EU: We need to move from 'maximum pressure' to 'maximum diplomacy' toward Iran

February 5, 2021 - 13:22

TEHRAN - Josep Borrell, the European Union foreign policy chief, said on Thursday that it is high time the former Donald Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran is abandoned in favor of diplomatic engagement and interaction.

Borrell reminded how the Trump administration undermined the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers through his “maxim pressure” campaign against Tehran.

“We need to move from 'maximum pressure' to 'maximum diplomacy' through the JCPOA Joint Commission,” Borrell told Interfax news agency before making a trip to Moscow.

By the Joint Commission, the EU official, meant a mechanism that is joined by the signatories’ representatives and monitors the deal’s implementation.

Under the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran was obligated to put limits on its nuclear activities in exchange for termination of economic and financial sanctions. The JCPOA was turned into international law as it was endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

The JCPOA was signed between Iran, the 5+1 nations, and the European Union in July 2015.

5+1 refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France- and Germany. 

Under his signature “maximum pressure” policy against Iran, Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the landmark deal and restored sweeping economic sanctions on Iran. His administration not only returned sanctions lifted under the JCPOA it also added new harsh ones. 

His administration introduced a total ban on Iran’s oil embargo, the main source revenue for Tehran. Despite pleas by the United Nations, the Trump administration even refused to relax sanctions against Iran as the Islamic Republic was fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
 
The Trump administration also threatened third countries with “secondary sanctions” if they violated the American bans. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in March 2020 that Trump’s “economic terrorism” is supplanted by “medical terrorism” against Iran.
 
“U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA and 'maximum pressure' policy, including secondary sanctions, had a negative impact,” the chief European diplomatic and security official regretted. “The JCPOA could not reach its full potential - including in the economic field,” Borrell added.

John Tirman, an executive director and principal research scientist at the Center for International Studies, says that Iran could resist America’s “maximum pressure” successfully while Europe failed to help Tehran.

“Iran has done well to resist Trump and Pompeo’s ill-conceived maximum pressure,” John Tirman tells the Tehran Times.

The CIS researcher also said Trump followed “braggadocio in foreign affairs.” 

Borrell said Trump’s course of action has to be set aside in order "to try and build a new positive momentum and to ensure once again full implementation of the agreement, including by Iran." 

According to Press TV, Borrell, meanwhile, reminded how Trump successor Joe Biden has voiced a willingness to return the U.S. to the JCPOA, saying, “The new U.S. administration has clearly indicated a new approach and all JCPOA participants are ready to engage."

Iran says the United States’ potential return to the JCPOA could only be meaningful if Washington lifted all of the illegal sanctions it has imposed on Iran.

Even the supposed expression of interest in rejoining the JCPOA has not been followed by a favorable gesture on the part of Washington.

With respect to the issue of who makes the first move to revive the JCPOA, Foreign Minister Zarif noted that EU foreign policy chief can “choreograph” the process of reviving the deal.

Zarif made the suggestion in an interview with CNN on Monday. 

According to Zarif, there can be a mechanism through which Borrell would synchronize or coordinate what can be done to revive the JCPOA.

“JCPOA has a mechanism built into the deal that is the Joint Commission. And the Joint Commission has a coordinator. The coordinator has two hats – it used to be Federica Mogherini now it is Josep Borrell. He has two hats. One hat is he is the high representative of the European Union for foreign defense policy. The other hat is the coordinator of the Joint Commission. He can put his hat as the coordinator of the Joint Commission and sort of choreograph the actions that are needed to be taken by the United States and the actions that are needed to be taken by Iran,” Zarif stated.

Exactly one year after Trump quit the deal and started to implement his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, the Islamic Republic announced that its “strategic patience” is over and started gradually remove limits on its nuclear program at bi-monthly intervals. At the time Iran announced that if the remaining parties to the JCPOA, especially the European trio – Germany, France, and Britain –, protect Iran from the sanctions Iran will reverse its decisions.

Asked just how swiftly Iran could scale back its uranium enrichment program to comply with the nuclear deal if the U.S. lifts sanctions, Zarif said, "8,000 pounds of enriched uranium can go back to the previous amount in less than a day."

Zarif, a former Iranian ambassador to the UN, said that Iran has acted in accordance with dispute mechanisms written into the JCPOA, since the U.S. withdrawal. "Iran used the mechanisms in the nuclear agreement in order to limit its cooperation. If you read paragraph 36, we acted in strict accordance with the nuclear agreement," he said.

Rob Malley, the new U.S. Iran envoy, spoke with British, French, and German officials on January 28 as the United States explores how to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, two sources familiar with the matter said on January 29.

“It was to take stock of the dossier and to assess what our state of mind is,” a European diplomatic source said of Malley’s conversation with the British, French, and German Foreign Ministry political directors, according to Reuters.

A second source confirmed that the discussion took place but offered no details. 

The talks with the British, French and German officials are likely only the first step in consultations that will ultimately bring in China and Russia, and eventually Iran itself.

PA/PA