Remarks by Yves Thréard, deputy editor of Le Figaro, in a panel on the Iranian regime’s “IRGC and Meddling in the Region” in Paris, 29 June 2018, organized jointly by FEMO and APA.
Thank you, Chairman, thanks to the Iranian resistance for inviting me to your panel and thank you for listening to me for a few moments. I know that many of you are coming from abroad or have come from abroad and I’m going to take the opportunity to go out maybe a little bit of the region if you allow me, to tell you a little about what view does France have on French opinion, I do not pretend that this is completely the state of reflection of successive governments in our country – with regard to the situation in Iran.
As you mentioned, I’m the deputy editor of Le Figaro, so that’s where I can perhaps talk about it. What you need to know is that when the 2015 agreement was cancelled by Donald Trump, there was an extremely violent reaction in France as in other countries, to condemn President Trump, because for most opinions it was Trump who was the target and it was not the mullahs’ regime. And so most of the comments have been on Trump’s policy, on Trump, that kind of great Satan, when I think, and I’m sure, that the danger is not so much with Trump, but rather precisely in Tehran with the policy that is being conducted by the mullahs’ regime. And if you want, the translation and attitude of the French vis-à-vis this event that was very important and well summarizes a little look that has been focused on Iran since 1979 and the coming to power of Khomeini I remind you, the symbols have a meaning and often the symbols translate well a climate, an atmosphere is that as you know, Ayatollah Khomeini arrived from France where he was a refugee in a small village of Yvelines of Neauphle-le-Château, as the crow flies is 40 or 50 km from here, where President Giscard d’Estaing and where most of the great intellectuals, especially French left, Marguerite Duras on top, were going to bow down to Ayatollah Khomeini on his carpet and tell him how handsome, strong and useful he was for the democratic future of his country.
And the problem is that if you want, this attitude has made the Iranian revolution that has continued and the establishment of the IRGC, the establishment of this regime and its rise to power, have not been taken seriously enough and to the extent of the danger posed by this regime for the entire planet. And in fact, we did not understand very well here what would happen and the look that was taken was a look that was rather an exotic curiosity than an atomic danger. The only problem is that pedagogy has never been made, never pedagogy was made and never a lot of French and many even intellectuals, experts have forced the way to relay speeches, words, writings of Ayatollah Khomeini that when you read them well and I immersed myself in it in a cursory way, well called for a global revolution and an export of his revolutionary Iranian model to the entire Arab-Muslim world, Muslim, but also to all I would say countries of this planet. It was necessary that this fundamentalist imperialism spread everywhere and unfortunately this speech was absolutely not I would say translated in the remarks or even included in the Western press and especially in the French press. So there was a firewall that was installed after a while and this firewall is extremely dangerous, which was saying “yes but they are Shiites”, the Iranians, it is a cleric, it is a religion that is organized and as Islamist terrorism has quickly emerged on our planet and well this terrorism was rather coming from the Sunnis, and therefore the bad guys, those with whom we must fight to save the Sunnis and the Shiites, well after all were absolutely not I would say likely to have a suspicious look towards us.
And we have lived for years, dozens of years with this operated dichotomy, which is a dichotomy that is religiously, factually and historically correct, the dichotomy critics who have prevented us from seeing the reality and I would say the clever idea of the regime that was raging in Tehran. And I want as a proof that most of the revolts, there were not many, but especially that of 2009 that took place in Tehran, the one that has been relayed here and mediatized we will say quite modest, but what is happening right now in Iran, well, in the Iranian population is absolutely not transcribed in our country. As a proof of that, and you know it better than me, there was anger at the bazaar earlier this week, early this week, which was a pretty amazing move, not surprising, but a movement that was on the scale, you did not have a reaction, not a news in the media, at least the French media. Perhaps a little more in the Anglo-Saxon media.
I can tell you that if there had been a movement in the Kasbah of Algiers, we would have talked about it. What does it mean? It means that France and part of Europe, but especially France because of its colonial past, when it speaks of the Muslim world, when it speaks of this world, it has advantage and it is normal but it should be careful because the planet is larger than that, it has many more eyes turned to the Maghreb, to the Mashriq eventually and much less to the Middle Eastern world. Although obviously France still has influence, I hope, and interests in Lebanon, in a country that is partly French-speaking.
You saw there was an important electoral campaign in France last year, that in this impossible-to-solve equation, should we not first better tackle the Daesh terrorists rather than the Bashar Al-Assad regime? which of course is an equation. The answer is that we must first attack Daesh since they are the terrorists who come to strike on European soil, rather than attack the Assad regime, completely forgetting that the Assad regime is in the hand of the power in Tehran.
So there you have the translation of this ambiguity I would say purely French. So, I come back to the agreement that was denounced by the American president. So obviously you have most of the press as I told you, most of the opinions that has tried to weigh the pros and cons and finally they like negative denunciation more than the pro denunciation, for an obvious reason, in that there are commercial interests behind it. These business interests, you know, can be anywhere from 130 to 150 billion dollars. There are some 250 agreements that were already on track or already signed and at the end of that, France thought it could regain its footing, its economy, its industry, its know-how in Iran through some of its biggest brands but not just its big brands. This is an argument that has weighed heavily and after all to do trade, we can accommodate a repressive regime, a dictatorial regime even if it has the clothes of moderation, you know it’s a word we like a lot in France. You have the bad guys who are really mean and the moderate bad guys. And so in France we like the moderate bad guys. We do not hate them. And so for that reason, after all if we can do our business and then the regime is out of breath here are some arguments to say that we must better accommodate this agreement rather than denouncing it. One of the arguments was that if we gave up this agreement, we would put the regime in question, the regime of the mullahs, back into the game and on the international stage, and that all the wicked people in this world would be able to coalesce, the Chinese, the Russians, Bashar al-Assad, and of course the Iranians, and that these people, well, it’s going to be a frontal shock and that this frontal clash between a well-polished West and then those bad guys, we’d better avoid it and you have to stay in the status quo even if I’m going to tell you the truth, I do not think we’re very advanced, nor do we really say it about the state of the atomic weapon or the advancement of the Iranian atomic weapon.
And besides, we say that Iran after all, I do not see why it would be more mean than North Korea. Now, what should be the attitude of the French President and what can be the attitude of the French authorities today, where this agreement is denounced by the Americans and where we find ourselves in a very complicated situation.
I ask the question whether by wanting to campaign for the extension of this agreement as Frederick said, in wanting absolutely to preserve this agreement, do the French in particular, prefer to be the ally of Iran and Tehran and so the enemy of the United States, or is it preferred to be allied with the United States and the enemy of Iran? The question is there. Can France afford to consider that the United States, Washington, is an adversary, an enemy, and that by playing the game and of a renegotiated or corrected agreement, but an agreement that is still very much in favor of a regime which, if this agreement could be maintained with the following trade and that the fruits of this trade do not go to the Iranian population at all, but to reinforce this regime, it may be necessary to be asking yourself a few questions. I have no doubt that the President of the Republic duly advised to ask himself and that obviously he has a part and a face to save, with respect to his opinion and also the international opinion knowing that he obviously his goal, in a European political desert – well obviously the president of the French Republic sees its interest to be able to be the centerpiece, central even between the United States and regimes like that of Tehran. How far can he go to not just make the Iranian people suffer more, and how far can they go to ensure that this regime – which is a bloodthirsty dictatorial regime – repressive – well for this regime to finally fall, because it is still the goal of all politics that must be conducted on the side of the West.