EU should think twice before choosing Iran over the US

EU should think twice before choosing Iran over the US

The European Union continues to work on avenues that can preserve the multilateral Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement, which is known as the Iran nuclear deal. The major aim appears to be additional normalization of trade and economic relations between the EU and the Iranian regime. 

Such a move is sending a strong message to the international community that the EU is taking the side of the Islamic Republic rather than that of the US. Washington pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, reimposed unilateral sanctions, and is warning Tehran that tougher sanctions are on the way. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed out that, if the Iranian regime does not alter its destructive behavior in the Middle East, it will be hit with “the strongest sanctions in history.”

The EU’s one-sided and concerted attempts to fulfill Tehran’s economic and political demands are unprecedented. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has set out additional conditions for Iran to stay in the deal. He said that “unless Europe guarantees Iran’s oil sales will not suffer, Tehran would resume enrichment activities that are currently prohibited.”

This is the first time since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979 that the EU is tilting significantly toward the mullahs rather than its old transatlantic partner, the US.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

By conducting a thorough cost-benefits analysis, the European leaders ought to think twice before splitting with the US over the Iranian regime. Do the benefits of siding with Iran outweigh the costs? Is the EU-Iran relationship more important than the multifaceted EU-US ties? 

This is the first time since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979 that the EU is tilting significantly toward the mullahs rather than its old transatlantic partner, the US. Due to the following reasons, such a striking move ought to be regarded as a political miscalculation by the EU. 

First of all, this is exactly what the Iranian leaders desire to see: A clash between the EU and the US. The EU is falling into the divide and conquer political trap that the Iranian regime has been contemplating for a long time. In other words, in a calculated move, Tehran is tactically pitting the US against the EU. 

Iran has also been empowered and emboldened by several factors, including the EU’s increasing trade and enhanced ties with Tehran; additional revenues from rising oil exports thanks to the nuclear deal and sanctions reliefs; and the disregard of the international community in holding the regime responsible and accountable for Tehran’s deployment of hard power and military adventurism in the region. 

In addition, the EU is endangering its geopolitical ties with the US over the Iranian regime. For more than six decades, the transatlantic partnership between the US and Europe has been one of the most powerful alliances in the world. Together, they have played a dominant role in making vital global decisions, and determining which direction international politics should take. 

When it comes to providing security, the EU is still dependent on the US. Washington has long been a reliable partner in preserving the EU’s national security, in addition to being a founding member and playing a leading role in NATO. The US has come to the EU’s aid in the face of many economic and political threats, including Soviet expansionism, under which Eastern Europe fell into the hands of communism; the fall of communism in Europe; and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In addition, after the Second World War, the Marshall Plan was essential to restoring economic and political health in Western Europe. 

Furthermore, by tilting toward Iran over the US, the EU is shifting the global balance of power in favor of its old rival, Russia, which has historically attempted to divide Europe. The US, not Russia or China, is the only superpower with which the EU shares many common interests. 

Even from a financial perspective, the EU’s trading partnership with the US is considered the bedrock of its economy. European goods and services trade with the US was worth more than one trillion dollars in 2017 — roughly $500 billion of imports and nearly $600 billion of exports. Such a trade imbalance creates a deficit for the US and favors Europe since the EU has long exported more goods and services to the US — sometime nearly twice as many exports compared to imports — than vice versa. 

On the other hand, although in 2017 EU imports from Iran rose by 83.9 percent and exports increased by 31.5 percent, EU-Iran trade was totally insignificant compared to the EU-US relationship. EU-Iran trade totaled nearly $20 billion; the European goods and services trade with Tehran saw roughly $10 billion of imports, and more than $10 billion of exports. This shows that EU-US trade is approximately 50 times larger than EU-Iran trade. 

Finally, terrorism has become a grave threat to the EU’s security, peace and stability. The EU needs the US to continue their alliance as both share common interests in combating radical and terrorist groups such as Daesh. On the other hand, Iran is the top state sponsor of terrorism. 

As illustrated above, the costs of dealing with the Iranian regime considerably outweigh the benefits. The EU is making a critical political error if it chooses the Islamic Republic over its old transatlantic partner, the US. Geopolitically, strategically, militarily, and economically speaking, the EU-US relationship is significantly much greater than EU-Iran ties. 

  • Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view