London, 29 Jan – Prior to the US exit from the Iran nuclear deal last May, it was negotiating with the EU to coordinate pressure on Iran to fill gaps in the deal – specifically Iranian global terrorism and ballistic missile testing. There were other issues that the US wanted to address, but they were not part of the package, and the Trump administration decided to break with the EU and confront Tehran alone.
But, the EU has been working hard to uphold the landmark Iran nuclear deal. Last week, however, the EU took a harder line with Iran over its ballistic missile testing and its global support of terrorism.
In fact, France just announced that it would impose new sanctions on the Islamic Republic if it did not make concessions regarding its ongoing ballistic missile tests, and Germany has announced that it was banning flights by Iran’s Mahan Air airliner following reports of its ongoing involvement with exporting weapons and terrorism to Syria.
In response, Tehran threatened to reevaluate its relations with each country.
For their involvement in alleged assassination plots on European soil, the EU recently sanctioned and froze the assets of the Directorate for Internal Security of the Iranian Ministry for Intelligence and Security, and two individuals identified as Assadollah Asadi and Saeid Hashemi Moghadam.
But, soon after, France and Germany made a different key announcement: the EU was nearly ready to roll out a new plan to promote trade with the Islamic Republic, which would circumvent US sanctions.
It seems that the EU is using a carrot and stick approach with Iran. Europe is seeking to take a tough line on global terrorism, and to reward Iran with a special purpose vehicle (SPV) which would promote trade, for upholding the international agreement to prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons.
Still, France, Germany, and the EU, have now confronted Iran over ballistic missile testing, and for continuing to transport weapons to promote terror and instability in Syria.
Severals questions remain, regarding this confrontation. Iran may change its behavior. This would be the best outcome. However, if the EU continues pressure, Iran may leave the deal. Another scenario is that the EU may step back its threats if Iran makes minor changes, and move forward on trade with Iran that undermines US sanctions. The eyes of the world should be focused on EU / Iran relations.