With the US hinting at its withdrawal, Iran’s nuclear programme could be in jeopardy.
The recent visit of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to Iran has raised hopes and some serious speculations about the future of the 'landmark nuclear accord', as well as the future of France-Iran relations. This visit by the French Foreign Minister comes in the backdrop of Donald Trump announcing to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal if Iran does not comply with the agreement and also announced that the other European allies of the agreement, namely, France, Germany, United Kingdom should 'fix' the nuclear agreement deal of 2015 with Iran within the prescribed deadline of May this year.
In an effort to convince Iran to curb its ballistic missile programme and its extreme involvement in the Middle-East conflict, particularly in Lebanon, the French Foreign Minister met Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Monday, March 5. Le Drian's visit is widely criticised in Tehran, particularly with the Iranian media calling him, "The rude guest" and printing headlines such as "Weapons of mass seduction" etc. France playing 'safely' and 'diplomatically' has made its stand with Iran clear that it is in complete favour of the 2015 nuclear accord and at the same time, taking care of not straining relations with the United States.
Iran, on the other side, is very particular about any step it takes, taking into account the past. The clerical rulers of Iran are of the opinion that the United States wants a 'regime change' in Iran and so any efforts by the European countries is futile. Iran is adamant to not surrender to the Western pressure of giving up on the ballistic missile tests. Iran believes that its 'missile work' is in line with Iran's defence mechanisms and that it does not pose a threat to any country. The 2015 nuclear accord under Obama brought much relief to Iran by lifting the economic sanctions and allowing Tehran to have trade deals with other countries and, in return, Iran was supposed to curb its disputed nuclear activity. Amidst all this, Rouhani cannot go against either the regional policies or the missile programmes as that would mean his dismissal.
With such a situation prevailing, it is very difficult for France to convince Iran, although, France is leaving no stone unturned in doing so. For instance, apart from the recent visit by the French Foreign Minister, France is making use of the 'cultural diplomacy' to establish strong links with Iran. This was evident in the recent state of affairs when around 50 artworks from the Louvre Museum in Paris were transported to Iran's National Museum on Monday for the exhibition, the first major show of its kind. This is a clear indication that France wants to rebuild its cultural ties with Iran and obviously, such acts would also facilitate the dialogue process between the two countries on the nuclear accord. Also, ahead of the French Foreign Minister's visit to Tehran, French President Emmanuel Macron had a telephonic conversation with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani and discussed the 2015 nuclear accord among other issues.
As of now, the visit by the French Foreign Minister has not been taken very positively in Tehran. This was clearly evident in a speech by Ahmad Vahidi, who is former Iranian Defence Minister and currently heads the Iran's Centre for Strategic Defence Research, who said, "Iran is not going to bow to hands in velvet gloves of arrogant powers and will not allow western countries to question Iran's missile capabilities." Thus, there are various speculations about the future course of action that France shall take in order to 'fix' the 2015 nuclear accord and, at the same time, maintain warm relations with both Iran and the United States.
It is beyond doubt that if Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear accord, it would be a major setback for Iran and that, in turn, would lead to the emergence of new conflicts and strained relations among countries. In order to avoid such circumstances, the role of the "European partners" to the 2015 agreement becomes primarily important as they are the ones who have been given the responsibility to handle the situation till May 2015. At the same time, it is equally difficult for the "European countries" who are a part of the agreement to convince Iran on the issue of curbing its Ballistic missile programs and their involvement in the regional conflict.
(The author is a research scholar at JNU. The views expressed are strictly personal)