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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Don't expect much from Europe on Iran

In Beirut's Daily Star, Ian Black explains why despite their seeming dissatisfaction with President Obama's handling of Iran, the Europeans are unlikely to support doing much more than what is being done already.
If a nuclear deal is tantamount to rapprochement with the West, particularly with the US, and the regime sees rapprochement as a threat to its survival, it is not going to happen.

Thus the enrichment plants announcement – which appeared to make little economic or technical sense – was seen in European capitals as a consequence of Ahmadinejad’s need to outflank domestic opponents. Vacillation over the TRR deal – illustrated by conflicting statements around the Vienna talks – was similarly explained by internal Iranian differences. Geoffrey Adams, who was recently appointed as political director of Britain’s Foreign Office (in effect becoming the United Kingdom’s chief nuclear negotiator) was until earlier this year ambassador to Tehran and has direct experience of the interplay between domestic and international issues.

Europeans tend to feel that Obama’s “outreach” to Iran went too far too fast without seeing any return. That perception will affect their responses to the president’s promised policy “reassessment” at year’s end. So will detailed work on sanctions and their effect on the internal situation in Iran. What is unlikely to change in Europe is adamant opposition to any military action, by the United States or Israel.

It is worth recalling that EU involvement with the Iranian nuclear issue began with a rare display of unity by the UK, France and Germany in October 2003, when the bitter divisions of the Iraq war were a recent memory. Now, as the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, the EU’s capacity for collective action should be enhanced by the appointment of a president and, more significantly, a “high representative for foreign and security policy” (foreign minister in Brussels-speak) with enhanced powers and resources.

Javier Solana, a big figure who has clocked up many Tehran-hours, is being replaced by the little-known Cathy Ashton, previously the EU trade commissioner. Ashton got the job because she is British, politically on the center-left and a woman – rather than for any experience relevant to the most intractable and volatile item on the current international agenda. If the pessimists are right about Iran and the sanctions bandwagon gathers speed, she and the EU will have little contribution to make.
What could go wrong?


At 7:11 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The EU is already irrelevant as far as Israel is concerned.

What could go wrong indeed


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