Iran Nuclear Deal, On Close Inspection With Laurent Fabius

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had held one of the toughest lines against Tehran. He describes the quest for "efficient compromises for complex issues."

Laurent Fabius in Vienna on July 14
Laurent Fabius in Vienna on July 14
Yves-Michel Riols

PARIS â€" More than $100 billion in overseas frozen assets will be made available to Iran and oil embargoes and financial restrictions will be lifted after six world powers reached a historic deal with the country this week to limit its nuclear program. The agreement comes after two years of intense negotiations, the latest being 18 days of marathon talks in Vienna. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who had broken off earier talks because of doubts about Iran's reliablity, spoke with Le Monde about the intricacies and complexities of the landmark deal.

LE MONDE: How can you guarantee to Israel and Gulf countries that this agreement is "robust" enough, as you described, to prevent Iran from eventually acquiring nuclear weapon?

LAURENT FABIUS: The Iranian nuclear issue doesn't just affect Israel and the Gulf countries. Ensuring that Iran cannot acquire the nuclear weapon is a concern for the entire international community. Nuclear proliferation is at stake, so security and peace are too.

To reach this goal â€" yes to civilian nuclear for Iran, but no to the nuclear weapon â€" which the President François Hollande and I have always said defined France's position, we have been particularly watchful about three points in these long negotiations: accurately limit Iran's uranium enrichment capacities and how it could be used in research and development; be able to verify, in concrete terms, the implementation of these commitments; plan an automatic mechanism for the reinstatement of sanctions in case of infringement. This constructive firmness has allowed us to reach a sufficiently robust agreement, for a more than 10-year period at least.

Does this agreement open the way to cooperation with Iran on major regional crises, especially on Syria, Iraq and Yemen?

The agreement aims to put an end to one of the most serious and longest nuclear proliferation crises. It aims for more peace and stability in the Middle East. The region is already unstable enough for nuclear conflicts to be added. Beyond this, if Iran, an important country, a great civilization, a major player in the region, clearly chooses to cooperate, we will clearly hail this evolution, but we will judge on results. Its contribution would be useful to help resolve many crises.

Don't you fear Iran could use the substantial funds it will obtain with the lifting of the sanctions to reinforce the Shia militias in the Middle East?

It will be one of the tests. And we will be particularly watchful.

Under the terms of this agreement, Iran retains the right to a supervised nuclear program and will be able to keep carrying out research and develop advanced centrifuges. Does this not amount to postponing the same issue 10 years?

Let's focus on indisputable elements: Before this agreement, the "breakout" period â€" in other words, the time Iran needs to gather enough enriched uranium to make a bomb â€" was two months. This period of time is pushed to 12 months after the agreement, and it will be maintained at this level for 10 years. Limitations will remain beyond the 10 years. This strictly civilian nuclear program will additionally be the object of the necessary inspections. It's already a significant result.

The agreement encourages the lifting of sanctions against Iran. How can you guarantee that they will be reintroduced in the case of a violation from Iran?

It's what we call the "snap back." France has worked hard to offer and put through an automatic mechanism for the reinstatement of sanctions in case of infringement of its obligations by Iran. If one of the P5+1 countries (the U.S., Russia, China, France, the UK, Germany) believes Iran isn't meeting its obligations, and the latter cannot provide any credible explanation, this state will be able to bring about a vote of the Security Council on a draft resolution reaffirming the lifting of the UN sanctions. By opposing its own veto, it will without fail obtain the reinstatement of the sanctions. I admit that it's subtle, but that's the price we must pay to make efficient compromises on such complex issues.

In case the agreement is violated, the text makes sure Iran will benefit from a maximum of 65 days before the reintroduction of the sanctions. Does this not give Iran the necessary time to conceal proliferating activities?

If one of the P5+1 states judges Iran is violating its obligations, it can refer to the Joint Committee, which includes the Six as well as the Iranians. A maximum 35-day discussion will then open. If not convinced, any member of the Six can refer to the Security Council with then 30 days maximum to reestablish the sanctions. It's indeed quite long, but with modern surveillance and verification technologies, you can't conceal all traces of proliferating activity in a few days.

Does the agreement maintain a total embargo on heavy and ballistic weapons, and for how long?

This was discussed right until the end. France's stance was clear and firm on this matter, too: It would be contradictory for the immediate consequence of this agreement to be the lifting of the constraints weighing on Iran in the field of weapons and missiles. The embargo on weapons is maintained for five years and transfer prohibitions in the ballistic field for eight years.

Does the agreement allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit all the sites, including military, without restrictions?

An unverifiable agreement is an inapplicable agreement. This is why we made sure Iran applied the IAEA's highest verification standards. The access to all sites will be possible, including the Parchin site, not to attempt to penetrate military secrets, but to verify if there has been prohibited nuclear activity. I’ve discussed this several times with the director general of the IAEA to be certain that he deemed the plan sufficient and credible.

What are the steps of the implementation of the agreement? And do you fear the U.S. Congress blocking it?

After endorsement by the Security Council, a 90-day period will open, during which Iran must take measures to prepare for the implementation of the agreement. The next phase will last six to nine months, during which it will implement all its commitments in the nuclear field. Each of these steps will go along with progressive reduction of the sanctions. Concerning the U.S. Congress, I don’t have any particular comment except what is common sense: When you assess an agreement, you don't do it only in absolute terms, but you must compare the situation if the agreement is implemented with what would happen if there is no agreement.

Don't you fear that the rapprochement observed between France and Saudi Arabia penalizes French companies on the Iranian market?

No, for two reasons. On one hand, when the issue is removing the threat of nuclear military power, you cannot determine the position of your own country according to commercial considerations: It's about security and peace. On the other hand, the economic competition in Iran will undoubtedly be tough, because everybody is being considered. But don't forget our companies have long worked with and in this country, that they excel in several fields and that they will have assets to put forward. This is why I'm confident about them. As for our traditional friendships, renouncing them is out of the question.

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The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation


Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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