by Waseem Shehzad (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 11, Jumada' al-Ula', 1442)
On December 21, 2020, foreign ministers of six signatory countries to the Iran nuclear deal held a virtual meeting and offered to “positively address” Washington’s desire to return to the pact in a “joint effort.” The foreign ministers of Germany, Britain, France, Russia, China and Iran issued a joint statement reasserting their commitment to the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The disgraced outgoing US President Donald Trump had walked out of the deal in May 2018. He did more: he imposed a raft of illegal sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran targeting its institutions as well as individuals. Sanctions have caused massive suffering to the Iranian people that cannot get desperately-needed medicines. The coronavirus pandemic has made the situation worse for the people of Iran.
The incoming US president Joe Biden who takes office on January 20, 2021 has signaled his desire to return to the JCPOA. Biden as well as his European allies had been making ludicrous demands that Iran must limit its missile development program as well as curtail its legitimate political, diplomatic and military activities in the region. Tehran firmly rejected these demands saying that if it wanted to negotiate these to get relief from sanctions, it would have done so in 2017.
By standing firm on its principled position, the Islamic Republic has forced the other countries to back down from their insulting demands. Tehran, however, should not lower its guard. The US and its European allies—Britain, France and Germany—pursue the same agenda vis-à-vis Iran as well as other Muslim countries and indeed non-Muslim countries that wish to pursue an independent policy. The Europeans and Americans may adopt different postures but their ultimate objective is the same: not to allow any Muslim country to freely develop or to defend itself effectively.
They act like a pack of wolves hunting their prey. After all, when Trump repudiated the deal in May 2018, the European powers were obliged to provide relief to Iran in return for its full compliance with the deal. Apart from soothing words, the Europeans did nothing, all the while demanding that Iran must continue to comply with the provisions of the JCPOA. The suffering of the Iranian people multiplied.
Let us understand what the JCPOA was about. In return for Iran capping nuclear enrichment and allowing intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities—far more than imposed on any other country in the world—the other signatories were to lift all nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. In the initial period when the deal went into effect, all signatories complied until Trump came on the political scene in January 2017. He immediately started issuing threats against Iran and then proceeded to impose sanctions.
Islamic Iran had not signed the deal with any particular US regime. International agreements are signed between states. The deal was also endorsed by the UN Security Council through resolution 2231. Thus, it was not a bilateral agreement between Iran and the US but an international agreement.
When Trump repudiated the deal and imposed illegal sanctions on Iran, it was the responsibility of the other signatories, especially the Europeans, to provide sanctions relief to Iran. True, China and Russia did not go along with Trump’s illegal acts but the Europeans did little apart from issuing soothing statements. They offered such excuses as not offending Trump lest he imposed sanctions on European banks facilitating business transactions with Iran.
The articles of the deal are clear: Iran must get sanctions relief in return for capping its nuclear program. Period. Instead, the Europeans started to parrot Trump’s demands about Iran’s missile program and its relations with resistance movements in the region.
This is what German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in an interview with Der Spiegel in early December 2020. “A return to the previous [2015 Iran nuclear] agreement will not suffice anyway. There will have to be a kind of ‘nuclear agreement plus,’ which is also in our interest. We have clear expectations of Iran: no nuclear weapons, but also no ballistic missile program that threatens the entire region. Iran also needs to play a different role in the region. We need this agreement precisely because we distrust Iran. I have already coordinated with my French and British counterparts on this.” (our emphasis).
The Germans have not abandoned their Nazi past, only kept it under the radar. In the past their victims were Jews, today they are Muslims. The racism and abuse that Muslims residing in Germany suffer is just one facet of the rise of Nazism in the country. Its threats against Islamic Iran are the other facet. Germany’s secretary of state at the foreign office, Miguel Berger went further than his foreign minister. He pledged a “firm reaction” to Iran’s role in the region “with sanctions if necessary.”
The region has suffered decades of Western meddling that has resulted in millions of deaths. Additionally, the development of these societies has been stymied by the Western powers stoking conflicts in the region. Germany is threatening Iran and wants to prevent it, together with its European and American allies from even defending itself. Islamic Iran must make sure it does not fall into the Europeans’ honey trap once again.
What the Biden regime will do is still unclear. However, one can surmise that there have been some backdoor communications with Iranian officials. After all, the earlier deal was facilitated through contacts established via Oman.
For Islamic Iran the choice is clear: immediate lifting of all illegal sanctions and compensation for the losses and suffering it has endured. Nothing less would do.