Iran Deal: Europe Has Truly Broken Up With US Foreign Policy – Journalist
On May 8, US President Donald Trump announced that the US was leaving the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and promised to re-instate the toughest economic sanctions against Iran in response to Tehran’s alleged continued work on its military nuclear program. Ramin Mazaheri, PressTV’s chief correspondent in Paris, comments on the news.
Sputnik: Despite numerous pleas not to withdraw from the deal, President Trump did it anyway. Why has he taken this step? Was it to be expected?
Ramin Mazaheri: Was it to be expected? I certainly did. History shows that America has a very strict policy of not keeping its policies. We can look at North Korea: they made major steps towards dismantling their nuclear project during their previous leader’s era. The video of them blowing up the cooling tower to officially shut their nuclear plant is a famous image many will remember.
The US did not ease up its sanctions, did not allow food aid, did not allow energy deliveries, and this is undoubtedly why North Korea pursued their own nuclear program: they saw the US could not be trusted to honor their policies. Given that Iran is one of the chief ideological enemies of Washington, even if Hillary had won, the whole world should have been surprised if the US kept this deal.
But Trump withdrawing, especially, is not a surprise. During his election campaign he was amazingly open to diplomacy with many longtime US enemies, including Russia, but he was consistently extremely hard-line against only two countries: Iran and Cuba. The reason for this is American politics: there is no pro-Iran lobby in the US which could push things in our favor, and in the American political model, lobbies are forces that drive policy. Furthermore, there are numerous, powerful anti-Iran lobbies who wish to push the political system against Iran. Trump will not win any votes, nor gain any campaign financing, by making peace with Iran. In fact, it is certain such a move would cost him dearly! Trump wants to get re-elected, so the only way we could imagine any sort of Nixon-China-like detente between the US and Iran is during his second term, and even then it would be a bit surprising.
Why Would US Stay?
So, when we consider all of this animosity from the US, we are not surprised that Trump pulled out. Why would the US stay, after all? They are ideologically opposed to Tehran. Washington’s ideology is capitalism … but they have no money at stake in Iran because they do no business, so that’s not a factor. Washington’s other driving ideology is imperialism, and we see how Iran opposes with money and guns Western imperialist projects in Iran itself, quite successfully, and also in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Syria – the whole region.
Who else takes on the US so brazenly in 2018, if not Iran? When we look at the rather undemocratic structure of the American system, we must ask: what is the impetus for a positive change in US policy towards Iran? There is nothing pushing Washington in a pro-Iran direction, and Washington does not have the benevolent, peaceful, politically modern ideology which could move it away from belligerence. So Trump fits right in with longtime US policy towards Iran.
Sputnik: The Iranian leader said that the deal would survive without the US. Meanwhile, Russia and the EU have pledged to stay committed to the deal. What are your prognoses as to what future is in store for the JCPOA?
Ramin Mazaheri: The JCPOA is, without question, still in force. It exists and will be followed by everyone except the United States. The US has withdrawn unilaterally, but this move does not have the ability to entirely scuttle the deal. The US will impose more sanctions, they will not honor what they promised, and that’s their choice. But the other five signatories have all agreed: the JCPOA continues, but without the US.
So that’s the future – the JCPOA continues, and the US resumes their economic blockade, their sanctions, their aggression on Iran, which has been in place since 1979 and which Barack Obama did not alleviate during the 1.5 years he was in office while the JCPOA was in place. Iranians will not forget that of course. The US may use the same tactic with regard to Iran as they did with Cuba: despite Obama’s claims of detente, the US did not lift their murderous, impoverishing blockade; Obama even put billion dollar fines on European banks for working with Cuba in order to scare Europeans away from working with Havana after the so-called detente. This could be the same scenario with Iran.
What is so interesting today, what is truly historic, is that we can honestly say that Europe has truly broken up with US foreign policy. Immediately after Trump’s announcement, the EU, France, the UK and Germany all said they reject that move, and that they will move ahead without the US. Never has that happened since the popular revolution of 1979.
