Tasnim – The EU has never wavered in its support for the JCPOA as it wholeheartedly believes that the nuclear deal is a good agreement that is working, Nathalie Tocci, an aide to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said.
“… confronted with the unfortunate binary choice of siding with the US versus remaining committed to the JCPOA, the EU has never wavered in its choice for the latter: this is because it wholeheartedly believes that the JCPOA is a good agreement that is working, but also because it is an agreement which proves that multilateralism, diplomacy and international law, three fundamental principles underpinning EU foreign policy, are the only recipes for delivering international peace and security,” she told Tasnim.
Nathalie Tocci is Director of the Istituto Affari Internazionali, Honorary Professor at the University of Tübingen, and Special Adviser to EU HRVP Federica Mogherini, on behalf of whom she wrote the European Global Strategy and is now working on its implementation, notably in the field of security and defense.
Her major publications include: Framing the EU’s Global Strategy, Springer-Palgrave Macmillan, 2017 (author); The EU, Promoting Regional Integration, and Conflict Resolution, Springer-Palgrave Macmillan, 2017 (co-editor); Turkey and the European Union, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015 (co-author); Multilateralism in the 21st Century, Routledge, 2013 (co-editor), Turkey’s European Future: Behind the Scenes of America’s Influence on EU-Turkey Relations, New York University Press, 2011 (author); and The EU and Conflict Resolution, Routledge, 2007 (author). Nathalie is the 2008 winner of the Anna Lindh award for the study of European Foreign Policy.
Following is the full text of the interview.
Tasnim: As you know, US President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order re-imposing many sanctions on Iran, three months after pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal. He said the US policy is to levy “maximum economic pressure” on the country in an attempt to bring Iran to the negotiating table again. What’s your take on the US snapback of Iran sanctions?
Tocci: The US pullout from the JCPOA represents a violation of an international agreement enshrined in international law through a UNSC resolution. It also represents an attempt to undermine the “social contract” underpinning the nuclear deal: the containment of the Iranian nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. The snapback is thus also a violation of a fundamental principle of international law: pacta sunt servanda, as far as Iran has so far remained in compliance with the terms of the JCPOA as testified by 11 rounds of inspections of the IAEA. Beyond this, the snapback of sanctions as a political move aimed at bringing Iran to the negotiating table has little logic to it. Negotiations require a minimum level of trust and good faith between adversaries for them to succeed and the US violation of the JCPOA has fundamentally undermined the little trust that had been patiently built over the course of 12 years of negotiations. Moreover, it seems to me that the Trump administration’s intent is not to negotiate a new deal with Iran but rather induce Iran’s capitulation.
Tanim: “Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States,” Trump said in an apparent warning to the EU. What are your thoughts on this?
Tocci: It’s, unfortunately, a statement of fact as it is rather a basic way of explaining the effect of secondary US sanctions. This has been an issue for Europeans in the past too (hence the original version of the blocking regulation in the 1990s) but never has there been a US administration intent in punishing what presumably are its closest allies for respecting an agreement that the US also signed and which is an integral element of international law. This is an unprecedented situation which Europeans are only beginning to grapple with. The updated blocking regulation is a first step in this direction.
Tasnim: Recently, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington is willing to engage in new talks with Iran to seek a “new comprehensive deal”. She said, “The United States is willing to engage in talks with the Iranian regime, but we are looking for a commitment that they are willing to make fundamental changes in their behavior.” What do you think? Can Iran start new talks when it is under sanctions and the JCPOA is still in place?
Tocci: This is a decision for the Iranian government to take but I very strongly doubt the US expectation will materialize given my answer above.
Tasnim: “We are doing our best to keep Iran in the deal, to keep Iran benefiting from the economic benefits that the agreement brings to the people of Iran because we believe this is in the security interests of not only our region but also of the world. If there is one piece of international agreements on nuclear non-proliferation that is delivering, it has to be maintained,” the European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said recently. Could Europe afford to divorce the US?
Tocci: The EU has clearly made its choice: confronted with the unfortunate binary choice of siding with the US versus remaining committed to the JCPOA, the EU has never wavered in its choice for the latter: this is because it wholeheartedly believes that the JCPOA is a good agreement that is working, but also because it is an agreement which proves that multilateralism, diplomacy and international law, three fundamental principles underpinning EU foreign policy, are the only recipes for delivering international peace and security.
Tasnim: Recently, you told Britain’s BBC Radio 4 that European firms that stop doing business with Iran because of the sanctions could in turn be sanctioned by the EU. “If EU companies abide by US secondary sanctions they will, in turn, be sanctioned by the EU”. Kindly explain more on this.
Tocci: What the blocking regulation does is, on the one hand, to allow companies to recover losses incurred from secondary sanctions and on the other, it forbids companies from complying with those sanctions imposing financial penalties on them otherwise. In this respect, one can see the regulation as “sanctioning” (although naturally this is not technically speaking correct) companies that comply with US sanctions policy. The effectiveness of the regulation naturally is an entirely different manner given that the EU cannot force companies to invest in any country if this is not in their interest.