Sputnik talked about France accusing Iran of plotting an attack near Paris with Sina Azodi, a US-based expert on Tehran's foreign policy and researcher at University of South Florida's Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies.
Sputnik: What is your take on these claims made by the French intelligence service?
Sputnik: You said that the timing was important, so what was the objective and how does it tie in with Rouhani's trip?
Sina Azodi: There are two possibilities. One, you could argue that if this was directed from Tehran, Iranians did the operation at that time to make the claim that it wasn't us, it was only a false flag operation to make us look bad. This could be a true claim, which we don't know, so it's either somebody did the operation at that particular time to make sure that Rouhani's trip to Europe is damaged, or if the Iranians did it, they did it at that particular time so they could use it for a plausible deniability and say that this wasn't us, it was somebody else.
Sputnik: Let's look at Paris‘s response, it's freezing the assets belonging to the Iranian official and the intelligence ministry, would this be a common measure in such cases?
Sina Azodi: I think the French wanted to show some sort of resolve that they will not tolerate such act on their soil, I don't know, I'm speculating, but I think there was some stronger private messages between Tehran and Paris. Probably the French said: 'Stop, we will not tolerate such acts and this is going to damage our bilateral relations.' So I'm pretty sure there were some private messages exchanged between the Iranians and the French also.
Sputnik: Let's speculate a bit more, do you think this incident could have a significant impact on relations between Paris and Washington?
Sputnik: As a separate incident, as you say, it could be used, but what about the potential of this incident growing into something bigger?
Sina Azodi: I don't think so, because nobody's interested in escalating tensions. The Iranians are not interested in escalating tensions with France because they want the support of France for the JCPOA, and the French also don't want to escalate tensions with Iran because they don't want Tehran to use this as an excuse and potentially withdraw from the deal. Nobody's interested in escalating tensions at this point because it is extremely dangerous for Europe, for Iran and the entire Middle East is very volatile at this point.
Sputnik: It is volatile and a lot is at stake, let's look at how important good relations with France are for Tehran at the moment and what in fact is at stake?
Sina Azodi: As I said, Tehran is very interested in preserving the JCPOA, France has been one of the countries that has traditionally taken a harsher stance on Tehran, has been a strong critic of Iran's activities in the region and its ballistic missile program, they have repeatedly said that Iran's ballistic missile program is a serious concern to us. But again, at the end, they're happy with how the JCPOA has worked out so far. Iranians have kept their side of the bargain, Europe has tried to keep its own side, so they're all connected to each other and this incident had the potential, I think, to grow into something bigger but I think everybody wanted to stay calm and keep it isolated from the JCPOA.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.