With the the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) being signed in 2015, changes in Iranian-European relations were possible, but the election of Donald Trump set the United States on a very different course of foreign policy. Now, European partners must either go along with that policy, or risk of being on the wrong side when bilateral relations deteriorate further.
Member of Parliament Bob Blackman writes in an article for Conservative Home, “If these trends remain consistent over the long term, there is little doubt that the EU countries will set policy on mass. They will either enable Iran’s return to global prominence, in line with the initial expectations of the JCPOA, or they will recognise the persistence of Iranian misbehaviour and decide to strengthen the sanctions and diplomatic pressures that are aimed at compelling Iran toward change.”
After the JCPOA was implemented, Iran’s intervention in the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars, led to proliferation of militant groups throughout the Middle East. The Islamic Republic has also escalated its ballistic missile program in a possible violation of a UN Security Council resolution. Iran’s human rights abuses continue, with some 20 executions occurring in just the first three weeks after the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to a second term. Although Rouhani made campaign promises of freedom for political prisoners, the prisons are filled with activists, journalists, and social media users who were swept up by the Revolutionary Guards and the Intelligence Ministry in the months preceding the vote, and Rouhani has taken no action on those promises.
The international community has been criticized by human rights organizations for allowing these human rights issues, which Blackman attributes “its myopic attention to the nuclear issue and the prospects of new-found access to the Iranian oil economy.”
And,many political and economic leaders in Europe are willing to continue to put economic incentives before democratic values and human rights.
“These are the two courses of Middle East policy that Western leaders are trying to navigate between at the moment, and it is not at all clear which impulse will be the stronger one across the top of the EU,” Blackman writes, adding, “To be fair, it is not entirely clear which course Britain will choose either, as evidenced by the tortured relations between BP and would-be Iranian partners since the implementation of the JCPOA. But what should be clear to anyone who is concerned about Britain’s legacy in the Middle East is that it will be to our advantage if we do not feel constrained by the EU when we make our decision.”
The lives and freedom of the Iranian people must be put ahead of the desire for Iranian oil. Blackman believes that the UK should “act in unison with the United States, in terms of the imposition of new sanctions, the blacklist and isolation of hard-line institutions like the Revolutionary Guards, and the obstruction of Iran’s power-grab throughout the broader region.”
Many British politicians made it clear that they agree, when on July 1st, they attended the annual Paris gathering of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the opposition movement who calls for regime change as the solution to the problems of Tehran’s behavior both in the country and the region.
The Free Iran rally drew at least100,000 Iranian expatriates and their supporters, and reached millions of native Iranians via social media and illegal satellite dishes.
Political dignitaries and academics from the EU nations also attended NCRI’s annual rally. The British supporters of the NCRI there will hopefully convince the UK government to change course for the good of global stability and the future of the Iranian people, and the UK will be an example that others can follow, using their independence of the EU brought about by Brexit.