18:42 GMT26 February 2020
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    On Thursday, German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer confirmed earlier reports that US President Donald Trump threatened the EU with 25-percent import tariffs on European automobiles if the three European signatories to the Iran nuclear deal do not ramp up pressure on Tehran.

    The minister said that the recent step of the three EU parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as Iran nuclear deal, triggering the dispute mechanism on 14 January, came due to Tehran's recent decision to end its compliance with the treaty in light of the EU's inability to overcome US sanctions.

    Paolo Raffone, a strategic analyst and director of the CIPI Foundation in Brussels, shares his opinion on ways France, Germany and the UK could resist attempts by the US to influence their stance regarding Iran's nuclear activities, while assessing the chances of saving the JCPOA.

    Sputnik: Why, having concluded what seemed to be a perfect deal in 2015, is the E3 unable to resist US pressure?

    Raffone: First of all the JCPOA was a framework to lift all nuclear-related economic sanctions, freeing up tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue and frozen assets in exchange of international supervision to Iranian nuclear facilities and capacities to be conducted by the IAEA. The control mechanism worked smoothly but the other leg, i.e. the economic part, never worked. Mostly because of the US position that did not lift the sanction but threatened to sanction any international actor (state or industrial or financial corporation) operating transactions with Iran. The EU attempted to create a financial mechanism (Instex) to be sheltered from the US sanctions. The mechanism never started working because of the renewed threats of retaliations (sanctions) by the US.

    The reason for the EU not being able (or willing) to confront the US on the JCPOA is that the US economy is deeply integrated with the European one, and the transaction volumes [of the] EU-US are so much bigger than any most-positive prospective of EU-Iran transactions. Therefore, the EU banks, corporations and finally also the EU member states, did not want to risk anything to defend the JCPOA. Additionally, the cohesion of the 3 EU signatories to the JCPOA has been waning with the progress of UK Brexit. The UK and France have been reducing their appetite for Iran and the JCPOA. Germany could not fight the battle alone, especially in a time of weakening power of Chancellor Merkel and the coalition government. The change of leadership in the EU has finally contributed to abandon the project.

    Sputnik: Do you expect EU participants of the JCPOA to take a sovereign decision to salvage the accord despite US pressure?

    Raffone: In the current circumstances I do not see any possibility that the 3 EU signatories to the JCPOA would make any effort to salvage it. The latest decision to trigger the dispute mechanism, despite the accompanying rhetoric, is in fact a way to bury the accord.

    Sputnik: What could be the long-term consequences of such a policy for the JCPOA and EU in particular?

    Raffone: As we see, Iran is reasonably reacting to the many threats, provocations and attacks. The overall internal situation in Iran does not allow for the moment, with the current leadership, for any confrontation with the US that goes beyond heated words. Even on the JCPOA, Iran has not withdrawn. The situation might drastically change if more radical forces impose themselves in the politics in Iran. However, the population is very tired, impoverished and disillusioned. The US vague idea of renegotiating a deal with Iran may be the best conjectural fix to the current situation. The UK has been voicing support to it. The future will be very determined by the overall geopolitical situation in the Middle East, and notably by the positions that Israel will adopt. All options are on the table now. The EU is trying to find its place in the new multipolar world. So far there have not been big steps in defining the substance of the EU Global Policy. The only EU power having some international leverage is Germany, as we can see in the coordinated action with Russia on Libya.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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