Washington, DC – As nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 commence, both sides are talking tough in public to mask their private urgency. The US continues to reiterate that the “window for diplomacy” is fast closing, while the Iranians have made a play to have negotiations take place in Baghdad, Damascus or Beirut – a not-so-subtle swipe at the waning influence of the US in key regional outposts where Iran has pull.
As the conflict escalates, the US, Iran and Israel almost always occupy the headlines. However, no less important – but much less understood – is the complicating role being played by France under President Nicolas Sarkozy.
From the outset of the Obama administration’s efforts to resolve the nuclear dispute diplomatically, Sarkozy positioned himself to the right of the US president. While Europe by and large welcomed Obama’s new approach, there was “unease” and “apprehension” in Paris that Obama would go soft on Iran.
In early 2009, when Obama had just entered office, Sarkozy pushed the EU to impose sanctions prior to diplomatic efforts. The bid failed, due to resistance from other EU states who felt that Sarkozy’s strategy would undermine Obama. “Going in hawkish on the European side while Obama was stretching out his hand would certainly undermine the credibility of the outstretched hand,” a senior diplomat (from none of the EU3…