Over the past few months, a lot of attention has been paid to the escalation of the conflict in Syria, as well as heightened tensions in the international relations. In an interview with valdaiclub.com, Alexander Maryasov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Thailand (2010-2014) and to Iran (2001-2005), shared his views on the US foreign policy in the Middle East, another round of Iran-Israel confrontation, and the upcoming hard times.
On May 8, 2018, Donald Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the Iran nuclear deal. That news critically disappointed Trump’s partners in Europe, first of all, France and Germany with their national security put at risk.
“Certainly, the Americans have really set Europeans up. All of the efforts made to persuade them to stay failed. However, Iran is still part of the deal and demands guarantees so that its financial, economic and investment interests are protected in line with its national interests. Europeans will abide by the agreed terms of the Iran deal and will continue interaction aimed at addressing the consequences of the United States’ unilateral withdrawal,” Alexander Maryasov said.
The US trade sanctions may be enforced in the autumn of 2018, and it is still a question whether Europe will be strong enough to withstand them. Based on Trump’s attitude, the measures are going to be strict, and there is no chance the US at least puts them down. If secondary sanctions imposed against European companies will be tough, then their interests may become a head-on collision with the EU’s political interests.
“The abovementioned circumstance along with the Europeans’ intention to take care of their own interests may increase the chance that the EU countries will be more likely to pull out of the deal. Around 15 years ago the EU Big Three already negotiated restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program. At that time Europe yielded to the US pressure and declared that they only expect complete cessation of nuclear enrichment. One should never underestimate the chance that history will repeat itself”, the expert explained.
According to Maryasov, it is hard to believe that Europeans will stand to the end defending their point. It is unlikely that the Iranians expect such developments, and more likely that they will be prepared for the worst of any possible outcomes. They still hope that Europe will somehow manage to soften the American stand on sanctions and even postpone them. Nevertheless, previous European efforts put into negotiating with the US did not seem to work out – Trump listened to them and did things his own way. Due to this, one can say there is no chance of reducing the sanctions on Iran, though Europe should not expect it either. “I think that hard times are still to come, and the situation may aggravate”, the expert said.
The United States’ withdrawal from the JCPOA gave a boost to another old conflict, between Iran and Israel, which seem to enter a new phase of crisis. “The relations between Iran and Israel are not a war yet, but already an exchange of blows. European countries play strictly political roles here, thus they will not participate in the conflict, and they simply do not care about it. Unfortunately, the US and Europe stay outside of the Astana peace process. They believe that they can manage the situation in their own, one-and-only way. The Turkey-Iran-Russia coalition has nothing but hope that they can prevent escalation. Yet they have a chance to try and stop further aggravation, especially if the US imposes sanctions on Iran and European companies. Then the radicals will take over Iran, while the reformist policy of Hassan Rouhani will suffer a defeat. In any case, Russia remains one of the main guarantors”, Maryasov said.