"Le Pire est la Guerre"
If the first casualty of war is the truth, then its first omen is also linguistic. The French foreign minister's remarks on Iran and the IAEA's subsequent riposte are eerily reminiscent of the war of words that took place in 2002 between the UN's inspectors led by Hans Blix and the hawks in the Pentagon.
What is very unusual is that it's the French that are the hawks this time. That's quite a major shift in international relations. Up until this year, Blair and his predecessors would have been the swiftest to cosy up to Washington, while Chirac and his forebears would bang the drum of protest. Perhaps, with Gordon Brown visibly shying away from Bush, the French are seizing the opportunity to regain a world voice in the absence of a coherent EU foreign policy.
Whatever the case, with a UNSC meeting scheduled for Friday, the path of no return may already be opening up.
"We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war," Bernard Kouchner told French TV and radio.
While talks over Iran's nuclear programme should continue "right to the end", Mr Kouchner said, an Iranian nuclear weapon would pose "a real danger for the whole world". France has taken a much harsher line towards Iran since the election of Nicolas Sarkozy to success Jacques Chirac as president.