James ActonSarko on Obama

A diligent reader spotted an article in Haaretz reporting that, in private, Sarkozy has been very critical of Obama’s Iran policy, calling it (or perhaps him) “utterly immature”.

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.”

It’s a bit of a change from two years ago when Jacques and Dubya were at loggerheads over the same issue but from the opposite sides. I also suspect there are some in Whitehall who share Sarko’s concerns. If Obama does win, bringing the E2 around might not be so easy as many assume.

PS On checking up when Sarko assumed office, I learn from Wikipedia that he is also French Co-Prince of Andorra. Who knew?

UPDATE: As some of you noted in the comments, France has now issued a strong denial.


  1. yousaf (History)

    so since when is sarko an expert on Iran? why should i care what he thinks on this issue, or on obama.

    does sarko prefer palin’s approach to iran?

    that, sir, is the alternative.

    let’s hope we change our policy towards Iran, like I recently suggested in the Washington Post

    the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University has researched this issue rather well

  2. Andy (History)

    Well, what is Obama’s Iran policy? Negotiating at the “presidential” level and the other diplomatic window-dressing is a tool toward a policy and not a policy by itself. Obama’s website only offers this, which doesn’t sound significantly different than what’s already been offered:

    If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation. Seeking this kind of comprehensive settlement with Iran is our best way to make progress.

    That doesn’t sound like a bargain Iran is likely to accept. Maybe there’s more to Obama’s policy that he let Sarkozy in on. Who knows? At this point who can really say what Obama’s policy is or if it different from current policy?

    In any event, this supposedly critical stance by Sarkozy was officially denied and the story behind it has pretty poor sourcing which calls the whole thing into question anyway.

  3. bruno

    …those who also knew that the French President is also, by virtue of tradition, the Honorary Canon of the Church of Saint-John-of-Latran (Rome). According to Catholic Church law, he is even allowed to enter said church riding a horse (yes, it’s true). Heaven forbids someone reminding our Supreme Leader of this little piece of historical trivia – he may actually be tempted to do it. So much for separation of Church and State.

  4. Glenn Kessler (History)

    for what’s worth, these reported views of Sarko have been denied by the French embassy—though his views seem to track concerns of other European officials. Here’s a link to an article I wrote on the matter:


  5. Anoynomous (History)

    This story stinks to high heaven. First, it is based primarily on unnamed sources in Israel reporting what unnamed sources in France said about what Sarkozy has said in private meetings. Please. So let’s not jump to conclusions about what Sarkozy thinks based on such flimsy reporting. Second, let’s not forget that there is an election here next week; that Florida is a battleground state; and that the McCain-Palin camp has been running ads there trying to link Obama to a controversial Palestinian scholar to scare Jewish voters. This could be an attempt by certain elements of the Israeli foreign policy establishment–which is generally very wary of Obama–to further scare those voters.

  6. FSB
  7. Darren (History)

    Sarah Palin is not running for President, Yousaf. Whatever she believes is subordinate to the opinion of the actual Presidential candidate, John McCain.

    <i>That</i> is the alternative.

    My personal opinion is that the election of Barack Obama may precipitate Israeli action sooner rather than later. The last 10 weeks of the Bush Administration are a better time for Israel to have it out with Iran militarily than any time in an Obama administration. If Israel believes it is alone, I don’t believe it will allow existential threats to continue.


  8. J House (History)

    It says it all when Obama described Iran as ‘ a tiny little country’, and therefore can’t really be a threat to US national security.
    That statement is nothing short of ignorance. Had any other Presidential candidate uttered those words (or, Bush, for that matter), they would have been held to account for it. But then again, Obama has had a free ride since he announced his run for POTUS.

  9. Steven Dolley (History)

    “It says it all when Obama described Iran as ‘ a tiny little country’, and therefore can’t really be a threat to US national security.”

    Where has Obama EVER said anything like the second part of that sentence? So much of the campaign against Obama has been based on statements, like this, brutally and deliberately wrestled out of context.

    Please show me an Obama quote where he says Iran “can’t really be a threat to US national security.” If you can. Can you?

    Sorry if this distracts you from researching scary radicals that Obama might have sat next to in the movies once 25 years ago.

  10. Steven Dolley (History)
  11. J House (History)

    Steven, I didn’t quote Obama, and it is there in black and white. He clearly implied it..or, perhaps you can tell us what he meant by it,ok?
    He has vowed to ‘never allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon’. Do you also disagree with that statement? We shall see, because it it going to happen during his administration. Iran will disavow ownership, as Israel has, but mark my words, that statement would make Obama a liar, if Iran produces or tests a bomb. I’m not a Republican or a radical, but an American, and a student of realpolitik.

  12. Steven Dolley (History)

    “I didn’t quote Obama”

    Sorry. I don’t know why I assumed that. Maybe it was the quotation marks you used?

    Just read the fact check. It’s there in black & white, as they say. Your Obama-Iran argument is painfully distorted and out of context. All he said, when you read the full answer, was Iran poses less of a threat than the Soviet Union did during the cold war.

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