched to 19.75%, which, Fabius maintained, could much more easily be made into a bomb than the uranium enriched to 3.5% for reactor fuel. A third concern was that Iran is bringing on line a new generation of gas centrifuges, which can enrich five times as fast.

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) greeted Fabius’s stunt with “Thank God for France!” on CNN. Unlike Israel and South Carolina, however, Fabius doesn’t seem to have been demanding an end to enrichment altogether, which in the aftermath President Rouhani underlined was a red line for Tehran.

By revealing what was not in the initial confidence-building agreement and by making clear the minimum France would accept, Fabius completely threw away the whole negotiating strategy crafted by Zarif, Kerry and Ashton. The other diplomatic delegations were furious.

Agence France Presse reported the reaction to Fabius’s turn as the bull in the China shop:

One anonymous diplomat told journalists, “The Americans, the European Union and the Iranians have worked intensively for months on this proposal, and this is nothing more than an attempt by Fabius to give himself belated importance.”

Someone in the French delegation retorted, “We want to avoid the euphoria of the glass half full.” He recalled that in 2003-2004 Rouhani had engineered a similar suspension of uranium enrichment, which had led to nothing.

Another anonymous diplomat told AFP, “Different points posed a problem for different countries, not just France.”

It is possible that Fabius actually did the negotiations a favor in insisting that they be more serious. An enrichment freeze doesn’t amount to much, and slightly reduced sanctions don’t, either. Maybe that deal would have just given hard liners on both sides time to undermine further progress.

The Arak reactor really is the most sinister thing the Iranians are doing. Critics of Fabius are saying that it is an issue that could be dealt with down the road. Perhaps, but by putting it on the table he is signalling that if the Iranians are serious this time, for France it is not negotiable that Iran have a heavy water reactor. If Rouhani and Zarif can’t get that objection past the Revolutionary Guards now, maybe they never can.

Back in the 1970s when France built the Osirak reactor for Iraq, they were absolutely insistent that it be a light water reactor. While it isn’t absolutely impossible to use a light water reactor to make a bomb, it is very, very difficult, and this form of reactor is the only responsible one with regard to proliferation concerns. (That is why Israel’s bombing of Osirak in 1981 was so outrageous and unwise– it wasn’t a proliferation threat. Bombing it pushed the Baath regime in Iraq to ramp up a nuclear weapons program and in some indirect ways led to the Iraq War).

Anyway, diplomacy doesn’t have to have a tight window. If there was no breakthrough this weekend, there could be one when the diplomats reassemble in a couple of weeks. France can’t possibly want no agreement (unlike Israel), and presumably there must be a way to satisfy Hollande in a confidence-building initial proposal. It may also be that Paris will feel so much heat from everyone else in Europe that they will moderate their hard line.

One thing France must keep in mind is that hawks in Washington actively want a war with Iran, and that if there is no agreement now, that war will be on the front burner if a Republican comes to power in 2017. Since the French opposed the Iraq War and have been traumatized by their participation in Afghanistan, presumably they don’t want to give the American Right such a luscious opportunity, which won’t in the end benefit French interests in the Middle East. Hollande may think he is standing up for France, but he might actually just be making himself subordinate to South Carolina and American arms dealers.

41 Responses

  1. France did supply heavy water to Israel so that the latter could build atomic bombs. If France is going to be Israel’s protector, perhaps they can take over the US foreign aid to Israel too.

    Anyways, I just took off “Visit France” from my bucket list.

    • The people who supplied Israel were doing it against the law, and De Gaulle was enraged when he found out.
      Please do not think this represents France. I live here, and the socalled socialists, with Fabius whose incompetence caused a huge blood contamination scandal when he was in power decades ago, is a Zionist stooge like Hollande, NOT representative of the majority, but of all the élite in all parties.

