The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

Dr. Emmanuel Navon: Germany and France want to circumvent U.S. sanctions for business reason. And the EU hates Trump, and will do whatever it can to circumvent him.



U.S. President Donald Trump vowed in May to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and signed an executive order in August to re-impose sanctions, which go into full effect on Nov. 4. The European Union, however, appears determined to ignore and circumvent U.S. efforts to force Iran into compliance on its nuclear program, and for the Islamic regime to cease and desist global terror activity.

It appears that Trump’s foreign policy on Iran has raised European ire and some of those countries do not yet seem willing to view Iran’s hegemonic desires as dangerous. As such, European leaders instead seek to bypass U.S. sanctions by continuing to do business with the hostile Islamic regime.

To that end, European officials have slammed renewed U.S. sanctions on Tehran as “illegal” and in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231. France, Germany and the United Kingdom—the three European partners to the accord (the E3)—have vowed to continue efforts to thwart U.S. measures and preserve the Iran nuclear deal. In August, the E.U. gave Iran $20.6 million in aid as part of a larger package to help offset the impact of U.S. sanctions.

In September, following a ministerial meeting of the remaining signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal at the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, E.U. foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini claimed that Iran has been complying with its end of the agreement, and said that the European Union would work around U.S. efforts to stem Tehran’s oil exports with sanctions. Reading from a statement, she said, “Mindful of the urgency and the need for tangible results, the participants welcomed practical proposals to maintain and develop payment channels, notably the initiative to establish a special purpose vehicle to facilitate payments related to Iran’s exports, including oil.”

However, the chairman of Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh has called the European effort to circumvent U.S. sanctions on Iran as “weak.”

‘They will do whatever they can to circumvent Trump’

Dr. Tsilla Hershco, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told JNS that “The E.U. is currently turning a blind eye on Iran’s ambitions regarding its nuclear program. … Mogherini has even initiated measures designated to neutralize the influence of the U.S. sanctions on the EU trade with Iran.

“Seemingly, Mogherini was not sufficiently impressed by the exposure of Iran’s attempts to conceal its nuclear ambitions, as was the case with its hidden nuclear archives exposed by Israel,” continued Hershco. “Concurrently, the E.U. has already expressed its genuine security concerns regarding the Iranian ballistic-missile program, its aspirations for hegemony in the Middle East and its subversive activities, including the financing of terrorist activities. At the end of the day, the E.U. should better stop to underestimate Iran’s nuclear ambitions, as they are interconnected with Iran’s ongoing regional and global subversive activities, opposed by the E.U.”

The Europeans have made it clear they are committed to the JCPOA and point to numerous inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that, they say, prove Iran is in compliance.

But this goes against the evidence that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented at the recent U.N. General Assembly in New York. There, he provided what appears to be ample and sound proof that Iran continues to deceive the world over its nuclear ambitions. He also called on IAEA head Yukiya Amano to immediately inspect the areas he revealed. Yet the IAEA appears to have ignored Netanyahu’s demand—a move that suggests that it is unreliable in keeping Iran in check.

According to Emmanuel Navon, an expert in E.U.-Israel relations at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, two issues regarding the E.U. remain of serious concern.

“The first,” he told JNS, “is economic interest. Most of the countries, especially Germany and France, want to circumvent U.S. sanctions because they want to keep business going in Europe, especially car-makers and natural-gas companies. In some areas, they can circumvent the sanctions, but ultimately, companies need to choose between doing business with Iran or doing business with the United States. That’s why the sanctions are effective; they force the businesses to choose. That’s one aspect.”

“The other aspect,” Navon continued, “is from the E.U. itself, and Mogherini and ideology. They hate Trump. They think the deal they reached with Iran three years ago was the best deal they could have reached, and they will do whatever they can to circumvent Trump.”

‘Israel can break that consensus’

While collectively, European countries often appear unwilling to listen to Israel’s concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions and regional aspirations, Jerusalem has good relations with some of the E.U. countries individually, and the Jewish state’s concerns have made their way into the halls of European parliaments.

“By having a part in convincing the U.S. to pull out of the deal, Israel was able to influence European attitudes towards Iran,” said Navon. “Netanyahu has been doing a pretty good job in developing ties with the so-called rebels in Eastern Europe. So now, when there is a vote on the Mideast, Israel can break that consensus.”

Navon was skeptical that E.U. efforts to bypass U.S. sanctions would prove successful.

“The test really will be whether the E.U. will be able to convince the companies to remain in Iran,” he added. “At the end of the day, the bottom line is that European companies will have to choose between doing business with Iran or with the U.S.”

JNS, 16.10.2018