President Emmanuel Macron stepped in on Tuesday to suggest a compromise between Washington, Brussels and Tehran over the nuclear deal.
Still, there are also voices calling for a clean break with Washington’s policy.
The French and German foreign ministries, as well as the office of prime minister Theresa May, confirmed within minutes on Tuesday that Europe’s big three (E3) stand behind the deal. “Do not let anyone dismantle this agreement. It is one of the biggest achievements diplomacy has ever delivered, and we have built this together,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini confirmed.
However, France swiftly moved towards an appeasement strategy to restore some semblance of Euro-Atlantic cooperation. The French President will explore whether it will be possible to widen the scope of the nuclear deal to include Iran’s ballistics programme and regional activities. “We will work collectively on a broader framework, covering nuclear activity, the post-2025 period, ballistic activity and stability in the Middle East, notably Syria, Yemen and Iraq,” Macron said on Tuesday.
The French Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday morning that French, German, and British delegations are due to meet on Monday to coordinate their response.
Prior to President Trump’s announcement, the E3 were considering a travel ban and an asset freeze for Iranian entities and individuals linked to Iran’s ballistic missile programme. It is unclear whether this move remains relevant.
What is clear is that Europe is not indifferent to President Trump’s threat of secondary sanctions against European companies that do not fall in line with Washington’s policy. “Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States,” Trump warned on Tuesday.
The Director of the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Volker Treier, was swift to note that US sanctions on German companies would create a broad climate of economic insecurity, DW reports.
Arguments for Washington’s Deterrence
However, working against the sanctions also has an economic rationale for European powers. Given the political turmoil in Italy, one may have missed that Rome is one of the biggest advocates of sticking to the Iran deal. Rome has stepped in to make the most of the opening up of Iran’s economy. In January, Italy established a €5bn credit line for projects and joint ventures in Iran, Al-Monitor reports.
A number of European states fear that going down the line of sanctions against Tehran will weaken the hand of President Hassan Rouhani against hardliners. On Tuesday, Ruhani affirmed Iran’s commitment to the agreement but warned that the pace of uranium enrichment could step up.
The fate of the Euro-Atlantic consensus
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council chief, Ali Shamkhani, told the Hamshahri newspaper on Monday that there are three possible strategies for Washington: a) undermining the JCPOA, b) working to secure more concessions through the JCOA and c) to destroy the JCOA. Shamkhani warned Europe not to help Trump by either abandoning the deal or moving towards more concessions. However, Europe is probably already exploring the possibility of the second scenario.
On the same day, Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif warned that the JCOA could only be replaced by a worse deal for Washington.
Iran’s Deputy parliament speaker, Ali Mohtari, called on Europe to “stand up” to Washington and support Iran’s banking system. However, he also noted that if that were to happen, there would be a definite fracture between Europe and America.
In the Middle East, many hailed President Trump’s isolation of Iran. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the move as “historic,” while the United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Anwar Gargash, also commented that Washington was, in fact, disrupting an arms race. Anon-negligible side effect for the region is that Iran’s economic turmoil is economically beneficial to OPEC member states. Brent climbed above $76.50 a barrel on Tuesday.