Macron’s $15 Billion Offer to Iran: More Than Meets The Eye?

French President Emmanuel Macron has floated the concept of essentially giving Iran $15 billion to comply with the infamous multilateral nuclear deal that the Ayatollahs have already violated.

Some observers see Macron’s proposal as a statesman-like overture to preserve peace and avoid war. Others believe that the Macron is making an effort to rehabilitate his own image domestically in France, since that nation has been beleaguered with riots and unrest virtually since the day Macron entered office.

A third possibility exists: greed.

Before the Iran nuclear agreement, America’s robust sanctions regime, combined with an international divestment campaign—largely led by the Center for Security Policy’s Divest Terror Initiative—resulted in numerous corporations from around the world pulling their business from Iran.

No nation in NATO was more impacted by this than France because no nation’s corporations did more business in Iran than those of France.

For decades after the Islamic revolution of 1979 in Iran, huge French conglomerates led the charge to provide corporate life support for the Ayatollahs, despite Iran’s long record as the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism.

For example, Alcatel, which merged with Lucent and was subsequently acquired by Nokia, completed major telecommunications projects in Iran which helped Iran modernize its telecommunications infrastructure — the same telecommunications infrastructure that Iran reportedly used to network its air defense systems. After completion of these projects the firm pulled out of Iran as international pressure increased.

French firm Alstom helped Iran to generate electrical power nationwide with gas turbine equipment and services.

France’s largest bank, BNP Paribas, conducted major business in and with Iran. The bank claimed to be winding down its business there in 2007 thanks to international scrutiny, but it appears that it wasn’t sufficiently following through because, in 2015, BNP Paribas was forced to pay a massive $8.9 billion fine for handling transactions with terrorist-sponsoring nations, including Iran.

French energy management firm Schneider Electric conducted business in Iran from 1979 and continues to maintain an office there.

From 2003 to 2013, France’s Societe General Bank facilitated billions of dollars in illegal transactions with terrorist-sponsoring nations under U.S. sanctions, including Iran. The bank paid $1.4 billion in U.S. fines as a result.

No French company—in fact, perhaps no company anywhere—conducted as much business in and with Iran for years than energy giant Total SA.

According to the US Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency, in September 1997 Total SA signed a $2 billion contract to develop Iran’s huge South Pars gas field. In February 1999 Total made a $1 billion investment in Iran’s Daroud Oil Field. In April 1999 Iran awarded Total a 46.75% stake in an offshore oil project.

Total SA subsequently pulled out of Iran under international pressure but was said to have its eye toward re-entering the Iranian market as soon as possible. Then, when the Iran nuclear deal was signed, Total SA did in fact re-enter the Iranian market almost immediately, with a $4.8 billion natural gas project. However, when the Trump administration expressed its intention to sanction companies doing business in Iran, Total SA pulled out of Iran again in August of 2018.

Total SA’s propensity to re-enter the Iranian market is probably the biggest red flag surrounding Macron’s proposition to Iran.

It seems President Macron’s proposition to pay Iran to abide by the already flawed Iranian nuclear deal may have more to do with providing a windfall to big French corporate conglomerates than any naïve notion that the Iranians would follow through on any agreement they make to refrain from developing nuclear weapons.

About Christopher Holton

Christopher Holton is Vice President for Outreach at the Center for Security Policy. Mr. Holton came to the Center after serving as president and marketing director of Blanchard & Co. and editor-in-chief of the Blanchard Economic Research Unit from 1990 to 2003. As chief of the Blanchard Economic Research Unit in 2000, he conceived and commissioned the Center for Security Policy special report “Clinton’s Legacy: The Dangerous Decade.” Holton is a member of the Board of Advisers of WorldTribune.com. Follow Holton on Twitter @CHoltonCSP