The Politics Behind the Sabotage of the Iran Deal in Europe

Gerard Deprez (Wikimedia Commons)Gerard Deprez (Wikimedia Commons)

by Eldar Mamedov

As the EU scrambles to offer a viable package of economic incentives to convince Iran to stay in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after the US withdrawal, some forces are attempting to undermine this effort and fully align the bloc’s policies with the Trump administration’s strategy of isolating Iran.

A case in point was an attempt in the European Parliament to block one of the key measures that EU governments proposed to preserve the JCPOA: to give a mandate to the European Investment Bank (EIB) to support financing investment projects in Iran. As of June 4, when the proposal was made, the Parliament had two months to object by issuing a resolution blocking the measure.

The first such attempt was undertaken on June 28 in the Budget committee (BUDG). A resolution was drafted by Gerard Deprez, a Belgian politician and the spokesman in BUDG for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats of Europe (ALDE). It included some genuine concerns expressed by the senior management of the EIB about the bank’s exposure to US sanctions if it engaged in Iran.

But there were also some blatantly political statements, unrelated to either the JCPOA or the measure at hand, namely, that Iran is a “significant state sponsor of terrorism” and a “theocratic, centralized state” where “power is invested with unelected institutions” and human rights violations are “still rampant and systematic.” It also accused Iran of “consistently violating its international obligations regarding its nuclear deterrent” and, bizarrely, “preparing for the failure of the JCPOA”—despite Iran’s certified record of compliance with the agreement. The resolution was roundly defeated in the committee.

Why would a mainstream, pro-European political group like ALDE, led by former Belgian prime minister and passionate Euro-federalist Guy Verhofstadt move to undermine the JCPOA, a singular diplomatic achievement of the EU? The reason is that Deprez is the chair of an informal “Friends of Free Iran” caucus in the EP. The sole purpose of this group is to act as a mouthpiece for the violent, exiled Iranian cult Mojaheddeen-e Khalk (MEK), on the EU terrorist list until 2012 and bitterly opposed to any thaw between the EU and Islamic Republic.

Not to be deterred by their defeat in BUDG, the promoters of the blocking motion pushed for a full floor vote. A different vehicle was found this time: the far-right Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group that includes euroskeptics from UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) and other populists. The group copy-pasted the same resolution defeated in the committee. It was duly rejected in the EP plenary as well, by a whopping 573 votes to 93, with 11 abstentions.

The main political blocs in the house—the center-right conservatives and center-left social democrats, joined by smaller groups like the Greens and the Left—backed the EIB mandate to work in Iran. But an overwhelming majority of ALDE MPs voted against as well, thus confirming that Deprez acted on behalf of MEK rather than his political faction. In the end, only the far right and assorted MEK supporters, including Deprez himself, voted to support the blocking motion.

In truth, there was never a realistic chance that the motion would pass. The clout of MEK has been on the wane in recent years. It has lost some influential backers. More MPs are willing to speak up against MEK abuses, as evidenced by hearings recently held in the EP. Overall, the group has been reduced to obstructing and delaying the normalization of ties between the EU and Iran, rather than shaping outcomes. When it truly mattered, the vote on the EIB exposed its real weight.

On the other measure to preserve the JCPOA—the reactivation of the Blocking Statutes to protect EU companies from US secondary sanctions—MEK and other anti-Iranian lobbies, like the right-wing pro-Israeli groups and their Saudi and Emirati allies, did not manage even to table an objection, let alone win it. This means that the Parliament has decisively backed both measures to enter into force as of August 5, the day before the re-imposed US sanctions kick in.

The fight, however, is not over. In theory, the national governments could still block the measure before it enters into force. The US is already reaching out to weaker members of the EU, such as the Baltic states, Poland, and Hungary, to force them to take Washington’s, rather than Brussels’s side when it comes to Iran. As the vote in the EP revealed, these efforts are matched by those on the far right in Western Europe who synchronize their agenda with Trump’s.

Given this context, the vote in the European Parliament gave a significant political boost to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini as she gears up to present, together with the EU trio of France, Germany, and UK, a package of economic incentives to Iran. Ultimately, for the EU the fight to preserve the JCPOA has become about something bigger than just a non-proliferation agreement with Iran. It’s a battle to save the rules-based, multilateral world order from an assault by those who seek to dismantle it.

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.

14 Comments

  1. Eldar

    Below is the full statement of EU in the Vienna talks today from radiofarda. It is quite different to what you are saying.

    EU Statement On Vienna Talks With Iran

    AUSTRIA — Members of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) attend a ministerial meeting at the Palais Coburg, in Vienna, Austria, 06 July 2018.

