France Wrecks P5+1 Deal for Arab Money
By Finian Cunningham
10, 2013 "Information
Clearing House -
The French deal-breaking intervention at the P5+1
negotiation with Iran may have been motivated by France
wanting to ingratiate itself with the Persian Gulf
monarchies for strategic economic reasons.
Negotiations to resolve the nuclear deadlock and lift economic
sanctions on Iran appeared to be near a breakthrough agreement
after three days of talks in the Swiss capital, Geneva, over the
The hasty arrival of US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as
the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany raised
expectations that a potential deal was in the offing. But it was
the French diplomat, Laurent Fabius, who threw a spanner in the
works at the last-minute.
Fabius invoked “security concerns of Israel” and announced that
his country was not going to sign a draft agreement. The French
intervention appeared to catch participants by surprise.
An unnamed Western diplomat told Reuters, “The Americans, the EU
and the Iranians have been working intensively for months on
this proposal and this is nothing more than an attempt by Fabius
to insert himself into relevance late in the negotiations.”
However, contrary to Fabius’ words and speculation by some
analysts, the French motive seem less about appeasing Israel and
France’s formidable Jewish lobby, and more to do with pandering
to the Persian Gulf Arab monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and
the United Arab Emirates.
Israeli opposition to any deal with Iran over the 10-year
nuclear dispute is, of course, obvious. On the eve of the latest
talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was almost
apoplectic in urging Western states to reject “a deal of the
century for Iran.”
Equally as disconcerted about a possible accord were the Wahhabi
monarchies led by Saudi Arabia, which view Shia Iran as an
archenemy for influence in the Middle East. Only days before the
latest round of P5+1 talks in Geneva, former Saudi intelligence
chief Prince Turki al Faisal told the Washington Post in
an interview that his country was opposed to lifting sanctions
One of the most striking political developments in recent months
is the alignment of Israel with the House of Saud and the other
Persian Gulf Arab regimes in terms of foreign policy objectives
and adversity towards Iran.
Another salient development has been the strategic economic
cooperation between France and the Persian Gulf oil kingdoms.
Major sectors of interest include energy, water and electrical
infrastructure, construction and weapons sales.
The French government has been embarking on an aggressive
bilateral investment drive with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.
In April this year, Paris hosted a Saudi-French Business
Opportunities Forum attended by 500 businessmen from both
French ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Bertrand Besancenot, said,
“Saudi Arabia is a strategic partner of France in the region and
the bilateral relationship is of paramount importance in the
economic field,” pointing out that bilateral trade has doubled
over the last five years.
In July, French company Veolia won a $500 million contract to
build and operate water desalination plants in Saudi Arabia.
That contract is reckoned to be the biggest of its kind in the
Middle East, and from the French point of view, it is a model
for the future, given that water and electricity infrastructure
right across the Persian Gulf oil kingdoms is a vital
development need for decades to come.
France is also courting capital investment and commerce from
Qatar and the UAE. At stake is the purchase of French Rafale
fighter jets worth billions of dollars underlined by the fact
that France is in sharp competition with arms exporters from the
US, Britain and Germany.
Another lucrative sector that the French are eyeing in the
Persian Gulf Arab countries is nuclear energy. French
nuclear company Areva is vying with Western competitors to
build and operate nuclear energy plants in the UAE, which is
something of an irony given France’s apparent objections to
Iranian plans for the same technology.
calls for increased investment from Qatar,” read a headline in
the Financial Times on 24 June.
The report said, “French President François Hollande used a
weekend visit to Qatar to call for more investment from the
gas-rich Gulf state to boost job creation in France.”
The FT added, “Mr Hollande told business leaders he hoped more
Qatari money could be lured into France’s services and
industrial sectors, with a reciprocal rise in French companies
implementing the grand development ambitions of this
fast-growing Gulf state.”
And the Qataris have obliged Hollande’s plea for funds. The two
countries have set up a joint investment vehicle worth some $400
million to direct Qatari petrodollars towards French businesses.
So far, Qatar’s total investment in France has reached an
estimated $15 billion, with shares in flagship French companies,
such as energy giant Total, construction firm Vinci, media
business Legardere, water and electricity supplier Veolia, and
even football team Paris Saint Germain.
Qatar’s ruling Al Thani dynasty has also been buying up luxury
Paris real estates.
When France’s Hollande visited Qatar in June, he brazenly
pitched his country as an alternative foreign investment
destination to Britain and Germany.
France’s deteriorating economic situation and Hollande’s
slump in the polls - he is the most unpopular French leader
ever - can only but intensify the French dependence on
Persian Gulf Arab money. This week, the international credit
rating agency Standard and Poor’s downgraded France for the
second time on the back of ballooning national debt, trade
deficit and unemployment.
context it becomes clear why France’s Foreign Minister Laurent
Fabius acted to scupper the P5+1 talks this weekend in Geneva.
By wrecking a potential deal with Iran, Fabius was no doubt
bidding to please Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf Arab
regimes with a view to securing billions-of-dollars-worth of
urgently needed capital.
Mouthing disingenuous concerns, Fabius vandalized with a spanner
in one hand and a begging bowl surreptitiously in the other.
Finian Cunningham (born
1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with
articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s
graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific
editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England,
before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician
and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and
writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror,
Irish Times and Independent.