By Nawab Khan
BRUSSELS, May 10 (KUNA) -- For those following the Iranian nuclear issue, it is quite evident that without the US involvement, there would not have been a nuclear deal with Iran known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
UK, France and Germany, collectively known as the E3 initiated the nuclear talks with Iran in 2003 during which two agreements were signed, the Tehran Declaration and the Paris Agreement. In September 2004, the then EU High Representative Javier Solana began taking part in the negotiations to increase E3 legitimacy within the European Union itself after some EU members started complaining about the E3 monopoly of the talks.
But all these European efforts collapsed in 2005. Also the EU-Iran "critical dialogue" broke down in 2006. The only reason for this abject failure was the absence of the US. So under the same logic, with the US now out, JCPOA is bound to collapse, opine analysts. The suggestion that it was mainly due to the EU that it was possible to settle the historic nuclear deal of 2015 is a fallacy.
In essence, the JCPOA was a deal between the Americans and the Iranians mediated by the Europeans with Russia and China as cheer bystanders to give it an international cover. However, credit goes to the EU that it managed to keep both Iran and the US at the table and prevented the negotiations from collapsing.
The Iranians were also quite aware that no deal could be won without the US participation.
Therefore, it was no surprise that they appointed Javad Zarif the current foreign minister to lead the Iranian side of the talks to the end. Zarif has lived many years in the US and has completed all his education in the US. He served as Iran's Ambassador to the UN for a number of years, speaks English with an American accent and knows the American political scene very well.
However, the US decision has proven the fact that European leaders have no influence on Trump and that the White House chief gives scant attention to their views and their interests.
Leaders of Germany, France, the UK and the EU High Representative travelled to Washington in recent weeks and months to cajole and plead with Trump to stick with the deal but with no avail. He not only withdrew from the nuclear deal but also introduced more sanctions instead of reducing them and used very tough language against the Iranian regime. Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant commented that "he (Trump) continues to firmly believe in America First, and shows little respect for multilateral agreements and cooperation." A Danish scholar and diplomat Erik Jessen in his MA thesis on European Diplomacy in the Iran Nuclear Negotiations writes that "although the EU played an important role, it was not 'the main reason' why it was possible to reach the JCPOA." "One can claim that the European sanctions were one of the main reasons why it was possible to make a diplomatic breakthrough. However, the sanctions were to a wide extent initiated by the US and erected under American guidance and pressure, "he notes.
Surprisingly, the European response to the US withdrawal from the deal was mute and low-key with mere expressions of regret and commitments to continue the agreement. French President Emmanuel Macron called the US decision "a mistake", while UK's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said his country had "no intention of walking away" and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country would "do everything in our power for Iran to adhere to its obligations in the future." Meanwhile, Federica Mogherini said the EU will adhere to the deal and urged Trump to reconsider his decision.
But European analysts are confessing that the US withdrawal is a big blow to the nuclear deal.
The think-tank International Crisis Group in a commentary said "President Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement is an irresponsible, unnecessary and serious blow to the JCPOA." "While European efforts have thus far focused on how to keep the US in the JCPOA, they must now shift to keeping Iran from getting out," it said.
The Belgian think tank Egmont Institute in an opinion piece explained the dilemma facing the Europeans.
"Maintaining the agreement means that European companies will be at risk of being targeted by American sanctions. It will without doubt further complicate other negotiations, such as those on the tariffs on European steel that the US wants to introduce," it said.
On his part, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called on the European governments to give guarantees before agreeing to continue with the deal. But even if the EU governments offer guarantees no major European banks, oil or aircraft companies will take the risk of doing business with Iran and earn the wrath of the US administration.
It is fresh on the European private sector mind that in 2014 French banking giant BNP Paribas had to pay a hefty fine of nearly USD nine billion to the US over charges that it broke trade sanctions against Sudan, Iran and Cuba.
The only major oil agreement that Iran has signed since the nuclear deal was a USD five billion exploration agreement with France's Total and China's CNPC last year, but these deals are now under threat after the US pullout.
Moreover, the ordinary Iranian has seen no benefit from the deal two years later. In fact the economic situation of the country has worsened and the Iranian Riyal has lost 30 percent of its value.
It is reported that foreign participation at the annual International Oil Show in Tehran this week was down by a third compared to last year.
European banks still shy away from making any transactions with Iranian banks although their governments encourage them to do business with Iran. (end) nk.ag