To a Frenchman, a meal without it is incomplete. To a Muslim, a meal with it is a sacrilege.
It is wine, and its mandatory inclusion at the lunch French Preisdent François Hollande was to have today with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, was enough to unseat the latter.
Rouhani has been feeling his oats since the U.S. lifted sanctions on Iran and unfroze $150 billion in assets. As the Daily Mail reports, the Iranian president has been touring Europe, inking business deals worth billions of pounds with business partners great and small.
But he walked away from a potential deal with France when Hollande insisted that the meal, to take place at an upscale French restaurant, include a touch of the grape.
For his part, Hollande felt he was making concession enough by agreeing to serve halal food. Officials within his administration allowed as how making the meal “Iran friendly'” went against his “republican values.”
But when it came to the demand that the meal be “dry,” Hollande said nothing doing.
The Elysee Palace suggested a breakfast with Rouhani instead, but this was said to be snubbed by the Iranian leader for being “too cheap.”
The Italians were more accommodating, agreeing not only to keep booze off the menu at state dinners but to cover up its nude statutes during Rouhani’s stay. For their trouble, they were the recipient of the Iranian leader’s signature on a £12 billion ($17 billion) trade agreement.