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July 4, 2019 11:26 am

Spanish Nominee for Top EU Foreign Policy Post Is Firm Backer of Iranian Regime

avatar by Ben Cohen

Spanish foreign minister Josep Borell (l) with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif in Tehran in Jan. 2019. Photo: Screenshot.

A Spanish socialist politician strongly tipped to become the next European Union High Representative for foreign policy is raising hackles in the US, Israel and the Arab Gulf states over his sympathies with the Islamist regime in Iran.

Josep Borell — the current Spanish foreign minister and a veteran of European politics since the 1970s — was nominated for the role by the European Council, the body which brings together EU leaders, on Wednesday. Borell was one of several candidates named for top EU positions, as the bloc prepares for a new team of commissioners who will take up their positions in November, subject to the approval of the European parliament.

The posts’s current incumbent, Italian national Federica Mogherini, was an enthusiastic proponent of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal discarded by US President Donald Trump in May last year. With Iran now resuming uranium enrichment activities that breach the limits set by the JCPOA, the technical name for the 2015 agreement, diplomatic efforts to restore its parameters look set to be frustrated.

Nonetheless, Borell is likely to step up support for the deal, and more broadly for more generous accommodation with Iran’s theocratic rulers.

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Borell laid out his sympathies in a series of seven tweets he posted in February to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Islamist revolution in Iran. Among the regime’s achievements, he claimed, were massive increases in public literacy, the number of women attending university, and its regional influence.

Iran had “played an essential role in the Syria war, helping [Syrian dictator Bashar] Assad while the Americans retreat,” Borell commented.

Borell then suggested that the Iranian seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran in November 1979 — during which 52 US diplomats were held hostage for over a year — had been justified by subsequent events.

“My contemporaries will remember the shocking image of the Americans fleeing from Saigon [in Vietnam] from the roof of their legation on a helicopter pad in 1975,” he wrote. “In 1979 the guardians of the [Iranian] revolution took over the US embassy with hundreds of hostages inside.”

With some satisfaction, Borell noted that both these episodes “were two harsh defeats of the [US] superpower in the ’70s.”

This had led to Vietnam becoming “a productive power fully integrated into the world economy.” In Iran’s case, he said, the regime could survive the powerful economic sanctions imposed by the “Iran-obsessed” US this year “if Trump is not re-elected.”

The alternative, said Borell, was for Iran to “reactivate the nuclear program for military purposes and multiply its interventions in the region.”

Commenting on Borell’s nomination, The Economist newspaper on Thursday argued that the Catalonia-born politician “will be the most heavyweight figure to serve as high representative since the job’s creation in 2009.”

But some of Borell’s colleagues in past roles expressed concerns over his alleged incompetence and lack of moral fiber.

Speaking to the Gulf newspaper The National on Wednesday, Prof. Alanna O’Malley, a former colleague of Borrell’s at the European University Institute, called the 72-year-old “a fine example of ineffectual, corrupt and empty leadership.”

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