‘Europe Comes Over as Iran Keeps Beating US’
Even if billions in trade exists between Iran and EU member nations, there has never been a public break which would declare so clearly that Europe is siding with Iran. So this is something which I think many Iranians are savoring, at least for one day.
And it should be savored, because Europe has not come over to Iran’s side because they all of a sudden agree with what I call the Iranian Islamic Socialist model: Europe has come over because Iran keeps beating the United States. Iran had a popular, modern, anti-imperialist revolution, fought off Iraq which was foisted on Iran by the West, has grown and thrived despite the economic blockade and now Europe wants to end the hostility and go back to making money with Iran.
So this public siding of Europe with Iran against the US is undoubtedly very historic, and this is the political strategy Iran’s government has obviously pursued. Just like the US, Europe is still neo-imperialist and capitalist and totally against the idea of Islam in democratic politics, so Tehran had to give them an economic incentive. They sought to make economic deals with Europe, and thus to give them that economic incentive to support Iran in the face of US-Israeli aggression.
Nuclear Deal and European Business
And I covered Rouhani’s visit in 2016 to France, where they signed dozens of deals worth dozens of billions of dollars. This is what French President Macron cares about now – preserving those deals. But I also read the fine print on those deals, and Rouhani was not selling off Iran, those were not neoliberal capitalist deals, but regular mutually beneficial deals. Those deals included technology transfers and joint projects – Iran was going to learn new techniques which would make it even more modern, France would be paid handsomely, and the world would be a slightly better place. And … France now has to protect their business interests and businessmen from American bombs!
The problem has been, and this is important: no deals have really been done. The biggest deal, with Total Oil on the huge South Pars gas field, has not started. And that’s all because of the indecision of Trump – for 1.5 years France, Italy and Europe have not known if they would be sanctioned or not, so they had done nothing. So this is really quite important: Trump has rather foolishly played his card off: “I can force prolonged indecision,” and that card was quite bad for Iran’s economy. In this sense, it is excellent that Trump revealed his position, because the waiting is the hardest part. Now, there is no more waiting: the stakes are clear, and Europe is backing Iran.
At least for now. Will Europe do business with Iran and then get hit with billion dollar fines by the US for violating their sanctions, exactly like what happened with Cuba? That is the main question. The main question is not: will the EU lose out on the entire US market because of Iran, because that’s not really feasible, economically. Firstly, both are neoliberal capitalist countries, so neither wants a trade war by definition. Fines are the main worry, because those come right out of corporate profits.
Well, we have seen in the past year some truly amazing developments, which surprised a skeptic like me: This year EU officials threatened to install so-called “blocking regulations” to protect EU firms doing business in Iran from any possible US sanctions. Also, France and other EU nations announced they will start offering euro-denominated credits to Iranian companies, in order to bypass the dollar and American companies completely. All of Iran’s top trade partners in the EU are reportedly working on similar mechanisms, which would preclude the possibility of US sanctions.
So Europe clearly has been putting the economic groundwork in place to build and to protect their trade with Iran. The announcement of support for Iran over Trump was not done without planning, of course. This is all very surprising, considering the decades of European anti-Iran aggression, but what this shows is that Europe does not want another Cuba and more billion-dollar fines on European private companies, and that they want to work with Iran.
A couple of last points: The biggest European deal is Total’s oil deal regarding South Pars, the world’s largest natural gas field, and which Iran shares with Qatar, and which thus ensures working relations between the two countries. Written into the contract, quite intelligently, is that if Total does drop out, China takes their place. So, that’s certainly a relief to Iranians. However, from another point of view, we should still want the French to be involved, because it’s bad business to put all your eggs in one basket. You need multiple suppliers. As big as China is, Iran does not want to be over a barrel where China has all the leverage. That has been the case recently, and this allows in cheaper Chinese goods, which undermines Iranian national industries, which creates unemployment, but the government has had no alternative because they have to keep Beijing’s support. If the government can get Europe off our back, that will also reduce China’s leverage, and ensure more mutually beneficial deals.
