The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, arrived in New York for the 73rd UN General Assembly with hopes of pushing a plan that would keep the 2015 Iran nuclear deal afloat, despite the US’ withdrawal from the landmark accord.
Armed with the backing of the EU executive, Mogherini has been actively drumming up support for maintaining the basic principals of the deal amid a growing number of verbal attacks from President Donald J. Trump‘s White House, who have ramped up their rhetoric against both Tehran as well as those who plan to circumvent Trump’s renewed sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Upon her arrival in Manhattan, Mogherini announced that the EU Member States would seek additional support to develop foreign policy tools that would guarantee Iran’s continued participation as well as the validity of the deal – moves that have received the strong backing of Germany and France, both EU power brokers and signatories to the agreement.
“To keep the deal alive we need concrete solutions so that payment channels can be kept open and trade with Iran remains possible,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after the ministerial meeting of the remaining participants in the agreement, including Germany, France, Russia, China, and the UK. “We’re working hard on this with our European partners.”
EU-Iranian trade in 2018, alone, is running at €2 billion per month but is expected to fall precipitously as major European companies pull out and Iranian oil exports are blocked by the Trump’s new sanctions.
Trump is hoping to demonstrate the US’ economic clout against the Iranian government by targeting the country’s trade in gold and other metals, as well as the car industry, most of which was tied to major European countries after the nuclear deal was signed over three years ago. The first round of sanctions will be followed in early November by a second wave of measures aimed at crippling Tehran’s energy and financial industries by slapping sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, ports, shipping, as well as all transactions with Iran’s Central Bank.
Trump has frequently repeated his intention to punish foreign companies that don’t comply with the US’ sanctions, adding that he “will not hesitate” to take action against those who do not comply.
Despite the European Union’s efforts to mitigate the punitive effects, the investment freeze that has come into effect has, in recent months, forced several key EU companies to withdraw from Iran, causing an effective corporate exodus from the country.
The Commission has responded by saying it would revive a blocking statute that was drawn up in the 1990s to counter US sanctions on Iran, Libya, and Cuba – which sought to ban European companies from complying with Washington’s measures – and to allow the EU-based entities to seek compensation.
The EU has said that it shares the US’ worries about Iran’s ballistic missile programme, particularly regarding its active supply of highly sophisticated weapons to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group that is a close ally of Tehran in the still unresolved Syrian Civil War.
Brussels, however, has repeatedly underscored that the missile development programme has nothing to do with the nuclear agreement as the IAEA, the UN’s atomic energy agency, has confirmed that Iran is in full compliance with the specifics of the deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.