Reza Nasri, an Iranian expert in international law, has, in an elaborate interview with the Persian-language reformist newspaper Jame’eh Farda, has weighed in on the policies of the new French government and the reasons behind President Macron’s position on Iran.
Nasri, who resides in Geneva, has also expounded on the structure of the American institutions making decisions on the country’s international relations and the trend of regulating the country’s foreign policy.
Nasri says the US State Department, traditionally and historically, mostly relies on scientific data and consultation with think-tanks and universities in order to adopt its foreign policy. However, he says, the White House is mostly dependent on experience rather than drawing on scientific consultations, and is engaged with powerful lobbies. He says the non-scientific approach adopted by the White House is more noticeable at this juncture than ever.
The highlights of Nasri’s views on Iran-France relations, translated by the IFP News, follow:
The Macron administration tries to consolidate France’s position in the European Union and turn the country into the pivot of the bloc’s common foreign policy.
A viewpoint prevailing in part of France’s ruling elite is that with the Brexit coming into force and Britain leaving the European Union, France will practically be the only country in the bloc to enjoy the right of veto at the UN Security Council and possess the nuclear deterrence capability. Moreover, France believes its special relationship with the Arab world and the country’s colonial background makes it all the more necessary for Paris to play a more independent and more active role in settling regional conflicts.
France seeks to talk to Iran with a different tone, i.e. from a position of power, so that it might be able to play a role as a replacement for Mogherini to act as an intermediary between Iran and Saudi Arabia or Iran and the US.
It seems that so far, France’s harsh tone vis-à-vis Iran and its missile program, especially in comparison with the more logical and moderate position adopted by Mogherini and EU officials, has backfired.
The Rouhani administration is highly capable of establishing interaction and rapport with world powers. It can prevent the formation of consensus both inside and outside countries through different ways, namely through public diplomacy and enhancement of trade and economic ties with private players. What is more, a legal/political framework called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) exists between Iran, European countries, China and Russia, a framework which has many advocates and no country can easily violate it by imposing different sanctions.
Another point is that I do not think that in the ballistic missile issue, Iran will face problems which have the same weight as the ones in the nuclear dossier.
Mogherini has stressed that there are no anti-Iran sanctions on the agenda. Moreover, Iran’s situation is geopolitically and strategically very much different from its previous position, so much so that Iran will be able to safeguard its interests in the balance of power.
Also, I agree with Dr. Velayati’s position due to several reasons. Furthermore, the president has the same position as well.
From a legal perspective, Iran’s missile program is not in contravention of any of the country’s commitments and international regulations. Iran’s ballistic missiles are conventional weapons which are not banned under any resolutions and agreements, and Iran is entitled to possess them. By the United Nations’ own admission, Iran’s missile activities are not in violation of Resolution 2231. So, Macron has no justification for opposing Iran’s missile program.
From a strategic and security point of view, Iran legitimately and logically has the right to possess missiles. Let’s not forget that Saudi Arabia and certain Persian Gulf countries have, over the past three years, purchased hundreds of billions of dollars in weapons and, hence, have left Iran’s security and regional balance on shaky ground. From a security perspective, Velayati’s position is logical while Macron has no strong argument up his sleeve.
Politically speaking, it will not be in Iran’s interest to accept restrictions in the field of missile activities. In fact, if Iran accepts limitations on its ballistic missile program without any legal and humanitarian justification, there will be no guarantee that this dangerous precedent will not spread into the domain of Iran’s other conventional arms. There will also be no guarantee that the restrictions will not be incorporated into other areas such as flights, shipping, etc. Therefore, the position of the Iranian government and of Velayati is right.
From a historical perspective, Iran’s possession of ballistic missile is justified and legitimate as well. In other words, the French government, as one of the key suppliers of weapons to former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein during the Iraqi imposed war on Iran in the 1980s, should know better than any other government why Iran is sensitive about its ballistic missile program and deterrence capability.
In fact, Macron, who has called for transparency on Iran’s missile industry, should not forget that it was French Mirage, F-1 and Super Etandard planes as well as Alouette and Super Frelon helicopters plus air-to-ground missiles and the chemicals produced by the Protec SA company that somehow encouraged Iran to develop a deterrence capability and a missile program. So, even from a historical point of view, Macron is not in a position to ask questions.
And finally, the resolution issued by Arab states has no legal value. In fact, a UN panel has rejected Saudi Arabia’s claim against Iran and has reported that the Saudi kingdom has presented no evidence, whatsoever, that suggests Iran provided Houthis with the missile that they recently fired at Riyadh.