Europe flounders to patch up Iran deal
Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has left Europe’s three signatories, Germany, France and UK, are seeking ways to hold the agreement together and avoid increasing violence in the troubled region.
Total last year signed a US$5-billion deal to extract Iran’s natural gas and Airbus, the French-based plane manufacturer, has already begun delivering jets to Iran Air under a multibillion-dollar contract.
Volkswagen has resumed car exports for the first time in 17 years. Richard Grenell, the new US ambassador to Berlin, tweeted: “German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.”
Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that faith in the international order was at stake.
Foreign ministers from the UK, France and Germany are due to meet Iran’s foreign affairs chief, Javad Zarif, in Brussels tomorrow (Tuesday) to discuss how to move forward. The three European Union leaders will discuss the deal in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, on Wednesday and German economy minister Peter Altmaier is in Russia to arrange talks with Merkel and President Vladimir Putin in Sochi this week.
The European signatories refuse to accept that Trump’s decision on Iran, fulfilling a campaign pledge, should be allowed to axe a global agreement negotiated over years and which international nuclear observers say is working.
“At all levels, we are underlining the importance of preserving this agreement,” said Yuri Ushakov, a Kremlin foreign-policy aide. “It has crucial significance not only for ensuring regional security, but also for stability in the world, and it’s extraordinarily important in the regime of nuclear non-proliferation.”
Trump’s announcement threw European investments, largely in oil and gas, into uncertainty. France’s Total, in particular, now face the prospect of choosing between heavy investments in the Iranian South Pars gas field and access to the US market.
And Washington says Trump is prepared to impose sanctions on European employers that trade in Iran.
His senior foreign policy aides said the US would continue to call on allies to follow Trump in ditching the deal, which gave Tehran relief from sanctions in exchange for halting the nuclear programme.
John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, said in Washington: “The Europeans will see that it’s in their interests to come along with us.” He did not explain what should be done about the major European corporations who have signed billions of dollars of contracts in Iran.
Asked on CNN if Washington would impose sanctions against those European firms, Bolton said: “It’s possible. It depends on the conduct of other governments.”
US sanctions reimposed on Iran bar foreign firms that do business in the Islamic republic from accessing the entire banking and financial system.
Mike Pompeo, Trump’s secretary of state, said wealth created in Iran using the deal “drove Iranian malign activity” in West Asia. He also declined to rule out sanctions against European firms.
“The sanctions regime that is in place now is very clear on what the requirements are,” Pompeo told Fox News.
France says EU nations are willing to discuss issues, including Iran’s ballistic-missile programme and its role in Syria and Yemen, but the nuclear deal must remain.
“At the moment, it’s the only diplomatic proposition on the table,” France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Le Parisien. “There is no plan B. Plan B is war.”
Esfahan, Iran. Picture credit: Wikimedia