Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Europe's difficult route to saving the Iran nuclear deal

Riccardo Alcaro,

Image from article, with caption:  (L to R) French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini give a press conference at the EU headquarters in Brussels on 11 January

The only way for Europe to save the deal is to make it clear to America that targeting EU firms doing business in Iran will lead to a costly transatlantic trade dispute


US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the official name of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, is a slap in the face of America's European allies. Europe has invested massive political capital in the deal, which serves its strategic interests in many respects. ...

Thanks to the Iran deal, the Europeans have been able to relaunch a political dialogue and intensify economic ties with Iran. ...

Retaliate and negotiate

The only alternative for the Europeans is a strategy of denunciation, possibly retaliation, and negotiation. The Europeans could embark in a public diplomacy [JB emphasis] campaign conveying the message to US audiences that targeting European firms that are involved in doing legitimate business under EU laws would be a serious breach of inter-ally solidarity.

The Europeans should warn they could retaliate by initiating a dispute in the World Trade Organisation or even by adopting tariffs that would be used to compensate EU firms hit by US sanctions.

The goal would be to persuade the US that making concessions expanding the room for safe manoeuvre for EU firms would be less costly than engaging in a transatlantic fight. While Trump is impervious to this argument, many in his administration and Congress, as well as the public opinion, are not, and may take steps accordingly.

Even if the Europeans were to win such concessions, they would still not be able to trade with and invest in Iran as much as they would like. What this strategy would achieve, however, is winning Iran's trust. And that's all that it takes to keep the JCPOA in place. After all, the deal can survive a US withdrawal, but not an Iranian one.

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