Last weekend, after years of failed negotiations, the “P5+1” nations — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China) plus Germany — finally appeared to be on the verge of a deal with Iran regarding curbs on its nuclear program.
All except France were ready to sign a stopgap agreement that would offer Iran limited sanctions relief in return for a freeze in its nuclear program. But Paris torpedoed the arrangement at the last moment — denigrating it as “a sucker’s deal.”
France’s torpedoing of the agreement appears less related to genuine nuclear proliferation concerns than with trying to curry favor with anti-Iranian countries — like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – who commission and buy expensive French military, satellite and nuclear hardware. The lesson in this latest failure is there ought to be a single point of contact with Iran endowed with executive authority over resolving the nuclear issue.
Iran is now involved in separate discussions with both the P5+1 nations — who cannot seem to reach a consensus themselves — as well as with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). With so many disparate dialogues, requirements and revisions now in motion, it is not surprising that the nuclear issue hasn’t been resolved. There are too many cooks in the Iranian nuclear kitchen.
A hint of the difficulties within the P5+1 nations was revealed last weekend when a unnamed Western diplomat told Reuters how France scotched the imminent deal: “The Americans, the EU and the Iranians have been working intensively together for months on this proposal, and this is nothing more than an attempt by [French Foreign Minister Laurent] Fabius to insert himself into relevance late in the negotiations.”