Iran and the EU: divorce proceedings underway

By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

As promised, Iran is partially pulling out of the JCPOA nuclear deal. This can be called a “phase one withdrawal” since other phases are expected to follow in the coming months. The basis for this act is not limited to the actions of US President Donald Trump – who shredded the JCPOA deal unilaterally – but also to the failure of the European signatories (i.e. France, the UK and Germany) to offer any incentives for Iran to comply with the deal. This leaves the entire JCPOA agreement in a kind of limbo, now that western leaders have shown themselves untrustworthy to honour any future deals in the wake of Trump’s abdication. The absence of necessary trust and partnership seems to preclude any future pacts between nations, notably between the US, Europe and Middle Eastern countries.

The size of the US market blocks any effective European move to honour its commitment to the JCPOA. In an interview with al-Jazeera, Ellie Geranmayeh, deputy director of the European Council on Foreign Relations’ Middle East and North Africa programme, sees the launch of INSTEX as important because of the political message it sends. “The E3 are preparing the roadmap to sustain trade with Iran, for now it’s going to be restricted – but there is the hope that it will be expanded with time.”

Europe is asking Iran to wait without offering any prospects of what it can do next. European leaders are asking for more time and “hope” to find a solution, a very nebulous prospect so long as Trump is in power and Europe is not united. Indeed, EU Foreign policy is far from being homogenous. Even if the European leaders’ signatories have not imitated Trump by revoking the nuclear deal, they have offered nothing to compensate for the damage to Iran’s economy created by the harsh US sanctions. 

The Iran-EU commercial relationship is suffering much more than the Iran-US commercial relationship. Following Trump’s ultimatum to all companies doing business with Iran, EU businesses fled Iran. Some of them paid compensation for not honouring their commitments. Their precipitate departure undermines the prospects of future commercial deals between Iran and EU companies.

Europe is allowing Iran to buy medicine and food through its new INSTEX monetary system. However, Iran can buy such supplies, with no obstacles, from nearby Turkey and other non-European countries. The European continent has become unessential to Iran.

Iran is now following through on what it promised 60 days ago, on the anniversary of Trump’s revoking the nuclear deal. Iran is still very far from developing a nuclear weapon but has waited 14 months to show how its patience, await with no benefits to its economy while its population suffers. 

Europe has nothing to offer but verbal support. It is not in a position to stand against the US; it is not prepared to face US sanctions; is lacksthe backbone to do today what France did in 1986 when it refused to give military support to US warplanes to bomb Libya.

This is just the beginning of Iran’s counter measures.

Proofread byC.G.B.

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