Blog AnalysisIran

The Iranian nuclear deal: Europeans not so bad

(B2) Faced with the position of the Europeans on the Iranian nuclear agreement, we can adopt an attitude of 'mockery', in the mode of 'a lost agreement' and 'Europeans incapable of dealing with the Americans'

The meeting of political directors of the E3+3 (when the USA was still a participant in the agreement) in Vienna on April 25, 2015 (credit: EEAS – Archives B2)

A partially justified criticism

The famous anti-blockade system put in place by the European Commission with fanfare turned out to be, in the end, a simple, ineffective sham. It failed to convince companies, threatened with sanctions in the USA, to maintain their commercial relations with Iran. It did not really lead to a significant development of SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) trade with the ancient Persian Empire. And the famous mechanism (Instex) set up by France, Germany and the United Kingdom (the E3), intended to facilitate legitimate trade, is struggling to function. It has just been declared operational (read: Instex operational. Iran nuclear deal saved: for how long?).

Some errors

We can identify certain causes of this incompetence. The Europeans are paying for a lack of long-term strategy, clinging to the American wagon without sometimes seeing a possible danger. They have downplayed certain power factors, such as the supremacy of the dollar and a certain fading of the Euro (which has declined internationally since the financial crisis). They are also paying for the lack of research into ways to counter American extraterritorial sanctions. Europeans are generally reluctant to use anti-trust or anti-corruption instruments in a political manner, unlike the use made by the Americans.

A strategic reversal

But seeing it as a total failure is perhaps premature. We must clearly see what is revolutionary about the European position. It is about entering head-on into opposition with the Americans, not on a simple commercial question, but on a truly strategic issue for both Europeans and Americans: nuclear proliferation, relations with the former Persian empire, stability in the Gulf, the Sunni-Shia conflict. A position that runs counter to all the positions held by the American-European axis until now. Not only affirmed in words, this position finds place in actions. The rather ingenious establishment of Instex, this very specific company whose primary objective remains to circumvent American sanctions on Iran, is not an ordinary act on the part of the Europeans. This is an act of clear hostility towards Washington's position.

Europeans who manage to stay united

On such a highly strategic issue, Europeans have succeeded in asserting a determined and, above all, united position. Which is a record. Both the British, the French and the Germans, as well as the other Europeans, are on the same line: the Iranian nuclear agreement, concluded in July 2015 after several years of negotiation, remains " a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture » as the Europeans once again reminded us in Vienna. “ Its preservation remains essential for regional stability and security. The Instex company needs to be developed. It is often so easy to highlight the real divisions between Europeans that underlining their preserved unity is just as necessary.

A deal that still holds

Finally, despite the abandonment of the agreement by the Americans, their sanctions, remonstrances and warnings, the Iranian nuclear agreement is holding. Fragile certainly. But he holds on. And this is not the least of the results of European diplomacy. It is not negligible. This too must be emphasized and highlighted. It is not certain that twenty years ago, such an American position, so assertive, would not have led to a wait-and-see attitude, or even a stampede from the Europeans.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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