Euro­pean sanc­tions against Iran are too lit­tle, too late

Arab News - - OPINION - DR. ma­jid RaFizadeh | Spe­cial to aRaB NewS

If the EU re­ally wants to al­ter the regime’s desta­bi­liz­ing be­hav­ior and pro­mote peace and se­cu­rity, it should take tougher mea­sures, in­clud­ing the sus­pen­sion of trade with Tehran, reim­pos­ing the sanc­tions that were lifted un­der the nu­clear deal, and rene­go­ti­at­ing the terms of that agree­ment.

FRANCE, Bri­tain and Ger­many are dis­cussing ways to im­pose sanc­tions on the Ira­nian regime. These sanc­tions will most likely be aimed at mem­bers of Iran’s Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps. Such a move, if im­ple­mented, would be in­trigu­ing as it would be the first puni­tive act car­ried out by the EU against the Ira­nian regime and its mil­i­tary since the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Ac­tion was agreed and since four rounds of UN eco­nomic sanc­tions were lifted.

How­ever, it is crit­i­cal to point out that EU sanc­tions against the Is­lamic Repub­lic are long over­due for sev­eral rea­sons. Since the nu­clear agree­ment was reached be­tween the P5+1 coun­tries and Iran in 2015, Tehran’s for­eign pol­icy has taken a more of­fen­sive and bel­liger­ent path. The Ira­nian regime has ex­panded its fi­nan­cial, mil­i­tary, in­tel­li­gence and ad­vi­sory sup­port to mili­tia and ter­ror­ist groups at a much faster pace.

Iran has also es­ca­lated the pro­vi­sion of il­le­gal weapons and bal­lis­tic mis­siles to mili­tias in­clud­ing the Houthis in Ye­men, in vi­o­la­tion of a UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion. The Houthis then be­gan firing these Ira­nian mis­siles into Saudi Ara­bia. One such at­tack hap­pened on March 25 and re­sulted in the death of one per­son and in­juries to two more. The UN con­demned the Houthis. For­merly, the UN con­clu­sively found the Ira­nian regime was be­hind the trans­fer of il­le­gal weapons to the Houthis.

Any as­tute ob­server of Mid­dle East pol­i­tics can ob­serve that the re­gion has be­come more un­sta­ble since the JCPOA. This is due to the fact it has be­come eas­ier for the Ira­nian lead­ers to ex­pand their in­flu­ence through hard power thanks to in­creased rev­enues from oil sales and other trade with Euro­pean na­tions, and their en­hanced le­git­i­macy. As a re­sult, these de­vel­op­ments in­di­cate that puni­tive ac­tion against the Ira­nian regime is nec­es­sary to es­tab­lish peace and se­cu­rity.

On the one hand, the EU’s dis­cussed sanc­tions are crit­i­cal be­cause they would send a ro­bust mes­sage to the Ira­nian regime that the bloc will not tol­er­ate Iran’s ag­gres­sive for­eign pol­icy, vi­o­la­tions of in­ter­na­tional laws and UN res­o­lu­tions, mil­i­tary ad­ven­tur­ism in the re­gion, and the sup­ply of weapons to ter­ror­ist groups.

On the other hand, the EU’s dis­cussed sanc­tions against Iran — re­port­edly 15 Ira­nian in­di­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies — are not ad­e­quate. They are too lit­tle and too limited to mod­er­ate Iran’s for­eign pol­icy and change the regime’s be­hav­ior.

In ad­di­tion, it would be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive if France, Bri­tain and Ger­many should only take such mea­sures due to the two fol­low­ing rea­sons: First, it is tac­ti­cally dis­cussing sanc­tions just be­fore US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s May 12 dead­line to “fix the ter­ri­ble flaws” of the 2015 nu­clear agree­ment in or­der to per­suade the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to keep the deal in­tact. Ad­di­tion­ally, Tehran’s ag­gres­sion and vi­o­la­tions of in­ter­na­tional laws have es­ca­lated to an un­prece­dented level.

Hence, the EU is only im­pos­ing cos­metic sanc­tions in or­der to pre­vent its le­git­i­macy and global im­age from be­ing neg­a­tively im­pacted if it con­tin­ued to turn a blind eye to Iran’s ag­gres­sion and vi­o­la­tions on the in­ter­na­tional stage. It is cru­cial to point out that, if France, Bri­tain and Ger­many are act­ing due to ei­ther of these two rea­sons, they are di­rectly or in­di­rectly serv­ing the Ira­nian regime’s in­ter­ests.

With only such limited sanc­tions, Tehran will more likely es­ca­late its bel­liger­ence and dis­re­gard for in­ter­na­tional norms. From the per­spec­tive of the Ira­nian lead­ers, the EU re­mains on the side of Tehran be­cause it fa­vors the nu­clear deal. They be­lieve these limited sanc­tions are only be­ing dis­cussed to main­tain eco­nomic ties with Iran.

If the pur­pose is to al­ter the Ira­nian regime’s desta­bi­liz­ing be­hav­ior and to pro­mote peace and se­cu­rity, the EU ought to take tougher mea­sures, in­clud­ing the sus­pen­sion of trade with Tehran, reim­pos­ing the sanc­tions that were lifted un­der the nu­clear deal, and rene­go­ti­at­ing the terms of the nu­clear agree­ment. More fun­da­men­tally, the EU should act with a united front. This means that other mem­bers, such as Italy, Greece, Ire­land and Swe­den, which are con­sid­ered Iran’s clos­est Euro­pean al­lies, need to force­fully join Bri­tain, Ger­many and France.

Dr. Ma­jid Rafizadeh is a Har­vard-ed­u­cated Ira­nian-Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist. He is a lead­ing ex­pert on Iran and US for­eign pol­icy, a busi­ness­man and pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional Amer­i­can Coun­cil. He serves on the boards of the Har­vard In­ter­na­tional Review, the Har­vard In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions Coun­cil and the US-Mid­dle East Cham­ber for Com­merce and Busi­ness. Twit­ter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

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