French President Nicolas Sarkozy is very critical of U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama's positions on Iran, according to reports that have reached Israel's government.
Sarkozy has made his criticisms only in closed forums in France. But according to a senior Israeli government source, the reports reaching Israel indicate that Sarkozy views the Democratic candidate's stance on Iran as "utterly immature" and comprised of "formulations empty of all content."
Obama visited Paris in July, and the Iranian issue was at the heart of his meeting with Sarkozy. At a joint press conference afterward, Obama urged Iran to accept the West's proposal on its nuclear program, saying that Iran was creating a serious situation that endangered both Israel and the West.
According to the reports reaching Israel, Sarkozy told Obama at that meeting that if the new American president elected in November changed his country's policy toward Iran, that would be "very problematic."
Until now, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have tried to maintain a united front on Iran. But according to the senior Israeli source, Sarkozy fears that Obama might "arrogantly" ignore the other members of this front and open a direct dialogue with Iran without preconditions.
Following their July meeting, Sarkozy repeatedly expressed disappointment with Obama's positions on Iran, concluding that they were "not crystallized, and therefore many issues remain open," the Israeli source said. Advisors to the French president who held separate meetings with Obama's advisors came away with similar impressions and expressed similar disappointment.
According to the Israeli source, Sarkozy plans to begin intensive negotiations with the new American administration, regardless of whether it is headed by Obama or Republican Sen. John McCain, even before the new president takes office in January, with the goal of persuading him to continue the current policy on Iran.
But Sarkozy's pessimism does not stem only from Obama's stance; it also stems from the overall behavior of the international community toward Iran's nuclear program, and particularly its inability to agree on a fourth round of Security Council sanctions against the Islamic Republic. This foot-dragging will make it impossible to effect a change in Iran's nuclear policy, Sarkozy believes.
The French intelligence community believes that Iran has already obtained about 40 percent of the enriched uranium it would need for its first bomb, and that at its current rate, it will obtain the rest of the uranium it needs in the spring or summer of 2009.
However, French agencies are divided over what Iran is likely to do once it has this uranium. One view is that the Iranians will immediately make a nuclear bomb, in order to demonstrate their capability. The other is that Iran will continue enriching uranium without making a bomb - at least until it has enough enriched uranium for several bombs.
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