Geopolitics

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 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 — yes to civilian nuclear for Iran, but no to the nuclear weapon — 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 — in other words, the time Iran needs to gather enough enriched uranium to make a bomb — 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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January 22-23

  • Navalny saga & Putin’s intentions
  • COVID’s toll on teenage girls
  • A 50-year-old book fee finally gets paid
  • … and much more!

🎲 BUT FIRST, A NEWS QUIZ!

What do you remember from the news this week?

1. Which two words did U.S. President Joe Biden use about possible scenarios in the Russia-Ukraine standoff that upset authorities in Kyiv?

2. What started to mysteriously appear on signs, statues and monuments across Adelaide, Australia?

3. What cult movie did U.S. rocker Meat Loaf, who died Friday at age 74, star in?

4. What news story have we summed up here in emoji form? 🇬🇧 👱 💬 💼 ❌ 🥳 🦠

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]

⬇️  STARTER

Toxic geopolitics: More than ever, we need more women world leaders

The world is watching the Russian-Ukrainian border. Russian President Vladimir Putin threatening an invasion finds an ally in Iran’s Ebrahim Raisi, united against their common enemy: the United States. Back in Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden — marking his first year in power with painfully low approval rates (higher only than Donald Trump’s) — sends his Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to Kyiv to reassure President Volodymyr Zelensky who worries that France’s Emmanuel Macron might undermine Ukraine. And we haven’t even mentioned Xi Jinping!

It’s an endless theater of world leaders beating their respective chests — and they have exactly one thing in common: they’re all men. It’s by now a decades-old question, but worth asking again: What would happen if women, and not men, were running the world? Would there be less conflict, more prosperity? More humanity?

In 2018, the World Economic Forum released a study that showed that “only 4% of signatories to peace agreements between 1992 and 2011 were women, and only 9% of the negotiators.” The report shows that in several conflict zones in the world in recent decades, citing Liberia, Northern Ireland and Colombia, women have been instrumental in achieving peace.

In Colombia, where 20% of peace negotiators for the 2016 peace treaty were women, Ingrid Betancourt, herself a victim of the 50-year conflict, has announced her candidacy for the May presidential elections. Differently from previous bids, where she focused on fighting environmental abuses and corruption, Betancourt now is putting gender issues at the center of her political agenda. Bogota daily El Espectador questions whether the former hostage will be able to ride this important political wave, with feminist movements flexing their muscle around the region demanding more rights.

In Italy, next week’s elections for the head of state are monopolized by infamously misogynous former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is hoping to be elected for the seven-year, honorary function. There is no official candidacy, but Berlusconi’s name and that of current Prime Minister Mario Draghi are the two getting the most attention. Italian feminist writer and intellectual Dacia Maraini writes in La Stampa that, yes, the very fact of electing a female president will be progress for the country — and by the way, there are plenty of women qualifed for the job.

There was also a woman politician making the news this week for actually getting elected: Maltese conservative politician Roberta Metsola, became the new European Parliament President after the death of Italy’s David Sassoli. And yet the election of the first female president of the EU’s legislature since Nicole Fontaine in 2001 has been widely criticized by female politicians — primarily for Metsola’s stance against abortion rights. "I think it is a terrible sign for women's rights everywhere in Europe," French left-wing member of the European Parliament Manon Aubry told Deutsche Welle.

The women who have risen to power in history (Margaret Thatcher, anyone?) don’t necessarily make the case that gender is the silver bullet to fix politics. Still, after watching all the toxic masculinity on the world stage this past week, we can rightfully demand fewer men.

Irene Caselli

🎭  5 CULTURE THINGS TO KNOW

• Record-breaking online concert of Mahler’s “Symphony of a Thousand”: More than 100 musicians from around the world will take part today in a performance of Mahler’s epic 8th symphony consisting of 1,200 elements, including a double chorus, children’s choir, a full orchestra and an organ. The event is a culmination of a year of work; all artists recorded their parts in isolation besides the children’s choir. Tickets can be purchased here.

