Iran Focus: London, Feb. 01 – The following are excerpts from an interview by French President Jacques Chirac with The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and the French publication Le Nouvel Observateur on Jan. 30, 2007 on the issue of Iran. During the interview, Chirac retracts previous comments that he was not worried by the possibility of Iran obtaining one or two nuclear bombs. Iran Focus
London, Feb. 01 – The following are excerpts from an interview by French President Jacques Chirac with The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and the French publication Le Nouvel Observateur on Jan. 30, 2007 on the issue of Iran. During the interview, Chirac retracts previous comments that he was not worried by the possibility of Iran obtaining one or two nuclear bombs. (Full text translated from French into English by the New York Times)
President Chirac: I wanted to say a little about how I really see the Iran problem. Iran has started a process that the I.A.E.A. [International Atomic Energy Agency”> thinks could lead to control over military nuclear technology, which as you know is against Iran’s commitments as a signatory of the N.P.T. The N.P.T. is the Non-Proliferation Treaty and Iran has signed it. So Iran is going back on its commitments, which is why the I.A.E.A. has been working on this and observed that uranium enrichment was likely to lead to military nuclear technology. As a consequence, this was neither normal nor acceptable.
From this point on, major countries consulted, especially the six comprising the three European countries France, Germany and the United Kingdom and the United States, and then Russia and China. The aim was to explain to Iran that it was putting itself in a situation in which it was breaking international law and that it should therefore stop nuclear enrichment and everything to do with nuclear-based military technology.
Iran is still a great nation and an important nation that matters…. We explained to Iran that it could not put itself into this situation, and that therefore we had to discuss, negotiate to obtain the suspension of uranium enrichment, which is the symbol in a way, the core of military nuclear technology. What we thought would happen is that we would be able to discuss this. I would remind you that France also made an open proposal to Iran that did not criticize Iran’s authority but said, “You yourselves are going to take a decision in your own way to provisionally stop enriching uranium, and the six countries will in exchange agree to stop the sanction procedure in the U.N. Security Council.” I honestly believe that this was an acceptable position, in the sense that we were telling Iran, “The day you decide to start up again, you resume and we will resume the sanction procedures. We shall start implementing the sanction procedures.”
Each side was taking a step towards the other, and we thought that we had an acceptable process given Iran’s demands. Actually the Iranians did not accept this process. They did not agree to interrupt their uranium enrichment work, and as a consequence the six continued their action in the Security Council…. This led to sanctions that initially involve in fact the supply, import or export of military nuclear equipment to Iran, so these sanctions were imposed in Security Council Resolution 1737.
From this point on, we find ourselves in a situation that is rather confused. So of course we can go further and further, higher and higher up the scale in our reactions on both sides. This is certainly not our thinking and our intention. What we wanted was to reach a result, as I mentioned earlier, that would comply with both N.P.T. obligations and I.A.E.A. controls.
In the present state of affairs, we have not received any positive responses from Iran, so I said in a rather short-hand way that “In the end when you think about Iran, what use would it have for a bomb?” If indeed their real goal is to build a nuclear capacity in other words a nuclear bomb it is obvious that that this bomb, the moment it was launched, obviously would be destroyed immediately. We have the means, several countries have the means to destroy a bomb, once they see a bomb-carrying rocket launch. So it is hard to see what advantage Iran could find for dropping a bomb. The bomb would naturally be destroyed as soon as the rocket was launched. It is an important aspect of the issue.
Q: It would be destroyed, the bomb?
A: The bomb would be destroyed, yes.
Q: And what would the repercussions be for Iran?
A: Well the repercussions for Iran would have to be examined, naturally. I spoke quickly and I retract it, of course, when I said, “One is going to raze Tehran.” It was of course a manner of speaking in my mind. I don’t imagine that we could raze Tehran. But it is obvious that if an undeniably aggressive act, which is to say sending a bomb payload on a launch rocket, took place and this bomb would be I repeat automatically destroyed without even having left the Iranian soil or at least the Iranian airspace, it is obvious there would be without a doubt measures of coercion, measures of retaliation, of course. It is part of nuclear deterrence….
Saying one would destroy Tehran is meaningless but what is meaningful is that in nuclear deterrence, there are initiatives taken in case of a nuclear attack which are to be examined, to be negotiated and which are up to the authority of the countries that consider themselves, with good reason or not, attacked.
Q: Including a retaliation of a nuclear type?
A: Everything is possible…. It is deterrence that allows attacking, counter-attacking a nuclear attacker that would have manifested itself. So that’s the first problem.
The second problem of course concerns proliferation. The great danger of this plan of Iran is proliferation. Everyone knows that some countries have already reached the nuclear level and that have undeniably taken part in the development of proliferation. I won’t name any country. It’s useless but we know it, even Iran benefited from the expertise, the knowledge of the technology of some countries in the nuclear sector. So proliferation is a dangerous thing, starting from the moment when Iran would be able to access military nuclear technology, it would become ipso facto a potential center of proliferation that would be extremely dangerous for the entire region.
