Europe Stuck Between a Bomb and a Hard Place
With U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to violate the Iran nuclear agreement, Europe finds itself facing an almost unsolvable diplomatic challenge: It must save the Iran deal while avoiding open confrontation with Washington.
Now, it is up to Europe. U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran in the most brusque possible manner. There is no waiting period, no attempts at mitigation. The marching orders are clear: the greatest confrontation possible.
For Europe, the stakes are enormous. It is no longer merely about ensuring that Iran doesn't get the bomb. Rather, the world is faced with an uncontrolled, global nuclear arms race. The already tenuous stability in the Middle East is likewise in grave danger. And finally, Europe is facing the potential loss of what has been the most important, most reliable and most beneficial constant of European foreign policy for decades: the partnership with the U.S. and the trans-Atlantic relationship.
The U.S. has chosen a path of confrontation with Europe. Neither Macron's advances nor Merkel's sternness were able to prevent Trump from taking this step. In the seven decades of the postwar trans-Atlantic relationship, there has never been such a violation of European interests, never such deep-seated discord. When France and Germany elected not to follow U.S. President George W. Bush into Iraq in 2003, the dissent came within the framework of an intact partnership. It was a serious disagreement, to be sure, but it didn't threaten the foundation of the relationship.
This time, it is different. This conflict has the potential to escalate into a real confrontation between Europe and the United States. In a worst-case scenario, Trump could force Europe to make a choice between the U.S. and Iran. If you're not with us, you are against us.
Europe finds itself facing a diplomatic challenge that is almost impossible to solve. On the one hand, Europeans must seek to prevent the Americans from further escalation. On the other, they are tasked with convincing Iran not to give up on the deal themselves.
The Vital Interests of Germany and Europe
To do so, European leaders must first agree with the nuclear deal's remaining signatories - Russia and China - on what steps must now be taken to keep Iran on board. Europe cannot allow itself to be used by Trump to isolate Iran. On the contrary, Europe must make it clear to Washington that the U.S. is isolating itself on this issue. There is a global community that wants this agreement - and there is an American president who is, with support from Israel and Saudi Arabia, seeking to torpedo it.
It is in the vital interests of Germany and Europe that Iran continues to adhere to the treaty. If it doesn't, the consequences could be dramatic: It is likely that not just Iran would seek to arm itself with nuclear weapons, but also other powers in the region like Saudi Arabia or Egypt. It would mark the de facto end of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The entire system established to control the spread of nuclear weapons would be in danger.
The danger would be no less great if Israel or the U.S. were to launch military strikes in an attempt to prevent Iran from continuing its nuclear program. The risk of military escalation in such a case would be significant, with Tehran potentially responding with attacks carried out by its proxies against Israel or against American troops based in the region. Furthermore, Iran has placed many of its nuclear facilities underground, making them much more difficult to destroy than, for example, the Syrian reactor bombed by Israel in 2007.
On the weekend prior to Trump's decision, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made clear just how important Europe's reaction would be. It wasn't Trump's decision that would be decisive, he said, but "whether the Europeans distance themselves from his stance or not."
Protecting European Companies
Europe, Russia and China must now make an offer to Iran. That is the only way to help reformers in Tehran stand up to hardliners in the country who would like to continue building a bomb. Thus far, Iran has adhered to the agreement even though many of the economic benefits the country had hoped to reap from the deal have failed to materialize. Now, it will be important to prevent European companies from pulling out of Iran.
That, though, will be difficult. Trump has threatened companies with punitive measures should they continue doing business in Iran. And the incoming U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, tweeted on Tuesday that "German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately." It won't be easy for Europe to protect its economy from U.S. retaliatory measures, even if France announced on Wednesday that Europeans will "do everything" to protect their companies in Iran.
It still isn't clear how far the U.S. will go to force Europe into an anti-Iran alliance. Trump could exert economic pressure, of course, but he could also take a further step into security policy. He could threaten to weaken NATO solidarity if Europe doesn't join forces against Iran. That would be a catastrophe.
Still, the Europeans need to be clear on one thing: Trump has never been impressed by docility. Europe will now need to muster all of its diplomatic skill and lean on its international alliances. More than anything, though, Europe needs a strong conviction to reject anything that harms its own interests and endangers world peace.
Fonte: Spiegel Online, em 9 de Maio de 2018
European Companies Rushed to Invest in Iran. What Now?
European companies moved quickly to invest in Iran after it agreed in 2015 to mothball its nuclear weapons program in return for an end to economic sanctions. (…)
Yet even before President Trump pulled out of the agreement with Iran, many companies had already tempered their expectations and limited their investment. Now their prospects look murkier as European leaders try to determine whether there is a path forward without the United States. (…)
While players like General Electric and Boeing lined up orders, many American companies, including oil giants like Chevron and Exxon Mobil, had to watch from a distance; even with the deal in place, they were still effectively blocked by sanctions imposed by the United States from working in Iran. European businesses did not have the same restrictions.
For Europe, Iran was a particularly promising example of the kind of fast-growing emerging country that helped lift the region out of a severe debt crisis in recent years. German companies, for instance, have thrived by selling factory machinery, power grid infrastructure and construction equipment that growing nations need to build modern economies.
Despite its potential, however, Iran has largely been a disappointment for European investors. In a dysfunctional economy, many failed to gain traction in a huge bureaucracy rife with political power struggles. (…)
France, for example, hopes to engage in more detailed dialogue with the Trump administration to press for waivers for its companies. But it was too soon to say whether Mr. Trump would be swayed, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. It was also not immediately clear whether Mr. Trump would recognize the “grandfather clause” arguments favored by Total, the people said. (…)
Por: Jack Ewing e Stanley Reed
Fonte: New York times, em 9 de Maio de 2018