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Viewing cable 07PARIS3668, FRENCH MFA READOUT ON AUGUST 23 TEHRAN VISIT BY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07PARIS3668 2007-09-05 12:12 2010-11-29 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
VZCZCXRO8568
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHFR #3668/01 2481250
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 051250Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9883
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 003668 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/05/2017 
TAGS: PREL PGOV FR IR
SUBJECT: FRENCH MFA READOUT ON AUGUST 23 TEHRAN VISIT BY 
ELYSEE ADVISER RICHIER AND MFA DAS GELLET 
 
REF: PARIS 3645 (NOTAL) 
 
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: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm 
 
 
STAPLETON