Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Europe, Iran Baffled By US Position On Nuclear Deal

Europe loathes having to choose between Tehran and Washington, and thus it will spare no efforts to avoid the choice. It might therefore opt for a middle road, trying to please both parties by persuading Trump to retain the accord and Iran to limit missile ballistic programs and regional activities.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

 

Lobelog

 

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) “the worst deal ever” for the US. In his first State of the Union address in January, Trump called on Congress to “fix the terrible flaws” of the Iran nuclear deal. The president has threatened to withdraw from the accord if Congress and Europe fail to amend it by May 12.

Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, nothing has put Europe at loggerheads with the US like the JCPOA. The fate of the deal seems to lie in the negotiations between Europe and the US. Although European countries have pressured Washington to preserve the Iran deal, they agree with the US over Iran’s missile program and its potential role in regional conflicts, and thus, they have formed a joint working group with Washington.

Richard Nephew, the lead sanctions expert for the US team negotiating with Iran, said in an interview, “I do not think that Europe, much less Iran, will accept these conditions. I think that European officials would be pleased to have the kinds of measures agreed to by Iran, but the fact that Iran will not agree—and certainly not in this context—will mean that the Europeans will reject the attempt as prejudicial to the JCPOA.”

He also added, “I do not think that the EU will be able to meet Trump’s demands. He will either have to back down from his demands, which is possible but increasingly hard to believe, or there will be a confrontation.”

In the past three months, European states have gone to great lengths to convince the Trump administration and Congress that a stronger pact with Iran is not possible on the ruins of the existing JCPOA. To them, the deal is of high importance and its decertification would distract from focusing on Iran’s regional and missile program activities as well as its human rights issues.

In keeping the deal, Europe focuses more on its political and security implications than its economic benefits. Europeans are apprehensive that the decertification of the deal could lead to exacerbation of tensions in the region, unlimited enhancement of Iran’s nuclear program, and the credibility of multilateral agreements in the international arena.

At the same time, Europe feels threatened by Iran’s close ties with Russia and China and the possibility that, in response to Western pressure, Iran may establish firmer anti-Western allies. Europe has realized that only diplomacy and trust, not isolation, can help resolve issues with Tehran.

However, Europe also worries about damaging its extensive relations with the US. Nonetheless, Europe might be willing to accept the cost of angering Washington over the JCPOA if it means avoiding a situation in which Iran were to resume its nuclear program and the United States or Israel used military force to stop it.

Of course, Europe loathes having to choose between Tehran and Washington, and thus it will spare no efforts to avoid the choice. It might therefore opt for a middle road. Europe might try to please both parties of the deal by persuading Trump to retain the accord and Iran to limit missile ballistic programs and regional activities.

Iran’s Perspective

Iran hoped that the JCPOA would lead to the lifting of sanctions and opportunities for economic growth and normalization through foreign investments in the country’s various sectors. However, Trump’s wavering over the JCPOA certification every 90 days has scared off many international investors from Iran’s market.

According to an exclusive Crisis Group survey of more than 60 senior managers at multinational companies actively pursuing opportunities in Iran, the majority—83 percent—remain jittery about the prospect of the United States reimposing unilateral sanctions, and 79 percent have delayed plans to enter the Iranian market since the JCPOA came into force in 2016. Trump’s decertification of the nuclear deal in October, even though it had no immediate practical consequences, has adversely affected the future planning of nearly half of the companies polled.

Iran has repeatedly declared that the JCPOA is “non-negotiable.” It has also pointed out that the deal is not just between P5+1 but is rather backed by the international community and endorsed by the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 2231. Thus, decertification of the accord pits Trump against the UN and the world.

If Iran decides to withdraw from the deal, it would stand alone against the US and Europe, an unattractive scenario that would send Iran back to square one.

If the US were to withdraw from the JCPOA, Iran could choose to remain committed to its obligations with the remaining signatories of the deal, assuming that the other European states do the same. If the accord survived without the US, that would isolate Washington and open doors to Iran for the next round of cooperation with Europe.

Denis Chaibi, head of the Iranian taskforce at the EU’s external action service, has said that if the United States withdraws from a nuclear deal with Iran, the EU may reinstate former regulations to protect its companies that are trading with Iran. For instance, the EU instituted “blocking regulations” in 1996 as a countermeasure to the US and its extraterritorial economic sanctions against Cuba and Iran. EU governments argued that sanctions benefited US foreign policy interests at the expense of European sovereignty. The regulation still holds, but the EU hasn’t taken advantage of it on Iran.

Europe’s Double Game

The the European Union has a foot in both camps. For example, after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to London and Paris in January, the EU and US formed a special working group on Iran. According to Tillerson, the taskforce is responsible for addressing and correcting the flaws of the JCPOA.

However, just a few days after launch of the taskforce, France announced that it would push French companies to invest in Iran. Although it has been the loudest European critic of Iran’s regional activities and missile tests, France has also maintained strong economic ties with Iran since 1979. The plan offers special export guarantees for Iranian buyers of French goods and services in euros. The purpose of conducting financial operations in euros, and not dollars, is to minimize the effects of U.S. policies, which have discouraged financial institutions outside the US to deal with Iran.

“We put a lot of preparation into this in 2017 and we keep on working, every single day, on the conditions of our entrance into Iran,” Bpifrance’s chief executive Nicolas Dufourcq has said. “This is a completely separate flow (of money),” he added. “There is no (U.S.) dollar in this scheme, no one holding a US passport.”

The state-owned investment bank Bpifrance has lined up deals worth an estimated 1.5 billion euros.

The European stance plays a huge role in Iran’s final decision on the deal. Regardless of US withdrawal and Europe’s support of the deal, Iran is focused on the benefits from the accord. If those benefits don’t materialize, it would be meaningless for Iran to keep its end of the bargain.

Mohammad Ghaderi is the editor-in-chief of Tehran Times. Javad Heiran-Nia is a visiting fellow at the Persian Gulf Department of the Center for Middle East Studies.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a leading framer of the “global war on terror” and a staunch supporter of aggressive U.S. military action around the world.


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Right Web readers will be familiar with Mr. Fleitz, the former CIA officer who once threatened to take “legal action” against Right Web for publicizing reports of controversies he was associated with in the George W. Bush administration. Fleitz recently left his job at the conspiracy-mongering Center for Security Policy to become chief of staff to John Bolton at the National Security Council.


Norm Coleman is chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition and a former senator from Minnesota known for his hawkish views on foreign policy.


Billionaire hedge fund mogul Paul Singer is known for his predatory business practices and support for neoconservative causes.


Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, is a passionate supporter of Trump’s foreign policy.


Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest “pro-Israel” advocacy group in the United States, is known for its zealous Christian Zionism and its growing influence in the Republican Party.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.


RightWeb
share