One year on, Europe still passive in face of US’s JCPOA withdrawal
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One year on, Europe still passive in face of US’s JCPOA withdrawal

On May 8, 2018, US President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the country from the nuclear deal, which is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). "I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal…. This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made," he said. Under the JCPOA, Iran undertook to put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions. Trump's announcement came despite massive efforts by the European allies of the US to convince him to stay in the deal, which was reached between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries comprising the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the US, France, Britain, Russia and China, plus Germany. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani reacted to the White House announcement, highlighting the fact that Tehran had remained committed to its obligations under the deal, whereas the United States had never kept its part of the agreement. While stressing that Trump's decision was a historical experience for Iran, Rouhani noted that the US president has a history of undermining international treaties. Rouhani also noted that Iran would remain in the nuclear deal without the US' presence. Rouhani added that he has ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to be prepared for resuming nuclear enrichment at the industrial level. In a post on his official Twitter account, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also responded to Trump's move, referring to it as "unlawful", while adding that the outcome of further diplomatic efforts will determine Iran's response. Head of Iran's Strategic Council on Foreign Relations Kamal Kharrazi warned that Europe would risk its security by allowing the landmark international deal with Iran to unravel. If European signatories to the JCPOA, drop their struggle to save the agreement in the face of US pressure, they would have to accept more US bullying in the future, Kharrazi said, adding, "A defeat of the JCPOA would undermine Europe’s security.” The European Union, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany have expressed regret over Trump's decision about the deal with the European Union's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini saying that the bloc is "determined to preserve" the Iran nuclear deal. Speaking shortly after the US president's decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, Mogherini said, "As long as Iran continues to implement its nuclear related commitments, as it is doing so far, the European Union will remain committed to the continued full and effective implementation of the nuclear deal." France, Germany and Britain also released a joint statement in which they announced their commitment to implementing the deal despite Trump's decision to pull out and his threat of sanctions. "Our governments remain committed to ensuring the agreement is upheld, and will work with all the remaining parties to the deal to ensure this remains the case including through ensuring the continuing economic benefits to the Iranian people that are linked to the agreement," said the joint statement. The Iranian foreign minister said in December 2018 that Tehran will not stand by for Europeans to fulfill their commitments under the JCPOA, following the United States' move to pull out from the deal. "The Europeans are acting slowly in the fulfillment of their commitments under the nuclear agreement," Zarif said in an interview with Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network, adding, "We will not wait around for them unless they adopt practical steps." A senior Iranian cleric on January 17 censured Europe for dragging its feet on adopting practical measures to save the multilateral nuclear agreement following the US’s withdrawal, saying he thinks the Islamic Republic will ultimately have to “set fire” to the deal. “Some imagine they could rely on the Europeans when the US withdraws from the JCPOA,” Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, said, adding, “The Europeans are however dragging their feet and would do nothing in our interest. The Europeans are worse than the Americans. If not, they are not any better.” Late in January, the three European parties to the 2015 nuclear deal issued a joint statement, announcing the launch of a long-awaited direct non-dollar payment mechanism meant to safeguard their trade ties with Tehran in the face of the sanctions. Germany, France and Britain had registered the mechanism, named the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) which would be based in the French capital, Paris, and managed by a German banking expert. INSTEX is initially intended to be used for selling food, medicine and medical devices to Iran, but it could also be expanded in the future. “It (the payment channel) won’t change things dramatically, but it’s an important political message to Iran to show that we are determined to save the JCPOA and also the United States to show we defend our interests despite their extraterritorial sanctions,” a European diplomat was quoted as saying by Reuters. Iran's nuclear chief said on February 2 that the establishment of a new mechanism to ease trade with Iran despite US sanctions is a promising step but the Europeans must act more swiftly and adopt final measures in this regard. "The Europeans took a promising step in terms of economy and we hope that they will keep racing ahead on the same path," the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Ali Akbar Salehi, told reporters. Later on February 4, former Iran's Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani said the Islamic Republic will never give in to humiliating conditions set by Europe for the enforcement of its new non-dollar mechanism. Addressing a meeting of high-ranking judicial officials on Monday, Amoli Larijani said, “After nine months of dawdling and negotiations, European countries have come up with a limited-capacity mechanism not for exchange of money with Iran, but