Ger­many and US sanc­tions on Iran

Iran Daily - - National - By Hos­sein Zi­aee*

While Gor­don Sond­land, US am­bas­sador to the Euro­pean Union, has dis­missed the bloc’s move to set up a sep­a­rate chan­nel to trade with Iran, known as a Spe­cial-pur­pose Ve­hi­cle (SPV), as “noth­ing more than a pa­per tiger”, ev­i­dence sug­gests that the pay­ment mech­a­nism is get­ting off to a good start.

In first re­ac­tion to the new round of US sanc­tions against Iran, Ger­man Gov­ern­ment Spokesman St­ef­fen Seib­ert said last week that his coun­try is con­vinced that it should en­able le­gal busi­ness re­la­tions with Iran and is check­ing how to pro­tect com­pa­nies af­fected by US sanc­tions reim­posed on Iran.

Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Heiko Mass, who has de­scribed sup­port­ing for the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Ac­tion (JCPOA) as a barom­e­ter that shows how much the EU is in­de­pen­dent from the US, told Iran’s For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif in a phone call on Novem­ber 3 that it is part of ‘Ger­many’s strat­egy’ to try to es­tab­lish the planned SPV.

In fact, the re­cent re­ac­tions prove that the US has faced an un­prece­dented iso­la­tion, much sooner than it had been an­tic­i­pated, af­ter an­nounc­ing the new batch of its sanc­tions on Novem­ber 4. One of the main rea­sons for the re­jec­tion of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ‘in­hu­mane sanc­tions’ on Iran has been the in­sis­tence of the Euro­pean Union, and in par­tic­u­lar Ger­many, on Eu­rope’s in­de­pen­dence from the US bul­ly­ing poli­cies.

The JCPOA is so im­por­tant to the EU that one can say the bloc’s in­de­pen­dence vis-à-vis US uni­lat­er­al­ism hinges on it.

It is need­less to say that the EU’S fail­ure to pre­serve the JCPOA would badly dent the bloc’s fu­ture and identity in the eyes of many in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­de­pen­dent coun­tries.

The Ger­man news­pa­per Han­dels­blatt quoted Chris­tian Dürr, a Ger­man politi­cian of the Free Demo­cratic Party, as say­ing that “the gov­ern­ment should adopt ef­fec­tive mea­sures to ren­der more sup­port to the Ger­man firms ac­tive in Iran.”

Ger­many is now try­ing to keep pro­tect­ing its firms in Iran us­ing the Her­mes cover — an ex­port credit guar­an­tee (ECG) by the Ger­man Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment which is an im­por­tant part of Ger­man for­eign trade pol­icy and pro­tects Ger­man com­pa­nies in the event of non-pay­ment by for­eign debtors.

In ad­di­tion, the planned SPV, the block­ing statute, and keep­ing Iran’s ac­cess to the Bel­gium-based SWIFT fi­nan­cial mes­sag­ing ser­vice are among the other mea­sures sup­ported by Ger­many to keep the JCPOA in place.

This comes as Ger­many has shown some sym­bolic re­sis­tance against the US pres­sures to leave the Ira­nian mar­ket as well.

The auto-mak­ing Volk­swa­gen Com­pany, un­like Daim­ler­benz, has de­fied calls to of­fi­cially leave Iran. And Ger­man air­line Lufthansa is still op­er­at­ing flights in the coun­try.

This is while Bri­tish Air­ways and Air France said in late Au­gust they would halt flights to Iran “as the op­er­a­tion is cur­rently not com­mer­cially vi­able.”

Over­all, it is true that the EU’S po­lit­i­cal sup­port for Iran nu­clear deal has been more as­sertive than the bloc’s sup­port in terms of econ­omy, but there re­mains a strong will to in­crease eco­nomic re­la­tions with Iran even af­ter the reim­po­si­tion of the US sanc­tions, some­thing that has made the White House fu­ri­ous with the EU.

The suc­cess of the Eu-ira­nian diplo­macy in turn­ing the JCPOA from a model of US an­i­mos­ity to­wards an in­ter­na­tional agree­ment into a global front against Wash­ing­ton’s uni­lat­er­al­ism has, in prac­tice, caused the first rift in transat­lantic re­la­tions.

Hos­sein Zi­aee is a free­lance jour­nal­ist.

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