    1.?Upon the request of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was held on 6 July in Vienna at ministerial level. The Joint Commission met to discuss the way forward to ensure the continued implementation of the nuclear deal in all its aspects and review unresolved issues arising from the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the agreement and the announced re-imposition of sanctions lifted under the JCPOA and its Annex II, which they deeply regret.

    2.?The Joint Commission is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the JCPOA.

    3.?The Joint Commission was chaired by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and was attended by Foreign Minister and State Councillor of the People’s Republic of China Wang Yi, Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs of the French Republic Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany Heiko Maas, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov, Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United KingdomAlistair Burt, as well as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif.

    4.?The participants in the JCPOA reconfirmed their commitment to the full and effective implementation of the nuclear deal. They recalled that the JCPOA is a key element of the global non-proliferation architecture and a significantachievement of multilateral diplomacy endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council through Resolution 2231. The participants welcomed the 11th report by the International Atomic Energy Agency of 24 May confirming that Iran is abiding by its nuclear-related commitments.

    5.?All participants reiterated the need to continue the full and effective implementation of all nuclear related commitments. They welcomed steady progress made on the modernisation of the Arak research reactor and took note with satisfaction that the United Kingdom will take over the function of co-chair of the Arak Working Group. Participants will continue to support the modernisation of the Arak research reactor as part of the JCPOA and the conversion of the Fordow facility in a nuclear, physics and technology centre. Participants also welcomed the significant projects in the area of civil nuclear co-operation carried out on the basis of Annex III of the JCPOA.

    6.?The participants recognised that, in return for the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments,the lifting of sanctions, including the economic dividends arising from it, constitutes an essential part of the JCPOA.They also noted that economic operators pursuing legitimate business with Iran have been acting in good faith based on the commitments contained in the JCPOA and endorsed at the highest level by the UN Security Council.

    7.?The participants discussed their recent efforts aimed at providing practical solutions in order to maintain the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran. They welcomed the extensive work undertaken to-date, the intensification of technical dialogues and the mobilisation of considerable resources by all.

    8.?The participants affirmed their commitment regarding the following objectives in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere:

    – the maintenance and promotion of wider economic and sectoral relations with Iran;

    – the preservation and maintenance of effective financial channels with Iran;

    – the continuation of Iran’s export of oil and gas condensate,petroleum products and petrochemicals;

    – the continuation of sea (including shipping and insurance), land, air and rail transportation relations;

    – the promotion of export credit cover;

    – clear and effective support for economic operators trading with Iran, particularly small and medium sized enterprises which are the backbone of many economies;

    – the encouragement of further investments in Iran;

    – the protection of economic operators for their investment and other commercial and financial activities in or in relation to Iran;

    – the bringing together of private and public sector experts, including through the promotion of Business Councils;

    – the practical support for trade with and investment in Iran;

    – the protection of companies from the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions.

    The participants noted that the EU is in the process of updating the EU “Blocking Statute” in order to protect EU Member States’ companies and of updating the European Investment Bank’s external lending mandate to cover Iran.

    The participants will work on the above issues through direct bilateral efforts and through engagement with international partners in order to encourage them to follow the same policies and to establish similar mechanisms in their economic relations with Iran.

    9.?The participants recalled that these initiatives are aimed at preserving the nuclear deal which is in the security interest of all.

    10. ?Participants agreed to keep progress under close review and to reconvene the Joint Commission, including at Ministerial level, as appropriate in order to advance common efforts. The participants stressed their determination to effectively develop and implement practical solutions concerning the above.

    It is quite clear from the statement that the EU want normal trade agreements with the Ayatollah regime in Iran.

    There is not one sentence about crimes against humanity.

    EU countries obide by the Declaration of Human rights.

    So the question is, why are the EU trying to do business with Ayatollahs who are committing these crimes?

    I can only pray to Ahuramazda for help, as human laws are failing.

  2. So Poland and Israel PM signed up a joint declaration. Is this a prelude to US pressure on the small Baltic country

  3. Thanks to Eldar Mamedov for keeping us informed on developments at the European Parliament.
    Ali Mostofi properly pointed to the results of the JCPOA Joint Commission meeting in Vienna on July 6. But he missed the main takeaways – there was participation at the level of the Foreign Ministers of China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and the United Kingdom, under the chairwomanship of Federica Mogherini, EU, and there was a remarkably powerful agreed statement. Javad Zarif recognized this in telling the press, “ This is the first time they have shown this level of commitment.” All one can say is, “Keep it up!”

  4. A cult that changes its name to mask its terrorist DNA and laughably refuses to admit its founder has been dead for a over a decade has no place lobbying European institutions or enticing politicians to attend meetings with money and travel expenses.

  5. Ali Mostofi is a mouthpiece for American Orange fat boy & Wahhabi Al Qaeda/ISIS 9/11 saudis & Illegal Apartheid occupying Remimf of lying Bibi

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