to supply food and medicine.” On February 5, Iran welcomed the European Union’s “positive positions” on the JCPOA outlined in a 12-point statement, but remains critical of certain other points raised in the document, including those regarding Iran’s national defense program and regional role. The Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement in reaction to the one released by the Council of the European Union hours before, in which the 28-nation bloc has once again thrown its weight behind the multilateral nuclear agreement. In the statement, the EU defended the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) --officially called INSTEX. However, in parallel with the JCPOA-related issues, the European Union repeated a set of accusations against Iran and raised “concerns” about the country’s conventional missile program as well as its role in the region. Early in March, the official website of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei published a video clip for the first time, showing that the Leader has never trusted Europeans with their pledge to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. “One day we tied all of the country’s economic issues to the JCPOA and the JCPOA could not resolve our country’s economic issues or help us in any significant way,” the Leader said in the video. Ayatollah Khamenei advised the government to avoid conditioning people to the European package. "Don’t make this a main issue; either the European package arrives or it doesn’t." "We have things to do in our country, we have potentials and these potentials need to materialize. Follow those potentials, don’t tie economic enhancement to something that is not in our control.” The Iranian foreign minister on April 14 once again complained about a delay by European partners in the nuclear deal to make operational a non-dollar direct payment channel with Tehran, saying they now have "no excuse" for further postponement of the project. Zarif said the Europeans introduced the INSTEX as "a preliminary measure" - as part of their multiple commitments under the JCPOA and added that in order to begin honoring their commitments, the Europeans were required to set up the trade mechanism. An Iranian structure parallel to INSTEX, called the Special Trade and Finance Institute (STFI), was launched just last week, he said, noting that the European signatories have no longer any excuse to delay the start of their job. The US administration said in a statement on April 22 that, in a bid to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero, buyers of Iranian oil must stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions. The move ended six months of waivers, which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers -- Turkey, China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan -- to continue importing limited volumes. “The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ... along with our friends and allies, are committed to ensuring that global oil markets remain adequately supplied,” the White House statement said, adding, “We have agreed to take timely action to assure that global demand is met as all Iranian oil is removed from the market.” Last November, the US enforced sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic’s banking and energy sector. However, it granted waivers to the eight major importers of Iran’s oil, fearing market instability. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Moussavi said the Islamic Republic considers no value and credit for US sanctions waivers, which allow importers to continue buying Iranian oil, but is in touch with European partners and neighbors to counter any adverse consequences of sanctions. "Given the illegal nature of these sanctions, the Islamic Republic of Iran has not considered and will not consider any value or credit for waivers granted [to customers of the Iranian oil] on [US] sanctions," Moussavi said. "However, in view of the practical negative effects of these sanctions and the possibility of further intensification of those negative effects [after US refusal to renew the waivers], the [Iranian] Foreign Ministry has been continuously in touch with all relevant domestic institutions while holding comprehensive consultations with many foreign partners, including Europeans, international [ones] and neighbors," he added, noting that Iran would make a proper decision in this regard and make it public soon. Speaking at a meeting with a large group of Iranian workers on Wednesday, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said the US administration’s hostile attempts to block Iran’s oil sales will lead nowhere, and that the country will export “as much crude as it needs and wishes” in defiance of American sanctions. “In the first place, such attempts will lead nowhere, and we are capable of exporting as much oil as we need and want,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. Iran's First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri said late in April that the US administration's decision to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero is doomed to fail, because Americans ignore the country’s immense economic potentialities. "They (Americans) seek to cripple the country’s economy and pile up social pressure [on the government] through reducing the government’s sources of revenue … but thanks to plans made [to counter such measures] this move will certainly fail,” Iran's first vice president said. In an interview with the Doha-based Al Jazeera broadcaster aired on May 4, the Iranian foreign minister said United States sanctions against Iran will have no political effect on the Islamic Republic. Zarif said that the unilateral sanctions not only had no legal implications but also no political ones for Iran, contrary to what US officials had intended. “They (the American officials) want to put pressure on the Iranian people in order to change their policy. That is the way the United States has acted for 40 years and, particularly since President [Donald] Trump came to office,” he said, stressing, however, that the bans “won’t have any political effect.”  

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