US, France playing good cop-bad cop in Iran talks
Six major world powers and Iran are holding negotiations in Geneva over Tehran's highly-disputed nuclear program.
RT:France seems to be the most skeptical of the negotiating nations about the outcome of the talks. What's behind its skepticism?
Robert Harneis: It is always a little difficult to understand the position of the French here. They seem to take an extreme position all the time. There are a number of reasons for this. The first is that they are playing ‘good cop-bad cop’ with the Americans. Obama is suddenly being much more reasonable in his attitude with the Iranians, and the French are out there on the flank saying “Oh, you mustn’t agree too easily, Israel must be protected,” and so on. In a sense that’s, if you like, playing the game of the Americans so that they can sound more reasonable, the French sound more unreasonable.
There is another factor, which is that everybody knows the enormous pressure of the Israeli lobby in America. It’s not quite so well-known that it’s pretty considerable in France as well.
RT:The French Foreign Minister said Israel's position must be taken into consideration. Why such concern for Israel when even Washington called Netanyahu's condemnation of the deal 'premature'?
RH: Yes, it’s interesting, isn’t it, that Mr. Netanyahu has said that the deal had been concluded. Everybody else is saying it hasn’t. At any rate, the position of the French, I think, is to say things that the Americans don’t want to say at the moment. I think that’s at the bottom of it, because frankly this posturing by the French President and the French Foreign Minister makes France look pretty ridiculous on the domestic front. There is a great deal of mockery of Laurent Fabius and his very aggressive statements internally in France.
RT:We're used to the US being one of Tehran's harshest opponents. Do you feel that Washington's stance is genuinely changing?
RH: Well, one would like to hope – let’s put it this way - that this is a real diplomatic revolution. The Americans ever since 1979, when the embassy drama took place in Iran, have had this slightly ridiculous, slightly vengeful obsession about dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat.
As far as anybody can tell and as far as the American security services themselves say, there is no Iranian nuclear threat. The Israelis, on the other hand, have 300 nuclear weapons. So the situation is a trifle absurd as it often is with western foreign policies.
And there are signs Obama is trying to put American foreign policy on a more sensible track. Why not have sensible relations with Iran – this is being asked in the US after all. For years, with the threat of the Soviet Union, they had no difficulty negotiating with [Mikhail] Gorbachev and men a lot more difficult than him. So, why can’t we negotiate with Iranians? Why do we have to take this ridiculous attitude that they cannot have what France, Britain, the US have – which is nuclear protection. And the Iranians say they don’t want it anyway.
So, it’s a difficult one to quite work out. But it could be that there is a real revolution taking place and the Americans are going to change their stance because they need to do business with Iran really.
RT: Finally, what are your personal predictions? Will the sides involved manage to overcome their disagreements and strike a deal in the near future?
RH: Well, if I had to take my reputation as profit on the line, I would say that there is going to be a deal. Because they are, after all, talking only about a six-month deal, as far as we can understand it. A suspended sentence, so to speak. With the problems of gas pipelines from Iran to Europe, which Europe needs badly for its Nabucco pipeline – which has no gas without the Iranians – I think there is a very strong probability. And they’d just love to get in there and have all the contracts for rebuilding Iran. So, I hope it’s a real revolution.