Yearly Japanese festival will set a mountain on fire: Today, the grassy hillside of Mount Wakakusayama in Japan will go up in flames as fireworks go off in the background as part of celebrations for Wakakusa Yamayak. The origin of the festival isn’t totally clear, but might relate to border conflicts between the great temples in the region or to ward off wild boars.

• New insights into antiquities taken by the Nazis: Scholars are looking into how German forces during World War II looted artifacts such as on the Greek island of Crete. Nazi officials pillaged these valuables for their own personal gain, but many were also destroyed, which is why researchers around the world are hoping to gain greater insight into this often overlooked aspect of German occupation.

Exhibition of Beirut’s restored artwork: The Beirut Museum of Art has inaugurated the exhibition “Lift” featuring 17 paintings by Lebanese artists that had been damaged by the port explosion in 2020, and have since been restored as a result of a UNESCO initiative.

The world’s first vegan violin tunes up: Berries, pears and spring water are just some of the natural ingredients relied on for the construction of the instrument by English violin-maker Padraig O'Dubhlaoidh. Traditionally, animal parts like horsehair, hooves, horns and bones are used, especially to glue pieces together. The £8,000 instrument is sure to be music to some animal lover’s ears.

🇷🇺  NAVALNY SAGA & PUTIN’S INTENTIONS


One year ago anti-corruption lawyer and politician Alexei Navalny was detained in Russia, marking the effective end of domestic opposition to Russian president Vladimir Putin. In the time since, more than half of the former coordinators of Navalny's headquarters fled Russia. Even Navalny's name is forbidden: Putin never says his name, calling him "this citizen."

At the same time, Navalny’s imprisonment and the de facto end of the opposition have changed Russia. The fear of persecution, the lack of alternatives and the total censorship and propaganda have caused Putin's ratings consistently downward.

An aging leader with no successors, no enemies and dwindling popular support is finding it increasingly difficult to explain why he must continue to rule forever. In such a situation, there’s nothing quite like an external threat to fuel the raison d’être of the authoritarian regime. In Putin’s eyes, the perfect threat right now is NATO expansion, and the perfect enemy is its neighbor Ukraine and its attempts to join the military alliance. Whether Russia's president is ready to engage in a real war is the great unknown, but its aggressive and uncompromising foreign policy — like his disposing of Alexei Navalny — is the latest legitimization of his increasingly absolutist rule now into its third decade.

Read the full story: What The Alexei Navalny Saga Tells Us About Putin’s Intentions On Ukraine

🇨🇴  FROM HOSTAGE TO POTENTIAL HEAD OF STATE


Íngrid Betancourt spent more than six years as a prisoner of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) terror group in Colombia, an experience that is sure to play a role in her recently announced presidential campaign. Betancourt, who is 60, is running as part of the Verde Oxígeno and is the only woman in the Centro Esperanza Coalition (CCE), a centrist alliance.

Betancourt could be a boost for the coalition and embody its goals of transforming, overcoming polarization and, as its name indicates, giving hope to Colombia. In particular, the centrist candidate who in the past has been largely focused on anti-corruption and environmental protection, has said she will make women’s rights a cornerstone of her campaign.

Read the full story: Ingrid Betancourt, A Hostage Heroine Reinvented As Feminist For President

♀️ 😔  YOUNG WOMEN FACE THE BRUNT OF THE COVID-19 MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS


A growing number of studies around the world show that COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions have prompted a disproportionate increase in mental health illness among teen girls. These include rising suicide rates among adolescent females in the United States, Germany and Spain and a higher prevalence of anxiety and eating disorders in Israel. But why are women being disproportionately impacted?

There’s a range of reasons. In India, for example, young women had increased difficulty accessing education resources when schools went online and shared a disproportionate burden of household tasks as opposed to their male peers. Around the world, social media also played a significant role; without access to in-person socialization and hobbies, young people spent more time online, often comparing themselves to others, impacting feelings of self-worth. The situation is particularly dire given the challenges of accessing mental health support resources during the pandemic.

