By Iran Review
By Behzad Khoshandam*
Following the implementation of Iran’s nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of countries, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and Brexit, the European Union (EU) and Iran have taken certain steps toward realization of strategic and structured relations. On Thursday, October 6, 2016, the European Parliament voted for a roadmap on EU’s relations with Iran through a report submitted by Richard Howitt, which has come to be known as EU’s strategy or roadmap toward Iran following the JCPOA.
Iranian officials have considered the contents of this document with their own hopes and fears. It seems that realization of any possible strategic and structured relations between Iran and the EU depends on many variables and most of all on the two sides’ commitment to showing committed political will without any precondition. In addition to committed political will, it seems that there are five variables, which are required for the realization of strategic and structured relations between these two actors. Those variables include international structure, balance and norms; meeting the two sides’ needs and demands on a global scale; establishment of international security and order; attention to the role played by these two actors in forming coalitions and alliances in the world; and also commitment to an identity-based and issue-based agenda.
When it comes to meeting the two sides’ needs and demands in the world, the EU needs Iran in many areas in order to form a multilateral order while Iran, on the other hand, needs the EU’s economic, technological and strategic potentialities in order to expand relations with the world countries beyond its own region.
The EU seeks more active partnership with Iran, especially with regard to such issues as ensuring energy security and transit, fighting against terrorism and extremism, and realization of its trade, economic and energy diplomacy, and these needs as well as two-way eagerness about further expansion of relations can provide necessary grounds for the establishment of some form of structured relationship between Tehran and Brussels. One may even say that the opportunity offered by the JCPOA and Brexit and absence of the UK in the EU may be accompanied with remarkable achievements, which could be unprecedented in the history of the two sides’ relations. As a result, both sides have the capacity to turn into permanent, secure, and sustainable partners with a bright and constructive prospect for the realization of a strategic and structured relationship.
There is international consensus about the role played by Iran and the EU in the establishment of international security and order on the basis of forming new alliances in the current world. Today, Europe is faced with various security challenges the most important of which is the risk of increasing extremism as a result of the presence of terrorist cells in Europe, which can cause terrorist incidents like what has been already seen in the cities of Paris, Nice, Berlin, and Brussels. Therefore, Europe’s strategic need to maintain its internal security and that of others in addition to Iran’s unrivaled ability to identify and deal with terrorist elements in the Middle East region, such as Daesh and al-Nusra Front in Syria and Iraq, can provide good grounds for strategic security cooperation between the two sides.
Without a doubt, formulation of and commitment to an identity-based and issue-based agenda in the future world would need a common discourse and understanding between the EU and Iran as two important international actors. In order for the two sides to have sustainable strategic and structured relations, they need to have a correct, logical, and rational understanding of their positions in the contemporary world. The collection of current variables, which affect the two sides’ relations, shows that the EU has not only failed so far to achieve the collective identity meant by its founders, but its expectation from Iran, as an independent and effective actor that influences regional and international security, is mostly affected by incorrect attitudes of such political actors as the United States, Israel and biased anti-Iran lobby groups. In other words, the EU has not only failed to mature into a union of countries with a single, independent, consensual and recognized identity, but also lacks a correct understanding of the Iranian identity as well as internal discourses and relations, the public opinion, and complicated political structure in Iran.
Realization of a strategic and structured relationship between Iran and the EU on the basis of “a dialogue of the four Cs” model would require correct understanding of the aforementioned five factors. These factors are intertwined like the links in a chain and it is not possible for either of the two sides to separate one or a number of them, because in that case, they would not be able to pave the way for establishment of strategic and structured relations. Active involvement of Iran and the EU in a constructive and security-building partnership in the volatile, tense and dangerous environment of the Middle East, as their common neighboring environment, would only require them to pass over a number of problematic clichés in their bilateral relations such as democracy and human rights. By doing so, they would be able to promote their relations to the level of a strategic and structured relationship based on two key components, namely, mutual economic, trade and technological dependence, as well as building security along their borders and with regard to the two sides’ common interests and values.
Ph.D. in International Relations & Expert on International Issues