At the end of September, the European Union unveiled plans to help Iran bypass sanctions imposed by the US, so that it could sell oil and even trade with EU countries. The move followed Trump finally losing his patience over the so-called Iran Deal – a treaty drafted by Barak Obama which effectively prevented Iran from developing nuclear weapons in return for opening up Iran’s economy to the West and unblocking funds held outside of the country – which he dismisses as a bad deal for American interests in the region.
In reality, Trump’s real problem with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA), is the same one which vexed America’s two strongest allies in the Middle East, which is that it did nothing to curtail Iran’s real strength against any external threat: its ballistic missiles program.
And so, to appease these two partners, who felt betrayed by Obama, sanctions were imposed against Iran – along with secondary sanctions, imposed via other countries (although this has not been as successful as Trump would have hoped) – and a new ‘war’ against Iran began, aimed at largely toppling its moderate government, while Saudi Arabia gains time to move ahead with its own ballistic missile program.
A key part of spurning a downfall of the present regime in Tehran, were both secondary sanctions wielded against Turkey, China and India, threatening them against buying Iran’s cheap oil, along with forcing the EU to stop trading altogether with Tehran. At one point, Trump’s plan looked like it was only working with Europe as all the main investors inside Iran packed their bags and promptly left Iran within weeks of his sanctions plan being announced.
But there was great optimism about Iran finding a clever go-around and still sell its oil to EU governments as well as foster trade with European companies who were not afraid of the threats from the US via its banking system to shut companies off from the US market.
The European Union’s own foreign policy damsel, Federica Mogherini, who stole a lot of the credit of the Iran Deal being signed in the first place (when in reality the Iranians humored her with this idea all along) had a plan. She soon announced that a new banking system to be called INSTEX which would be created specifically to allow EU governments and companies to trade with Iran. Although on paper it seemed pretty simple, there were warnings from experts that it might be a difficult task to pull off, given the complexities of international banking, not to mention international laws; moreover, the EU has no real track record of pulling off anything so bold as this before as the so-called ‘foreign policy’ initiatives it has are largely grand ideas on paper – fantasies of what it might be one day rather than the present day European External Action Service which employs over a 100 ‘ambassadors’ who largely live in Djin palaces and keep the dream alive around the world in exotic locations whose governments are happy to give Brussels the cash-for-hegemony deal anytime.
Sadly, it seems that Mogherini’s plan for the banking scheme which was to send a clear signal to Trump as well as keep the Iran Deal alive, is folly and delusional – given that, for Mogherini and her colleagues, the Iran Deal is seen as their great success to exercise EU foreign policy into concrete terms and to create the first ever international treaty drafted by Brussels. It is more or less sacrosanct and considered to be a treaty which now can be used to exert EU hegemony against Trump’s new world order which they consider geopolitical heresy.
Yet the Iran Deal has so much fake news and false prophesies – like Trump’s claims that the Iranians got 150 billion dollars from it, when in reality they only got just over 30 and it was their money in the first place – and the EU’s idea seems just that. Just more fake news.
For the first time, there are growing doubts about both whether it can be pulled off and whether it was a genuine offer in the first place as Brussels appears to be at odds with the giants of the EU, who are cranking up the sanctions to new levels.
Just recently, France’s foreign minister warned Tehran of new sanctions if Tehran would not agree to curbs its ballistic missiles program, regardless of the fact that ballistics were never part of the Iran Deal. France, a founding member of the European Union itself and a country with real clout in Brussels seems to be at odds with the EU’s plans, to say the least. Or was the Brussels plan the real deal in the first place?
Concurrent to this, is also the first real signals from Tehran that it doubts the EU’s sincerity in the draft banking plan. Politicians there, feeling the heat from sanctions and living with daily rumours of a possibility of a military coup engineered by the charismatic, anti-US military figure Qasem Soleimani, are starting to cry foul.
In reality, we shouldn’t get too excited about the scheme, as Tehran clearly isn’t holding out too much hope. In addition to there being many doubts about whether European firms will sign up to it, is doubtful that even if it gets off the ground it will only appeal to smaller companies that are flying under the US radar anyway. Additionally, earlier hopes that it could be used to sell Iran’s oil to Europe, have been dashed.
The EU is living in dangerous times. With its own elections this May expected to give record wins to nationalist, populist parties – in particular in France – it is facing its worst ever credibility crisis, which explains the fear mongering led by President Macron with his latest Brexit speech. But if Brussels can’t deliver on Iran’s rescue package, then it won’t matter if far right parties dominate the European parliament, signaling the demise once and for all, of the EU as we know it. Brussels will never be taken seriously again around the world where it practices its fake hegemony as no one will forget the farce of the EU and the Iran Deal. INSTEX may well be the sword that the EU’s falls on, certainly on the world’s stage, when the hype dies down and it is dispatched to the press room floor as folly for a wannabee superpower.