      • For someone who is always quick to criticize the United States, you appear to be equally quick to be the apologist for France, e.g., Hollande is “NOT representative of the majority.” The French voted Hollande into office just as surely as the Americans voted George W. Bush and Barack Obama into office. Perhaps you should look in the mirror before applying a double standard when judging the United States as opposed to France.

    • Heavy water was initially supplied to Israel from Great Britain in 1958 using a Norwegian front company known as “Noratom”, who received 2% commission. The purchase agreement contained a proviso that the heavy water was not to be used for making weapons. This deal was largely unknown to the public until 2005.

      Current Israeli president Shimon Peres initiated negotiations that resulted in joint French-Israeli atomic research in the 1950s that gave Israel incidental access to nuclear weapons research that assisted in the construction of its first A-bombs in the late 1960s. French physicists and engineers were instrumental in the design of the Dimona nuclear research facility in Dimona. President Charles DeGaulle became suspicious of Israeli intentions for atomic research and all French technical assistance to the Israeli nuclear research program ended in 1966 after France performed all outstanding contractual obligations.

      By the mid-1980s Israel reputedly had the technology to construct thermonuclear fusion bombs. It is believed that Israel’s atomic arsenal now contains about 400 atomic bombs capable of killing not only millions of civilians but contaminating the world’s food chain.

      This nuclear arsenal was not only built outside the auspices of international nuclear regulatory bodies, but also without the apparent knowledge of Israel’s own internal nuclear regulatory agency in the 1960s who expressed concerns about the intentions of Israeli political leaders and warned of international vilification occurring if the atomic scientific research were misused.

      It was both France and Israel who were duped into unwittingly making Israel a major player in the nuclear arms race.

      • It’s a feature of the current debate within Israel about a Palestinian treaty and Iran that so many military and intelligence chiefs disagree with the civilian leadership. The Gatekeepers, nominated for an Oscar, documented the six former Shin Bet intelligence chiefs as believing a deal for a Palestinian state is vital to Israel’s survival. These guys are not patsies!

        One clarification: are all these programs atomic or ‘hydrogen’ or thermonuclear bombs? It is my understanding these are many times more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Do all nuclear nations now have that technology? Even Pakistan and India?

        • @RBTL:

          The 1997 U.S Air Force intelligence report “Holy of Holies” studied the nuclear capabilities of Israel and determined the probable existence of 400 launch-able fission and thermonuclear fusion bombs.

          The U.S. France, Britain, China and Russia all have confirmed hydrogen bomb capabilities. Pakistan and India have never detonated a thermonuclear device, but it is debatable whether they possess such a weapon.

          “The Gatekeepers” and “Five Broken Cameras” were both nominated for Oscars. The Palestinian producer of Five Broken Cameras was unexpectedly detained at LAX until attorneys from the Academy Award organization intervened on his behalf so he could proceed to the ceremonies.

    • And that has what to do with current talks exactly? I’m sure France is heartbroken that you won’t visit. You can always visit Iran and pray they won’t throw you in jail for use as a bargaining chip. It was wrong for France to supply Israel with heavy water so now it’s ok for Iran to soldier on with a nuclear program that can’t be credibly explained under the laughable assertion that they need it for power generation? It’s kind of like saying that since Europe launched crusades to take Jerusalem they can’t criticize Iran shipping tons of arms to Palestinian extremists with the same goal. Same logic.

  2. I’m struggling to understand how this plays into what I suppose to be France’s post-colonial interests. I would expect them to be pro-Iran because they want to keep their Sykes-Picot derived influence in Syria and Lebanon. But they’ve flipped the bird to Iran and got cozy with Saudi thereby setting themselves up as not exactly Best Friends Forever with Hezbollah and the Assad regime, or so it seems. This is, to my untutored eye, a potentially significant realignment which is not just about nuclear Iran.

    • Perhaps the historical lesson we need to look to is not Sykes-Picot, but France’s standoffish relationship with NATO.

      “I won’t be ignored, Dan.”

