Implications of the US-Europe rift

Dr.salem Al ketbi
Latest posts by Dr.salem Al ketbi (see all)

We have often spoken of the costs of the dissension between Western positions on the Iranian nuclear issue. This disagreement between the US and its European allies over how to deal with the Iranian threat has been a boon to the mullahs, of course. It gives them sufficient strategic leeway to pursue their sectarian expansionism in the Middle East.

Recently, the US and Europe have failed to reach a consensus on activating the snapback mechanism. This procedure would allow the UN to place sanctions against the Iranian mullahs. The situation has led US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to call his country’s European allies “siding with the ayatollahs.”

The European partners to the nuclear deal, France, the UK and Germany, have said in a joint statement that they are convinced that “US ceased to be a participant to the JCPoA following their withdrawal from the deal” of 2015 between the P5+1 and Iran. “We cannot therefore support this action which is incompatible with our current efforts to support the JCPoA.”

This position is proof of the extent of the gap between the US and Europe on the Iranian nuclear issue. The most urgent question, however, is to know what European efforts are being made to support or, rather, try and save the agreement. Everything hints that it is fated to fail; the US is the most influential party on this strategic issue.

Its exit brought about a real collapse of the agreement. The Europeans are desperately defending this agreement as a realistic mechanism.

But on the Iranian flank, nothing is being done to shore up the European position. Quite the contrary.

The mullahs are deliberately putting the European trio in a political pickle. They are exerting constant pressure to obtain concessions and blackmail Europe with this deal. The Europeans themselves make this understood in their statements.

“We remain committed to the JCPoA despite the significant challenges caused by US withdrawal. We believe that we should address the current issue of systematic Iranian non-compliance with its JCPoA obligations through dialogue between JCPoA participants,” the E3 said in their statement.

The European trio are acknowledging that the mullahs of Iran are not complying with their obligations under the agreement. Nevertheless, they insist that a dialogue between the parties to the agreement can remedy these violations. But the basis of formal agreements signed between states is commitment, not continued violation of pledges.

The E3 merely urged the mullahs of Iran to “reconsider all its actions incompatible with its nuclear commitments and to return without delay to their full respect.” This hackneyed line has not resonated with the mullahs since 2019, when the US pulled out of the deal.

The European countries’ wait and see strategy vis-à-vis Tehran may be explained by the concerns over the policy of US President Donald Trump. Transatlantic relations are tight at this stage.

Moreover, the mullahs of Iran will not commit to the nuclear agreement if they do not receive the “compensation” they want from the European side. This is a difficult thing to achieve under the current strategic circumstances.

Iran’s constant threats to withdraw from the agreement therefore remain the order of the day in this phase. This is what Iran’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Kazem Gharibabadi, signaled. He said Tehran would take measures commensurate with the threats to the nuclear agreement and resolution 2231.

These include going back to the previous design of the Arak reactor if they are faced with a situation in which they cannot advance the development of this component of the nuclear system.

The US failed to pass a draft resolution extending sanctions against Iran, not because of international powers’ support for Iran, unlike what the mullahs may think. It is the tension in the current administration’s relations with these powers that is at issue.

Settling political scores has been to Iran’s advantage. This is one of the pitfalls of poor international cooperation and coordination in managing crises and hot issues for today’s international relations.

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