The European Union insists that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal (JCPOA). It is not. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, referring to documents seized by Israel, stated that the nuclear deal was "built on lies."(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
On January 31, Britain, France and Germany announced a new payment mechanism known as the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX). It was designed to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, after the US left the deal in May 2018 and reinstated -- as well as broadened -- US sanctions on the country in November 2018. The main purpose of INSTEX is to ensure that Europe -- and potentially third countries – can continue doing business with the mullahs in Iran without risking US penalties for contravening US sanctions.
"INSTEX will support legitimate European trade with Iran, focusing initially on the sectors most essential to the Iranian population -- such as pharmaceutical, medical devices and agri-food goods," the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France said in a joint statement. In the longer term, INSTEX aims to be open to other countries wanting to trade with Iran, the statement said. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, said INSTEX was "essential for the continued full implementation of the nuclear deal".
Mogherini seems strongly committed to ensuring that Iran -- and Europe -- continue receiving economic benefits from the illegal, unsigned, and unratified Iran deal. "Alongside Iran's implementation, the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions is an essential part of the deal so we will continue to work to preserve the economic dividends of sanctions lifting," Mogherini said recently. "Our collective security requires a solid multilateral architecture for non-proliferation and disarmament. This is why the European Union will continue to work to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran," added Mogherini who insisted that Iran is complying with the JCPOA.
It is not. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, referring to documents seized by Israel, stated that the nuclear deal was "built on lies." In addition, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, in a recent interview with Iran's state-owned Channel 2, made it clear that the flimsy "nuclear deal", initiated by then-US President Barack Obama, has done nothing to stop Iran from making advances in its nuclear program, according to Iran expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh. "[T]he latest reports on Iran's nuclear progress," Rafizadeh wrote, "also indicate that Iran is on the threshold of modernizing its mechanism for producing highly enriched uranium, which can be utilized to build a nuclear weapon".
EU member states such as France, Germany and the UK continue to claim that Iran is complying with its agreements: these countries evidently want to continue doing business with the mullahs. Official figures by Germany's Federal Statistics Office revealed that German exports to Iran grew by 4% to 2.4 billion euros in the first 10 months of 2018, and monthly export volumes are expected to average 200 million to 250 million euros a month in 2019. In October 2018, German goods exported to Iran totaled almost 400 million euros ($455 million), representing a surge of 85% from the previous October and the highest monthly volume since 2009, according to Reuters.
A German intelligence report also noted that, "Iran has continued unchanged the pursuit of its ambitious program to acquire technology for its rocket and missile delivery program." Much of that activity has evidently taken place in Germany: Iran's efforts to develop its nuclear and missile programs resulted in "32 procurement attempts... that definitely or with high likelihood were undertaken for the benefit of proliferation programs," in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Fox News reported in 2017.
Germany is now refusing even to disclose Iranian attempts to obtain nuclear weapons and missile technology, and claiming that it no longer keeps such statistics, Fox News recently reported.
If Iranian attempts to attain nuclear weapons leave major EU powers undeterred from doing business with Iran, what then about Iran's atrocious human rights record? Europe, after all, likes to boast that it is committed to human rights. "The European Union," the EU professes, "is based on a strong commitment to promoting and protecting human rights... Human rights are at the heart of EU relations with other countries... EU policy includes:
- promoting the rights of women, children, minorities and displaced persons
- opposing the death penalty, torture, human trafficking and discrimination
- defending civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights
- defending human rights through active partnership with partner countries, international and regional organisations, and groups and associations at all levels of society
- inclusion of human rights clauses in all agreements on trade or cooperation with non-EU countries".
When it comes to Europe's relationship with Iran, none of those lofty principles appears to matter at all. According to Amnesty International's 2017-2018 country report on Iran:
"The [Iranian] authorities heavily suppressed the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as freedom of religion and belief, and imprisoned scores of individuals who voiced dissent. Trials were systematically unfair. Torture and other ill-treatment was widespread and committed with impunity. Floggings, amputations and other cruel punishments were carried out. The authorities endorsed pervasive discrimination and violence based on gender, political opinion, religious belief, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. Hundreds of people were executed, some in public, and thousands remained on death row. They included people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime".
Women, it seems, were especially subjected to abuse. According to the report:
"Women remained subject to entrenched discrimination in law and practice, including in access to divorce, employment, equal inheritance and political office, and in family and criminal law...The authorities failed to criminalize gender-based violence... The legal age of marriage for girls remained at 13, and fathers and grandfathers could obtain permission from courts for their daughters to be married at an even younger age. All 137 women who registered as presidential candidates were disqualified by the Guardian Council. President Rouhani included no woman ministers in his cabinet, despite civil society demands. Compulsory veiling (hijab) allowed police and paramilitary forces to harass and detain women for showing strands of hair under their headscarves or for wearing heavy make-up or tight clothing..."
Evidently none of these facts bothered Mogherini and company.
Then how about the fact of Iran being the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism? After all, Iran plotted four terrorist attacks on European soil since 2015 alone, according to the Dutch government. It alleged that Iran committed two assassinations in the Netherlands, and plotted one attack in Denmark and another in France -- the latter at a rally of dissidents.
In fairness, the EU has produced the tiniest of pathetic gestures to pretend that it cares about Iranian terrorism: It imposed sanctions on Iran's intelligence ministry and two Iranian nationals. But has a little state-sponsored terrorism come between Iran and the EU in doing business -- professedly to preserve an illegal and unsigned Iran deal? Dream on.
No amount of human rights abuses, however atrocious -- or terrorism, even against its own citizens; or cheating to acquire deliverable nuclear capability to unleash on Israel, the US and eventually threaten the entire West -- will, it seems, deter the EU from its criminal collusion with Iran. Europe seems determined to wade into its own destruction with its eyes wide open.
Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.