Read the full story: Why The COVID-19 Mental Health Crisis Is Hitting Teenage Girls The Hardest

💡  BRIGHT IDEA


Norwegian mobility company Podbike has announced that Frikar, its four-wheeled enclosed electric bike, will soon hit bike lanes on home turf. The futuristic-looking vehicle does require the user to pedal, which powers a generator and drive-by-wire system that keep the Frikar running — with a speed limited to 25 km/h.

#️⃣ TRENDING

“Mãe De Bolsonaro” is the top query on Twitter in Brazil, after news that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s mother Olinda Bonturi Bolsonaro had died at age 94.

😄📚 SMILE OF THE WEEK

Photo of the new President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola

New President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola

Philipp Von Ditfurth/ZUMA


London’s legendary bookshop Waterstones Gower Street tweeted a photo of a letter from an anonymous user confessing to having forgotten to pay for their books some 48 years ago. Owing approximately £100 ($136), adjusted for inflation, they had sent through £120 ($163) to make up for their tardiness. Touched by the kind gesture, the bookshop reciprocated by donating the money to the largest children’s reading charity in the United Kingdom.

👉   OTHERWISE ...

Dottoré! is a weekly column on Worldcrunch.com by Mariateresa Fichele, a psychiatrist and writer based in Naples, Italy. Read more about the series here.

Bucket of tears

I’ve been thinking and thinking about a patient of mine since yesterday. His name is Giovanni.

Psychiatrists, you might not know, are quite often asked the same unanswerable question: "Why does one become insane?”

When I was younger, I searched and searched for an answer, losing myself in scientific explanations about synapses, neurons and neurotransmitters.

By the end of my studies, I’d realized that the only thing that was clear was that I’d been clutching at straws to justify my work and give it a semblance of scientific dignity. In the years since, I’ve forced myself, in defiance of the authority of my position, to reply with a laconic but honest: "Sorry, but I don't know."

So when Giovanni asked me that same question, he was not happy at all with my answer. “Dottoré, how’s it possible that you don't understand why I became crazy?”

When he tried to ask me again one day, I tried a different response:

"Giová, do you cry?"

"No. Why?"

"Imagine that the tears that you don't shed, that you force yourself not to shed, because that's what you've been taught to do, all end up inside your heart. The heart is an organ that pumps blood, which brings nourishment and oxygen to the whole body. But over time those diverted tears accumulate to the point that the heart begins to pump them instead of your blood. Slowly your body becomes sick, but the part that suffers the most is your brain. Because tears don't contain oxygen and nourishment, just sadness."

I expected a reaction to this fanciful explanation, but instead Giovanni kept quiet and eventually left.

The next time I saw him, he said: "Dottoré, I've thought about it. I know you told me about the tears to make me feel better, but maybe you’re right. Because sometimes I feel that I have a lake, more than a heart. But it takes a very powerful pump to pump out all that water, and my heart alone cannot do it. And now that you've explained to me how I became crazy, can you also tell me if I'll ever get better?"

"Do you want another story or do you want the truth?”

"This time, I’d rather have the truth!”

"The answer is always the same then. I'm sorry, Giová, but I don't know this either. But I can tell you one thing for sure. I'll help you slowly, slowly with just a bucket. Because the truth is, not even I have that pump."

⏩  LOOKING AHEAD

• Italy's parliament will convene Monday to begin the process of voting for a new president to succeed Sergio Mattarella for a seven-year term.

• Qualification games for the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 for South, North and Central America as well as Asia. Argentina’s national team will not be able to rely on superstar Lionel Messi, still recovering from COVID-19.

• Next Thursday will mark 100 years since Nellie Bly died. The American journalist is known for her record-breaking 72-day trip around the world in 1889, inspired by Jules Vernes’ book Around the World in Eighty Days


Keep reading... Show less
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