By the Editors of OilPrice.com Premium:
Bottom Line: What is important to understand about negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program is that is has less to do with nuclear issues than it does with the back-room diplomatic dance that has Israel, Saudi Arabia and France doing everything in their power to derail Washington’s plans.
Analysis: The overriding sentiment of the P5+1 (US, UK, France, Russia and China, plus Germany) nuclear talks with Iran is that the P5+1 itself isn’t ready to negotiate with Iran until they negotiate amongst themselves. At this point, Iran is barely involved in the talks, while various diplomats shuttle back and forth trying to out-maneuver each other. The French are keen to keep the money flowing from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, whose agendas with respect to Iran are aligned with Israel’s, which has plenty of influence in Paris as well. At this point it is not Iran that is jeopardizing progress for another round of talks in Geneva next week—but France, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Western mainstream media would have us believe that Washington and Paris are actually staging a very clever game of good-cop, bad-cop to force Tehran into more concessions, but this is far from the reality. The reality is that we have some very influential forces, particularly in France, who have largely sidelined President Hollande in this affair.
Here are some key figures you should be aware of who are in part controlling the diplomatic gaming over Iran. 1) Meyer Habib, a member of French parliament with an Israeli passport who also used to serve as a spokesman for Israel’s right-wing Likud in France and reportedly a close confidante of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 2) French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who, in tandem with Habib, is attempting to derail the talks in Geneva because of security concerns for Israel
Habib and Fabius are doing Israel’s bidding here, passing messages back and forth from Tel Aviv to Paris. Those messages have contained threats, too, such as an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities if the Geneva deal went through. This was a message passed from Habib to Fabius. What makes it particularly difficult for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is that his ability to negotiate is challenged by the fact that he has enemies inside Iran—in the form of the hardline Revolutionary Guards Corps.–who also wish to derail these talks. For this reason, details of any potential deal were to be kept secret to give Rouhani more leverage in the negotiations from an internal perspective. What Habib and Fabius succeeded in doing was revealing those secret aspects of the deal and their intention was specifically to make it difficult for Rouhani to negotiate by provoking his Iranian rivals.
The Saudis (as well as the French) are already reeling from Washington’s decision not to launch airstrikes on Syria, and the French are keen to keep the Saudis happy. At stake are massive military contracts and nuclear power plants (in countries not friendly to Iran) and other energy deals.
Recommendation: Even though Rouhani is ready to negotiate, which is a first for Iran, the geopolitical game will make it very difficult to see this through at the Geneva talks. Even Washington, in the form of John Kerry, is letting Israel, France and Saudi Arabia win this round by blaming the failure of the last round on Iran. But the deal on the table was a good one, while it lasted. The compromise was that Iran would be allowed to keep building its Arak reactor during the six months of an interim agreement but would also be able to test it using dummy fuel rods and regular water. It was the first breakthrough we have seen on this issue, but the compromise has been compromised. France—run by Saudi/Qatari money and Israeli influence—has all but destroyed the deal, and the level of Israeli influence in Washington is making it difficult to provide a counterbalance to the diplomatic gaming. However, if the talks in Geneva on 22 November fail again, this isn’t over. If the Obama administration is willing to see this through, which would mean reining certain forces in its own house, France certainly does not have the power to stop it from happening, interfere as it might. We’re still waiting for this decisive signal from Washington, though.
This piece is cross-posted from OilPrice.com with permission.