Newspaper Article - METRO U.N.

The U.S.-Iran Conflict

| Oct. 02, 2019

President Trump’s Iran policy, even if it does not lead to war, is one of the worst examples of self-inflicted harm and collateral damage to the international community in the history of US foreign policy. After years of negotiations the US, China, Britain, France, Germany, and Russia, had concluded a nuclear deal with Iran, the JCPOA, that stopped its nuclear weapons program and submitted it to intrusive international control in exchange for a phased release of pre-existing sanctions. Trump withdrew the US from the  deal to fulfill a campaign pledge, thus disregarding the conviction of the other powers that the agreement was necessary to uphold the international proliferation regime, to contribute to stability in the Middle East, and to give Iran the chance to open up the country’s economy. To be sure, the agreement did not resolve all problems related to the nuclear issue nor could it cover other aspects of Iran’s objectionable international behavior, but it was a first important step to successfully address the burning question of nuclear proliferation.

After the withdrawal that incidentally greatly undermined American credibility in upholding international commitments, the Trump Administration set up a policy of maximum pressure on the Iranian regime. It consisted of a list of demands by Secretary of State Pompeo that would amount to a capitulation by Iran, followed by sanctions that aimed at crippling the Iranian economy. They were increasingly effective in reducing Iran’s foreign trade and investment and in particular its sale of oil.

But this destructive impact on the Iranian economy could only be achieved by hurting its trade partners, America’s close allies in Europe, and not the few supporters of the Trump Administration in this endeavor, the Sunni Arab states and Israel who have no trade with Iran. The Europeans had struggled relentlessly, supported by China and Russia, to save the agreement. They not only failed to stop Trump from withdrawing from the deal but, as Iran’s main economic partners, they found themselves in the uncomfortable position of paying the counterpart of a sanctions policy they were opposed to. Moreover, they had to endure their cost in full awareness that they were counterproductive and could potentially lead to the very crisis that is now unfolding.

To make matters worse the Europeans have found no effective way to avoid the impact of the sanctions given the role of the Dollar in international trade and the importance of the US market for European firms thus causing resentment and anti-Americanism that challenge the relationship among allies.

Iran predictably did not cave in.  On the contrary, also encouraged by Trump’s tepid behavior in the face of Iranian military action, it reacted with growing aggressiveness leaving both sides blocked in their respective corners:  The Iranians, who began deviating from parts of the nuclear agreement now posit a withdrawal of sanctions as precondition for negotiations which the US refuses to grant. At the same time the escalating military posture could lead to an accidental war.

President Macron’s courageous attempt at mediation so far failed. Even his proposal of a 15 billion Dollar credit to Iran would require a partial lifting of sanctions by the US in order to work. Britain, France and Germany sided with the Trump Administration in assigning to Iran responsibility for the attack on the Saudi oil installations, perhaps also motivated by the hope to gain Trump’s support for a gesture to unblock the situation.

Given the enormous risks of a further escalation mediation is now imperative. The EU should convene a conference of interested parties to overcome the stalemate and open an avenue for dialogue.

  – Via the original publication source.

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