  3. Dear Professor Cole

    Perhaps the French want to keep the Saudis in the market for more weapons by stoking the Arms Race in the Middle East.

    If you really want to get scared just imagine the Saudis getting Pakistani warheads for their Chinese Missiles, which provokes the Turks and Egyptians to arm themselves too.

    We don’t know how to do Multilateral Deterrence, so we have to disarm the Israelis and do a WMD Free Middle East.

    Fifty years ago when I was ill in the Infirmary at school, I read Neville Shute’s “On the Beach” about the end of mankind in a slowly spreading cloud of fallout.

    He postulated the war starting as a General Nuclear Exchange in the Middle East.

    link to

    • Did you see the movie from the ’50s? Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire, (I think) Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly. I saw it when I was very young. Scare me to death. McCormac before McCarmac! (sp??)

  4. Though not stated in the article, Saudi’s have intimated that they would buy French arms in lieu of American. Israel and Saudi Arabia and France are strange bedfellows, though in the middle east, who knows what’s happening.

  5. Thanks for the explanation, Juan. I hope you are right about the reasons, as I was so infuriated to learn the facts, but it is true that few details have escaped and perhaps the whole deal is too weak for Iran to accept anyway.

  6. “Then French foreign minister Laurent Fabius showed up and threw cold water on the whole process.”

    A guest on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS program on CNN suggested a possibility of some commercial deal between France and Saudi Arabia might have been a factor.

    If Lindsey Graham approved of France’s action, that’s a good bet it was terribly wrong.

    “… hawks in Washington actively want a war with Iran,…”

    We need to get more Nuremberg trials going to get these war criminals (Iraq) out of circulation.

  7. As usual, a very balanced and informative piece, but I would like to make a couple of points about it. In my view, Laurent Fabius’s efforts to derail the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 had less to do with the desire to forge a new position for France in the Middle East than to the following three factors:
    One: A change of French outlook towards Israel. It is true that in the past the French government had been opposed to Iraq war and followed relatively enlightened policies. That was under Jacque Chirac, but since the election of Nicolas Sarkozy the French policy towards the Middle East changed in favor of Israel. Shortly after coming to power in a speech Sarkozy bluntly pointed out that in future France would not adopt an impartial stance towards the Arabs and the Israelis but would strongly favor Israel. That policy has continued under Francois Hollande.
    Two: Hollande’s forthcoming visit to Israel. He is due to visit Israel in the coming days and is also scheduled to speak before the Knesset next week. After Netanyahu’s strong outburst against the deal with Iran, this is a gift that France is taking to Netanyahu.
    Three: Laurent Fabius’s strong pro-Israeli sentiments. Going beyond all the other foreign ministers, all of whom are close friends of Israel, Fabius insisted that “Israel’s security concerns should not be ignored at the Geneva talks”. Of course, he said nothing about Iran’s security concerns, Israel’s nuclear arsenal and her constant threats to attack Iran.

    In my view, the issue of Arak reactor is quite bogus because it is not a proliferation problem. A prominent expert in the field, Peter Jenkins, a British career diplomat and former UK Ambassador to the IAEA, in an article in response to Netanyahu’s charges wrote: “To extract plutonium from spent reactor fuel a reprocessing facility is necessary. Neither the IAEA nor US intelligence has ever come across evidence of an Iranian reprocessing facility. Iran has assured friend and foe for the last ten years that it has no intention of acquiring a reprocessing capability.” link to

    Today, Mark Thomason commented in New York Times: “It is just not true that the Arak reactor is a proliferation problem. Just the opposite.

    First, a heavy water reactor uses natural uranium fuel without enrichment. In that way it is the opposite of a proliferation problem, it is an alternative to enrichment.

    Second, the sort of plutonium needed for a bomb requires the fuel rods be removed and replaced every six weeks, so that plutonium does not turn into other things not usable in a bomb. The bomb stuff is a transitional product. Pulling a reactor core every six weeks is a really obvious thing to do. They say they won’t, we’ll have monitors, and even without monitors we’d see something that big done every six weeks.

