Iran Deal As a Question of European Sovereignty

Federica Mogherini (Wikimedia Commons)Federica Mogherini (Wikimedia Commons)

by Eldar Mamedov

As President Donald Trump was celebrating his four-point declaration of intentions on the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was addressing the European Parliament on the consequences of the US withdrawal from a real working nuclear agreement: the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran.

The debate was convened by the members of the European Parliament concerned with the fate of this signature achievement of EU diplomacy. It served to take the temperature in the chamber. This is meaningful, as the EP has a say in concrete measures the EU is promulgating to salvage the JCPOA.

Following the meeting of EU leaders in Sofia on May 18, the European Commission has updated the Blocking Statute designed to protect EU companies from the extraterritorial sanctions of the US, and of the European Investment Bank (EIB)’s External Lending Mandate, which would make Iran eligible for investment activities by the EIB. Following the adoption of these measures on June 6, the Council (representing the governments of the EU) and the European Parliament will have a period of two months to object before they enter into force. If no objection is raised, the updated acts will enter into force at the latest on August 5, just before the re-imposed US sanctions kick in.

The EU governments have, so far, demonstrated unity in rallying behind the need to save the JCPOA. The US administration, however, is ratcheting up pressure on the weak spots in the EU, such as Poland and Hungary where populist rulers have shown much sympathy for Trump’s agenda.

When it comes to the European Parliament, a minority of MEPs could trigger a vote on both or either of the measures proposed by the Commission within the two-month period starting June 6. A simple majority will determine the final result of the vote. Today´s debate showed that, even if a necessary threshold is achieved to force a vote, a solid majority of the house is behind the JCPOA and Mogherini’s efforts. Although many MEPs repeated the well-known concerns about Iran—such as its missile program, human rights record, and regional policies, including support for Syria´s regime of Bashar al-Assad and threats against Israel—even Iran skeptics seemed broadly convinced by Mogherini’s argument that the JCPOA opened the gates for dialogue to address these issues.

As an example of progress on regional dialogue, Mogherini mentioned the EU3 (France, Germany, United Kingdom) plus one (Italy) engagement with Iran on Yemen, which led to UN General Secretary Special Representative on Yemen Martin Griffiths’ meeting with Houthi rebels in Sana’a. This may be a small example, but the growing tensions around the JCPOA have led to a narrowing of space for even modest progress on the Iran-related issues of concern to the West.

A novel element in the debate was the much more assertive language used by centrist MEPs to defend not just the JCPOA, but a rules-based, multilateral order as a whole, and their identification of Trump´s reckless policies as a threat to this order. Some approached Trump´s violation of the nuclear agreement in the context of a broader transatlantic divide that includes U.S. imposition of tariffs on European goods, US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and global migration compact, and the sabotage of the G-7 meeting in Canada, to name but the most egregious examples. Brazen attempts to meddle in the domestic politics of EU member states—such as the public support given by the American ambassador to Germany to far-right populists and Steve Bannon´s crusade to radicalize Europe—prompted some MPs to see Trump´s America not as a long-cherished transatlantic ally but a threat to everything the EU stands for.

Tellingly, the dissenting voices came from the extreme right. Assorted euro-skeptics and populists parroted the Trump team’s talking points about the JCPOA being merely an executive agreement by an administration that is no longer in office and called on the EU to follow suit by abandoning the “dying agreement.” Although Mogherini usually never engages in debates with the extreme right, this time she made an exception. Aiming at a broader audience, she drove home the point that the JCPOA is enshrined in a UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR), and thus is part of international law, and the US unilateral withdrawal from the agreement amounts to a violation of a resolution that it itself endorsed. She then challenged the populists to explain how their calls for “European sovereignty” are consistent with their professed readiness to follow Washington, not Brussels, on the Iran deal.

The debate in the European Parliament showed once again that the battle to preserve the JCPOA far transcends the non-proliferation agreement with Iran. It is about the re-assertion of Europe´s sovereignty, defined as its ability to stand up for its interests and values and uphold an open, multilateral, rules-based international system.

This article reflects the personal views of the author and not necessarily the opinions of the European Parliament.

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Eldar Mamedov

Eldar Mamedov has degrees from the University of Latvia and the Diplomatic School in Madrid, Spain. He has worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia and as a diplomat in Latvian embassies in Washington D.C. and Madrid. Since 2007, Mamedov has served as a political adviser for the social-democrats in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (EP) and is in charge of the EP delegations for inter-parliamentary relations with Iran, Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula, and Mashreq.

SHOW 8 COMMENTS

8 Comments

  1. Eldar

    From your article, it seems that Iranian sovereignty means absolutely nothing to you. You have not written one word about how the Ayatollah regime is not sovereign in Iran.

    From the day Donald Trump broke the Ayatollah nuclear agreement, everyone thought that he has broken the international law. Fine he did. Okay he will also try to impose sanctions on EU firms. But don’t love Ayatollahs because you hate Trump or the international law he broke.

    Think about the plight of 80 million people in Iran, living under an alien force. Which law in Europe or UN states that it is fine to do business with criminals and people who commit such insane human rights atrocities?

    Justifying the right for a company to do business with Ayatollahs, is no different than giving them weapons do arrest and kill more Iranians every day.

    Do the Europeans really feel they can sleep well at night, knowing that fellow human beings are perishing more, because of the protection they are getting from US sanctions. I can assure you that many EU businesses are just not doing business with Ayatollahs, because they have a conscious.

    Please please please, see it from the Iranian people’s point of view. Our country is dying of drought and economic disaster. Stop thinking about the petty profit from the Ayatollahs. They must go peacefully.

    The non-violent resistance movement of Iran needs your support. Many people like me have put 40 years of labour of love to show the ancient non-violent culture of Iran. For us it is not politics, not religion, not business. We just want a free Iran for all Iran loving people. And the Ayatollahs do not love Iran. They put Islam first. They put their Mahdi first. They feel righteous when they kill an Iranian.

    Please help us.

  2. avatar Cyrus merely an executive agreement by an administration that is no longer in office

    “merely an executive agreement by an administration that is no longer in office”

    While US domestic laws makes a distinction between executive agreements and treaties (a distinction which is really not all that important actually in this context since neither is “binding” contrary to popular belief and both constitute simply political agreements)

    …Under international law there’s no distinction based on such labels, and any kind of international agreement must be respected: Pact sunt servanda

  3. “merely an executive agreement by an administration that is no longer in office”

    While US domestic laws makes a distinction between executive agreements and treaties (a distinction which is really not all that important actually in this context since neither is “binding” contrary to popular belief and both constitute simply political agreements)

    …Under international law there’s no distinction based on such labels, and any kind of international agreement must be respected: Pact sunt servanda

  4. Iran has kept to its word unlike US which has shown that it should never be trusted only because it is a country under influence of Israel.
    Now that Europe is acting independantly for its own interest, watch how CIA and Mossad will create havoc in the streets of Europe. God help us!

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