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CWA # 25, 10 June 2018

Global Politics
Iran N-Deal and the Trans-Atlantic Divide

  Druta Bhatt

After the cumulative effect of US negative response for the Paris Climate Agreement, the Transatlantic agreement and now the Iran deal, Europe gets more convinced of the US disregard for its allies and the rest of the world.

School of Liberal Studies, PDPU, Gandhinagar & Research Intern, National Institute of Advanced Studies, IISc (Bengaluru)
The US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has not been supported by the European allies and highly criticized by the other signatories. 
Why is Europe furious? Will the US withdrawal cause a transatlantic rift? Will Iran mark the beginning of trans-Atlantic allies of the US in Europe pursuing an independent foreign policy course?
Though economically, US can afford such a singular, non- conformist decision, it may have political consequences. This is not the first time Trump portrayed a terrible shift in US foreign policy engagements but this may be the first time that its historical allies across the Atlantic have national and global interests at stake and are firm on pursuing these.
Iran and the Economic Stakes for EU
After waiving economic sanctions on Iran as a part of JCPOA, the EU now has huge economic stakes in Iran. Overall, the EU is Iran’s number one trading partner. Many French companies like Airbus (with a deal of 100 planes), French oil giant Total (with a five billion USD deal) and carmakers Renault and Peugeot among others will face severe losses with re-imposition of sanctions on Iran. According to the trade data available, the nine months from January through October 2017, Germany sold 2.358 billion Euros worth of goods (Dollar 2.846 billion) to Iran. German exports to Iran remain on a steep upward curve. In return for traditional items like Persian rugs and dried fruits, chemicals and pharmaceuticals from Iran, German companies export industrialized products like Volkswagen Cars. Iran - U.K. is worth more than 260 million Euros in January 2017 to November 2017. 
To protect their companies, the EU leaders had desperately tried lobbying the US President for months against his withdrawal. Despite this, US not only withdrew from the deal but also decided to reinforce extraterritorial sanctions. ”We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanctions,” says Trump. The US is a much larger market than Iran and EU cannot afford to lose on the US market which is responsible for 17 per cent of its trade. European leaders are furious about the fact that the US is forcefully trying to end a multilateral agreement singularly and inconsiderately by the virtue of its economic power. They are scrambling to keep the deal alive. 
Emmanuel Macron says, “Europe should have a stronger economic sovereignty. France envisages a compensation for French companies acting within the framework of treaties signed by France.”
Nuclear Safety and JCPOA
The JCPOA was a diplomatic victory for the P5+1 states not only because it ended a 13-year long standoff between Iran and the US but also marked a significant step towards nuclear safety. As part of the deal, Iran agreed to do the following three: eliminate its supply of medium-enriched Uranium and cut down its supply of low enriched Uranium; reduce its installed centrifuges by 2/3rds; and allow IAEA to have regular inspections in all its nuclear plants besides several other restrictions to curb nuclear proliferation in Iran. 
“As of today, the IAEA can confirm that the nuclear-related commitments are being implemented by Iran,” Yukiya Amano, director-general of the IAEA, said in a statement on 8 May 2018. The European signatories see this as a historical feat and choose to abide by the international agreement which is successfully fulfilling its purpose. They find it wrong to end the treaty prematurely and whimsically especially when the adjoining party has stayed loyal. Joint statement by Emmanuel Macron, President of France, Theresa May, Prime Minister of UK and Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany say, “According to the IAEA, Iran continues to abide by the restrictions set out by the JCPOA, in line with its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The world is a safer place as a result. Therefore we, the E3, will remain parties to the JCPOA.”
Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is on a Europe tour to convince the EU countries against the Iran deal but Europe is not going to give up. “We support Israel’s right to security and have said this to Iran at all times,” Angela Merkel said. “We have the same goal that Iran must never get a nuclear weapon and the difference between us is how to do that.”
Iran’s Response So Far
Iran is acting reasonably and despite internal pressure, President Hassan Rouhani has agreed to continue the nuclear deal provided the EU can help them compensate the economic sanctions that would be enforced by the US "If we achieve the deal's goals in cooperation with other members of the deal, it will remain in place... By exiting the deal, America has officially undermined its commitment to an international treaty," Rouhani said. 
Contradictorily, just a day ago, Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvand said: “In a letter that will be handed over to the International Atomic Energy Organisation, Iran will announce that the process of increasing the capacity to produce UF6 will start on Tuesday.” Iran may act rashly if the E3 leaders don’t finalize a good enough deal soon.
What’s next for the allies?
On zooming out we see that the rift between the European countries and the US indicate a larger change. The US has always had a global outlook. Over the years it has kept an eye on the shifts in world trends while being a trend setter. It has been not just a hegemon but also a trustworthy big brother. The erratic decisions made by President Trump against his own allies, his decreased efforts towards global integration and cooperation makes the traditional US image blur. 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “European nations no more rely on America to protect it.” This is the first time that the European nations have taken a strong stand against the US, along with Russia, China and Iran. Trump and his decisions have become a binding factor for these generally incompatible Eurasian countries. After the cumulative effect of US negative response for the Paris Climate Agreement, the Transatlantic agreement and now the Iran deal, Europe gets more convinced of the US disregard for its allies and the rest of the world.
If EU is able to save the deal despite vehement US intervention it will be a definite signal for the decline of the US As Dr Syed Ali Alavi, a professor at the London University aptly puts it, ”This (continuation of JCPOA post US withdrawal) is a kind of a litmus test for the global community to see if you a living in a multipolar system or in a unipolar system.” 

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