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French press review 7 August 2018

As US sanctions against Iran come into effect, the French dailies attempt to analyse the logic of Donald Trump's crusade against the mollahs.


The editorial in Le Monde looks at the escalating battle between Washington and Tehran.

The first phase of US sanctions against Iran were re-imposed overnight, in the wake of the decision by American President Donald Trump to withdraw from the six-nation Iranian nuclear deal.

Le Monde says the US leader's ideas on Iran may be haphazzard and dangerous, but they do have a certain logic.

Trump has never been a fan of the deal supposed to open Tehran's nuclear efforts to world scrutiny. He calls the agreement a "rag".

Despite the fact that Iran has shown every sign of respecting the deal to the satisfaction of the other co-signatories (China, Russia, France, the UK and Germany), Trump decided to withdraw US support earlier this year, hence the re-imposition of sanctions.

The war of words between Trump and the Iranian President, Hassan Rohani, has something of the kids playground aboout it.

"America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace deals," says Rohani, "and that war with Iran is the mother of all wars."

To which Trump replied, in capital letters: "Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered . . . We are no longer a country that will stand for your demented words of violence & death."

And now the verbal jousting has been followed by economic strikes which will oblige not only US but also European businesses to halt all dealings with Iran. Since midnight, financial links, raw material and technological imports are all suspended. The next phase, which will take effect in November, will see the global suspension of Iranian oil exports, mainstay of the country's economy.

Le Monde says it's difficult to imagine what will happen next. Ordinary Iranians are understandably unhappy to see the return of sanctions. There have been recent protests against inflation and the devaluation of the local currency. But all signs point to the regime's ability to survive even widespread public revolt.

Perhaps, suggests Le Monde, Washington simply wants to make Iran pay for its efforts to dominate the middle-eastern political stage, supporting militia in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

That, says the centrist French daily, could be a dangerous game, which Hassan Rohani himself has already compared to "playing with the lion's tail".

How Trump's tactics make Europe suffer

Conservative paper Le Figaro also looks at the implications of the resumption of American sanctions, saying that promises by Brussels to protect European businesses from the US decision are more poilitical than practical.

The French car company PSA has already announced the suspension of all activity in Iran, so has the oil giant Total. Renault say they'll stay, but will drasticaly reduce production. The pharmaceutical company Sanofi is staying on, but wonders how it will be paid, in view of the global freeze on Iranian financial transactions. National central banks can continue to deal with Tehran, even if that is likely to meet with American disapproval. Or locally generated revenues could simply be re-invested in the Iranian economy.

On the question of President Trump's motivation in his war against the mollahs, Le Figaro suggest that the US leader may be hoping for a repeat of his success with North Korea.

It could all, in other words, be another huge bluff.

If that is the case, says Le Figaro, Trump may be barking up the wrong tree, dangerously provoking Iran in the interests of boosting his domestic image in the run-up to the November mid-term elections.


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