For the EU, Business Opportunities Outweigh Iran’s Bad Behavior
JNS.org – While the Trump administration pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal—the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—President Joe Biden has indicated he wants to rejoin it, provided Iran returns to full compliance first.
The European Union, on the other hand, has always firmly opposed scrapping the Iran deal, despite its many flaws. Today, the European Union is pressuring the United States to move quickly to repair the agreement, even without Iranian reversals of its now well-advanced nuclear program. Why?
As with many crimes, the motives behind international diplomacy and global relations can often be found by following the money. This is certainly the case with regard to the relationship between the European Union, and many of its member nations, and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Iran is the leading sponsor of terrorism around the world, responsible for attacks in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia. Its dictatorial theocratic leaders rule by force, it has an atrocious human rights record and it seeks to spread an Islamic revolution globally.
These misdeeds have not affected the appetite of Europeans to do business with Iran. While China and the United Arab Emirates are today Iran’s main trade partners, the European Union is not far behind—the three nations account for 19.5 percent, 16.8 percent and 16.3 percent, respectively, of Iran’s foreign trade.
Most importantly, the European Union was Iran’s largest trading partner before the current, US-instigated international sanctions regime. No wonder European corporations are excited about a new “gold rush.”
This, perhaps more than anything else, is why the European Union is so keen to rehabilitate Iran. First, by pressing the United States to return to the failed and faulty JCPOA, and then to be rid of the sanctions regime completely.
Even while Iran was racing ahead toward nuclear weapons capability and involved in countless conflicts and massacres around the region, including the regular targeting of American servicemen in Iraq, the European Union has been hatching schemes to circumvent US sanctions.
The United States ramped up sanctions throughout the Trump presidency in reaction to Iran’s nefarious actions. Not five days after a series of deadly strikes by Iranian-backed forces in Iraq against US bases and forces, the European Union closed its first transaction with the Islamic Republic using a trade mechanism developed to avoid the sanctions.
Britain, France and Germany—all members of the P5+1 group that signed the JCPOA—launched INSTEX in January 2019, a trade mechanism built to maintain commercial transactions with Iran without punishment by facilitating non-US dollar and non-SWIFT transactions.
The move came weeks after the United States had started reimposing financial, economic and oil sanctions on Iran, following President Trump’s decision in May 2018 to pull out of the nuclear pact.
INSTEX was in direct opposition to the “maximum pressure” the Trump administration had exerted on the Islamic Republic to persuade it to return to its JCPOA commitments. Of course, Iran has repeatedly violated the JCPOA, specifically by amassing a fast-growing stockpile of enriched uranium that is far above the amount allowed by the accord.
According to the Wall Street Journal, experts and diplomats said in March 2020 “that Iran could be four to six months away from having enough nuclear fuel for one (nuclear) weapon.” Even European diplomats conceded during this process that there had been no letup in Iran’s activities towards a nuclear bomb.
Bizarrely, though European officials created INSTEX to get Iran back in line, Iran provided the Europeans with no such assurances. Obviously, this carrot did not work, and Iran is closer to a bomb than ever before.
According to Ariel (Eli) Levite, a nonresident senior fellow for the Nuclear Policy Program and Cyber Policy Initiative at the Carnegie Endowment, “The Islamic Republic has the facilities and know-how to build nuclear arms, and even the missile technology expertise necessary to ensure their eventual delivery. Tehran is now enriching uranium at breakneck speed and operating far faster centrifuges that will allow it to reach its nuclear goals sooner than ever.”
Unfortunately, rather than punishing the Iranian regime for their actions, which can have a massive effect on global stability, the Europeans are pushing harder to have the United States return to the JCPOA. They are even sitting down with the Iranians without any preconditions, such as an Iranian agreement to roll back crucial parts of their nuclear weapons program.
At a recent virtual meeting of all the signatories of the JCPOA, except the United States, the European Union, China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and Iran “emphasized their commitment to preserve the JCPOA and discussed modalities to ensure the return to its full and effective implementation.”
In other words, the European Union believes the Americans’ exit from the JCPOA to be the problem—not Iran’s non-compliance. Moreover, to drive home the real intention behind the meetings, the joint statement said there would be a further meeting “in order to clearly identify sanctions lifting.”
Lifting sanctions is clearly the goal of the Iranians, but it also appears to be the aim of the Europeans. They are seeking to end any significant pressure on Iran in return for very little—perhaps some window dressing, though even that is obscure. It is clear that Iran is dedicated to achieving nuclear weapons capability, and nothing will seemingly detract from that.
That the Europeans are playing along with this, with full knowledge of the nature of the Iranian regime, is a travesty. They are clearly placing financial interests ahead of global security, especially as Iranian leaders have repeatedly stated their desire to wipe the State of Israel off “the global political map.”
The United States should not agree to these conditions. They should abide by President Biden’s promise of not returning to talks until Iran has returned to compliance with the agreement. This should be the first step, before any talk of lifting any sanctions.
Then Biden should say clearly—not just to the Iranians, but to the rest of the P5+1—that the JCPOA has failed and is full of holes. A new, more robust agreement must be made, one that takes into account Iran’s regional and global behavior. An agreement that once and for all prevents—not just temporarily, but completely— Iranian nuclear-weapons capability.
The United States should uphold to its allies the concept that global stability comes before economics.
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.