Show must go on: E3 will not stand against U.S.

September 23, 2020 - 13:7

TEHRAN – In a rare move, the European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers issued a joint statement to denounce the U.S. effort to restore international sanctions on Iran nearly two days before the U.S. announced the return of these sanctions, a move that was seen by some analysts as a sign of transatlantic coordination on Iran.

On September 19, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a measure that sent diplomatic shock waves across the world. In a statement on that day, Pompeo announced the return of “all previously terminated UN sanctions” on Iran, a highly controversial measure that was met with global backlash from U.S. friends or foes alike.

“Today, the United States welcomes the return of virtually all previously terminated UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran…. Sanctions are being re-imposed on Iran pursuant to the snapback process under UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2231,” the statement said.

All parties to the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), opposed the U.S. measure, saying the White House had no legal right to reinstate the UN sanctions on Iran. However, the response of the European signatories to the deal – Germany, France, and the UK (E3) - raised questions on whether the E3 were really opposing the U.S. unilateral measure.

The Europeans were aware of the U.S. measure, according to Hossein Kanani Moqaddam, an expert on Iran’s foreign policy. They want to coordinate their steps with the global community because they are unsure about who will win the U.S. presidential election in November, the expert said.

“Since the Europeans don’t know if Donald Trump would go or stay, they seek to coordinate their policies with the global community. However, they will join the U.S. if it puts economic pressure on them,” Kanani Moqaddam told the Tehran Times.

Unlike their response to Iran’s process of gradually reducing nuclear commitments under the JCPOA, the response the E3 gave to the U.S. measure was swift and clear. Indeed, they reacted to the return of UN sanctions on Iran even before the U.S. officially announced the return of the sanctions. The U.S. announced the reinstatement of the international sanctions on September 19. The permanent missions of the E3 to the UN sent a joint letter to the UN Security Council’s president about the upcoming U.S. move on September 18, saying the move would be “incapable of having legal effect.”

“At the request of our foreign ministers, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom (‘the E3’) would like to follow up on our letter to the presidency of the UN Security Council dated August 20th, 2020. In this letter, we expressed our shared view that the purported notification under paragraph 11 of UNSCR 2231 (2015) received from the United States of America and circulated to the UN Security Council Members is incapable of having legal effect and so cannot bring into effect the procedure foreseen under OP 11. It flows from this that any decisions and actions which would be taken based on this procedure or on this possible outcome would be incapable of having any legal effect,” the E3 said in their letter.

They also said, “As of September 20 the provisions of resolutions 1696 (2006), 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008), 1835 (2008) and 1929 (2010) will continue to be terminated pursuant to paragraph 7 (a) of resolution 2231 (2015). Consequently, any decision or action taken with a view to re-installing the provisions of resolutions 1696 (2006), 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008), 1835 (2008) and 1929 (2010) would be incapable of legal effect.”

The E3 have always been careful in giving responses to important issues. They would adopt a wait-and-see approach before reacting to major developments. For example, when Iran initiated the process of gradually reducing its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA on the first anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal in May 2019, the E3 didn’t rush to react. Sometimes, their reaction came a week after Iran announced the reduction of nuclear commitments.

This time, the E3 broke their habit and rushed to denounce the U.S. measure against Iran. The E3 joint letter came only a few days after a meeting was held between Pompeo and his British counterpart Dominic Raab, during which the two top diplomats discussed Iran-related issues. The meeting and the ensuing U.S. response to the European opposition to the restoration of UN sanctions created the perception that there has been close coordination on Iran between the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean.  

The E3 foreign ministers also issued a joint statement after the U.S. announced the restoration of UN sanctions on Iran, saying the U.S. measure was “incapable of having legal effect.”

On August 20, Pompeo traveled to New York to submit a “notification” to the president of the UN Security Council calling for the restoration of all UN sanctions on Iran in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which stipulates that “a JCPOA participant state” can trigger a snapback of all UN sanctions on Iran in case it failed to uphold its obligations under the nuclear deal. All JCPOA parties, including Washington’s European allies, said the U.S. had no legal right to submit such a notification.

In a joint statement on September 20, the E3 foreign ministers said, “France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (‘the E3’) note that the US ceased to be a participant to the JCPOA following their withdrawal from the deal on 8 May, 2018. Consequently, the purported notification under paragraph 11 of UNSCR 2231 (2015), received from the United States of America and circulated to the UN Security Council Members, is incapable of having legal effect. It flows from this that any decisions and actions which would be taken based on this procedure or on its possible outcome would also be incapable of having any legal effect.”

The U.S. gave a very tepid response to the E3’s opposition. This is while the U.S. had given a tough response to the Europeans only a month ago, when they opposed the notification submitted by Pompeo on August 20. At that time, Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said the UN Security Council members opposing the U.S. notifications, including the E3, were “standing in the company of terrorists.”

“Let me just make it really, really clear: the Trump administration has no fear in standing in limited company on this matter. I only regret that other members of this council have lost their way and now find themselves standing in the company of terrorists,” Craft said on August 25, after 13 of the 15-member UN body rejected the U.S. notification.

Whether the Europeans support the U.S. in private talks remains an open question. But Kanani Moqaddam believes that even if the Europeans don’t support the U.S. right now, they could soon acquiesce to U.S. economic pressures given the EU’s current economic woes.

“The Americans pulled the trigger of an unloaded gun, and that the only option they have is to launch a global economic war on Iran and punish all countries doing business with Iran. I think the Europeans will ultimately join the U.S. in its economic war,” Kanani Mogaddam said.

Leave a Comment

1 + 12 =