(Persia Digest) - An expert on Iran and the Middle East in Germany believes: “But now political leaders in Iran are realizing that even when Europe is “willing” to withstand US power projection it is “unable” to do so. In Iran, for a long time, Europe was believed to be “unwilling” and hence “unable” to play a more powerful global role.
After months of speculation, France, Germany, and the UK finally announced a financial mechanism called Instex to work with Iran despite US sanctions. Nevertheless, Europe has set conditions to launch the mechanism based on Iran joining the FATF. The Iranian Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had announced earlier that preconditions were unacceptable for the European financial channel. Apart from the fundamentalists in Iran, moderate forces like Ali Motahari, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, or Falahatpisheh, Head of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of Parliament, have objected to linking Instex to Iran joining the CFT and Palermo Convention as a precondition. Doubts have even been raised about the mechanism. For instance, the Minister of Roads and Urban Development, Mohammad Eslami, has said that it does not provide Iran with many options. On the other hand, the US has also warned its allies that they will face punitive action and heavy fines if they circumvent the sanctions.
Persia Digest (PD) has conducted an interview on the subject with Adnan Tabatabai, university lecturer and CEO of Center for Applied Research (CARPO) in Partnership with the Orient based in Germany. You can read the full text below.
With Instex becoming conditional on the FATF approval and the widespread differences inside Iran on the subject, will Instex ever get off the ground?
I agree that linking the establishment of Instex with FATF related legislation inside Iran is misleading. Instex is an instrument to make sure Europe fulfills its obligations under the nuclear agreement, while Iran has been compliant from day 1. However, nowhere in the E3 announcement does it say Iranian FATF compliance is a “precondition”. Berlin, London and Paris said they would “expect” Iran to take FATF legislation further. We need to differentiate that. There is no doubt that European businesses and banks follow international standards the Iranian economy needs to adjust to. The decision is with Iran’s political leaders whether they believe Iran can afford not to do so.
If Instex is implemented, how effective will it be for Iran (in the face of US sanctions) since it is mostly intended for humanitarian goods?
I have to start by saying how regrettable it is that Instex will start being used for goods that are not even under US sanctions. As a great colleague of mine said: “Iran did not sign the JCPOA to be able to import food.” It goes without saying that Instex will not serve its purpose (in relation to the JCPOA) if only humanitarian goods are subject to its transactions. For it to become meaningful and effective it has to go far beyond that, and I am afraid Iran will need to keep its strategic patience for that to happen. European companies – in particular – are very risk averse and will first watch and see how the first weeks and months of Instex will proceed.
The US has pulled out of the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran, sanctions have been reinstated, and pressures are increasing on Iran by the day. Europe, China, and Russia also seem unable to prevent the pressures. Nevertheless, Iranian Parliament Speaker, Ali Larijani, announced a few days ago that Iran is not facing a strategic dead-end in the JCPOA. Iran has already said it is not seeking nuclear weapons. If EU-Iran relations do not reach a conclusion, what other options will Iran have?
The Islamic Republic has proven since its foundation that it is capable of adjusting its overall conduct to the dynamics of the global political environment. I do not think Iran would ever cut ties with European countries. But it will adjust its expectations. In Iran, for a long time, Europe was believed to be “unwilling” and hence “unable” to play a more powerful global role. But now political leaders in Iran are realizing that even when Europe is “willing” to withstand US power projection it is “unable” to do so. This will lead to a more realistic (not necessarily more negative) view of Europe in Iran. At the same time, Iranian policymakers should pay very close attention to debates inside Europe. We may be seeing the start of a paradigm shift in how key capitals such as Berlin and Paris are trying to be more independent from the US. It will take time for this shift to turn into a new mindset and actual policy. We will have to see whether Iran has the time to wait for that process to go further.
In recent months, EU-Iran relations have been strained due to accusations of terrorist actions by Iran on the Continent and its missile program. The JCPOA was expected to improve relations between Iran and the EU. But Iran saw no tangible interests even before Trump pulled out of the deal. What do you think is the main obstacle in deepening ties between the two sides?
We must not forget that for 37 years – prior to the JCPOA – relations between Iran and the West had been defined by deep mistrust. It was unrealistic to believe that shortly after the finalization of the JCPOA this would change. In April 2015, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei made clear that if this “experiment” was positive, Iran would be willing to also speak about other issues beyond the nuclear file with the signatories of the deal. Iran was willing to take this further but the US violation and withdrawal undermined this. Up until this day, actors who try to prevent improved European-Iranian ties show a stronger zeal to achieve their goals compared to the proponents of Euro-Iran relations. I do not see an end to relations between Tehran and the most important European capitals. It is always a matter of the depth of ties. Once the political will on both sides is strong enough to withstand pressure and lobby groups, we will certainly see a deepening of ties between Iran and Europe.
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