London, 20 May – Some of Europe’s biggest firms rushed to do business with Iran after the nuclear deal took effect. Now, after President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal, European businesses are worried that their ties with the US could be damaged if they continue doing Iranian deals.
The present White House believed that the Iran deal was only a temporary deferral of nuclear activity in exchange for billions in funding for Iranian proxy warfare — appeasement only made the aggressor more aggressive.
To effectively roll back Iranian armament and expansionism, it appears that White House policy toward Iran has become more harsh, and only works if Europe shoulders its share of the economic burden.
In fact, administration officials over the past week have affirmed that the U.S. may impose “secondary sanctions” on European companies that do business with Tehran.
In Germany, Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser told CNN that it is his understanding that he can no longer accept new business orders from Iran.
“We have to be realistic about the electrified rail, the live wire of American extraterritoriality and how [it] can serve as a deterrent to business,” UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson observed.
Several EU officials have responded with resistance to the potential American pressure on their private sector.
Three European signatories have pledged to maintain their oil trade with Iran in an attempt to preserve the deal without the U.S. They seek to expand Iran’s access to the European Investment Bank. Reportedly, they have also explored using European companies detached from the American economy as sanctions-free conduits to Iranian business.
This may force the U.S. to show that it is willing to impose secondary sanctions, likely incurring some cost in trans-Atlantic relations. Europe’s desire to do business with Iran and the U.S. Government’s desire to block it may be irreconcilable, but surely the benefits of broader European-American economic partnership substantially outweigh any loss of revenue to Europe from Iran.
Iran has the only constitution in the world that has a founding tenet of expansionism. Iran also maintains vassal states or proxy militias in four Arab countries and Gaza. Trump may be able to roll back the legacy of sectarian incitement which Iran and its proxies have bequeathed to the region.
A new hope requires a new plan, and President Trump enjoys benevolence among leaderships in Iran’s periphery. Trump can call in indigenous military support for new encirclement strategies. He can use intelligence to increase America’s awareness of Iran’s weaknesses, and support Iranians opposed to the government. He can also coordinate economically with some of the wealthiest oil-producing nations.