Al Monitor | Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran’s relations with Europe mostly remained intact at the economic and at times political level. But in terms of military cooperation, there were almost no ties whatsoever. However, the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015 created an environment that encouraged Tehran to also push for military cooperation with its European counterparts.
Looking back, there have been very few instances in history when the two sides have actually engaged in military cooperation. On the contrary, the Europeans imposed an arms embargo on Tehran when the Iran-Iraq War began in 1980. It is for this very reason that the idea of Tehran and Brussels working together at the military level has seemed taboo in the past decades.
One example of a rare case when the two sides engaged in military partnership was in 2005, when the National Iranian Police Organization bought 800 HS50 sniper rifles from Austria in an 8 million British pound order. The deal was in aid of Iran’s war on drug trafficking from neighboring Afghanistan, when former Reformist President Mohammad Khatami was in office and the country enjoyed warmer relations with Europe. The United States did not approve of this partnership and showed a harsh response, threatening to sanction companies that sold any form of military equipment to Iran.
When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005, not only was there no military or political cooperation with Europe, but all economic ties with the West also came to a near halt.
Upon taking office in 2013, the administration of President Hassan Rouhani sought to change this trajectory by promising to resolve the nuclear issue, which had turned into a security matter. The signing of the JCPOA allowed Iran to present itself as a provider of security in the region by seeking to expand its ties with all world countries, and especially those in Europe.