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France Requesting Iran to Begin and Develop Political Dialogue: The Reasons and Consequences

On his first foreign trip, US President, Donald Trump, visited Saudi Arabia. In this visit, by seeking help from some regional leaders, he tried to form an anti-Iranian regional coalition and in some way to put pressure on this country.

On his first foreign trip, US President, Donald Trump, visited Saudi Arabia. In this visit, by seeking help from some regional leaders, he tried to form an anti-Iranian regional coalition and in some way to put pressure on this country. However, just one day after the tough talks by Donald Trump against Iran, French Foreign minister announced, “Paris is interested in developing political dialogue with Iran, hoping that these negotiations would lead to constructive efforts to resolve regional crises.” Above all, this indicates that there is no global coalition against Iran. Another point to be noted is Iran’s status as a regional power, which convinces a country like France to urge dialogue with Iran to resolve regional issues. Finally, one must point out the constructive role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in resolving regional crises.

Relations with Iran have always been a bone of contention between Europe and the United States. Most European governments have always been interested in tension-free relationships with Iran based on political and economic cooperation with Iran. However, influenced by Zionist lobbies, since the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the United States has adopted hostile positions against Iran. This lack of global consensus against Iran has once again resurfaced in the wake of Trump’s anti-Iranian remarks in the company of his regional allies.

There are a number of reasons which prompted France to offer negotiations with Iran, the most important of which are the following:

Iran’s Power in the Region and its Constructive Role in Resolving Regional Crises:

Recent developments in the region, especially in Syria and Iraq, and the fight against terrorism have changed the political and security developments in the interests of Iran, Russia and the Axis of Resistance, and have put the United States and its allies in a weak position. The pressure applied by the United States and its allies on supporters of the Syrian government has caused the positions of Axis of Resistance, Syria and Hezbollah to become closer to positions adopted by Russia and has brought about a strategic alliance among these countries, based on perceived interests and shared threats [1]. As Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Muqdad put it, the victories of his country against terrorist groups was the result of coalition with Hezbollah, Iran and Russia. In a televised speech, he said, “Syria’s victories, which are the result of its coalition within the framework of the resistance, with Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia, have angered the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.  For their protection, they have no other way but to resort to Israel and the United States” [2]. Aleppo’s capture was the greatest achievement of this strategic alliance. These triumphs and successes in the battlefield, along with diplomatic progress, especially in the Astana talks, are all indicative of the power and influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the regional developments, a point which did not escape the eyes of European politicians and perhaps is the main reason why a country like France proposed talks with Iran over regional issues.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has always played an effective and constructive role in working out suitable solutions to different regional and international issues. Having said that, Iran’s presence is necessary in all the meetings held for the purpose of the diplomatic settlement of the Syrian crisis. When the peace talks were held on the initiative of the West and the United Nations with the participation of the Arabs, the United States, Turkey, as well as the Syrian government, at that time, no one could believe Iran’s constructive role in facilitating the process and due to hostilities that existed in this regard, Iran was not even invited to attend the conference.  However, ultimately it turned out to be the case that without Iran’s attendance and involvement, as an important and powerful international actor, it is not possible to work out a solution to the Syrian crisis.

Lack of a Global Consensus against Iran:

As mentioned already, since the inception of  the Islamic Republic of Iran, the way to deal with Iran has always been a bone of contention among Western countries.  The United States has always taken a tough stance against Iran whereas the Europeans have called for further engagement with Iran.

Donald Trump came to power as his slogans based on fighting with foreigners, combined with traces of racism and reaction to Latino Americans and Muslims appealed to American voters, and their votes made Trump the president of the world’s greatest military power [3]. It seems that these differences will escalate following the victory of Emmanuel Macron in French elections. In the first round of the French presidential elections on April 23, by winning 23.75% of the votes, he went for the second round of elections along with his far right rival, Marin Le Pen, who won 21.53% of the votes [4] and was able to defeat his opponent in the second round of presidential elections. Unlike his rival, Marin Le Pen, who is an extremist figure and has views very close to Trump’s, Macron is an independent and moderate figure, and has adopted a moderate and tension-free stance on most domestic and international issues. He has not taken a negative stance against Iran in his political career. As for Syria, Macron believes that it is necessary for France to adopt a more balanced policy towards Syria, including holding talks with Bashar al-Assad, although he advocated interventionist policies such as military action in April 2017 [4]. It seems that Macron’s moderate view is one of the reasons why the new French government looks to Iran to solve regional tensions.

Macron’s view is in stark contrast to Trump’s extreme views on regional issues and could lead to more disagreement between them. Although over the last days, Macron pointed out that the European Union must be receptive to changes; otherwise, it must face ‘Frexit’ (i.e., France leaving the European Union), nonetheless Macron is known as one of the proponents of the European Union and has supported the European Union more than other presidential candidates [7].

