The EU and the Iran deal: powerless in Brussels

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The EU desperately fights for the nuclear agreement with Iran. But against the will of the US this is almost impossible. Iran is also no longer bound by the agreement.

By Holger Romann, ARD Studio Brussels

Since the US left the nuclear deal with Iran more than a year ago, the EU has been desperately fighting to get the deal. One thing is clear: it can only save the agreement with Tehran, which it has negotiated considerably with itself, if the mullah regime continues to derive economic benefits from it. But this seems almost impossible given the recovery of American sanctions. Result: Iran is withdrawing its obligations one by one.


"Maximum pressure" from Washington

"We are determined to do our utmost to deliver on this agreement," Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas emphasized in the spring of 2018. And since then nothing has changed in this position, although the situation is much sharper now become.

Germany and the four remaining guarantees of the 2015 nuclear agreement – Britain, France, Russia and China – want to keep Iran at bay in every way possible, even against Washington's "maximum pressure." Behind this there is serious concern that a definitive failure of the agreement referred to in the English JCPOA could cause a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. A scenario, EU diplomat Federica Mogherini, that nobody could wish for.

The JCPOA is a key element of global security architecture for non-proliferation purposes, she recalls. And it was an important achievement of multilateral diplomacy, unanimously supported by UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

A "mission impossible"

All involved know it of course: against the will of the United States, saving the deal in Iran with an "impossible mission". Finally, US President Donald Trump has made it clear that anyone who undergoes the economic sanctions that have been restored must suffer "serious consequences". Countries or companies that continue to do business with Iran would also be punished by the US.

INSTEX is not effective

To free itself from the dilemma, the EU, or rather the so-called E3 group, consisting of Germany, France and Great Britain, set up INSTEX months ago, a sort of semi-state trading company based in Paris that functions as a currency exchange office , The principle: deliveries of goods to Iran are not paid in dollars or euros, but offset by the equivalent of approximately the exported oil. Instead of currency transactions, they are credited, disconnected from the global banking system and therefore under the radar of the US government.

"This is a condition for being able to claim on the other side of Iran that he simply will not get into military uranium enrichment," said Maas. "It is a step that makes it clear that we are also moving resolutely and resolutely within the European Union."

What the minister hides: the trick of Europeans to undermine the American blockade has so far largely missed its effect. For example, the special purpose vehicle INSTEX, which was established in January, could not remotely compensate the billions of losses of the Iranian economy. Not least because trade is currently limited to humanitarian goods. Russia and China also hold an interest.

Tehran violates agreements

As a result, Iran has gradually begun to break through the most important nuclear conditions. For example, the permitted limit for enriched uranium is now again being exceeded. Likewise the amount of nuclear fuel stored. Since this weekend, the Iranian nuclear investigation is no longer subject to controls, to which a European spokesperson strongly criticized.

The repeated call for reconsideration of the measures and return to a contract remained unseen in Tehran. The Iranian government's third ultimatum for the EU is now in progress. Nevertheless, they have confidence in Brussels and Berlin that they will be able to save the most important deal. The last hope came from the lightning visit by the Iranian foreign minister to the G7 summit in Biarritz.

However, there are no clear prospects for détente, for example through a meeting of Presidents Trump and Rouhani. On the contrary: in the Persian Gulf, the nuclear dispute threatens for weeks in a tangible conflict. The US has increased their military presence in the region, provoking Iran with attacks on western tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. With vague promises and pious calls, further escalation does not seem to stop.

Deutschlandfunk reported on this subject on 8 September 2019 at 4 p.m.

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