Why Europe is wrong on Iran
As G7 leaders meet in France, what policies should they pursue toward Tehran and what should be done about the crisis in the Strait of Hormuz?
There is a major disagreement between the European countries at the summit — France, Germany, Italy and the UK — and the US, on the issue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 agreement aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program.
The US has withdrawn from the deal, but European powers believe steps should be taken to save it from collapse. They plead with Iran to abide by its terms, and continue to work on INSTEX, the financial instrument designed to enable Iran to avoid dollar transactions and thus evade US sanctions.
It has become increasingly evident that London, Paris, Berlin and Brussels have limited ability to persuade companies to risk US penalties by doing business with Iran.
European leaders ignore the reality, which is that they cannot save the nuclear deal; it was flawed from the beginning, Iran has already admitted breaching the agreement’s 300kg limit on enriched uranium, US sanctions are having a significant impact on Iran’s economy, and it is extremely unlikely that the Trump administration will return to the JCPOA.
Unlike the European powers, the US is committed to countering Iran’s aggressive, expansionist and destabilizing behavior. It has imposed draconian sanctions on Iran’s energy sector and financial system, on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and even on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Unlike the European powers, the US is committed to countering Iran’s aggressive, expansionist and destabilizing behavior.
Washington has also been trying to form a coalition to counter Tehran’s belligerence. National security adviser John Bolton visited the UK this month and urged a harder line against Tehran; Britain’s participation in the proposed Gulf Maritime Task Force suggests this may have gained some traction.
Europe’s policy on Iran is clearly misguided because the EU views the regime in Tehran solely through the prism of the nuclear deal; there is more than that to Iran, which is why the JCPOA never dealt adequately with the threat posed to Europe’s security by the regime.
Even after the deal was signed in July 2015, and before US President Donald Trump withdraw in May 2018, Tehran was responsible for a series of assassination and terrorist plots across Europe, some successful and others not.
They include the assassination in The Hague in November 2017 of Ahmed Mola Nissire, a Dutch citizen of Iranian origin, and a prominent figure in the Arab Struggle for the Liberation of Ahvaz; an attempted terrorist attack in June 2018 on a Free Iran convention in Paris, attended by former US House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird; and the attempted assassination of a Danish citizen by Iranian intelligence agents in 2018, which prompted a protest by the government in Copenhagen.
So, in a nutshell, G7 leaders must unite against Iran’s multifaceted threats, and European leaders must stop ignoring reality by trying to keep the nuclear deal alive.
- 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. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh