In his first major foreign policy speech, President Nicolas Sarkozy tells Iran that if they do not curb their Nuclear program according to their international obligations that Iran may face an attack.
Addressing the French ambassadorial corps, Sarkozy stressed that such an outcome would be a disaster. He did not say that France would ever participate in military action against Iran or even tacitly support such an approach.
But the mere fact that he raised the specter of the use of force is quite likely to be perceived by Iran as a warning of the consequences of its actions.
Sarkozy praised the current diplomatic initiative by the major world powers, which threatens tougher United Nations-mandated sanctions if Iran does not stop enriching uranium for possible use in a nuclear weapon but holds out the possibility of incentives if Iran complies.
This two-pronged approach, Sarkozy said, "is the only one that can enable us to avoid being faced with a disastrous alternative: an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran."
Calling the Iranian nuclear crisis "the most serious weighing on the international order today," Sarkozy also reiterated his position that a nuclear-armed Iran would be "unacceptable" to France.
Although Sarkozy's aides said that French policy had not changed, some foreign policy experts were stunned by the blunt, if brief, remarks. "This came out of the blue," said François Heisbourg, director of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris and author of a forthcoming book on the Iranian nuclear program. "To actually say that if diplomacy fails, the choice will be to accept a nuclear Iran or bomb Iran - this is a diplomatic blockbuster."
Sarkozy's speech, an annual ritual outlining French foreign policy goals, came as his foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, apologized to the Iraqi government for a remark to Newsweek magazine that the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, should resign.
I would be willing to bet that the apology to al-Maliki was, in large part, because of the major political progress that al-Maliki has started to make, which was announced yesterday.
Other comments from Sarkozy shows he is making it clear he is a friend of Israel, improving relations with the U.S. and is opposed to the radical Hamas led state in the Gaza Strip.
His bluntness is surprising many in the international community but he is doing his utmost to separate himself from the previous President's (Chirac) stances on many issues.
[Update] Reuters weighs in via Y.net:
He also presented some new ideas, such as possibly renewing high-level dialogue with Syria and expanding the Group of Eight industrialized nations to include the biggest developing states.
Sarkozy said a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable and that major powers should continue their policy of incrementally increasing sanctions against Tehran while being open to talks if Iran suspended nuclear activities.
"This initiative is the only one that can enable us to escape an alternative that I say is catastrophic: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran," he said, adding that it was the worst crisis currently facing the world.
Tehran says it only wants to generate electricity but it has yet to convince the world's most powerful countries that it is not secretly pursuing nuclear weapons.
Sarkozy criticized Russia for its dealings on the international stage. "Russia is imposing its return on the world scene by using its assets, notably oil and gas, with a certain brutality," he said.
"When one is a great power, one should not be brutal."
Energy disputes between Russia and neighbors such as Belarus and Ukraine have raised doubts in Europe about Moscow's reliability as a gas exporter. It supplies Europe, via its neighbors, with around a quarter of its gas demands.
(NOTE: Instead of leaving you with the advertisements I usually have at the bottom of each post, I will leave you with one of the videos from Freedoms Watch) [30 second video.]