France takes on role of bad cop

November 5, 2021 - 21:1

TEHRAN – As Iran and the West gear up for a consequential round of talks in Vienna, France is signaling that it’s ready to play the role of a bad cop in the Vienna negotiations.

After months of heightened tensions over when to resume the stalled Vienna talks, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator announced the exact date for resuming the talks, putting an end to mounting pressures from the negotiating partners. 

In a phone conversation with Enrique Mora, Deputy Secretary-General of the EU External Action Service, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani said the negotiations over reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), would be resumed later this month. 

“In a phone call with @enriquemora_, we agreed to start the negotiations aiming at removal of unlawful & inhumane sanctions on 29 November in Vienna,” Bagheri said on Twitter.

With Iran setting a date for resuming the talks, diplomatic tensions have largely subsided, save for France which appeared willing to spearhead a diplomatic campaign against Iran ahead of the next meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors which is to take place a few days before the resumption of the Vienna talks. 

While most JCPOA partners and the U.S. cautiously welcomed Iran’s announcement on the talks, France moved to ramp up diplomatic pressure on Iran by putting more emphasis on the current state of play between Tehran and the UN nuclear watchdog.

A French foreign ministry spokesperson said on Thursday that France still could take action against Iran in the next meeting of the IAEA board of governors. Anne-Claire Legendre said France was in contact with its allies on how to respond to what she called Iran’s “non-cooperation” with the IAEA. 

France’s position could not come at a more sensitive moment. The IAEA board is preparing for a meeting ahead of the seventh round of the Vienna talks. So, it’s not clear yet if France would push for censure against Iran during the meeting.

Some pundits believe that France could be trying to set the stage for pressuring Iran by pushing the board of governors into adopting an anti-Iran stance. If true, such an effort would highly likely further complicate the situation around the JCPOA as Iran repeatedly warned about exerting pressure during talks and said it won’t acquiesce to any effort to pocket concessions through pressure. 

Therefore, France is unlikely to succeed in censuring Iran at the board of governors. Because such a move would probably anger Iran at a time when it announced a return to Vienna only grudgingly. 

So why France did take a hawkish stance against Iran while others breathed a sigh of relief after Iran announced the exact date for its return to Vienna. Some believe that France returned to its old habit of taking on the bad cop role. 

“As the next meeting of the Board of Governors is scheduled for mid-November (before the start of a new round of nuclear talks), a statement by a French Foreign Ministry spokesperson indicates that the country is wearing bad cop uniforms and intends to use the IAEA as leverage on behalf of Western negotiators to pressure Iran ahead of resuming a new round of nuclear talks,” wrote Nour News, a news website close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.

It added, “Passing between the IAEA and France, which has always played the role of a bad cop in the nuclear negotiations, is also a continuation of the Western scenario of using the IAEA tool to shape the political pressure at the beginning of a new round of negotiations.”

Nour News warned that creating an atmosphere of threat and pressure against Iran would undermine the negotiations and create more complications. 

“Negotiation in an atmosphere of political threat and pressure practically contradicts the principle of dialogue to reach an agreement, and the result is nothing but more complicated conditions,” the website said.