How French action led to war in Iraq and could again in Iran

Amir Taheri:

HAVING failed to stop war in Iraq, French President Jacques Chirac is determined to prevent a similar fate befalling Iran.

"There will be no war against Iran," Chirac is reported to have told a special emissary of the Islamic Republic who visited him in Paris last week. "Anything other than negotiations would be resolutely opposed by France." History may not be repeating itself, but it is hard not to remember similar pledges Chirac gave to Saddam Hussein up to March 2003, just weeks before the U.S.-led Coalition invaded Iraq.

It is now clear that Chirac's assurances played a crucial role in persuading Saddam not to offer the concessions that might have prevented war and regime change. From his prison cell, former Iraqi Vice President Tariq Aziz told U.S. and Iraqi interrogators that Saddam was convinced that the French and, to a lesser extent, the Russians would save his regime at the last minute.

Just hours before he flew to New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly, Chirac dropped the only condition that the "Five Plus One" groups (the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany) had demanded of Teheran as a prelude to negotiations.

"Iran should not be asked to stop uranium enrichment as a precondition," Chirac said. "And there is no sense to refer the Islamic Republic back to the Security Council."


The law of unintended consequences may operate in yet another way: if sanctions prove useless from the start, the United States and its closest allies might decide that the only effective move against Iran is military action.

In other words, Teheran's success in countering possible sanctions may render a military clash inevitable.

According to Teheran sources, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has "factored in" such a possibility. "A limited military clash would suit Ahmadinejad fine," says a former Cabinet minister. "The Americans would appear, fire a few missiles, bomb a few sites and go away. Ahmadinejad would show on TV some old ladies and babies killed by the Americans, declare victory and pursue his grand plans with renewed vigor."


It appears what he has factored in is a Clintonian type of attack. Bin Laden made the same mistake in his 9-11 strategy. Any attack against Iraq shold be sustained and destroy Iran's ability to make war. It should last for weeks and not days and leave Iran defenseless. The destruction should include all of its internal refining capacity as well as its military production facilities and military hardware, and, oh yeah, its nuke facilities.


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