For some time, the French president Emmanuel Macron has sought to position himself as a mediator between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic. Macron’s ostensible hope is to convince Tehran to concede to a modified version of the 2015 nuclear deal and to release some of its political prisoners in exchange for an end to American sanctions. Freddy Eytan explores Macron’s motivations, and the possible results:
[Macron] is essentially the only leader on the Continent who is capable of “restoring the former glory” of the European community, maintaining proper and friendly relations with all camps and sides, and negotiating directly and equally with the leaders of the great powers as a fair and ultimate mediator.
Macron has held this ambition ever since he moved into politics and was appointed as finance minister in the previous socialist government. He aims in particular to regain France’s reputation as a political, economic, and cultural force that is not dependent upon the superpowers. He seeks to . . . return to the doctrine of Charles de Gaulle, which entails following an independent foreign policy that will conform to that of the United States and the West only when it is in the interests of France.
There is no doubt that President Macron’s primary motivation is economic and the preservation of France’s interests. It should be noted that since the imposition of new sanctions following the U.S. withdrawal from the Vienna agreement, the export of French products to Iran has fallen by 42 percent. France is the third-largest exporter to Iran in Europe after Germany and Italy. At the end of 2018, the value of commerce between the two countries stood at 2.4 billion euros. Apart from investments in the country to establish transportation and electricity infrastructures, France exports raw materials and electronics, agricultural machinery, and medicines.
The French president’s diplomatic moves are indeed transparent, but also dangerous because Iran would receive the removal of the sanctions on a silver platter and financial credit even before talks began. France, along with most of the European countries, is gambling on President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif, whom they believe to be “moderate,” without considering the tough and uncompromising stand of the leaders of the Revolutionary Guard. This process serves the efforts of the European Union to maintain the nuclear deal with Iran.