French Muscle, American Cheese – NYTimes.com

All smiles: US Sec State Kerry, EU fp chief Catherine Ashton, and Iranian FM Zarif

Isn’t France “America’s favorite–and sometimes only–shooting buddy” as Yochi Dreasen observed last August?  Then why the diplomatic friction of late? (And even French Travel Advisories are causing a problem.) Details on why the French objected to several loopholes within the US-led negotiations with Iran in Geneva are highlighted here:

Their concerns focused on three areas: The heavy-water plant at Arak that the Iranians are building, where the outline agreement seemed to allow continued construction; language that appeared to concede prematurely an Iranian “right to enrich” or something close to it; and what measures exactly Iran would take to dispose of its stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium. Much of the Geneva meeting focused on the French determination to close these loopholes — only for the changes to prove unacceptable to Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, and his team.

Keep in mind the larger context–that just a few years ago the tables were turned:

French-American relations, often a study in how close love can be to hatred, have taken an interesting turn of late. The cheese-eating surrender monkeys of France, in the phrase from “The Simpsons,” have become the world’s meat-chomping enforcement tigers. As for the United States, it has, in the French view, gone a touch camembert-soft.

via French Muscle, American Cheese – NYTimes.com.

And as Phillip Carter notes, the US tends to foot the bill for French and NATO lack of investment in global force projection–as seen most recently in the French peradventures in Mali.

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5 thoughts on “French Muscle, American Cheese – NYTimes.com

  1. eebashaw says:

    I found this article fascinating. It is NOT often that America turns to France as being the decisive, action-driven people. Thus it makes sense to me why France would be frustrated. President Obama has taken a very decisive step back from action towards diplomacy which makes it look like the Western world is not quite all on the same page. And frankly, I am not sure how much we do. The United States is still reeling back into a somewhat more isolationist view, wanting to take a step back and recover fully domestically before stepping back into the mess that is the Middle East, but to say that the United States is becoming isolationist and leaving a gaping hole to be filled by conflict in the Middle East is a little dramatic. Without a doubt the United States is the dominant super power in the western world, but there is something to be said about the other countries like France, Germany, and Great Britain. This is why this conflict with France is a problem. It goes back to the same problem found with the spying. The United States needs to work on staying friends with its friends and working to all be on the same page. Perhaps there is some merit to France’s more hard-lined attitude with Iran because with the United States’ hesitancy, Iran backed out. Just all interesting to think about.

  2. Taylor Shippen says:

    I take umbrage at the idea that France is our only shooting buddy. It’s more like they’re our spotter. If the U.S. decides not take the shot, it’s the U.S.’s call. It’s easy to criticize America’s decision making process when the French can’t be held responsible for their inaction (despite years of neglect in their military budgets). It would be wise if our alliances were less sensitive about being “left out to dry” on issues that there have been long standing agreement on for decades. Our diplomats and leaders have constraints they must work within, and if those constraints prevent us from being as proactive in the world as we would like, so be it. At least our leaders attempt to respect those limits.

    We are limited in Syria. If military force were a viable political option for the U.S., it probably would have been used. But it wasn’t. For better or for worse, our elected officials listened to the public ear, and the public was decisively against any intervention in Syria. If the French public feels differently, they should feel free to step in. I’m sure the U.S. government wouldn’t balk at providing transport assistance.

    As for Iran, I support France’s dissent points. An agreement for the sake of an agreement truly is foolish. Perhaps Iran should have the right to enrich uranium, but by leaving out any meaningful enforcement clause for a diplomatic agreement, we’d simply set the stage for an Israeli intervention that would cause chaos and humiliation for the west.

  3. The so-called rise of France in the last few years has been quite interesting. I was particularly impressed by what this article refers to as “French muscle” in regards to the situation in Mali last year. As the world dragged its feet and hesitated to take meaningful action, it was the French who decided to act, dispelling the terrorists and creating a stable country where elections could take place after the coup and subsequent fall of the government. I don’t buy into the whole idea that the U.S. has to be the biggest and the baddest guy on the block in order to get things to go right. If France wants to step up and start flexing its muscles, then so be it. So there is another powerful player in international politics? C’est la vie.

  4. Of course any country would be upset when they feel they are being part of negotiating then realize they are being left out but expected to act. America should not be so attached to the idea that if they want something done right they have to do it themselves in a bilateral way. It just leads to issues later. They should be more willing to share the responsibility, especially if they’re expecting others to back them up.

  5. heartleeharman says:

    I think it is important to remember that it is mostly the French president, Francois Hollande that is taking the lead in the US-Iran negotiations. Not France. It represents the efforts of one man, who will not be in office forever. The US is still a far greater superpower than France, it’s influence is not diminishing just because one man took a special interest in one issue.

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