EU in front of dilemma: Trump’s way or highway

EU in front of dilemma: Trump’s way or highway

Baku, Azerbaijan, May 24

By Azer Ahmadbayli – Trend:

Not so many people on Earth understand all ins and outs of the events taking place around Iran, while the vast majority of public opinion, under the influence of the world mass media, does not doubt rightness of one of the parties.

After the US withdrawal from JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), also known as the nuclear deal, the existing fragile balance maintained by the deal has been badly shaken.

Tehran has neither the strength nor the means and the time to change the circumstances in its favor, although it tries to fight back to the ropes protecting its interests.

Hypothetically, there is still hope that the Europeans will be able to maintain this balance by launching a process to, as they say, protect the interests of European companies investing in Iran as part of their commitment to the nuclear deal. The process is aimed at freeing European companies from compliance with US sanctions and removing obstacles to European banks' trade with Iran.

However, there is a dilemma in front of the entire European business community: President Trump is prepared to impose sanctions on European companies that are going to do or continue business in Iran, while the EU is about to take some measures with uncertain outcomes to protect their interests.

The best answer which clearly describes current state of affairs is Total, Maersk and Airbus’s decisions to halt their activities in the Islamic Republic. Nobody wishes to lose access to the US financial/banking system as well as the entire American market. This is why, later on, abandoning process will most likely go in an incremental manner.

Are there still people who believe that the major European banks which, after signing the deal in 2015, did not welcome close ties with Iran, would change their policy in the current worse circumstances?

In the mean time, the recent statement made by French President Macron that his country will not get involved in a trade war with the United States over Iran, despite the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, raises doubts about the coherence of EU policy.

Macron wants to provide all guarantees for businesses that want to stay in Iran, but, without a pressure and probably a trade war with the United States, which is not going to work.

If France could secure immunity for interests of Total, Peugeot and Airbus, which all have large contracts in Iran, and guarantee that they are not affected by any sanctions, I would have taken off my hat in front of the President of France.

But he says it is up to the companies to decide: “We're not going to impose on French businesses to stay in Iran. The President of the French Republic is not the CEO of Total.”

If a signatory of the nuclear deal absolves itself of responsibility and places it on a business that will, almost for certain, have to leave Iran, then who this is aimed at?

That seems to be a mug’s game.

Formally, President Macron is absolutely right, but the matter is that Iran doesn’t need leaves without figs. Under the current circumstances nothing is expected to change for the better for Iran.

No wonder Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif told the EU Commissioner Arias Canete in Tehran that European political support is not sufficient. “The announcement of the possible withdrawal by major European companies from their cooperation with Iran is not consistent with the European Union’s commitment to implementing [the nuclear deal],” Zarif was quoted as saying.

Another top Iranian official also cast doubts on whether European nations could be trusted to save the agreement: “The contradictions in the words of European authorities are suspicious. We hope that our government will be able to secure the necessary guarantees in the negotiations, as one cannot rely on those who vacillate and speak contradictory words,” IRNA quoted Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran Supreme Leader’s adviser for international affairs, as saying.

So, Washington is re-imposing all possible sanctions, European businesses (at least major), which will definitely not risk their well-being, will curtail activities in Iran before the end of the year, European governments will formally keep their face, Trump is happy, while Iran is not at all – who needs idle declarations of commitment to the letter and spirit of the nuclear deal if there is nothing behind them?

Thus, Tehran is about to find itself in the pre-JCPOA environment. What’s next?

Since it is also important for Tehran to save face… well, you guess: as Reuters reported on Saturday, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran could resume 20 percent uranium enrichment if the European signatories of the nuclear deal failed to keep it alive following Washington's withdrawal.

The answer was not long in coming.

The United States is ready to respond if Iran decides to resume its nuclear program, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday, Reuters reported. “Should they choose to go back, should they begin to enrich, we are fully prepared to respond to that as well,” Pompeo said, declining to detail what the response could be.

Honesty is the best policy. The featureless European position in the story with Iran is gradually crumbling under the US drive. Latest news has come from Poland.

Polish leaders are planning to defend the US government's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal within the EU, according to the Associated Press. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday that Poland wants to be a mediator between US and EU and explain the positions of the other.

The Polish government's mediation offer departs somewhat from the united front EU leaders displayed last week in voicing their continued support for the landmark nuclear deal, according to AP.

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