Macron’s Visit to Iran Would be ‘Historic Step’
Lastly, the wild card here is Macron: France has always been the diplomatic face of the EU. Macron was planning to go to Tehran this year, but was waiting on what Trump would do. Macron’s foreign minister visited it in March, and was, as the French generally are, and as Hollande was when Rouhani visited him, rude, disrespectful, domineering, condescending and superior, even when in someone else’s home. Now … is Macron going to visit this year? That would be a huge step, a historic step from a Western leader, and a major indication that Europe is breaking with the US on Iran. We’ll have to wait and see.
Now those who don’t believe Macron will go are quite justified, as well: Macron is a total neoliberal. It was US sanctions on European companies which scared the EU into letting GE walk into France and leave with the energy division of French industrial jewel Alstom. That deal was brokered by Macron, even though many in France were saying: what is this crazy denationalization you are doing, you are selling off our country to foreigners. But Macron is a neoliberal and has no country – his country is big finances, the Rothschilds, etc. He does not believe in patriotism. He is an American wannabe, and his ideology tells him to go where the money is, and that is the US, so why stick with Iran?
After all, we just have to wait and see.
Sputnik: Do you think the US can still pressure its European allies to change their stance and try to strike a new deal with Iran? Would the allies give in?
Ramin Mazaheri: What Europe does very well, especially France, is to make cosmetic changes and proclaim them to be revolutionary. I could see France trying to renegotiate a deal – making their efforts as high profile as possible – and then declaring whatever the final product is to be a huge change.
But Europe is already on the same page as Russia and China: they want this deal. They want Iranian oil – Europe needs another supplier other than Russia for the same reasons as Iran needs another economic partner besides China. Europe seems, at this point, willing to keep the deal as is, and simply to cross out the name “the United States.”
And that’s what Tehran wants. Of course, Tehran could quite fairly spin a new deal as a major victory – because any Iran-Europe anti-US rapprochement would truly be historic – but their ultimate victory would be to simply have the words “the United States” crossed out! That would in everybody’s eyes be seen like Iran is a major player that it has the ability to get that done. So, I hope they go that route, of course.
Europe is always claiming that this is a deal for world safety, much like the Iraqi WMDs, even though Iran has no nuclear bomb. Iran does not need one – they are not poor North Korea, nor tiny Libya, they have many more people and natural resources. Iran has complied 100% percent with the anti-nuclear bomb conditions, so Europe does not need a new deal to sell to their citizens.
Sputnik: Iranian lawmakers are introducing a motion that calls for “proportional and reciprocal” action by the government. What are we to expect from Iran now that Trump pulled out the US from the deal?
Well, Rouhani put it rather perfectly: he said, for 40 years we’ve said the US never complies, that the US is only aggressive to Iran, and that Trump’s move was a clear demonstration of what they have been doing for months – only leaving a signature but doing nothing which could be of actual benefit to the Iranian people.
Those are very hard words to American ears, even though they are 100 percent true! And Rouhani is not called a “hard-liner” against the US. So Trump’s move will give more influence to the so-called hard-liners who do not trust the US and say the US can’t be trusted, and these hard-liners are only guilty of analyzing history.
My point here is: very few people in Iran and seemingly no one at any level of government is deluded into thinking smiling Obama or unpredictable Trump don’t represent the exact same system, which is anti-Iran, pro-imperialist, anti-socialist and totally opposed to Islamic democracy.
You can only get burned so many times before you stop being surprised that fire is hot. The government learned this lesson long ago, they have been putting backup plans into place, and the economic deals with France, Italy and others are an obvious sign of that.
And there is no choice for Tehran: the people support the Iranian system massively and would not tolerate the pro-imperialism moves which would allow rapprochement with Washington, it will be business as usual in Iran. Business will be harder, but Iran is not the only country which deals with truly murderous sanctions from the US.
Sputnik: Iran also stated that the US move was a violation of the accord that would isolate the US. What are your thoughts on this assessment? In what way could the US decision backfire?
