Shortly after the USA left the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran, the situation in the Mideast escalated. Iran launched an airstrike against the Golan Heights in Israel. This was the reprisal following the numerous Israeli attacks on military institutions that occurred over the last few weeks. As a response to Trump’s nuclear deal decision, many demonstrators took to the streets in Iran. The bigger part of the population stands behind the deal.
The day after the announcement, Iranian ultra-conservative MPs burned a USA flag and shouted slogans like “death to America!”, while the moderate wings (to which the President Rouhani belongs) protested.
Trump criticizes that the deal just delays the construction of nuclear weapons rather than prevent it. After the nuclear deal expires, it is technically possible that Iran could just start building nuclear missiles once again. That being said, it is very important to understand the deal’s intent: to pacify the escalating situation in Middle East – not to solve it. At the time, the conflict between Iran and the west were getting stronger, the sanctions against Iran kept getting tougher, and Iran was still constructing nuclear weapons. In autumn of 2015, Iran signed the compromise, agreeing to stop the construction of nuclear weapons and that it is now controlled by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The second agreement was that if Iran adheres to the accord, the economic sanctions against Iran would be repealed. All in all, the arrangement wasn’t intended to keep Iran from ever building nuclear weapons, but to reduce the possibility of their construction as much as possible. So far, its purpose has been fulfilled.
Trump also claims that the commission has insufficient access to military establishments. The Iran Nuclear Deal is by no means perfect; for example, Iran always has two weeks’ notice before the commission examines the requested facility, during which they could potentially remove and relocate weapons. It’s also true hat, with the money of the dropped sanctions, Iran supports the radical “Hezbollah” group. According to the IAEA, and numerous international and independent bodies, Trump left the deal without Iran having breached their agreement once. Ex-president Obama, echoing these sentiments, claims that this is “a serious mistake”.
What is the current problem? Because the USA threatened every company and country with sanctions, that still works in Iran or keeps up positive relations with the nation, enterprises active in Iran and the USA will have to decide if they want to leave Iran or take hard US-sanctions. This is the point where the European Union gets involved.
The speaker of Federica Mogherini, the Commissary for external affairs of the European Union, said in a statement that the objective is to keep the deal alive, even without the USA. But first, the member states of the EU have to come to an agreement upon which policy will be followed. Iran demands from the EU that it try to maintain the deal and support its economical interests. It is less about word than about a covenant concerning economical questions, just like the important Iranian oil exports.
The EU could also use another tactic, the so-called “blocking statute”. This instrument forbids EU-companies to submit to US-sanctions – that is the goal of Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission. Theoretically it could work, but practically, it is very improbable that the companies involved will be protected. The step would have more of a symbolic nature.
The European Union made clear that it is also very important to separate Iran’s aggressive domestic politics from the nuclear deal . The speaker emphasized that you cannot confuse these various problems if you want to find any solution. It is crucial to keep the deal alive for Iran’s internal stability , because if it fails, the hardliners in Iran will get stronger, potentially destabilizing the region. Additionally, if the deal fails, Russian and Chinese influence will get stronger in the Middle East.
All in all, the European Union needs to act now and show strength by saving the deal, in effort to gain influence and, most importantly, deescalate the rising crisis. The time has come to show to the world that the European Union is an important and powerful institution, one that knows how to deal with difficult situations with tact and proper communication rather than destruction, like Trump!
Updated to: 16-05-2018
Hannes Michael Steinle