Cablegate: French Mfa Readout On August 23 Tehran Visit By

DE RUEHFR #3668/01 2481250
O 051250Z SEP 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 003668



E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/05/2017


Classified By: Classified By: Political Minister-Counselor Josiah Rosen
blatt for reasons 1.4. (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: The GOF took a hard line during an August
23 trip to Tehran by French presidency strategic affairs
adviser Richier and French MFA DAS-equivalent Gellet that
Iranian leader Khamanei's foreign policy adviser Velayati
hoped would open a new channel to Paris. Gellet explained
August 31 that Velayati was apparently operating from a
flawed premise that Nicolas Sarkozy would free France from
its "dependence" on the USG. Velayati further believed
France could be broken away from the P-5 over further
sanctions against Iran. Gellet said Richier previewed for
Velayati the line Sarkozy would use in a subsequent speech to
French ambassadors that the world faced a "catastrophic"
choice between Iran with a bomb or bombing Iran. Although
Velayati's hopes were shattered, Iran is still interested in
the channel; Gellet said that Richier has the lead in
deciding what the GOF will do next. Gellet expressed a
strong French desire to remain informed on U.S. plans
regarding Iran particularly should we decide to take military
action against Iran. End summary

2. (C) French MFA DAS-equivalent for Iran, Iraq, and the
Gulf Franck Gellet on August 31 provided a readout on his
August 23 visit to Tehran accompanying the French
presidency's strategic affairs adviser Francois Richier. The
visit followed an invitation from Ali Akbar Velayati, former
Iranian foreign minister and current foreign affairs adviser
to Supreme Leader Khamanei. Gellet confirmed information
that the French Embassy in Washington communicated to the
Department that Velayati wanted to establish a new direct
channel to Paris. Gellet elaborated that Velayati's
(apparently convoluted) thinking had been expressed in an
article he had written that took the view that the election
of Nicolas Sarkozy gave France a chance to break free of its
"dependence" on the U.S. in terms of its foreign policy.
Velayati, according to Gellet, believed that Chirac had been
entirely beholden to the U.S. during his presidency.
Sarkozy's election, therefore, offered Iran a chance to
appeal to France in a way that would allow France to follow
its independent line a la de Gaulle and thus pry France loose
from the coalition that now sought to impose tougher
sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

3. (C) Despite this clearly flawed analysis of France's
position and political dynamics, the GOF decided this opening
was important enough to explore. Gellet recounted how he and
Richier met Velayati, heard him out, and proceeded to burst
his bubble. Richier, according to Gellet, told Velayati that
Sarkozy was firm on the nuclear issue and previewed for him
the line that Sarkozy would use in his August 29 speech to
French ambassadors that under current circumstances the world
faced the stark alternative that Iran would obtain "the bomb"
or be bombed. Velayati was not happy to hear this but did
not close the door to further discussion. Gellet surmised
that Velayati believes the French are still susceptible to
Iranian blandishments and wants to keep some sort of
alternative line open to the Elysee.

4. (C) Gellet stressed that Velayati's initiative was not
taken without reference to others in the Iranian government.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International
Affairs Abbas Araghchi sat in on the Velayati meeting just as
Velayati attended a meeting Gellet and Richier had with
Araghchi. Gellet did not indicate what other subjects came
up, but Velayati's pitch was the main one. When asked
whether France felt the visit had been worthwhile and what
sort of follow-up there might be, Gellet was vague. He said
that Richier, in his Elyse capacity, would decide what to
do, including whether to keep this dialogue going. Gellet
surmised that Richier would be willing to discuss this
further with USG officials, like PM A/S Rood, in future
meetings to discuss next steps in the nuclear fuel dispute.

5. (C) Gellet found the visit a bit surreal but quite
indicative of the bizarre way Iran functions. He noted the
diffusion of power among different entities and the
uncertainty that pervades Iranian decision making. Velayati
clearly sought to minimize or counterbalance President
Ahmadinejad's hard line but without actually taking a softer
line himself. Iran's core position, therefore, did not seem
to be shifting or subject to any flexibility. When asked how
France understood Sarkozy's either/or statement on Iran had
played in that country, Gellet replied that Iranian
authorities seem to have largely kept it out of the national
media. The implication that France sees Iran facing a
serious risk of military retaliation over its stance was thus
largely unreported. Gellet argued that this suits Velayati's
calculations because the impression remains that Iran can

PARIS 00003668 002 OF 002

somehow turn to France to blunt American pressure to impose
more sanctions and escalate the situation.

6. (C) On the issue of escalation, Gellet asked that the
USG keep France informed of its thinking as regards possible
military action against Iran. He claimed that the Elysee
worries about being blindsided if or when the time comes for
a strike. The timing and magnitude of such action, i.e., a
surgical strike or a more generalized campaign, could have
enormous stakes in terms of French interests. Gellet noted,
in this vein, French concerns about Iranian retaliation
against the Gulf States and their capacity to respond. He
surmised that a U.S./France dialogue, if it were to develop,
might occur at a much higher level than his. His hope, which
was personal as much as he said it reflected official
thinking, was that we would keep the French in the loop as we
moved into the next phase of high-tension diplomacy focused
on further UNSC sanctions.

7. (C) Comment: It appears that this latest Iranian
initiative to open a new channel to Paris is unlikely to
change the dynamics of Tehran's ongoing confrontation with
the world. The French seem keen to reassure us that they are
not wavering. President Sarkozy's tough words to the French
Ambassadors conference following the meetings in Tehran made
that point loud and clear. On whether to engage more
intensively with the French about the various contingencies
related to Iran, we believe we should continue to test
Sarkozy's apparent desire to deal with us differently than
his predecessors did. As an indication of different French
thinking, the newspaper "Le Monde" reported active discussion
in the Elysee of sanctions targeting Iran outside the UNSC
that France could impose alone or potentially with others in
the EU. The article made clear that, as "fissures" seem to
be appearing among the P-5 over Iran, France seems to be
toughening its position. We will follow up with Richier for
his take on this visit.

Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: fm


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