Sobh-e Sadeq, a weekly outlet affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), has lashed out at European powers for cooperating with Washington on the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement. One of its lead articles on February 26 condemned the “shameless behavior of the European troika” – referring to France, Germany and Britain which are the three signatories of the Iran deal. According to Sobh-e Sadeq, European attempts at renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal makes “the European game indistinguishable from that of America.” Sobh-e Sadeq further emphasized that Iran’s missile capability and “its regional defense capabilities” – a reference to Iran’s military engagement in Syria and the broader region – is one of Iran’s “strategic redlines.” It added that Tehran will also not accept inspection of its military sites. The IRGC outlet urged the government to use Russia and China to counter the pressure from Washington and the EU.
In contrast, Ali Khorram, former Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations, in an interview with Fararu complained: “We are indifferent to European efforts and mostly treat them badly.” He continued: “The British Foreign Minister visits Iran, and he not only leaves empty handed, but is hurled with insults.” Khorram was referring to Boris Johnson’s unsuccessful effort during his visit to Iran in December to free a British-Iranian dual citizen jailed in Iran. Khorram concluded: “Trump is trying to persuade the Europeans to follow his path,… and we have not taken a single positive step forward… We… chased the Europeans into Trump’s arms…”
Comment: The European powers are caught in the crossfire between the United States and Iran. Neither Washington nor Tehran appear to appreciate European powers’ efforts to find a way to preserve the nuclear accord. While President Donald Trump constantly threatens to leave “the worst deal ever” unless it is “fixed,” Islamic Republic authorities oscillate between claiming the Iran nuclear deal is non-negotiable and threatening to leave the deal if Iran does not benefit from it.
Washington and Tehran’s signals, however, must be taken with a grain of salt. After all, President Trump has on two previous occasions certified Iran’s adherence to a deal he, as candidate, promised to declare null and void on his first day in office. President Hassan Rouhani and his technocratic team too can’t walk away from a nuclear deal on which their entire political program and legitimacy at home rests.
The Europeans nevertheless, are engaged in shuttle diplomacy between Washington and Tehran in an attempt to preserve the Iran nuclear deal, but they find little appreciation for their effort in Tehran.
In the not entirely unlikely scenario that Tehran turns its back to the EU’s mediation efforts, and Washington takes actions, which for all practical purposes unravel the Iran nuclear deal, the Islamic Republic may indeed turn to Moscow and Beijing for support. Russia and China, however, pursue their own interests and the regime in Tehran may live to regret ignoring the diplomatic efforts of the Europeans.
By Ali Alfoneh | Nonresident Senior Fellow – Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East | Feb 27, 2018