Blog AnalysisIran

The Iranian nuclear deal. Straight Europeans in their boots

(B2) Despite the Trump administration's push and pull, the Europeans have managed to maintain their unity on the Iranian nuclear issue. A tour de force that is worth the detour

The E3 (JY Le Drian, H. Maas, B. Johnson) with Iranian Minister Javad Zarif and Federica Mogherini in Brussels in May 2018 (credit: UE – Archives B2)

Venus versus Mars

Saying that Europeans are weak or unable to agree is such a regular antiphon that we sometimes forget to highlight the opposite: when Europeans agree. They thus defeated (in part) Donald Trump's desire to make a clean sweep of the past and in particular the agreement concluded on Iranian nuclear power (in July 2015) by the Obama administration.

Huge American pressure

Under the Trump I administration, however, the United States has not given up on anything for almost four years: pressure on the Allies, public vilification, legal denunciation of the agreement, partial reinstatement of sanctions, extraterritorial effect, threats towards the Allies , then taken hostage by the United Nations Security Council, etc. We cannot say that Washington has always acted with finesse and delicacy.

The high risk of cracks

Normally, these pressures should have caused the agreement concluded with Iran to bite the dust. The agreement has certainly wavered, dangerously. It was repeatedly threatened with being, if not broken up, then at least abandoned. But his other participants held on. We could also have predicted cracks between Europeans, especially between a United Kingdom which has taken the door to the Union and the other members, or between a France holding a tough position vis-à-vis Tehran, more close to the US and Berlin position. It has not happened.

Unity despite everything

The E3 (as they are called) remained united, despite the nuances of opinion that characterize them, multiplying common declarations. With one voice, they multiplied the declarations against the American maneuvers to torpedo the agreement. They have put in place a structure intended to circumvent American sanctions: Instex is not super efficient but it works. And above all, as one man, they denied any validity of the latest US attempt to use a clause of the agreement (called 'snapback') aimed at automatically reinstating sanctions after leaving the agreement. Followed in this by the entire UN Security Council — with one exception: the Rep. Dominican (read: Iran. The US is pushing for the reinstatement of sanctions. Gaping gap with the Europeans).

“We have to hold on until the elections,” a senior European diplomat whispered to me under his breath. No matter the cost

Humiliation of friends does not help in diplomacy

In the end, in this standoff, contrary to what one might have thought, it was not Mars that won, but the European Venus (read: JCPOA. The New US Offensive to Destroy the Iran Nuclear Deal Hits a Wall). The Trump administration, in its haste to get the 'skin' of the Iranians, made a strategic and tactical error. By wanting to humiliate their adversaries — the Iranians — they lumped together their natural partners and allies — the Europeans — as well as their other international partners. By trying to go too fast, they tripped over the carpet (1). This while Europeans and Americans are basically on the same line (2).

A little slap to the American hyperpower

The slap received by the Americans at the United Nations Security Council in August will remain in diplomatic memories. It does not, in fact, lead to a lowering of undeniable power. But she brings quite a temperament. If united, Europeans, Chinese and Russians can reduce the American weight.

Will this unnatural alliance happen again? Why not. In any case, an emblematic subject to follow closely without prejudice…

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. If the USA had remained in the agreement, it could trigger this clause, due to Iran's non-compliance with certain provisions of the agreement and were almost guaranteed to obtain the reestablishment of sanctions within the Security Council. United Nations. The only US veto then prevented the continuation of the lifting of sanctions. A " incomprehensible tactical error according to diplomats.
  2. This is evidenced by the Europeans' refusal to reopen the arms embargo for Iran, unlike Russia and China. (read : The heavy weapons embargo on Iran is lifted. Not for Europeans. And even less for the USA)

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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