European nations empowering Iran’s malign activities
European nations are stepping up their efforts to appease the Iranian leaders. Last week, six more countries — Finland, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden — declaredin a joint statement that they would be joining the mechanism called the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX).
INSTEX was set up by three European governments — Germany, France and the UK — with the main objective being to help the Islamic Republic and the EU bypass sanctions imposed by the US Department of the Treasury on the Iranian regime. The US sanctions target a wide range of Iran’s industries and sectors, including the banking system, oil exports and currency transactions.
The EU’s policy toward the Islamic Republic is misinformed and could bring about severe repercussions for several reasons. First of all, European leaders, who seem to never tire of sanctimoniously posturing on behalf of human rights, are now pursuing appeasement policies with a government that has recently carried out a violent crackdown against its own people. More than 100 were killed and thousands arrested in the wake of widespread protests last month.
Several Europe-based human rights groups even told the EU and the international community of the lethal force the Iranian regime has been deploying against civilians. For example, Amnesty International stated: “Verified video footage, eyewitness testimony from people on the ground and information gathered from human rights activists outside Iran reveal a harrowing pattern of unlawful killings by Iranian security forces, which have used excessive and lethal force to crush largely peaceful protests in more than 100 cities across Iran.”
It has become the regime’s modus operandi to resort to the most violent methods available — such as shooting at demonstrators — once protests erupt. This was also documented by Amnesty, whose regional research and advocacy director Philip Luther warned: “The frequency and persistence of lethal force used against peaceful protesters in these and previous mass protests, as well as the systematic impunity for security forces who kill protesters, raise serious fears that the intentional lethal use of firearms to crush protests has become a matter of state policy.”
By appeasing the Islamic Republic right after the regime brutally cracked down on protesters, the EU is empowering and emboldening Iran’s leaders. The European nations are sending a message to Tehran that there will be no consequences or punishment for the regime’s egregious human rights violations.
Secondly, aside from disregarding the regime’s suppressive domestic policy, the EU also appears to be turning a blind eye to Iran’s malignant foreign policy. The Iranian regime continues its efforts to smuggleweapons and providemilitary, financial, intelligence and advisory assistance to proxies such as the Houthis, Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiite militias, Kata’ib Hezbollah, Hamas and other designated terrorist groups.
Where does the extra revenue that the EU is attempting to provide to Tehran through trade go? One thing is clear: Tehran spendsabout a billion dollars a year on arming and training these militant groups, which serve Iran’s interests outside of its borders. This sum has contributed to a greater capability for Houthi rocket launches at civilian targets in Saudi Arabia, the deploymentof thousands of Hezbollah foot soldiers in Syria, and the regular bombardment of southern Israel with Hamas rockets bankrolled by Iran.
Finally, by joining INSTEX the European nations are disregarding Tehran’s nuclear defiance. Iran has recently become more aggressive in pursuing its nuclear ambitions, as it has breachedthe 300-kilogram limit on enriched uranium, spun more centrifuges and enriched uranium at a higher level, among several other actions. These moves are a blatant violation of the 2015 nuclear deal and are contrary to the shared international desire — except for the ruling mullahs of Iran — to de-escalate regional tensions.
By appeasing the Islamic Republic right after the regime brutally cracked down on protesters, the EU is empowering and emboldening Iran’s leaders.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
It comes as a shock that, although Iran has clearly breached the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmedas much, the response from Europe is more appeasement. Federica Mogherini, the former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, in June reiterated that the EU’s focus remainedto “keep the agreement in place.”
This development is exactly what the Iranian regime was hoping for. Tehran has been blackmailingthe EU to provide it with the financial means that would enable it to skirt the US sanctions. Before the latest batch of European nations joined INSTEX, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatenedthat, if the EU did not assist his government, it would further violate the terms of the nuclear deal. Rouhani stated: “If Europeans can purchase our oil or pre-purchase it and we can have access to our money, that will ease the situation and we can fully implement the deal... otherwise we will take our third step.”
By joining INSTEX, European countries are enriching and empowering the Iranian regime to brutally suppress its population and more forcefully continue its terror activities abroad.
- 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