Time for the EU to revise its policy on Iran

Time for the EU to revise its policy on Iran

Time for the EU to revise its policy on Iran
A Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Joint Commission meeting in Vienna, Austria, April 17, 2021. (Reuters)
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The EU has been pursuing a soft policy toward the Iranian regime, offering economic and political incentives and concessions, for the six years since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, was reached between Tehran and the P5+1 world powers.
Initially, the EU lifted nearly all its economic sanctions, helping the Iranian regime reintegrate into the global financial system. It also made many concessions, such as agreeing to sunset clauses in the nuclear deal that set an expiration date for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities.
Among the European countries, Germany and France appeared to be the first to rush to rekindle business with Tehran. Immediately after the nuclear deal came into effect, Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s former economic minister and vice chancellor, joined a business delegation from Siemens, Linde, Mercedes and Volkswagen on a visit to Iran, while many other large European companies, such as Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Eni, launched plans to do business with the regime.
Trade between the EU and Iran increased almost 43 percent in the wake of the nuclear deal, as almost 30 Iranian banks reconnected to SWIFT, the global banking system.
Meanwhile, credible reports of Iran violating the nuclear deal and pursuing clandestine nuclear activities were ignored by the EU. For example, in February 2016, Iran exceeded its threshold for heavy water for the second time.
A year after the deal, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, revealed in its annual report that the Iranian government had pursued a “clandestine” path to obtain illicit nuclear technology and equipment from German companies “at what is, even by international standards, a quantitatively high level.” The report also warned that “it is safe to expect that Iran will continue its intensive procurement activities in Germany using clandestine methods to achieve its objectives.”
Afterwards, the US, a key player in securing the nuclear deal, withdrew from the pact under the Trump administration. But the EU parted ways with its transatlantic partner in favor of the Iranian regime, refusing to reimpose sanctions on the theocratic establishment as it tried to keep doing business with Tehran.
Three European governments — Germany, France and the UK — set up a mechanism called the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges. INSTEX, based in Paris, was primarily designed to circumvent US sanctions. In fact, Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, admitted: “We’re making clear that we didn’t just talk about keeping the nuclear deal with Iran alive, but now we’re creating a possibility to conduct business transactions.”
The EU’s policy toward the Iranian regime was not based on diplomatic initiatives, but on appeasing the ruling clerics and capitulating to their demands.
After almost five years of appeasement policies, the EU needs to examine the outcome and revise its policy accordingly. Despite the deal, the Iranian leaders are closer than ever to obtaining nuclear weapons. The regime now has enough enriched uranium to refine and build a nuclear weapon.

The EU’s policy toward the Iranian regime was not based on diplomatic initiatives, but on appeasing the ruling clerics and capitulating to their demands.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

And when it comes to terrorism, the EU has not been spared Iran’s scheming. The regime has been implicated in a series of assassinations and terror plots across Europe, some successful, others not, but all traced back to Tehran. For example, European officials foiled an attack that targeted a large Free Iran convention in Paris, attended in June 2018 by many high-level speakers, including former US House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird.
In 2020, for the first time in Iran’s history, one of its active diplomats, Assadollah Assadi, was put on trial in Belgium. An Iranian plot was also uncovered in Denmark, where officials accused Tehran of attempting to assassinate one of its citizens.
Former Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen emphasized the seriousness of Iran’s terror plot, saying: “An Iranian intelligence agency has planned an assassination on Danish soil. This is completely unacceptable. In fact, the gravity of the matter is difficult to describe. That has been made crystal clear to the Iranian ambassador in Copenhagen today.”

  • Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
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