Tehran-Paris ties: Is Iran really strengthening ties with France? – analysis

In an rare statement about wanting closer ties with the West, Iran’s new ambassador to France has highlighted the importance of ties between Tehran and Paris. He made the comments in talks with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. The new ambassador to France is Mohammad Amin-Nejad. 

The new envoy to France was meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister alongside another appointment. Iran has a new envoy to Tunisia as well. His name is Mir-Masoud Hosseinian, Iran’s new ambassador to Tunisia. Tunisia is an important post in North Africa.

Tasnim News highlighted the French appointment. “In this meeting, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of our country, Amir Abdollahian, also emphasized the importance of developing and consolidating relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and various countries and regions of the world based on the strategy of our country and the plans of the government, and the need to take advantage of the opportunities and capacities available in the two countries of Iran and France.” 

The history between France and Iran

The Iranian Foreign Minister made a point of discussing the importance of developing various ties with Paris. This includes economic ties. Iran clearly views France as an exception in the West. France has always had an independent foreign policy that is not the same as the foreign policy of the US and UK linked-Five Eyes countries. France, for instance, has always carved out its own method of viewing Russia, Lebanon and other states, either based on shared histories, such as the French role in Africa and Lebanon, or based on other concepts.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visits the military equipment of IRGC Navy in Bandar Abbas, Iran, February 2, 2024 (credit: Iran’s Presidency/WANA/Handout via Reuters)

France and Russia, for instance, were members of an alliance that began in 1891 and helped frame the leadup to the Great War. France also took a different view of the Balkan crisis in the 1990s from the view taken by the US and others. France also had unique ties with the Saddam regime in Iraq. France has also been more supportive of Armenia while western countries have generally abandoned Armenians to being attacked over the last several years.

All of this is to say that Iran-France ties are worth watching because France is often able to open doors and is listened to in areas where the US and others find doors closed or find that historical baggage does not operate in their favor. 

The new Iranian envoy to France was previously an envoy in Niver, Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe, he also served in Albania, Belgium and other places. Iran has been accused of various nefarious plots in Europe in recent years. Albania cut ties with Iran in 2022 due to a cyber attack. In 2020 Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi was charged with plots in Belgium. They were charged with a plot targeting Iranian dissidents in France. Assadi was then freed in 2023 in exchange for an aid worker Iran had taken hostage. As such, the new Iranian envoy will arrive in Europe at a time when many recall the Iranian role in these plots.

However, many European countries have a habit of quickly forgetting Iran’s role in various crimes in Europe, in favor of maintaining “engagement” and “interests” in their relations. Higher policy trumps things like Iranian diplomats plotting to murder dissidents. It remains to be seen if Iran will be able to kindle warmer ties with France. Considering the fact France is keen on easing tensions between Israel and Hezbollah and therefore saving Lebanon a huge conflagration, it is plausible that the new envoy will find himself very much in the spotlight. 

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