    Third, the fuel rods are very dangerous. See the Japanese problem today.

    Fourth, the plutonium removal process is even more dangerous, so much so that the Japanese for one never attempted it. The stuff is poisonous on the scale of polonium, and so difficult to work with, and any accidental concentration over five kilos goes off as a nuclear blast. It is like working with black powder, plus it will poison you if the smallest speck of dust gets on you.

    Fifth, the Iranians do not have any plant to do that work, and it would be a big complex plant we’d notice, and a train of nuclear cores going into it every six weeks would be really obvious too.

    This is not a real problem. This is hysteria being used as an excuse for other things.”
    link to

    • A small correction about Plutonium. It is really about the number of neutrons, bomb grade plutonium has an atomic mass of 239 (one more than U-238), and is created when a U-238 nucleus absorbs a neutron (and the resulting U-239 decays via Neptunium to Plutonium. If an additional Neutron is absorbed you get (eventually) Plutonium 240, which is very difficult to separate from the Pu-239. The resulting mixture of the two types of Plutonium is unsuitable for a weapon (supposedly Pu-240 starts fissioning too easily, making the bomb fissile. So you are basically correct, that fuel rods intended to be used to extract bomb grade Plutonium, can’t be left in the reactor very long.

    • No, that’s a very narrow reading of the issue. It’s not unreasonable for the US, Israel, France – or any other state with an interest in the outcome of this negotiation – to voice deep concern about what Iran is doing with the Arak facility. This is a heavy water reactor and its byproducts could be used to build a plutonium nuclear bomb.

  8. Regarding the Osirak reactor bombing in July of 1981 in Iraq, the Israelis conducted the raid on a Sunday so that Italian nuclear technicians administering the facility would be absent and not be harmed.

    Israel was condemned by the United Nations General Assembly by a 44-7 vote. The NY Times #1 best-seller “By Way of Deception” described how Israel’s intelligence agency had recruited an Iraqi nuclear scientist in France to divulge crucial data about the Osirak reactor so that the raid could take place; according to the book, the Iraqi scientist was duped into believing he was being recruited by the CIA.

    In a largely unpublicized raid in 2007, Israeli jets destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor facility in “Operation Orchard”. The bombing killed a number of North Korean nuclear technicians manning the facility.

  9. Is there any section of NPT that prohibits Iran of having a heavy water reactor? If not then Iran will not concede to arrogant demands that Iran should not have one. If France can’t live with that then be it. As an Iranian, I think we will either have a fair deal (based on laws not demands) or no deal; and the later case is not a big problem for us. Sooner or later, west has to come begging for Gas and Oil and in the meantime we can improve our self-sufficiency and also develop our nuclear infrastructure.

  10. The Guardian has a detailed description of what happened. I find it unbelievable that we let a country like Israel run our foreign policy, this is insulting to me as an american. From Guardian:

    “In a bid to contain the danger, the lead US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, flew straight from the talks in Geneva to Israel to reassure Binyamin Netanyahu’s government that the intended deal would not harm his country’s national

    The hastily arranged trip represented an acknowledgement of Netanyahu’s power to block a deal through his influence in the US Congress and in Europe. Egged on by the Israelis, the US Senate is poised to pass new sanctions that threaten to derail the talks before they get to their planned next round in 10 days’ time.”

    “It has emerged that after a call from Barack Obama on Friday evening asking him not to oppose the planned Geneva deal, Netanyahu did the opposite. He called British prime minister, David Cameron, Russian president Vladimir Putin, German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president François Hollande, asking them to block it.”

    It is clear that Israel is not a friend and cannot be trusted. This is not the first instance of Israel publicly humiliating the USA. That Israel needs to be taught a lesson is obvious, and in my opinion if Obama took the podium and publicly took Bibi to task by pointing out his treachery and taking some actions (e.g. no more sharing of NSA data, reduction in aid…) the public at large will support him. He should say it is not in the US interest to start another war in the middle east and attack the Lindsey et al for putting the interest of Israel ahead of the USA.

