France, an enemy of the Iranian revolution
After living in exile in France, Ruhollah Khomeini, a leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution, returned to Iran aboard an Air France flight on February 1 of that year. Although Paris had enjoyed strong diplomatic relations with Tehran under the country’s former leader, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, ties between the two countries began to unravel with the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This was largely due to the French government’s decision to support Iraq during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war by signing a number of major arms deals with the country’s then president Saddam Hussein. Around the same time, Iran demanded that France reimburse it for a $1 billion nuclear contract negotiated between the two countries while the Shah was still in power.
© Gabriel Duval, AFP
France, nicknamed the “Little Devil” by Ayatollah Khomeini, refused to cooperate with the Islamic Republic of Iran. It marked the start of a decade of tensions between the two countries. Between 1985 and 1986, Tehran was accused of attacking French interests by ordering the hostage-taking of French nationals in Lebanon as well as a string of bomb attacks in Paris, which claimed a total of 13 lives and left another 250 injured.
The ‘Gordji Affair’
France and Iran broke off diplomatic relations in July 1987 following the “Gordji Affair”, named after Vahid Gordji, a translator at the Iranian embassy in France. Suspected by French intelligence of being connected to the 1985-1986 bomb attacks in Paris, Gordji took refuge at his country’s embassy. French security forces surrounded the building for weeks under the orders of then interior minister Charles Pasqua to demand that Gordji submit to questioning. After finally testifying before a judge, Gordji was deported.
© Pierre Verdy, AFP
Lebanon hostages freed, tensions ease
France and Iran restored diplomatic relations in June 1988, following the release of the last French hostages in Lebanon as well as the end of the Iran-Iraq war. This photo shows former hostages Marcel Carton (left), Jean-Paul Kauffmann (centre) and Marcel Fontaine upon their arrival in France after more than three years in captivity.
© Pascal George, AFP
The assassination of Shapour Bakhtiar
In July 1991, Shapour Bakhtiar, Iran’s last prime minister under the Shah, was assassinated in the western Paris suburb of Suresnes. Bakhtiar, who had been living in exile in France ever since the Shah’s overthrow, was considered one of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s most serious opponents. A French court convicted Ali Vakili Rad of his murder, sentencing him to life in prison. Rad was released in May 2010 after only serving a part of his sentence and deported back to Iran.
© Patrick Herzog, AFP
Ahmadinejad and Khamenei’s new show of defiance
After a brief thaw in relations under Iran’s reformist president Mohammad Khatami, tensions again mounted between Tehran and Paris with the election of conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005. He and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, formed an uncompromising pair when it came to issues such as Iran’s controversial nuclear programme.
© Atta Kenare, AFP
Clotilde Reiss arrested for espionage
In July 2009, French academic Clotilde Reiss was detained in Iran on suspicion of espionage. During her trial the young woman testified that she had taken part in the mass “Green Revolution” protests against the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the month before her arrest. She was finally allowed to leave Iran in May 2010 after 10 months in jail. Her release coincided with France’s decision to deport two Iranian nationals, including Ali Vakili Rad, the man convicted of murdering former Iranian premier Shapour Bakhtiar.
© Fars News/Ali Rafiei, AFP
France takes hard line on nuclear talks
After more than a decade of tense negotiations, Iran and six world powers signed a historic nuclear agreement on July 14, 2015. Up until the moment the deal was signed, however, Iran accused France and its foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, of taking a particularly hard line during the talks.
© Fabrice Coffrini, AFP