EU divided over efforts to appease Trump on Iran deal

Al-Monitor | : Over the past few months, Britain, France and Germany (known together as the E3) have attempted to introduce new European Union sanctions against Iran over its regional policies and ballistic missile program. The move has been deemed by observers as complementary to the strategy adopted by the E3 to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) following the May deadline imposed by US President Donald Trump for the perceived weaknesses of the agreement to be “fixed.” However, Italy and a few other EU countries have objected to these measures on both procedural and political grounds, raising concerns about a potential division among EU members on Iran policy moving forward.

The E3 has engaged with the United States since January to find ways to address the concerns of the Trump administration over the JCPOA and persuading the US president to continue implementing his side of the bargain under the nuclear deal. US concerns include the so-called sunset clauses, the terms under which site inspections in Iran can take place as well as the country’s regional influence and ballistic missile program. The E3 — with France at the apparent forefront — has also led efforts at the EU level to introduce additional sanctions against Iran. The E3 plan has been to impose EU travel bans and freeze the assets of 15 Iranian entities and individuals linked to Iran’s missile program and its role in Syria’s war, in an attempt to show that the union shares US concerns about Iran, particularly regarding the country’s regional policies and missiles.

However, despite the E3’s efforts, the other 25 EU member states failed to reach a unanimous decision required by EU regulations to approve new restrictive measures against Tehran. On March 19, prior to the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in which the issue was first discussed, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stressed that there was not going to be “a proposal of sanctions, additional sanctions against Iran.” On April 16, in the last formal meeting on the EU agenda before Trump’s deadline, the union failed once again to reach consensus on the matter, though diplomats involved in the deliberations noted growing support for new sanctions.

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