Iran: Europe's controversial financial diplomacy

Article published on Nov. 25, 2004
community published
Article published on Nov. 25, 2004

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Europe appears to have achieved remarkable success with Iran in the dispute over nuclear weapons. However, with regard to US military threats, European financial diplomacy is not a valid forward-looking strategy.

The persistent negotiation efforts of the EU3 seem to be bearing fruit. The UK, France and Germany have succeeded in persuading Iran to put its nuclear weapons programme on ice until a long-term solution to a long-existing conflict has been found. Since Monday 22 November, the observation of this agreement is being monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. Should the IAEA directorate follow the EU moratorium, the US is unlikely to insist on referring Iran to the United Nations Security Council. This would render UN sanctions regarding the punishment of the Mullah invalid and prove a remarkable success for Europeans. Something which the US, under its hawkish president, George W. Bush, despite all their threats of punishment including military intervention, could not succeed in doing. This goes to show that Europe’s ‘soft’ weapons work better. What the Americans failed to achieve with bombs in Iraq, the Europeans have achieved with words in Iran – the deepening of a large-scale international conflict with a ‘rogue state’.

Europe’s words and America’s weapons

However, things are more complicated than they appear at first sight. Firstly, Europe has bought into Iran’s promises by signing a multi-billion talks deal. The concession of the Mullah is tactically clever. On the one hand, they acquire large sums of money from Europe and on the other, they avoid controversial sanctions and the danger of US military intervention. A change in attitude should, however, by no means detract from their actions. According to Tehran, the renunciation of enriched uranium is voluntary, not binding and temporary. Secondly, Iran must first show that it is serious about putting the agreement into practice. Too often, the country has disappointed the West. Last year the European troika praised a deal with the ‘gods’, only to be disillusioned by its termination a short time after. Talks on a final resolution to end the nuclear weapons conflict could prove more difficult than first thought, as the country, as in the past, feels threatened by US bastions in neighbouring countries, as well as the Israeli atomic bomb. The Iraq war should have convinced, as should the lessons from the struggle regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, Tehran that an atomic bomb provides the most effective protection.

The struggle with the Mullahs is a striking, and indeed shocking example of how Europeans and Americans prefer to resolve conflicts. Bush has repeatedly expressed scepticism towards European attempts stating that Iran must be punished for its nuclear activities not rewarded. According to the predictions of commentators after the US elections, the radical Mullahs in positions of power in Iran are set to become the next victims of the American ‘regime change’ strategy. Despite the success of talks, Europe has little reason to celebrate, as in the future other regimes might try to take advantage of the stance towards their nuclear weapon programmes. European financial diplomacy represents a poor forward-looking alternative to American (military) threats.