Europeans are angry over the latest US-imposed set of sanctions harming EU interests in the wake of Donald Trump quitting the Iran nuclear deal. The EU needs to decide whether to finally stand up for itself, analysts told RT.
Aside from imperiling a landmark international accord and endangering regional and global security, the US pull-out from the 2015 agreement with Iran will have crushing economic consequences for Europe. French, German and UK firms stand to lose billions of euros in investments and trade if they are forced to comply with the sanctions that will be re-imposed and expanded now that the US is no longer a signatory of the nuclear deal.
|Europe signals patience drying up as US re-imposes harmful Iran sanctions
Now, facing the ruinous economic and political fallout from Washington’s unwillingness to honor its agreements, Europe has signaled that it may choose to pursue its own interests – as opposed to obediently swallowing what the US dictates.
‘Crucial turning point for Europe’
“At the moment, there’s a lot of anger in Europe about [US President Donald] Trump and the way he’s pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal. European politicians are reacting to that anger,” journalist Neil Clark told RT. He noted that Europe faced a similar predicament following the 2014 Ukraine crisis, when the Barack Obama administration rolled out sanctions aimed at Russia. Back then, Europe went along with the sanctions that “were clearly not in the interest of EU nations,” but now the discontent seems to have reached the boiling point. “The key thing is: What actions will follow?” Clark notes.
It remains unclear whether Brussels will take matters into its own hands – even as top European officials are making highly critical statements about their American allies. The loudest has probably come from Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, who, on Wednesday, suggested that the EU should “replace”the US in the global arena.
“Do we want the United States to be the economic policeman of the planet? Or do we Europeans say that we have economic interests, we want to continue to trade with Iran as part of a strategic agreement?” le Maire asked in a Friday interview. “Do we want to be vassals who obey decisions taken by the United States while clinging to the hem of their trousers?” the minister fumed.
He added that “it’s time for all European states to open their eyes.” The stinging comments are particularly remarkable because Paris has previously opted to acquiesce to draconian sanctions. An $8.9-billion fine was imposed by the US on French bank BNP for doing business with Iran. In 2014, the bank agreed to pay the fine to avoid being tried in court for violating US sanctions.
“Things are being said now in Europe which have not been said for a long time,” John Laughland, an Oxford-educated historian and specialist in international affairs, told RT. He believes, however, that, so far, the protest statements coming from Europe appear to be empty rhetoric. “I’m waiting to see if the rhetoric translates into anything real.”
“This is a crucial turning point now in Europe’s history – whether a new independent Europe will emerge from this,”Clark said. “It’s time for action. Is Europe ready for the role? Of course it’s ready. It’s always been ready. It just needs the leadership to say to American: ‘No, we’re going to look after our own interests,’” he said.
“Until we see European companies, and European governments actively opposing the United States, we won’t be able to conclude that there’s been a real change,” Laughland argued.
Earlier this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel assured Iranian President Hassan Rouhani of Berlin’s full support for maintaining the nuclear deal, provided that Tehran continues to abide by its terms. German-Iran trade stands at 3 billion euros annually. While it’s but a fraction compared to Germany’s other trade partners, exports to Iran have seen a 50 percent increase since sanctions were lifted as a result of the 2015 nuclear deal, and German companies are not at all happy at the prospects of scaling back trade or having to dodge new US sanctions.
“At this point, we have to replace the United States which as an international actor has lost vigor, and because of it, in the long-term, influence,” Juncker said, accusing Washington of being unwilling “to cooperate with other parts of the world.” For now, the top Eurocrat offered no actual roadmap leading to the bloc’s superpower status that could rival the US.RT
Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, was more cautious in her State of the Union speech on Friday, but she stressed that the EU is “determined” to work and deliver on the Iran nuclear deal.
“I know that this is not the mood of our times. It seems that screaming, shouting, insulting and bullying, systematically destroying and dismantling everything that is already in place, is the mood of our times,” Mogherini said, without pointing her finger at anyone in particular, adding that “the secret of change… is to put all energies not in destroying the old, but rather in building the new.” When reacting to Trump’s decision Tuesday, she also pointed out that “the nuclear deal is not a bilateral agreement and it is not in the hands of any single country to terminate it unilaterally.”
France, which was apparently among those countries trying to talk Trump out of quitting the deal, did not hide its bitter disappointment. Reacting to Washington’s threats to penalize countries that continue dealing with Iran, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire hit at the “vassal” status of France and other European states when it comes to economic affairs with the US.