Denouncing Barack Obama’s Iran policies as “utterly immature” and “empty of all content,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy dropped an international diplomatic and political bombshell Tuesday.
News of Sarkozy’s outburst, which reportedly occurred behind closed doors during a French forum on foreign policy, was leaked to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz by a senior Israeli government source.
Sarkozy has led a coalition of six nations that has imposed sanctions against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
That bloc consists of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- France, the United States, China, Russia, and the United Kingdom -- plus Germany.
To deter Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Sarkozy maintains the group must present a united diplomatic front to Iran.
During his July tour of Europe, Obama met with Sarkozy in Paris. Sarkozy told Obama that it would be “very problematic” if the United States were to soften its policy toward Iran, Haaretz reports.
Obama has maintained throughout the campaign that he would be willing to meet with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without diplomatic preconditions.
That would represent a significant departure from the policies pursued by other recent U.S. presidents. The United States has had no official diplomatic relations with Iran since it released the 52 diplomats who were held hostage for over 440 days following the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
How to curb Iran’s appetite for nuclear weaponry has been a major issue throughout the 2008 presidential campaign. In the second presidential debate, GOP nominee Sen. John McCain called the specter of an Iranian nuclear weapon “a threat to the stability of the entire Middle East.”
“What would you do if you were the Israelis and the president of a country says that they are -- they are determined to wipe you off the map, calls your country a stinking corpse?” McCain asked. “Now, Senator Obama without precondition wants to sit down and negotiate with them, without preconditions.”
McCain held out hope that a coordinated response could still make Iran reconsider.
“I think joining with our allies and friends in a league of democracies, that we can effectively abridge their behavior, and hopefully they would abandon this quest that they are on for nuclear weapons.”
McCain added, “we can never allow a second Holocaust to take place.”
During the debate, Obama called the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran “unacceptable.”
“Now, it is true, though,” Obama said, “that I believe that we should have direct talks -- not just with our friends, but also with our enemies -- to deliver a tough, direct message to Iran that, if you don't change your behavior, then there will be dire consequences.
“If you do change your behavior, then it is possible for you to re-join the community of nations.
“Now, it may not work,” said Obama. “But one of the things we've learned is, is that when we take that approach, whether it's in North Korea or in Iran, then we have a better chance at better outcomes.”
Sarkozy sees it differently, however, based on the Haaretz report.
The newspaper quotes a senior Israeli source saying Sarkozy is worried Obama might “arrogantly” open a direct dialog with Tehran, effectively torpedoing any effort to bring Iran to the bargaining table.
According to Haaretz, French intelligence has estimated that Iran already has produced about four-tenths of the enriched uranium it would need to produce a nuclear weapon.
The French estimate Iran will obtain enough material to build a nuclear warhead by spring or summer of 2009, which means the next president may have only a few months to decide a course of action.
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