Many experts believe that Trump will try to continue the policy pursued by Obama towards Iran, i.e., putting pressure on the country and bringing about global coalition against Iran without military intervention, with the exception that due to the decline of American soft power, which could be the result of Trump’s personality, the US no longer has the ability to create a global consensus against Iran.

Confrontation between the European Union and the US:

In his presidential campaign speeches, Macron always laid emphasis on EU’s adopting a uniform position on international issues. Generally speaking, Macron is interested in preserving EU integration, and although over the last days, he pointed out that the European Union must be receptive to changes; otherwise it would face Frexit (i.e., France leaving the European Union), nevertheless,  Macron is known as one of the proponents of the European Union and has supported the European Union more than other presidential candidates [4]. Since its inception, the European Union has tried to adopt a unified position, independent of the US, on international issues. Trump’s tough positions on such issues as Syria, the refugee crisis, NATO, Russia’s sanctions, pressure on Iran and climate change, and many others have always been sticking points between the United States and Europe, which has aggravated since Trump took office. This has caused Europe to take a route which is more than ever different from the US’s. In the case of NATO, some time ago, Trump called this military organization “obsolete”, which caused the EU officials to react. Given the positions that Trump has adopted on some issues, EU leaders have agreed to unite on these issues [8]. As touched upon above, unlike the United States, Europe has always reiterated Iran’s constructive role in settling issues in the Middle East, a point that has once again resurfaced in the request made by the French Foreign Ministry. However, the coincidence of France’s request with Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and his anti-Iranian talks could imply that the European Union, headed by France, is interested in taking a position on dealing with Iran, independent of the US. It also implies that unlike the US, which resorts to Saudi Arabia to resolve regional crises, France believes in the role Iran can play in resolving regional issues. Moreover, Macron’s victory in the French election has been made possible thanks to his moderate positions on international issues, which could be interpreted as a first step towards delivering on a presidential promise based on a moderate view and quite different from his far right rival in the French elections.

Some political experts and analysts hold that Trump is actually an opportunity for the European Union to become more independent, and not to coordinate its decisions with the United States and Britain any longer. This could benefit both Europe and the rest of the world, which is because the coalition between the two has created a great power in the West, which, through its interventions and decisions, has created a lot of troubles in other parts of the world. EU leaders are concerned about US breaking its promises in the Trump administration. They have witnessed such instances as US stance against the Nuclear Deal with Iran and US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, which has brought about European officials’ distrust of Trump and ultimately an attempt on the part of EU to adopt unified and independent positions on international issues.

French Economic Interests in Engaging with Iran

As a great and important country, Iran has always been the focus of attention of industrial countries for the purposes of investment and exporting goods and services. In the second cabinet of Manuel Valls in 2014, Emmanuel Macron was appointed as the Minister for Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs [9]. Given his role in the economic negotiations between Iran and France following the implementation of the JCPOA, he is in a very good position to follow the political roadmap for political cooperation [10].

Muriel Pénicaud, CEO of Business France, said that France’s investment in Iran at the end of 2015 was €340 million, adding that this figure has now increased, but the exact figure is not known. According to him, in the short run, France aims to increase investment in Iran up to one billion and four hundred million Euros, which was the record in the year 2002. Pénicaud also pointed out the value of bilateral exchanges with Iran was two billion and one hundred million Euros, adding that this figure has increased by 235%, compared with the previous year [11]. Given these, it could be concluded that after 2014, Iran has established extensive relations with France, which could restore its commercial prosperity. Aircraft purchase agreements, oil contracts and automotive contracts are some of the most important contracts over the last two years. Therefore, it is expected that the new French president offer political dialogue with Iran with an eye on economic issues.

Major European countries have been interested in establishing relations with Iran and using its economic potentials since the victory of the Islamic Revolution. However, over the past three decades, relations between the two have experienced a lot of ups and downs. With the resumption of Iran’s nuclear talks, European countries tried to maintain their central role in the relations between Iran and the IAEA. In the end, Europe’s cooperation with the US sent Iran’s nuclear case to the Security Council. However, after the nuclear deal, European countries, including France, have once again seized the opportunity to cooperate with Iran, and have asked for establishing extensive relations with this country.

Conclusion:

After many years of prolonged and inconclusive wars, and several rounds of fruitless negotiations on regional issues, especially Syria, without Iran’s presence, today the important and influential role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in resolving regional conflicts has been proven. Just one day after Trump’s anti-Iranian talks in the company of its allies in Riyadh, the French Foreign Ministry has called for the opening of talks with Iran on regional issues. This bears testimony to Iran’s standing and importance in resolving issues in the Middle East. The onus is now on the diplomacy system of the Islamic Republic of Iran to take advantage of the opportunity for negotiations, and once again prove to the world that without the presence of Iran, it is not possible to overcome regional crises.

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