Our View

EU and Iran: How to build up future interaction framework? Better safety or better alliance?

Iran’s parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, said on Sunday that, because Iran has not seen the results of the European Union’s proposed solutions, the EU should no longer have any requests from Iran as the credibility has already been destroyed. This is derived from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the US has eliminated its obligations and the EU were stopped for unknown reasons.


The 2015 Nuclear deal: Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

The nuclear deal in 2015 is so called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran, the EU and the 5 permanent members of UN Security Council along with Germany. JCPOA is established on a fundamental framework agreement regarding the nuclear program in Iran. The US invited Iran for the negotiation of JCPOA during Barack Obama’s presidency, when the nuclear deal was reached in July 2015 and the framework seemed to potentially level up the business relations with the EU. However, after Trump took the presidency, the relation between Iran and the US withdrew from the framework while the EU leaders promised to Iran that a mechanism for oil sale and economic relations will be created. Years after, such effort has not yielded any result, Iran claimed that the EU regretted after the US turned back on Iran.


JCPOA to Iran’s benefits

JCPOA not only sets up a cooperative framework for main power countries with Iran but also lifts up many sanctions on Iran, which initiates a new era for Iran’s international relations. To Iran, it is to diminish the potential threat and risks of its nuclear activities in exchange for building better economic relations with other countries. It is established to be a peaceful accord and to boost Iran’s international economy. Moreover, Iran, abiding by the JCPOA, agrees to be monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Diminishing nuclear threats to the western countries in return for annulling economic transactions seems to pave well the future road for Iran and its normalized international relations. However, with the US withdrawing and the EU turning silent, Iran seeks for better strategy out of such dilemma.


The EU’s stance on JCPOA

After the US withdrew from JCPOA, the remaining countries – the EU, China and Russia said to stand by the agreement, which was supported to be on fairness that the remaining JCPOA countries should keep promise to the agreement. The EU in 2018 even claimed to continue trading with Iran for oil in exchange of European goods though such action (Special Purpose Vehicle) has not been perceived well in Iran. To the EU, JCPOA is significant for the Europe’s security but the EU also claimed that JCPOA’s significance is for the regional as well as the world’s security. Based on this point, France, the UK and Germany hence registered Special Purpose Vehicle to create the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) as a guideline for interacting with Iran.


Europe under the US pressure

Though the EU expects to mitigate the risks after the US dropped out of JCPOA, it has been under the pressure from the US. As the US condemned the establishment of INSTEX, the US stated that the INSTEX is deteriorating the US’s aim to bring economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran. Given that INSTEX will keep the trade between Europe and Iran, the US’s sanctions on Iran will lose its meaning of controlling the nuclear power in Iran. However, the IAEA warned that the US should not attempt to micromanage the agency’s verification on Iran’s nuclear activities as the effect will be counterproductive and harmful.

The EU urges that other countries, for example China, should also act on maintaining JCPOA relations with Iran as the collapse of the JCPOA may symbolize further conflict not just in the middle east but also in the world.


Our View

The EU should act on joint agreement with Iran to build stable relations and make effort of persuading other remaining JCPOA countries strategizing their interactions with Iran. The JCPOA is a initiative of constructing diplomatic normalization and its purpose does not deserve collapsing from one single country dropping out of it. As the EU stated that the significance of the JCPOA is not only the regional security but also the world’s security, ICRD holds that stabilizing no matter bilateral or multi-lateral relations are imperative to the international security; hence, the EU and Iran should keep on working out the best for both results and other JCPOA countries should act on rather than stand by and wait.



Author: Yung Lin, Researcher at ICRD

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