The Iran Crisis and Europe’s No-Show
When the US announced its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, Paris, London and Berlin envisioned to act as a mediator to save the deal. They failed miserably. The current conflict with Iran further amplifies how helpless Europe has been and will be outside of its continent.
For the first three days after Soleimani’s death, Europe’s leaders were suspiciously reluctant to address the events in Iran in-depth. It changed on Sunday when one was able to admire the unique and special empty but sanctimonious European diplomacy that has been sold to the public for years.
Thus on Sunday, the usual scenario occurred. European leaders requested, expressed their regrets, and appealed to the actors involved. A practical solution was not offered, and the crisis caused by Soleimani’s death has hit Europeans hard and exposed their international procurement.
It was seen again when Iran announced on Sunday that it was be obliged by the 2015 nuclear deal. EU chief diplomat Borrell said he “deeply regrets” Iran’s withdrawal. At the same time, he called on all those involved to be cautious: “The current spiral of violence must be stopped before it gets out of control.” The governments of France, Germany, and Great Britain uttered similar words, stating that “the current spiral of violence in Iraq must be ended.”
This declaration by the EU has been its signature move in the crisis so far, aimed to deescalate the situation and ease everyone involved. The issues with this notion: the actors involved will not even listen.
An example of this is Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif. On the weekend, he spoke to Borrell. However, Zarif has no real authority in Iran’s political system. Ergo, he is not the person Europe should speak to in the first place. However, Zarif appears to be the only person the regime is offering. For one reason in particular: despite all the hyped meetings, passionate statements and lofty demands of the past, Europe has never had significant influence in the post World War II Middle East.
After the successful conclusion of the 2015 nuclear deal, Europe gained some influence. The fact that the Europeans could not keep the US in the deal has made them irrelevant again in Tehran, however. Berlin, London, and France had vouched that the US would also abide by the agreement in the long term. In addition, Iran saw little of the promised investments from Europe. Trump’s exit was then considered as Europe’s ultimate weakness and betrayal.
Even worse. Europe could not even prevent the consequences of the US sanctions utilizing an introduced defense law, which was supposed to secure European investments in the region. It did not stop companies from withdrawing from doing business with Iran.
Despite all of it, Europe continues to bet on diplomacy and appeasement. The very same diplomacy which has had no effect in the region over the years. Germany’s Foreign Minister Maas announced that Europe would lead de-escalation initiatives in the United Nations. Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Asselborn even said that Europe’s “only weapon” was diplomacy and that it would “never engage militarily” in the Middle East. Instead, Europe’s task was to “convey” to both sides and to “deescalate”.
How exactly could the latter possibly be facilitated? No one, including Asselborn, seems to know. Europe simply does not have the means to deescalate. Their influence on Iran and Iraq is nil, making the calls for de-escalation only a diplomatic charade. A charade in which an actual dialogue with Iran is nonexistent.