The talks in Vienna have not collapsed, despite the crippling blackout at the Natanz nuclear plant on April 11, which appears to be an Israeli act of sabotage. The feeble irony of the New York Times coverage said it all. But juvenile levity aside, there are signs that we can be genuinely optimistic about Iran and the West getting a deal in the coming months.
In a matter of days, the stubbornness of Iran has receded a little and the Americans are trying hard to sort the wheat from the chaff over which sanctions Trump imposed were specifically related to the nuclear deal and which were not. The Biden administration has said that it hopes to lift all of the sanctions at some point, but indications show that it might keep the non-nuclear ones as a key leverage. Also, some sanctions may remain as a way of keeping face in Congress, where Republican legislators will consider Biden to be naive in believing any deal with Iran to be in America’s advantage.
No doubt, those same political apparatchiks will also not see the irony that in fact it was Trump’s determination to undo the work of the Obama administration at any cost, which has led to Iran developing enriched uranium to be used in bomb making and for the crisis talks currently taking place. It is an oxymoron that in trying to undermine Obama, and supposedly weaken Iran, Tehran is in a much stronger position today to negotiate with the same signatories of the original Iran deal and is quickly becoming a renewed nuclear threat. Great job!
The Iranians will never forget how enfeebled and ineffective the so-called EU “foreign policy” machine is and was, when it was needed.
But there are other factors we should consider when pouring scorn on the original Iran deal collapsing and what will replace it. The Iranians at the talks today might appreciate the new atmosphere from the Americans and forget the madness of Trump and his misguided objectives. But what the Iranians will never forget is how enfeebled and ineffective the so-called European Union (EU) “foreign policy” machine is and was, when it was needed.
The essence of how and why the Iran deal collapsed is really to be found in Brussels. The EU spectacularly failed to live up to its own pomp and self-importance – and couldn’t support Iran where and when it mattered. Tehran will note that it is the EU which has organized the Vienna conference. This is what the EU is good at. Finding the venues, the translators and, if we are to admit it, the media friendly (read staged) atmosphere for hosting global talks.
But what the EU is terrible at, as no doubt Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his colleagues bear witness to, is actually delivering anything beyond the theatrics of those occasions. It simply can’t do “foreign policy” on a real level as it doesn’t have the cohesive support from member states nor the personalities to pull off the silver bullet diplomacy when dealing with any kind of crisis.
Just look at the total dog’s breakfast Ursula Von Der Leyen, its Commission Chief, has made of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit.
The EU doesn’t even have joined policies with Iran, which it recently delivered fresh sanctions to, a point which left Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov aghast recently when talking of the EU role.
Were the two previous politically obscure EU foreign policy “diva” chiefs prior to Josep Borell in 2019 – one, Federica Mogherini in 2014, a former Italian Foreign Minister, and the one before her, Catherine Ashton in 2009, one of Tony Blair’s Junior Ministers – really expected to do anything in the original negotiations except deliver the cheesy photos?
Back in 2015, the Iranians and even the Americans humored these EU dwarfs and gave them the ephemeral media credibility when it was required, but in reality all players knew that the EU was faking it. The brawl, in fact, between Frederica Mogherini and Catherine Ashton over whether the latter would be allowed to attend the signing ceremony really speaks volumes about where their priorities lie.
The failure of the EU has resulted in Iran playing hardball even more than anyone could have expected.
No one today is looking to the current EU Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, to pull off any magic and dazzle the attendees with his political elan. The truth is that the failure of the EU has resulted in Iran playing hardball even more than anyone could have expected, as Iran has not only been cheated by the US, but by the EU as well.
Any pacts struck will have to account for one of these parties either doing the dirty deed again or being trumped by a US administration which follows them into office and tries once again to scrap the agreement.
These nuances of the deal are seldom reported by the Western press who tend to obsess over the talking points which White House media correspondents feed them rather than the real issue: by Trump first reneging on the nuclear deal, Iran was in fact attacked by the West as it went through a crisis similar to a war with sanctions hitting hard, people suffering – and even dying, and the economy left in tatters.
One capricious, insecure US president pressed the button and made it happen. But it was the EU which failed most resoundingly. Any deal which can come from the ashes now will be marked by the latter’s failure to act. After all, who needs enemies when you have friends like the EU?