In the run-up to the French presidential election, the Iranian newspaper Tehran Emrooz wrote that “emphasis must be given to the advantages of a victory by François Hollande”writes John Vinocur, the most conservative commentator working for the New York Times, who also broaches the subject of renegotiating the E.U.’s debt and deficit consolidation program ("You can take it to the bank that the Europeans will come together (belatedly and insufficiently) on producing some growth-related measures without tearing up their austerity compact").
“A victory will lead to a softening of Paris’ policies toward Iran,” [the Iranians' matter-of-fact, non-hysterical editorial] said. “France under Sarkozy was the strong voice in the European Union against Iran. Hollande’s victory will bring nuances to this approach.”
That’s bang-on correct about Sarkozy.
He was the hand holding the prod that pushed Europe toward enacting sanctions on Iranian oil scheduled to take effect July 1. And he took pride in policies repeatedly jabbing at what France maintained were the Obama administration’s illusions and foot-dragging concerning Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons.
While Sarkozy was president, a bipartisan French National Assembly report took a shot at President Obama for frittering away a whole year in the nuclear countdown with his failed “outstretched hand” initiative. The French proposed an Iran oil embargo at the United Nations only to have it shelved for a softer, embargo-less American proposal.
No country had a tougher stance. France believed that the best way to head off an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear sites was by intensifying sanctions, wary diplomacy, and an unyielding interpretation of the constraints placed by the U.N. Security Council on the mullahs’ atomic ambitions.
But what about Hollande?
Will there be nuances in his approach — exactly what the Iranian commentary expected to see — that dilute the hard French line on nonproliferation and sanctions?
… Jean-Yves Le Drian, who is apparently Hollande’s choice as defense minister, told small groups in Washington more than a month ago that a Socialist presidency would mean no basic change in French Iran policy.
But this week, I spoke to a man who had just talked to Hollande about Iran. My friend’s unequivocal impression was that the Socialist president will be closer to Obama’s line than Sarkozy’s.