    • “Baby, dream your dreams, close your eyes and try it…” (“Sweet Charity”, 1960s)

      • I know, I know! But for once I hope the US administration develops some ‘kahunas (?)’ to take on this Frankenstein monster.

    • This is the same Wendy Sherman who characterized Iranians as having “deception in their DNA.”

      Putting aside the fact that such a dumb TV-script-like remark can be made about anyone including especially Americans and Israelis, one question is why she was not disqualified. The second question is, who decided that she should remain as a spokeswoman for the US after demonstrating such an unacceptable bias?

    • Yeah, well I recently hear Carmi Gellon, former intelligence chief in Israel, say Israel doesn’t have plane that can make it to Iran, carry out the mission and return.

      • @rbtl- Israel has about 400 F-15 and F-16 aircraft that have a very limited range and limited bomb load capacity depending on the amount of fuel that is loaded (weight is weight, whether it is fuel or bombs).

        Israel has no aircraft capable of carrying a “bunker buster” type bomb (they weigh 5,000 pounds or more).

        For Israel to attack with aircraft would require Israel to use every tanker they have (5 converted Boeing 707s & 3 converted KC-130). Note that only a small number of aircraft can be refueled at one time. In other words, Israel would only be able to put a small fore over Iran.

        BUT …

        Iran has formidable defenses. For long range, Iran has copies of the Chinese FD-2000 which they make themselves. Th FD-2000 is a Chinese re-engineering of the Russian S-300 system. The Chinese re-engineering makes the FD-2000 equivalent to the S-400/500. In other words a very deadly defense. BUT there is more!

        Iran believes in a multilayer, swarm type defense where each target is “swarmed” by multiple defenses at the same time, overloading the attackers defenses.

        So to back up the FD-2000, Iran has thousands of short range, supersonic anti-aircraft missiles and is making more (Iran just brought a new Sayyad-2 factory on-line)

        The other options Israel has are their small number Jericho-3 MRBM and sub launched short range cruise missiles. While the Jericho-3 can carry about 1000 pound of explosives, that amount of power is not very effective over a large area. Since the cruise missile have a short range, the subs would have to be close enough to Iran for the Iranians to detect and destroy them.

        The bottom line is Israel could indeed start a war and kill a fair number of Iranians, but over time, Israel would suffer large losses with their aircraft and subs being destroyed.

        Then on top of the losses during attacks, Israel would suffer from either direct counterattack or economic attack from most of the world.

        The bottom line is Israel can NOT win, but only lose or lose very badly.

        • You’re presupposing that the war will stay confined to Israel and Iran. Israel knows that if the war escalates through Iranian retaliation, the US will enter it on it’s behalf.

  11. Kudos to Prof. Cole for a great piece, prepared in a rush.
    The French political scene is murky, and Israel gets raw data from the NSA. Monsieur Hollande might have dirty little secrets, or even big ones, you simply do not make it to the top squeaky clean. So blackmail might then be a reason. Before you call me paranoid, please keep in mind Monsieur Miterrand served two seven year mandates while hiding his past as an officer of the Vichy regime, as well as an out of wedlock daughter.

  12. The US Senate is almost surely going to vote new sanctions. The negotiations was the only thing keeping enough Dems from going for it and this is the excuse they need or their opponents need to force them, to do so.

  13. Could this simply be pay-back for the US rejecting France’s call to arms in Syria?

  14. Are we enjoying the decline of the American hegemony yet?

    I told everybody that Americans would not enjoy events once every nation was a free agent, free to sabotage America’s attempts to back out of our ridiculously overextended commitments. The Saudis, the Russians, the French, and the Chinese are on the loose. All you peaceniks can get practice dividing your current hatred of our bankrupt empire between these new villians… once you finally accept that this is not yet another clever scheme of your archenemy Obama.

