Why France Sank an Iran Nuke Deal

Exclusive: Saudis and Israelis wanted to sink the negotiated deal on Iran’s nuclear program, so the French launched the diplomatic torpedo to take it down. But behind France’s action were Saudi financial muscle and Israel’s political skill, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

France’s sabotage of a compromise agreement on Iran’s nuclear program is a textbook case of how the new Saudi-Israeli alliance can disrupt President Barack Obama’s strategy for resolving Middle East disputes through diplomacy, not war.

Over the summer, Saudi officials including intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan visited European capitals dangling financial deals and energy concessions to countries if they would line up behind Saudi and Israeli desires for military intervention in the Syrian civil war and heightened economic warfare against Iran.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius greets U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris, France, on Feb. 27, 2013. [State Department photo]

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius greets U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris, France, on Feb. 27, 2013. [State Department photo]

The carrots were particularly appealing to the French who are struggling with a sluggish economy, high unemployment and a recent credit downgrade. So, the flash of Saudi petro-dollars got the attention of the French government.

Just last month, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian celebrated the signing of a $1.5 billion deal with Saudi Arabia to overhaul six of its navy ships. In July, Saudi Arabia’s ally, United Arab Emirates, signed a $913 million deal with France to buy two high-resolution Helios military satellites.

Other lucrative arms deals are reportedly in the works between France and Saudi Arabia (and its Sunni allies). Saudi Arabia also has deployed its money to bolster France’s sagging agricultural and food sectors, including a Saudi firm buying a major stake in Groupe Doux, Europe’s largest poultry firm based in Brittany.

The Saudis, however, had less success with other countries. In a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bandar reportedly offered cooperation on oil and natural gas interests as the carrot for getting Putin to abandon the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

But it was Bandar’s implicit stick of renewed violence by Chechen and other Saudi-backed Islamic militants that backfired. Putin reacted angrily, according to diplomatic accounts of the meeting, and adopted an even tougher stance against Saudi desires in the Middle East.

Putin also stepped up his cooperation with President Obama in searching for negotiated settlements to longstanding disagreements in the Middle East, including a U.S.-Russia-brokered deal to get the Syrian government to give up its chemical weapons, a joint push for Syrian peace talks in Geneva and a plan to resolve the Iranian nuclear dispute.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Saudi royals favor a more belligerent approach to these conflicts wanting the United States to bomb Syria and “degrade” its military, demanding the immediate removal of Syrian President Assad, and insisting on a complete capitulation by Iran under threat of crippling economic sanctions or a U.S.-Israeli aerial bombardment.

Last weekend as an interim agreement with Iran was about to be signed by the five permanent United Nations Security Council members plus Germany the French rushed to the rescue of the Israeli-Saudi alliance, showing up at the last minute to unravel the deal that had been painstakingly knitted together.

To the apparent surprise of the Obama administration, the Russians and other governments working on a compromise with Iran over its nuclear program, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius joined the talks late, mocked them as “a fool’s game,” and prevented the accord from being signed by adding language unacceptable to Iran.

Much of the subsequent commentary has focused on why the French were coming to the aid of the Israelis in blocking the interim agreement that Netanyahu has denounced in apocalyptic terms. But France’s interest in undercutting the deal can perhaps best be understood by factoring in the Saudi money.

Indeed, the logic behind the behind-the-scenes Saudi-Israeli alliance has been that the two former adversaries now view their interests as mostly aligning, especially their contempt for Iran’s Shiite government and its influence extending along the Shiite Crescent from Tehran through Baghdad and Damascus to Beirut.

Israel and Saudi Arabia agree that Iran is the greatest threat to their regional interests. Both countries have indicated that they want the Iranian-backed government in Syria to be overthrown even if that means it will be replaced by Saudi-backed Sunni jihadists linked to al-Qaeda. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Israel Sides with Syrian Jihadists.”]

Israel and Saudi Arabia also took the same side on the Egyptian military coup d’etat which ousted elected President Mohamed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Though the Muslim Brotherhood is Sunni like the Saudis it represents a populist movement that the Saudi monarchy considers a threat to its anti-democratic structure. Israel views the Muslim Brotherhood as sympathetic to Hamas in Gaza.

