Ever since the US unilaterally withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Iran Nuclear Deal, the US has been placing pressure of the remaining European signatories to it. Washington declared Iran to be in violation without showing any evidence. A ton of documents was supplied by Israel, but dismissed by the regulatory bodies in charge of investigating as nonsense. Despite that, Washington has continued to remain out of the agreement and place devastating sanctions on Iran.
When the US left the agreement, it expected the European signatories to vacate it as well. This, much to their chagrin, did not happen. The European partners remained on in defence of Iran. They reject the US’s claim that the Islamic Republic violated the agreement. This irked Washington and soured the relations between them. The Europeans wanted to continue to carry out their investments in Iran.
Since no one was willing to go along with the US in sanctioning Iran, they began threatening the European businesses. President Donald Trump declared that any companies that do business in-country will be blackballed and sanctioned by the US. Out of fear of going out of business, many of those European companies withdrew from Iran.
Not only was this move by the US illegal, but it also undermined Europe’s responsibilities towards Iran. The JCPOA stated that if the US were to withdraw illegally from the agreement, the European signatories were responsible for making up any loss in trade that Iran suffered. The US directly attacked the European ability to carry out that responsibility to do so.
This is not to say that there hasn’t been any effort on the part of the Europeans. They put forward an alternative banking /payment system to avoid the US-controlled SWIFT. The INSTEX was set up so that Iranian businesses could continue with global trade as much as possible. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been as productive as Tehran would like it to have been. There is was the issue of obtaining banking credit which is essential for foreign trade. It took a while before that part of the system was in operation.
Iran has repeatedly claimed that the Europeans weren’t living up to their obligations by making up for the loss of US trade. The Europeans claim that they’ve been doing as much as possible. Iran doesn’t seem to believe them. They’ve been very critical towards them.
The entire point of this campaign by the US was to place economic pressure on Iran in hopes of creating social unrest, and as a result, regime change. As we can see, this has not been successful in the least. The Iranian public seems to be firmly behind the establishment even if only on anti-Imperialist grounds.
The pressure Washington placed on the Europeans now appears to have failed. As reported by Press TV: “Citing six unnamed officials, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump had in an Oval Office meeting last week sided with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin who backed renewing the waivers that the hawks want eliminated.”
Essentially the pressure that the US placed on European business would receive further waivers that would allow them to do business without any penalty by the US political establishment. It seems the War Hawks in the Whitehouse have failed to exert as much pressure as they wanted to. The US is backing down on increasing pressure on the Europeans to halt trade with Iran that they are obligated to carry out by law.
What’s significant here is that the Europeans were able to stand up to the US, albeit in a limited form. This is also occurring as Germany has rejected a demand by the US to join an international patrol force to counter the legal jurisdiction of Iran in the Strait of Hormuz. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that “there was no military solution to the ongoing standoff in the region and Berlin would rather pursue a policy that prevents further escalation of tensions.”
The US appears to be backing down from their demands on the Europeans, seemingly because they cannot win. For now, at least, Iran will receive some relief.