I drifted, because I thought we were “off the record,” to say that, for example, Saudi Arabia or Egypt could be tempted to follow this example, I retract it of course since neither Saudi Arabia nor Egypt have made the slightest declaration on these subjects so it is not up to me to make them….What is certain is that such a process leads to an arm race that could lead a number of countries to participate in this arm race. I don’t want to name any countries naturally, even though I did so yesterday, I shouldn’t have done so….
Q: In the region?
A: In the region and maybe beyond it….There is a second risk that is also extremely serious which is the risk of proliferation because even without using a bomb they would have made, they can transfer to other countries for political reasons technologies that would allow these other countries to gain access to military nuclear technology….
Iran is still a great country. It’s a country with a tradition. It’s a complex country, which has a very old culture…. Iran has necessarily an important role to play in the Middle East region.
This region was traumatized by the Iraq affair. The Iraq affair shifted red lines, in fact, in the region and it has created a new situation. It has become dangerous, this region, more vulnerable, and therefore, Iran undeniably has an important role taking into account its history, its tradition, its philosophy an important role to play in the region under the condition of course to do so in a peaceful and cordial way.
I was a bit quick yesterday…. The current problem, in my view, is the environment. About Iran, we unfortunately will most likely have many more occasions to talk about it….
Q: Yesterday, frankly, you could have given the impression, at least it could have led to confusion, in that you were also saying that Iran could possess its first bomb, and maybe a second one. For you it was a way of saying that the problem is proliferation. You have evoked the possibility that it [Iran”> may attack Israel, which seemed almost a bit secondary.
A: I cannot imagine this. I cannot imagine this. I repeat, the means of protection that exist around the world, in particular with the Americans but also with the Europeans, with a certain number of Europeans, are such that I don’t imagine that a bomb, that a rocket carrying a [nuclear”> bomb could be launched from Iran without our detecting it. And as a result, it would necessarily be destroyed. So I don’t think I spoke about Israel yesterday. Maybe I did so but I don’t think so. I have no recollection of that….
Q: Mr. President, there are a number of questions that we had asked you, and you didn’t wish to answer, and you told us so, very nicely in fact.
A: Yes, but I didn’t want to abuse your time nor mine. What you need to know is that France considers that Iran is an essential element in the stability of this entire region, an essential element and naturally this stability will depend on the policy that Iran will choose. I do not know exactly there are right now in Iran talks, everybody knows that, among the Iranian authorities, to know exactly the policy that Iran must follow. It is not up to me to cast a judgment on this point. But it is a fact.
There have even been elections that have shown that have slightly put into question the authority of President Ahmadinejad. One should say that the words this I am telling you very much from the bottom of my heart that this President Ahmadinejad had about Israel are in my view and in the view of France and in the view of the entire world are certainly totally unacceptable. In fact I have told the Iranians so. These are totally unacceptable words, and they cannot be tolerated. I simply hope that these were rather personal words and which do not correspond to the conception of things by the main Iranian leaders. I don’t know, and I condemn them totally, and I have told the Iranians so in the clearest fashion.
When I went to New York, President Ahmadinejad asked me for a meeting. I refused, on principle, because I could not agree to receive or to talk to someone who held these views on the Shoah in particular and on Israel in general. This, it was completely clear, and so I want to say so.
But I repeat, Iran is a great nation historically, culturally, which matters in this region of the Middle East, and it is important to have a dialogue with this country to try and have stability in the Middle East.
Q: I wanted to thank you…
A: It is I who thank you for coming back. These are extremely delicate and dangerous subjects and which involve consequences that can be dramatic. So, everybody needs to take their responsibilities. So sometimes one can drift off, when one believes there are no consequences. I, I honestly believed that the questions aside from the environment were off the record….
Q: ….It is I who asked the question. But it was after your analysis about nuclear energy, so I asked a question honestly and politely. I am sorry if it gave you the impression that …
A: My dear lady, no, I am not under this impression. It is I who was wrong. I don’t want to contest it. I should rather have paid attention to what I was saying and to understand that perhaps we were “on the record.” We had talked about environmental problems, nuclear problems…. It was I who should have paid attention and who should have said, “We are off the record,” and I didn’t say it.
Q: You said, “We must find a way to fix this problem.” What are the ways to fix this problem?
A: I am going to tell you quickly that the way things are now, what … Iran should wish for is the division of the international community. That is the reason why we think it is essential to maintain the cohesion of the international community. …So there are the French, the Germans, the British who have a point of view that is almost identical. There are the Americans and then there are the Russians, who for reasons that are theirs, and the Chinese, who are not always exactly on the same line.
So if we split, it’s a great victory in a way for those in Iran who have the hardest line. If, on the contrary, we remain united, in particular within the resolutions of the Security Council, at least on 1737, at this moment, we remained strong. And so I think that what is important is to make sure that there are no divisions of the international community and that the six countries in question remain united in the face of this problem which is a dangerous problem….