French Atomic Pique

Sarkozy unloads on Obama’s ‘virtual’ disarmament reality.

WSJ Online
Sept 29, 2009


President Obama wants a unified front against Iran, and to that end he stood together with Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown in Pittsburgh on Friday morning to reveal the news about Tehran’s secret facility to build bomb-grade fuel. But now we hear that the French and British leaders were quietly seething on stage, annoyed by America’s handling of the announcement.

Both countries wanted to confront Iran a day earlier at the United Nations. Mr. Obama was, after all, chairing a Security Council session devoted to nonproliferation. The latest evidence of Iran’s illegal moves toward acquiring a nuclear weapon was in hand. With the world’s leaders gathered in New York, the timing and venue would be a dramatic way to rally international opinion.

President Sarkozy in particular pushed hard. He had been “frustrated” for months about Mr. Obama’s reluctance to confront Iran, a senior French government official told us, and saw an opportunity to change momentum. But the Administration told the French that it didn’t want to “spoil the image of success” for Mr. Obama’s debut at the U.N. and his homily calling for a world without nuclear weapons, according to the Paris daily Le Monde. So the Iran bombshell was pushed back a day to Pittsburgh, where the G-20 were meeting to discuss economic policy.

Le Monde’s diplomatic correspondent, Natalie Nougayrède, reports that a draft of Mr. Sarkozy’s speech to the Security Council Thursday included a section on Iran’s latest deception. Forced to scrap that bit, the French President let his frustration show with undiplomatic gusto in his formal remarks, laying into what he called the “dream” of disarmament. The address takes on added meaning now that we know the backroom discussions.

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