This week sees a flurry of diplomatic efforts by Iran, China, Russia and the European Union to salvage the international nuclear accord following US President Trump’s violation of the UN-backed treaty.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif is to travel to Beijing, Moscow and then Brussels to discuss how the remaining signatories to the accord can maintain it despite America’s attempt at upending.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday in the Black Sea city of Sochi where they will emphasize their support for preserving the Iran nuclear deal.
Trump’s illegal withdrawal last week from the 2015 international treaty known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was vehemently reproached by all other signatories – Iran, Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany, the European Union and the United Nations.
Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA has been repeatedly confirmed by the UN monitoring body, the International Atomic Energy Agency. So Trump’s claims that Iran is secretly building a nuclear weapon – as one of his reasons for breaching the accord – are baseless.
Perhaps one of the most significant consequences of Trump’s action is the damage he appears to have inflicted on the seven-decade-old transatlantic alliance between the US and Europe. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was among several European officials who deplored the unilateral disregard by Washington towards Europe’s interests over the nuclear accord.
The Trump administration’s threats of increasing sanctions on Iran also include secondary sanctions on any other nation doing business with the Islamic Republic. This extra-territorial application of US laws is being viewed as an unacceptable heavy-handed intrusion on the sovereign affairs of other countries.
Since the signing of the JCPOA three years ago and the lifting of erstwhile international sanctions on Iran, European nations have invested in substantial commercial cooperation with Tehran. European companies like German-Franco Airbus, Britain’s Shell, France’s Total and Peugeot, and Germany’s Volkswagen group are just some of the firms that have made multi-billion-dollar commitments in Iran.
Trump is now threatening to scuttle Europe’s vital commercial interests in Iran, as well as jeopardizing its interests of maintaining security in the Middle East, which most observers say the JCPOA was underpinning.
The American president’s boorish dismissal of European concerns over the Iran deal is just the latest in a series of snubs from Washington to its EU allies. Trump’s bullying over NATO spending, his shredding of the Paris Climate Accord and browbeating over trade tariffs have already vexed the Europeans. His attempt at torpedoing the Iran deal and sinking European strategic calculations is perhaps the last straw.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told Der Spiegel that Trump has poisoned the transatlantic relationship. He also warned that Berlin would take a tough line on Washington to defend its national interests.
The stakes are therefore dangerously high for the US if, in pursuing its hostile policy towards Iran, Washington ends up alienating Europe.
To that end, it appears that the US and its regional partners, Israel and Saudi Arabia, seem intent on ratcheting up tensions with Iran, stoking conflict and using false-flag provocations to undermine Tehran.
Trump’s sabotage of the Iran deal appears to be coordinated with Tel Aviv and Riyadh. The week before the American withdrawal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made spectacular claims of Iranian secret nuclear-weapons ambitions. Netanyahu’s claims were widely dismissed as grandstanding, but Trump cited those claims in his White House address nixing US adherence to the nuclear deal.
Two days later, Israel claimed that Iran had launched rockets from Syrian territory on Israeli military forces occupying Syria’s Golan Heights. Israel then promptly carried out scores of air strikes on Syria, said to be in “revenge” for the alleged Iranian rocket attack.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia condemned a Houthi missile attack from Yemen on its capital Riyadh as “act of war by Iran”, alleging that Tehran is supplying weapons to the Yemeni rebels.
Then the US announced new sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for what Washington said was “malign behavior” in the region.
For its part, Iran denied carrying out the rocket attack on Israeli positions in the Golan Heights. Tehran condemned Israel for “aggression” on Syria based on “false pretexts”.
There is something of a hall of mirrors here. Israel has carried out as many 100 air strikes on Syria over the past few years, yet Israel is never condemned by Washington, Europe or the UN. Israel is illegally occupying Syrian territory in the Golan Heights since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, yet when its illegal positions are fired on it is Syria or Iran that is condemned.
We don’t know who fired the alleged rockets last Thursday into the Golan. As noted Iran denies any involvement, and Syrian sources said that the fire may have actually been Israeli shelling of the Syrian side. That is, a false flag provocation.
However, is was lamentable that Germany’s Merkel in particular was quick to categorically denounce Iran for the rocket attack.
Merkel and other European leaders are calling for calm in mounting tensions between Iran and Israel. But the EU seems to be mute when it comes to rebuking Israel over what is brazen and repeated aggression towards Syria and Iranian forces legally present in that country.
What appears to be underway is connivance between Washington, Israel and Saudi Arabia to intensify efforts at framing Iran for “malign behavior”.
The connivance takes on greater urgency this week as international signatories to the JCPOA engage in shuttle diplomacy to salvage the accord.
If the Europeans in particular hold strong to their vested strategic interests, the rebound of a salvaged nuclear deal could play very badly on Washington, especially if the Europeans move towards closer cooperation with Russia and China to block American abuse of international finance for its extraterritorial sanctions. In defending their interests, the Europeans will have to, by necessity, create financing and legal mechanisms that will ultimately undermine the US dollar and Washington’s control over international banking.
Regardless of Trump’s stated belief in Netanyahu’s anti-Iran fantasies, Washington probably knows deep down that Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA is in fact irreproachable. That would mean the Europeans and all others having strong incentive to maintain the nuclear deal and make it work.
That then leaves the only other option for sabotaging the deal as inciting conflict with Iran, or provoking Tehran into military action which will suitably be distorted by Western media as “malign behavior”. If that cynical outcome can be achieved then the Europeans will likely withdraw their support for the Iran deal.
There is a real danger that a false flag “atrocity” will be carried out this week by the US and its client regimes in order to incriminate Iran and blow up the international nuclear accord.