By: Majid Rafizadeh
For almost six years since the 2015 “nuclear deal,” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was reached, the European Union has been appeasing Iran’s ruling mullahs. What the EU fails to see is that that its soft policy towards the mullahs has been a total disaster and dangerous.
Right after the “nuclear deal” was reached — which by the way the Iranian regime never signed — the EU, alongside the Obama administration, lifted nearly all its economic sanctions. It was a gift that helped the Iranian regime to reintegrate into the global financial system. The EU also made many concessions to Iran, such as agreeing to include in the nuclear deal sunset clauses enabling the mullahs soon to have as many nuclear weapons as they like.
Germany and France appeared to be among the first in a hurry to rekindle business with the ruling mullahs of Iran. Right after the half-signed nuclear deal, the Western half, Germany’s former Economic Minister and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, together with a business delegation from Siemens, Linde, Mercedes and Volkswagen, visited Iran, and many large European companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Eni began their plans to do business with Iran. Since then, as nearly 30 Iranian banks reconnected to SWIFT, trade between the EU and Iran has increased almost 43%.
Meanwhile, the EU, which never stops moralizing to other countries about how they should be conducting themselves, has turned a blind eye to credible reports regarding Iran’s continually violating the nuclear deal as well as pursuing clandestine nuclear activities. By February 2016, Iran had already exceeded its threshold for heavy water for the second time. A year after the nuclear deal, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, revealed in its annual report that the Iranian government has pursued a “clandestine” path during the nuclear agreement to obtain illicit nuclear technology and equipment from German companies “at what is, even by international standards, a quantitatively high level.” The intelligence report also stated that “it is safe to expect that Iran will continue its intensive procurement activities in Germany using clandestine methods to achieve its objectives.”
After that, the US, one of the key players in the nuclear deal, withdrew from it under the Trump administration and re-imposed sanctions. The EU, however, Washington’s old transatlantic ally, parted ways with its Western partner in favor of the mullahs. The EU declined to re-impose sanctions on Iran, then set about keeping business with it alive. Three European governments — Germany, France and the UK — created a mechanism, the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), based in Paris and designed primarily to circumvent US sanctions. “We’re making clear,” Germany’s former Foreign Minister Heiko Maas admitted, “that we didn’t just talk about keeping the nuclear deal with Iran alive, but now we’re creating a possibility to conduct business transactions.”
What has been the outcome of the EU’s appeasement of the mullahs of Iran? Business for Europe. Iran’s leaders, in the meantime, are now closer than ever to obtaining nuclear weapons. The theocratic establishment is presently close to having enough enriched uranium to refine and build at least one nuclear bomb, requiring only about 1000 kg of uranium enriched at just 5%.
At the same time, when it comes to terrorism, members of the EU have been among the main targets of Iran’s terrorist plots. The Iranian regime has been implicated in a series of assassinations, seizing European hostages and other hostile acts across Europe, some successful, others not, that have been traced back to Tehran. European officials were able to foil a terrorist attack targeting a large “Free Iran” convention in Paris, that was attended in June 2018 by many high-level speakers, including former US House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird. In 2020, in Belgium, one of Iran’s active diplomats, the Iranian Assadollah Assadi, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for trying to plant a bomb.
The EU might also do well to see how Iran’s military adventurism in the Middle East has escalated — and will continue to escalate unless it is stopped. Since the EU began appeasing the Iranian regime, the region has witnessed more Houthi rocket attacks at civilian targets in Saudi Arabia, the deployment of thousands of Hezbollah foot soldiers in Syria, and the bombardment of Israel by Iranian-funded Hamas rockets.
Are profit and business really more important to the EU than stopping what the US Department of State refers to as the “world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism” from having nuclear weapons? Does the EU continue to appease the mullahs because it believes that an emboldened and nuclear-armed Iran is not going to be a threat to the EU, but only to other countries in the region such as Israel and Saudi Arabia? Since 2015, the EU has met the ruling mullahs of Iran with appeasement, kindness and flexibility every step of the way. This has only empowered the Iranian regime and brought it closer to becoming a nuclear state. The EU might recall what Winston Churchill famously warned against: “Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last. All of them hope that the storm will pass before their turn comes to be devoured. But I fear — I fear greatly — the storm will not pass.”
If Iran acquires nuclear capability, it will no longer even have to use terrorism or hostage-taking — or even its new bombs — to blackmail Europe: the mere threat of using one should be sufficient.
Will the EU please wake up in time and alter its dangerous policy towards Iran?
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US foreign policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh[email protected]