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French press review 15 July 2015

Text by: William Niba
7 min

French President Francois Hollande earns a new alias as "audacity man" after the Greek rescue. And, calls for vigilance amid rising concerns that Iran's nuclear deal and lifting of sanctions may fuel Tehran's expansionist agenda.

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Wednesday’s papers are all about the nuclear accord signed on Tuesday between Iran and the major world powers China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The agreement, inked after 18 days of marathon talks in Vienna, aims to ensure Tehran cannot create a nuclear bomb in return for lifting biting sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

L’Humanité takes up clauses in the accord requiring Iran to slash by around two-thirds the number of centrifuges, from around 19,000 to 6,104 which is just enough to produce electricity. The Communist party daily recalls that the international sanctions were so painful to the point that OPEC's fifth-largest producer had to cut oil exports by a quarter from 2.3 million barrels per day before the sanctions were imposed in mid-2012 to just 1 million today.

The Catholic daily La Croix welcomes the compromise which limits Iran’s nuclear activities for at least a decade and calls for stringent oversight by the UN nuclear watchdog, IAEA. In return Iran will get sanctions relief, although the measures can "snap back" into place if there are any violations. The international arms embargo against Iran will remain for five years with deliveries only possible with permission from the UN Security Council.

It took the two parties “12 gruelling years of tough negotiations, right to the very last atom” to reach a breakthrough, explains Libération. According to the left-leaning newspaper, the trade-off could see the country revamp its economy and boost President Hassan Rouhani’s agenda to meet the aspirations of the country’s youths which radical groups are trying to subvert.

The clause providing the unblocking of billions of dollars in frozen assets is a scary scenario Iran’s Arab neighbours are weary about, observes Libération. One foreign minister in the region told the paper that Tehran could pursue an even more expansionist agenda if the United States releases the estimated136 billion euros of assets frozen since 1979 when students stormed the American embassy.

But for Le Monde the spectacular rapprochement between Tehran and Washington first has to be ratified by the US Congress to come into effect. Both arms of the American legislature are strong backers of Israel which wasted no time to denounce the accord as a “grave historical error”. Le Figaro, however, believes that US President Barack Obama remains confident. The right-wing publication says he is banking on the new dispensation which the accord can bring to the Middle East, to win allies in the Republican-led Congress.

President Hollande’s traditional Bastille Day interview is another topic of sharp comments from the press this Tuesday, following his chest-pumping remarks about “being the most audacious leader you can find in Europe today". His comments came in response to a question about his role in brokering the Greek crisis.

La Croix highlights the president’s rejection of claims that Greece had been humiliated. Europe won by remaining intact while Greece was not expelled from the eurozone, he said.

As the Greek parliament votes this Wednesday to approve the last-ditch accord snatched by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, L’Humanité samples the price Athens has to pay for the three-year, 86-billion-euro bailout plan aimed at keeping the struggling economy alive. The measures including sweeping changes to labour laws, pensions, VAT and other taxes are harsher than those rejected in last week’s referendum. Hence the warning by the Communist party daily of the financial coup d’état being staged in Greece by Brussels.

“Cautious calculator, probably, but certainly not audacious,” rules Le Figaro in its editorial. The right-wing newspaper scorns Hollande of hiding behind a “strange pair of glasses” and of refusing to see the “horse remedy” the European hawks have just administered on Greece.

If you go by Le Figaro, President Hollande’s analysis of the Greek crisis is clear proof that he is just a blind optimist, who systematically sees everything in rose-coloured glasses. He promised voters a light at the end of the tunnel 36 months ago which hasn’t happened, according to the conservative publication. It is no surprise that his rhetoric has caused widespread scepticism and anger, concludes Le Figaro.

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