How Trump and the EU can resolve tensions over Iran
Tensions between Iran and the US seem to show no sign of easing. The BBC reports that the Adrian Darya-1, the oil tanker seized in Gibraltar in July with the help of British forces over fears it was heading to Syria, has been caught heading towards the Syrian port of Tartus by satellite images released by Maxar Technologies. Furthermore, Fox News has revealed that Tehran is deploying new technology to enrich its uranium supplies to build an atomic bomb, which violates the 2015 Iran Deal. Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told the news channel Europe is key to saving Obama’s 2015 deal.
The problem President Trump faced with the EU’s current leaders like European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is that they were both committed to the 2015 Iran Deal. They opposed Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement, but none of Europe’s leaders have managed to suggest an alternative arrangement with Tehran.
The G7 was an opportunity to do that, with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian meeting his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif. But the biggest breakthrough at the Biarritz summit was that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told Macron he is open to meeting with Trump. Considering the US President has met with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un on numerous occasions, it would be a breakthrough for him if he managed to do the same with Iran’s President.
Europe’s involvement in US-Iran tensions is crucial to resolving this crisis. With Russia and China continuing to trade with Tehran in opposition to US sanctions, European nations like France are vital to mediating all sides into a compromise over the situation. The appointment of the EU’s new leadership team is an opportunity to do that. Relations between Trump, Tusk and Juncker became tense over Iran, and the EU’s new leaders may view the Iranian question differently to their predecessors.
This is why US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Brussels last week to meet European Parliament President David Sassoli and the EU’s incoming leadership team: Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, Council President-elect Charles Michel, and the nominee for foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell. He discussed issues Washington and Brussels have failed to agree upon recently like trade, Iran and climate change. It is hard to predict how the Trump administration’s relationship with Brussels’ new team will evolve in years to come regarding Iran, but there are two areas both sides can agree need to be resolved immediately.
One of them is the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s ongoing support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah. As long as Tehran continues to sponsor terrorists, Trump is unlikely to agree with his allies that the 2015 Iran Deal must be preserved. Trouble between Israel and Lebanon is brewing as the former recently said it was returning fire after anti-tank missiles were launched at its border from the latter.
Although Israel is escalating the crisis by staging an evacuation of ‘wounded’ Israeli soldiers with fake blood, their Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is threatened by Iran. He believes that the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, is building a new empire in Syria, Gaza and Lebanon. The EU’s new leaders could persuade the US that they must urge Tehran to surrender its support for terrorism and economic sanctions can be lifted in return. If they fail to do this, Brussels and Washington can impose further sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards.
Neither side wants war and that is why there is still a chance to end the Iranian crisis peacefully. But Trump cannot resolve this situation without the cooperation of his European allies. It is time they stop protesting that the President scrapped his predecessor’s 2015 agreement, and start cooperating with their closest partner to reach a new settlement on Iran.