By Lord Maginnis of Drumglass
There is no doubt that France, as a nation, tends to get an unfair rap from time to time, being the butt of many jokes about a tendency to surrender. It is a silly stereotype that doesn’t stand up to historical scrutiny but, for some reason, it persists.
The memories of people who make fun of the country don’t extend either before or after World War II. But even with one’s focus lodged there, the broader context shouldn’t undermine the reality of France’s military strength or its political will. One remembers that when Paris fell to the Germans, the French never stopped fighting and its underground movement became legendary.
The resistance movement that sprang up immediately after the French surrender had a lasting impact on the war and stands today as an example of resistance against tyranny the world over, from Eastern European resistance against Soviet domination, to the moderate rebels fighting the dictatorship in Syria, to the National Council of Resistance of Iran in its struggle to overturn the religious dictatorship in Tehran.
Today France and the United States are engaged on the same side of a political conflict with Tehran, but contrary to historic perception of both countries, it is the U.S. that has proven quickest to surrender the cause. France has earned the reputation for steadfastness and the toughest stance of all six powers sitting across the table from the Iran mullahs.
But perhaps it is as inaccurate as jibes about France to condemn the entirety of the U.S. government that is capitulating to Iranian demands in these talks – when we really mean the Obama administration. Much disquiet is apparent within the U.S. Congress, particularly among the Republican Party. But those who changed the name of “French fries” to “freedom fries” in protest over France’s refusal to support the ill-advised war with Iraq in 2003 are, presumably, surprised to find France as the only steadfast European ally in the fight to fully and effectively restrain Iran’s nuclear program and to maintain uncompromising resistance to the normalization of relations with a State that is a leading sponsor of global terrorism.
The Republicans, as well as the many Democrats who are also frustrated with Obama’s soft approach, desperately need such an ally, as the American president seeks to utilize everything in his political arsenal to frustrate Congress from having a say in a final nuclear agreement, and to circumvent its role in removing economic sanctions on Iran. While there may be much that Congress could do to impose itself within a process of enforcement and verification should the deadline for an agreement pass that is not what the international community wants or requires. International political will is what is needed to restrain the Obama administration from undermining and diluting the potential for any meaningful deal. This will is exactly what France continues to strive to bring into the process.
One of the strategies that Obama has lately used against Congress involves going directly to the UN to arrange for sanctions imposed by the Security Council to be among the first that are removed after the signing of a deal. As of now, France appears to be the sole bulwark against this and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has recently warned his negotiating team against conceding to a nuclear deal that provides Iran with relief from UN sanctions without first compelling the mullahs to come clean about its past and current nuclear activity.
The present lack of any such transparency is the obvious sign of the Islamic Republic’s unwillingness to cooperate with Western powers. The Obama administration appears to be giving Iran unquestioned scope to obstruct the process and to skirt the boundaries of the Joint Plan of Action. It has allowed Iran to export more oil than the maximum set by the US at the beginning of negotiations; it has looked the other way on Iran’s testing of advanced centrifuges in apparent violation of the JPOA; and it has virtually disregarded the unresolved IAEA probe that most assumed to be a determining factor in a final deal.
It the context of negotiations, it is France and not the United States that has recognized the importance of all of this. It is France that is playing the strong hand. It is France that is publicly concerned about giving away economic leverage through the relaxation of UN sanctions without any guarantee that Iran has not been hiding military nuclear work under the very noses of Western negotiators.
In fact, notwithstanding Iran’s stonewalling of the IAEA probe, the latest reports indicate that that is exactly the case. In late February, the National Council of Resistance of Iran reported that its intelligence network within the Islamic Republic had uncovered the existence of a formerly unknown nuclear facility called Lavizan-3, at which the regime had been conducting advanced research and nuclear enrichment for years.
Just as the NCRI might find a singular source of inspiration in the history of the French Resistance, it seems that it may also have, in the current French government, an ally in its efforts to keep the theocratic regime from inching toward a full nuclear power. Now, who would have believed that French political will would be the last line of defense against American eagerness to surrender on this issue?
So much for stereotypes!
This article first appeared in The Hill Congress Blog