Iranian Diplomacy | Kaveh L. Afrasiabi: As the US delivered on its threatened sanctions, albeit with certain exemptions stemming from global resistance, the news from the other side of the Atlantic was less than expected: A chorus of European denunciation of US’s illegal move, yet no delivery of the operationalization of the much-discussed Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), designed as the chief European response to JCPOA-busting sanctions, as promised. We are told that no country is willing to ‘host’ the SPV out of fear of US reprisals. This is not Iran’s problem and, indeed, if the Europeans are serious they ought to spread the burden and create a rotating headquarter for the SPV, beginning with Belgium, EU’s capital. Seven months after the US’s unilateral exit, Iran’s patience for Europe’s concrete action is wearing thin, acquiring the agony of another ‘waiting for the Godot’. The big question, looming large over the fate of the JCPOA, is if European inaction is temporary or permanent and, if it is the case of the latter, isn’t Europe playing fire with an important nonproliferation agreement that admittedly serves their national security and economic interests?
After all, the JCPOA is in many respects a trade agreement. Lest we forget, contrary to what has become a standard reference to the JCPOA, it is a lot more than a limited quid pro quo, limiting Iran’s nuclear program “for the suspension of economic sanctions.” Rather, the JCPOA explicitly commits the Western governments to “prevent interference with the realization of the full benefits by Iran of the sanctions lifted” (section 26), and to “refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran” (section 29). Equally important, per the terms of the JCPOA (section 33), US, Europe, and other signatories of the deal have agreed “on steps to ensure Iran’s access in areas of trade, technology, finance and energy.”
Where is the beef? Many Iranians are asking today, pointing at Iran’s full fulfillment of its JCPOA obligations, confirmed by a dozen reports by the IAEA, as well as several reports by the UN Secretary General and the special UN envoy on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which mandates the implementation of JCPOA on all member-states. Incredibly, one of the early European reactions to US’s unlawful exit from the JCPOA was not to refer US to UNSC, as they should have, but rather to call on Iran to respect Resolution 2231, as if this were a one-way process! Indeed, European post-colonial mentality knows no limits and is sadly fully put on public display by their collective failure to penalize US for failing to respect international law and live up to its commitments under an agreement that its own diplomats worked extra hard to bring to fruition.
Not only that, adding insult to injury, manipulated by Israel’s secret service, which has engaged in false flag operations in European capitals in order to smear Iran and thus make it easier for Europe to dodge its responsibilities under the JCPOA, European officials including the French and Danish leaders have the audacity of taking the moral upper hands and blame Iran without presenting a shred of credible evidence. And all this while they continue business as usual with the Saudi regime, which has openly admitted to murdering one of its dissidents on Turkish soil.
What Iran needs to see from Europe is not more inexcusable delays or paper commitments, or promises of looking “at the possibility of doing legal business with Iran,” to paraphrase a German official statement, but concrete action translating into tangible economic benefits for a country that has fully honored its agreement with them. Either Europe wakes up from its delirium and takes concrete steps in addressing the egregious shortcomings in respect to those provisions of the JCPOA cited above, or they must face the consequence of demise of JCPOA and Iran’s resumption of nuclear work without the fetters of any extra-IAEA inspections. Indeed, the public pressure on the Iranian government to reciprocate Europe’s inaction with measured step down from the JCPOA’s litany of onerous obligations is growing and will likely reach the boiling point if this inaction continues. As a result, Europe must contemplate ‘the day after’, tabulating the negative ramifications of JCPOA’s collapse, thanks to their willful failure of remedial action in line with their UN-imposed duties. In all likelihood, we would witness a slide back toward Iran nuclear crisis II, an unnecessary crisis of choice, not necessity, in other words a preventable crisis caused by a historic missed opportunity, for Europe to stand up for what is right, by defying the odds presented by American, Israeli, or Saudi pressure. A litmus test of Europe’s independence at a crucial juncture in history, it will be a failure of monumental proportions on all fronts.