But what makes the Saudi-Israeli alliance so influential is the complementary strengths of the two countries. Israel has extraordinary skills at lobbying and propaganda, especially in influencing Official Washington and Capitol Hill. Saudi Arabia has vast financial resources that can turn the heads of defense officials in Paris, oil men in Houston or investment bankers on Wall Street. Together these strengths can make the negotiation of any good-faith compromise with Iran or Syria difficult, if not impossible.

Between Netanyahu pulling the strings of his political and media marionettes in Washington and the Saudis manipulating the French government and others with financial inducements, it will take toughness and savvy for the Obama administration to guide the process to a peaceful resolution. And, toughness and savvy are not attributes that the administration is known to have in great supply.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “A Showdown for War or Peace.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

7 comments for “Why France Sank an Iran Nuke Deal

  1. S.H. Zaidi
    November 14, 2013 at 13:20

    It is unbelievable how France acting alone can scuttle the possible deal. There must be other powers within the P5+1 who must have silently supported or condoned what the French did. One can well imagine which those powers were!

  2. Joe the jew
    November 12, 2013 at 09:18

    don’t forget Iran still own 40% of Eurodif which operating a uranium enrichment plant in France. this partners ship with France was formed in 1973 to supply Iran with full Nuclear fuel product especially Plutonium which Now french are claiming that the Arak facility will produce in Iran. If the agreement with Iran would have been reached then The Iranians were going to cash their chips and ask for tons of Plutonium to be delivered by the French ASAP as part of their joint partnership and plus the French would have to pay Iran in tune of 28 Billion Dollars for the past due amount owed to them by French government. The French government is Broke they can not afford to pay such exorbitant amount back and secondly the plutonium is what Iran wants any way as part of their fuel cycle. That is the real reason for France torpedoing the deal. French always have been the under pit of the all the super powers and what ever they do they always will be. without Iranian money ” during the Shah” or even current Iranian regime they will be broke and unemployment will reach new highs ” if you don’t believe ask 11,000 auto workers from Renault and Peugeot that are laid off after Iran canceled it’s engine contract in 2012″ now the french have new suckers in Saudi’s ” Prince Bandar ” as friend they know that they can torpedo the nuclear deal and get some money coming their way for a while And at the same time the president and foreign minster of France can stay true to their Jewish heritage and bosses in תֵּל־אָבִיב.

  3. November 12, 2013 at 02:40

    Thank you for revealing France’s military/industrial complex financial interest in disrupting the peace talks. France’s purported fear of Iran nuclear reactors going into weapons building is a mendacious veil to cover up their business interests with Saudi Arabia, Israel, UAE, et al.
    You would expect this from the US and western corporate media who are deliberately blind to Frances true ambitions, but even one Pacifica’s KPFK most popular political programs left it out of its discusssion about P5+1 being botched by France for financial and trade interests and using fear to protect Frances interests

  4. Jack
    November 11, 2013 at 22:01

    Let’s bring our navy home before someone tries to recreate the USS Liberty episode! Let them fight their own war.

  5. sam
    November 11, 2013 at 21:50

    The biggest terrorist groups were the Israeli Irgun and the Stern Gang. Today, the Zionists who think they are Hebrews (are not even Semites) are the modern day terrorists. They steal land, have nuclear weapon and chemical weapons. Yet they won’t allow other countries to have them. Zionists shouldn’t be considered Jews. Judaism is being poisoned by this hateful and racist ideology. The Zionists use the Jewish holocost as if Jews were the only people that were persecuted. What about the 2 million Christians killed by the Ottoman Turks in 1918? What about the 2 million American Indians that were killed by the U.S.? What about the 53 million Chinese killed by the Japanese? What about the treatment of the American blacks? What about the 2.1 million Christians killed by Hitler ( many were the first to arrive and die in Auschwitz) where are the Holocost museums for these people in Washington D.C.?

    • Hillary
      November 12, 2013 at 11:21

      “prevented the accord from being signed by adding language unacceptable to Iran.”
      sounds familiar …..
      sam has it right except that any Official Investigation into Holocaust numbers has not been forthcoming even though the number of deaths has been vastly reduced in official quarters..

  6. G I Joe
    November 11, 2013 at 21:36

    Israel is not a friend of the USA! We have been suckers all along. Why don’t Israel have to give up nukes? Stop killing innocent people? Sanctions for warcrimes ?

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