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Argument: Iran Is Scaring Off Its Friends, Too Iran Is Scaring Off Its Friends, Too...
This week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded to the Trump administration’s ratcheting up military and economic pressure on his country by announcing that it would resume parts of its nuclear program. This partial rejection of the 2015 nuclear deal has been widely interpreted as a cry for help by Iran to the agreement’s remaining supporters to diplomatically isolate the United States and circumvent its sanctions to ensure Iranian oil and goods can still be sold internationally.
Tehran’s calculation, however, increasingly seems catastrophic. Rather than strengthening its relationships with other international powers, Iran’s recent behavior is undermining those countries’ faith in the Iranian government and their commitments to the Iranian economy.
Iran perhaps understood that its new approach would not effectively persuade the European signatories of the deal—the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Iran threatened to resume nuclear activities after a 60-day deadline unless EU countries found a way of circumventing U.S. sanctions and resuming normal trading relations. European companies, however, are more deeply entrenched in U.S. business than in Iran’s, and the EU’s new trade finance system, known as INSTEX, has been designed to only facilitate humanitarian trade.
Europe’s strategy had been to keep Iran in compliance with the deal at least until the next U.S. presidential election in 2020, when President Donald Trump might be replaced by someone whom Europe and the Iranians could trust again to uphold Washington’s end of the bargain. But Iran has spoiled that wait-and-see approach with its 60-day deadline, effectively undermining Europe as a potential ally. Still, Tehran likely did this intentionally, knowing full well that the EU would never openly defy U.S. policy.
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