Several Questions to Be Raised on the Iranian Crisis
Lieutenant General Christian-Charles Falzone
Deputy Chief of Staff for International Relations of the French Armed Forces
When I was asked to chair this session about Iran, I had no hesitation in accepting because it was a tribute to the need for a meeting like this one and because each of us here brings along his own experience, which is so important for the complex problems we are dealing with. Before getting started, let me convey the best wishes for success from General Bentegeat, the French Chief of Staff, who has asked me to represent him.
The question about Iran is easy to formulate: How much pressure is the international community ready to apply on Iran while at the same time recognizing Iran’s right to access nuclear energy for economic development? In order to answer and come up with an approach that will make it possible to fulfill the goals approved by the community of nations including Iran, we must first ask several sub-questions that will provide partial answers.
First set of questions: In that poker game which, in case of failure, will have tremendous consequences, how good a hand does Iran seem to have? Can it rely on the support of Muslim public opinion? Is it capable of exerting influence by applying economic pressure through control of the oil and gas supply? Can it initiate under-cover actions in Lebanon through Hezbollah or in Iraq through the Shiite community? Can it threaten to leave the non-proliferation treaty, thus triggering unknown consequences? (I do not need to say more on that point because it was largely addressed by the previous session).
Second set of questions: Is Iran really able to negotiate a deal while internal debates within the country reveal fierce political struggles? Using external affairs for internal purposes is a well-known stratagem. Given the pressures exerted by the present social and economic conditions, could Iran afford a major economic crisis? The current government was elected to improve the daily life of the Iranians, who are proud of their history and their country but also want to improve the life of their children.
Third set of questions: How feasible is a regional security arrangement? Is it realistic? Is it possible under the umbrella of the United States? Can a direct negotiation between the United States and Iran be the key to success, once a framework has been delineated by the Euro three, the United States, China and Russia, and the U.N. Security Council as well? There are many questions and one fact: a lot of discussion is needed and other points of view than the Western one must be taken in account. For this reason, I am now leaving the floor to our two experts, Ambassador Munir Akram and Major General Zhan Maohai.