The Times of Israel:
In 1979, France promised Iraq it would build it a light-water reactor to be fueled with uranium enriched to 93 percent. Israel perceived the reactor, at Osirak, as an existential threat and tried to dissuade Paris from going ahead with the project. After several attempts at diplomacy were ignored, then-prime minister Menachem Begin ordered an airstrike that destroyed the facility, on June 7, 1981.
This weekend, the very nation that three decades ago chose not to heed Israel’s warnings emerged as the only major power echoing Israel’s concerns in the negotiations over Iran’s rogue nuclear program. While five of the six world powers — the United States, Britain, Russia, China and Germany — were apparently ready to sign an interim agreement that would offer sanctions relief in return for a promised freeze in the Iranian program, an arrangement Israel considers “bad and dangerous,” France blocked what it called “a sucker’s deal.”
At first glance, the fact that France played odd man out appears peculiar. It is not known as Israel’s closest friend — certainly not closer than the US or Germany. Indeed, the European Union’s steadfast refusal until July to label the Shiite Lebanese group Hezbollah a terrorist organization was blamed squarely on the French. Why, then, are they the ones spoiling the party, for a few days at least, for Tehran’s Shiite ayatollahs, Hezbollah’s main supporters?
“Let’s remember France has initiated strong sanctions against Iran. They define the Iranian nuclear program as the number one threat to world peace, so they themselves have an interest in this,” said Tsilla Hershco, a senior research associate at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, who specializes in France’s involvement in the Middle East conflict.
Paris aspires to play a larger role in world affairs; after the US, France has the highest number of diplomatic offices across the globe, she noted, adding that the Middle East is seen as a “high-priority” area. Since America’s clout in the region appears to be waning — following the Obama administration’s perceived serial weakness in dealing with Egypt, Syria and Iran — France is more than happy to step in and extend its sphere of influence, she said.