Ramin Mazaheri: I think that the day after Trump’s decision, that’s undoubtedly the case. Europe is enraged with Trump and sides with Tehran. In a way, this could have only happened under Trump: his wildman antics have given Europe the cover for their citizens to break with the US. Trump looks so undesirable as an ally that the average European, who is, quite fairly, rather apathetic regarding faraway Iran, is not about to punish their leaders for opposing Trump.
Europe Long Preparing to Protect Trade With Iran From Fines
The image battle, much more so than the ins and outs of the illegal, unilateral nature of Trump’s move, is what is allowing Europe to isolate themselves from the US on Iran.
This is exactly what Tehran had hoped for. The main question, of course, is how long will it continue. Europe clearly has been putting the economic groundwork in place to build and to protect their trade with Iran from fines, which are Washington’s main pressure, as Cuba demonstrates. I mentioned that previously. Both the US and EU, being neoliberal, are not going to get into a trade war over Iran.
In the end, only Trump could have allowed such a thing to happen. Hillary would have never been so foolish as to play her “forcing indecision” card when she didn’t have to. The EU could have never publicly broken with someone as capable as she was, as she would have made so many under-the-table deals, being “Crooked Hillary” as she is often called.
And let’s recall just how good this may all be for the American people: They do not benefit one bit from sanctioning their fellow humans in Iran. Sanctions on Iran only defy the morality of the everyday American; the average American would never ban medicines to Iranians, and nor Cubans. And they only strengthen the 1 percent in the US that rules over them in such a totally unregulated manner.
For Iranians, after one and a half years Trump has finally done what he said. We can’t be surprised, but we should be very glad the waiting is over. The government is not surprised and had plans in place, namely winning European support via economic deals, and Europe is standing by their new economic partner, at least for now.
One huge problem with this theory. Saudi Arabia will pump to meet any supply gap. (1)
Oil buyers are conservative. Will they choose an Iranian transaction with massive risk? No, they will buy via the risk free Saudi source. With no buyers there is no financial upside to European companies trying to break the secondary sanctions.
The Soros/Obama sham JCOPA is near dead and cannot be saved.
A123, what “theory” are you talking about? We see the description of multiple things beside just selling the “crude oil”. With the Bloomberg article that you cite, you can take the bet and strategize for the 1001st time the Saudii Arabia “pumping”, with its often changing effect of filling the coffers or sending down the price of the barrel, we have already seen that before and that does not make a counter theory to Amin’s theory if there is one. Simple oil aside, you have the natural gas business for example, emphasised here , in sync with Qatar and to which European are more than interested in terms that the US and the kingdom cannot match. What the author try to show then, is the important European change in attitude regarding the long run. With a big question: how long the European can vote again their interest and spit on the Iran money ? A123, please help us with the question if you can. For the theory we can wait.
I doubt Saudi Arabia can solve the oil market problem… It has been pumping oil with the help of high pressure sea water injections in the oil wells for over a decade. The MSM does not talk very loud about it. As some of my old friends there say: ‘We used to travel in the back of camels… We will do it again, in a not so distant future…’
Actually, Saudi Arabia is in a very difficult situation regarding another, more essential scarce resource – underground water, which is an essential asset in this desert country. Most water in Riyadh comes from disalinised sea water, costing more than oil.
Oil buyers are conservative. Will they choose an Iranian transaction with massive risk? No, they will buy via the risk free Saudi source.
Oil buyers can also save a massive amount of money, firstly by avoiding the US tax on the dollar, and secondly by getting a better deal from Iran.
The matter concerns a little more than just the supply of oil for domestic consumption. The EU, in the 2 yrs since JCPOA was signed, has made substantial investment in Iran. For example:
Do you need more than one guess who’s standing at Total’s door with a suitcase of papers to be signed and a very large wallet of cash for those signatures?
If the EU gifts that 50% to China, China will own … 80%.
That is then a lost investment the EU will never get back. And when the inevitable happens, ie., the US petrodollar declines and the global power of the US with it, that is then a substantial regional and global strategic influence China will own in what was their sphere of influence.
And that is just one investment.
