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EU Disappointment Following Le Drian’s Visit: It was a tough trip, without concessions

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Al-Akhbar Newspaper's Editorial

With these words, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian summarized the results of his visit to Iran in response to journalists' questions as he returned to Paris.

Le Drian

The words highlighted the disappointment of the Dean of French diplomacy after he failed to persuade Tehran to accept restrictions on its ballistic missile program.

This failure, which tops the intensive efforts initiated by the Europeans after US President Donald Trump declared what he called the "last warning" to the Islamic Republic (in January) to prevent the collapse of the deal, poses serious challenges for US partners. It comes at a time when the two-month deadline separating the Europeans from Trump's new report to extend Iran's exemption from sanctions (May 12) does not seem to be sufficient to make progress.

So far, nothing points to a change in the view of the European countries, including first and foremost France, when it comes to satisfying the United States with any concessions acquired from Iran on its ballistic missile program. According to a French diplomatic source, who expressed his views while Le Drian was visiting Tehran, the French are concealing their view by saying that "we have our own fears" and maintain that "Iran's ballistic missile program is incompatible with the nuclear agreement ... [especially] when it comes to the possibility of transferring the ballistic missile capability to regional parties, and with this we mean Hezbollah."

But Paris' aspirations, which are still limited to the first part of the required US amendments to the "Comprehensive Joint Plan" (included in a telegram sent by the US State Department to three European allies unveiled in mid-February), has not even received an understanding from the Iranians. 

"We told the French not to interfere in matters that do not concern them," Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Baqir Nobkht said in remarks he made on Tuesday. 

His remarks suggest that it is impossible to meet the minimum demands of Washington, which also includes, according to the document referred to above, ensuring an extensive inspection of Iranian sites by the IAEA and "repairing flaws related to the time clause" whereby the imposed restrictions on the nuclear program are due to be lifted. 

This is what prompted US Vice President Mike Pence to warn on Monday night of withdrawing from the agreement and threatening to "counter Iran's aggressive stance and provocations" in an effort to increase pressure on its European partners.
In Iran, the situation did not change before, during or after Le Drian's visit. The advisor to the Iranian leader on international affairs, Ali Velayati, said in a press statement on Tuesday that the French minister "is sure that he will not benefit from this visit that will conflict with the interests of the Iranians." 

"Our officials accurately made it clear to him the views of the Islamic Republic of Iran," he added. "If the Americans are seeking to impose restrictions on our defense program, then the people and the government will not surrender to it." 

For his part, Baqir Nobkht stated during his weekly press conference "we have said repeatedly that we are making efforts to strengthen our defensive capabilities to the extent required. It is not related to the approval of "Israel" or the European officials." 

"If Trump commits this big mistake (withdrawing from the deal), the Islamic Republic will reach an enrichment rate of 20 percent in a short period, and we will enrich as much as we want, and no one will be able to keep an eye on it," he warned. 

In addition to the statements made by the Iranian officials, a "resolute" tone overshadowed Tuesday's newspapers, which unanimously endorsed the official rejection of any amendment to the "joint plan". Others even went as far as attacking Le Drian by saying that "the insolent guest passed through unnoticed."

Source: Al-Akhbar Newspaper, Translated by website team