  15. Reporting on the ‘Nuclear Talks’ at Geneva, and its interim outcome s far has to have two dimensions: technical and diplomatic. Regarding the technical aspects, one can really be somewhat puzzled by the emphasis put on France’s supposed expertise about Iran’s nuclear programme. Of course, France has a lot of nuclear energy expertise but how it used it is interesting. By their point, France is right that once Iran fuels and starts producing a reactor designed to generate plutonium there is no going back. It is irretrievably a weapons programme. It’s okay for anyone familiar with the production of nuclear weapons. Stopping it is the key to preventing other countries, e.g., the Saudis, from building their own nuclear capabilities to respond to Iran’s path. Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium is mostly in the form of uranium hexafluoride, (UF6) which is the gas spun in the centrifuges to separate the lighter U235 isotope from the heavier U238 natural uranium. To get to bomb ready highly enriched uranium, Iran must convert the gas form back to powdered fuel, sinter the powder, and using special equipment, turn the powdered metal into solid fuel elements. Nuclear fuel as 90 percent U-235 in solid form must be shaped by machine processes into specific configurations to make a working bomb. It needs more than centrifuges. It needs highly specialised machine tools. Simply having a lot of highly enriched UF6, the gas form, doesn’t make a bomb or much of a potential to build one. So, it ‘s easy to follow by the smart Western intelligence to tell whether or not Iran is taking that next step, which is to covert the gaseous UF6 back into solid form. Everybody knows that Iran isn’t on that threshold. So, why this fuss?
    Israel (and Saudi Arabia) wants to crash Iran. The extremists in Iran, Saudi Arabia, United States and E.U. are all unified to stop a deal, because it would spoil their broth. Anyway, no one was expecting a deal at this round, and thus, France’s position may not be so important. I believe, they can certainly do the thing what the U.S. and the E.U. already have thought.

  16. What do make of Kerry’s announcement that all the western countries including France agreed on a draft deal but Iran needed more time. What’s with the reporting?

    • I have the same question. Are the spin masters at work and has the AIPAC already gotten to the administration to change its tune and lay it on Iran?

      • “responding to remarks by Kerry in Abu Dhabi on Monday, [Iranian FM Zarid] tweeted: Mr.Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half of US draft Thursday night? and publicly commented against it Friday morning?”…”No amount of spinning can change what happened within 5+1 in Geneva from 6PM Thursday to 545 PM Saturday. But it can further erode confidence…”

        It now appears “gutted” is what France did to the US draft that Iran seemed prepared to sign and which brought Kerry to Geneva from Israel Thursday night. So Kerry wrote another draft that France and the others signed but Iran would not. Now Kerry is trying to blame Iran rather than France for killing a preliminary agreement.

        It’s called “changing the goal posts” and exactly what Iran had warned against for many years. Every time it accepted a US proposal, it was replaced by a new and tougher one.

      • some additional reporting (BBC):

        Later, Mr Zarif responded to the claim on Twitter.

        “No amount of spinning can change what happened within 5+1 in Geneva from 6pm Thursday to 5:45pm Saturday. But it can further erode confidence,” he wrote.

        “Mr Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half of US draft Thursday night? And publicly commented against it Friday morning?”

        “Mr Zarif appeared to be referring to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who on Friday morning cautioned in a statement that his country wanted a “credible agreement”. At the end of the day’s talks, Mr Fabius told France Inter radio that Paris could not accept a “fool’s game”.

        A Russian foreign ministry source was also quoted by the Interfax news agency on Tuesday as saying the failure was “not Iran’s fault”.”

  17. To many speculations, it could be a good cop, bad cop play, who knows. It’s diplomacy. And of course there’s an advantage in being 5-6 against ‘one’.
    Secondly France had had their problems with Iran, remember the Sarkozy Ahmadinejad discussions.

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