The effect of Trump getting out of the deal will be to polarise the world. Countries will have to choose which side they are on- US and friends on one side and China/Russia/Iran and friends on the other.
Japan- No choice but US
EU/NATO- No choice but US
Five eyes- US
Japan- No choice US
India- ?? most likely US
Interesting times ahead.
A very interesting analysis.
If the Europeans successfully protect their Iran business against US sanctions, then perhaps a dent will appear in US power. Former UK Ambassador Craig Murray has the same thought:
“If the US fails to prevent Europe and Asia’s burgeoning trade with Iran – and I think they will fail – this moment will be seen by historians as a key marker in US decline as a world power.” https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/
I am not optimistic that the European companies finally start trade with Iran. They could have done that and probably should trade regardless. However, their US representations will be fined/extorted/blackmailed by the US. I would show the US the middle finger, move my company’s assets out, and close shop in the US upon the first legal notice. That would be the language the cabal understands, in particular if applied by hundreds of companies including the big ones.
In my opinion, the more likely outcome will be that Iran gets full access to the Eurasian economic bloc because of the non-compliance with the JCPOA of all western signatories. In the Eurasian bloc Iran will be free to trade as it wants/needs. Airbus orders will be swapped to Russian and Chinese airplane manufacturers, who offer decent price-performance ratios without sanctions hassle.
>> Also, France and other EU nations announced they will start offering euro-denominated credits to Iranian companies, in order to bypass the dollar…
There is further significance to this, motivating European considerations – even more important than presenting an apparently uniform face with NATO.
Unlike the Fed, or even the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank has been making a pig’s ear out of recuperating EUSSR banking and fiscal affairs since the crisis that began a decade ago. Things have reached the point where the independent (of politicians) ECB is beginning to be seen as a serious threat to the Euro, and by extension the EUSSR project. It is therefore important to add ballast to the ship by the easy expedient of recycling petro-euros — if it can get them. It will try very hard to get them – from Iran, from Qatar, from anywhere. It would not surprise me that Putin could be expediting things stategically, since petro-euros could lead to the dissolving of NATO.
Excellent, Ramin. If you did that live, I am truly impressed.
The US only looks like a crackpot in this affair because none of the parties involved will say what the actual problem is: money.
The “Iran Nuclear Deal” had buggerall to do with Iran building nukes. Iran wasn’t building nukes and they all knew it. The deal was all about …. the reward for not building the nukes they weren’t building: ie., lifting the US sanctions and opening up fantastic investment opportunities. But.
Iran trades in any currency except USD. That’s it. No US dollars. Fullstop. It’s why the US sanctioned them in the first place. It’s why the negotiations took 9 years – Iran does not trade in US dollars – EVUH. (Those guys know how to hold a grudge.)
So pre-deal, it was barter and rubles with Russia, barter and rupees with India etc. Since the sanctions were lifted it’s …. drum roll…. Euros! Now trade, deals and debt repayments to/with Iran is in Euros.
That’s what Trump is referring to when he whines “They violated the spirit of the deal” and “It’s a very bad deal for the US.” Yes – it is.
It’s a nice deal for Iran (they can trade and prosper.) It’s a nice deal for trading partners (they can trade and invest.) It’s an especially nice deal for the EU (they get trade and invest AND all the dealing is in their currency!) Big big smiles in EU – this is real “money-for-nothing.” Everyone else trading with Iran is buying and selling Euros to do that trading, and because the Euro is their own currency – they don’t have to pay to buy/sell Euros. Nice biiiig savings cherry on their cake there.)
But the US gets squat! Because they don’t trade with Iran (well, some pipsqueak stuff) AND … they’re not getting all the cross-border transaction fees because the trade is not in USD. …. 9% everytime dollars are bought or sold – that’s a helluva lot of just-print-more they just aren’t getting~!
So what the US is doing is trying to force Iran’s trading partners to pay them in fines the billions they woulda being getting had all this wheeling an’ dealing been going on in USD. (The billions that are going to the EU instead.)
Rhetoric is just noise.
Follow the money!