By Arab News
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh*
Iran’s leaders and the state-owned Persian news outlets have been boasting about Europe’s collegial relationship with the Islamic Republic. Iran proudly praises the EU’s act of defiance against the US.
It seems surreal that the EU is taking the side of the ruling mullahs — even agreeing last week to provide €18 million ($20 million) in aid— rather than staying neutral or supporting its old transatlantic partner, who stood by Europe in many challenging circumstances over the past six decades.
Nevertheless, from the perspective of the Islamic Republic, one of its core ideological, religious and revolutionary beliefs has finally come true: Tehran has turned global powers against the US, or, as the ruling mullahs would say, the “Great Satan.”
Iranian leaders also emphasize that such an opportunity must not go to waste. Instead, from their perspective, the rift between the US and EU must be cemented and finalized. Iran’s Arman newspaper flaunted the headline: “We will take advantage of the opportunity of the rift between US and Europe.” Abrar newspaper’s front page included a statement from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif saying he was not naive to think that the Islamic Republic could create a rift between the EU and the US.
Through the prism of Iran’s leaders, not only does the EU appear to be disagreeing with the Trump administration on policy toward Tehran, but several EU leaders seem to be actually taking a step farther and lobbying for the Iranian regime.
Some analysts may argue that the EU is attempting to pursue an Iran policy that preserves peace around the world. But the reality is that, for the EU, this is less about global security and peace, and more about profit from trade and business deals with the Iranian regime.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt acknowledged that when they issued a joint statement saying: “The remaining parties to the JCPOA have committed to work on, inter alia, the preservation and maintenance of effective financial channels with Iran, and the continuation of Iran’s export of oil and gas. On these, as on other topics, our work continues, including with third countries interested in supporting the JCPOA and maintaining economic relations with Iran.”
It is also worth noting that, while the EU is beating the drum for Iran and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — aka the Iran nuclear deal — as well as strongly supporting the subsequent sanctions relief for the regime, European countries were not even the major players in the negotiations that lead to the JCPOA in the first place.
Were it not for the US, and specifically President Barack Obama’s willingness to give the Iranian leaders an unprecedented level of concessions, to mislead Congress and grant favorable secret deals to the mullahs, there would probably not have been any JCPOA at all.
In addition, while the EU continues to criticize and condemn the US for imposing sanctions on Iran, two issues should be considered. First, the US sanctions on Iran are not new, as some may attempt to portray. These are economic sanctions that were in place until the Obama administration lifted them, with President Donald Trump now re-imposing them. Secondly, if some European leaders are indeed eager to work with the theocratic regime in Iran, they enjoy the freedom to do so; but they ought to at least respect the decision of their old transatlantic ally toward the mullahs.
Unfortunately, the bottom line is that the EU does not appear to have any articulate, coherent and informed policy toward the Islamic Republic. On the one hand, it is investing significant political capital in order to keep the Iranian leaders satisfied and shield the regime from US sanctions. On the other hand, Europe has increasingly become the target of the Iranian regime’s terrorist plots and concerted efforts to penetrate its governmental institutions.
Iran is operating a sophisticated espionage network across Europe in an attempt to accomplish several ideological and political objectives, such as carrying out assassinations against individuals or organizations that oppose the regime’s policies. A senior US official told Fox News: “Iran has a long history over the last 39 years of conducting and planning assassinations and terrorist actions against opponents of the Iranian regime, including a series of assassinations and attack plots in recent years in European countries.”
The EU’s policy to shield and appease Iran’s ruling mullahs is short-sighted and aimed at preserving business profits. Such a short-term policy toward the top state sponsor of terrorism is more likely to cause critical repercussions in the long term — including endangering global peace and security.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh