Sarkozy’s Pre-Obama Iran Outreach

I’ve mentioned before that of the European partners, France might be the most resistant to the Obama administration’s policy of engagement with Iran. The concern, as far as I can tell, is in part ideological, because I really do believe that French President Nicolas Sarkozy is sincerely convinced of the need to keep Iran from even approaching a nuclear weapons capacity.

But more than anything, the concern is one of harmonization. The French have been spearheading the European effort to hold the line since the December 2007 NIE, and if the U.S. entrance into the negotiations were somehow parallel to the P5+1 negotiations, the risk would be that it might create wiggle room for Iran to draw the process out even further.

So Sarkozy receiving Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki at Elysée Palace tomorrow strikes me as significant. The meeting is Sarkozy’s first with a high-ranking Iranian diplomat since taking office in May 2007 — he has so far refused to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — and it comes just a day before Sarkozy will host President Barack Obama for the D-Day anniversary ceremonies.

Elysée has framed tomorrow’s meeting around “the discussions that the Six hope to reopen with Iran.” Bs far as Tehran is concerned, the P5+1negotiations are a closed book. The Iranian line at present is that from here on out, it will only dialogue with theIAEA on its nuclear program. Any signal that Tehran might be willingto walk that line back would be big news. That’s what I’ll be keeping my eye on tomorrow, anyway.

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