France Raises Its Voice on Global Stage

   < < Go Back
from The Wall Street Journal,

Influence Is Increasing at a Time When Washington Is Treading Softly.

At the nuclear talks last weekend in Geneva, France’s foreign minister warned publicly that world powers risked being sucked into a “fool’s game” by Iran. That resistance helped upend a landmark deal that would have offered Iran some relief from punishing international sanctions in return for suspending elements of its nuclear program.

France’s hard line in the talks showcased the country’s growing influence and assertiveness in Middle East affairs. Its increasingly interventionist stance on the world stage—and in the Middle East in particular—is a stark departure from the country’s stalwart opposition to the Iraq war a decade ago.

With Washington playing the role of peace broker in the closely held nuclear discussions, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius’s warning positioned France as a pivotal arbiter on whether the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany grant Iran sanctions relief.

“The role of France is to be the bad cop,” said Alexandre Vautravers, a military analyst at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

France wanted Iran to hand over its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20%, approaching the level where it could be used to fuel a nuclear bomb.

Paris also sought to stop Iranian plans to build a heavy-water reactor near the city of Arak.

Iran insists the reactor, and its entire nuclear program, is for peaceful purposes, though the West suspects the program is geared toward building a bomb.

Mr. Fabius warned Monday that the Arak reactor, if completed, could generate greater amounts of fuel necessary for producing a bomb than conventional reactors.

France’s stance won kudos from some of the more hawkish members of Congress, who are pushing to toughen sanctions against Iran further.

“Vive la France!” Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) tweeted after Mr. Fabius raised the alarm on the agreement with Iran.

More From The Wall Street Journal (subscription required):