The Associated Press provided an account of that summit and the document that emerged as a statement of the participants’ collective positions, and it indicated that at least some of the European Union’s leadership was disappointed with “glaring omissions” such as the lack of reference to a United Nations resolution expressing support for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May of last year, triggering the re-imposition of sanctions on Iranian exports in two phases, in August and November. Since then, the remaining signatories have been working to keep the agreement in force despite the American absence. These include the E3 group consisting of the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, each of which are also members of both the G-7 and the EU, pending the UK’s contentious exit from the latter.
Over the past year, Iran has expressed dissatisfaction with the E3’s contributions to the future of the JCPOA, and last week Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif went so far as to declare that the EU is both unwilling and incapable of defying US sanctions or other American policy initiatives. The UK, France, and Germany did jointly set up a special purpose vehicle for transactions with the Islamic Republic early this year, but it has yet to actually be utilized.
While the inactivity of the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges is partly attributable to Iran’s refusal to comply with the anti-money laundering standards of the Financial Action Task Force, it is also potentially indicative of European hesitance to enable Iran’s financial recovery in the midst of persistent malign behavior on the global stage, including provocative ballistic missile tests and an imperializing influence over regional affairs.
In this context, the lack of consensus on Iranian affairs at the G-7 was arguably further evidence of the growth of European skepticism about the future of Western relations with the Islamic Republic. This seems especially likely in view of the fact that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was absent from the Dinard summit and therefore unable to exert pressure on fellow G-7 states to accommodate the assertive Iran policy that has been spearheaded by the Trump administration.
Officially, the European Union remains committed to upholding the nuclear deal and working cooperatively with Iran on key areas of concern. But individual member states have taken steps on their own to condemn Iran’s support of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, its violation of the UN Security Council resolution calling for a halt to ballistic missile activities, and its ongoing support of terrorism and Islamic extremism.
This latter issue became part of the concluding document of the G-7 gathering, but was also a source of tension regarding collective attitudes about the future of Iran policy. An EU officials who spoke to the AP about the summit described the language of that section as exceeding the language that the EU tends to use. However, member states’ willingness to condemn Iran’s “continuing support for terrorist organizations and armed militias” has naturally increased since 2018, at which time half a dozen credible threats of Iranian terrorism were uncovered across Europe and the US. These included plans for the bombing of an Iranian expatriate rally near Paris and for a series of assassinations of opposition figures in Denmark.
The assassination threats generated renewed outcry from the Netherlands over successful and attempted assassinations in that country in recent years, and this in turn led to the only recent instance of the EU collectively applying new sanctions on Iran’s intelligence service over its connections to terrorism.
This collective action entailed the adoption of sanctions that had already been applied unilaterally by France in the wake of its investigation into the Paris bomb plot. The French government also acted unilaterally last month to sanction Mahan Airlines, Iran’s second largest carrier and a suspected conduit for military transport and arms smuggling associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
On Monday, the White House announced that it would be designating the entirety of the IRGC as a terrorist organization and sanctioning anyone who does business with its affiliates or provides it with material support. American officials described this as the latest contribution to their strategy of “maximum pressure” on the Islamic Republic, which will ultimately depend upon buy-in from US allies in Europe and throughout the world. To the extent that the G-7 meeting shows progress toward that consensus among allies, it may reinforce Iran’s commitment to abandoning the West and turning toward other potential sources of support.
This commitment was clearly expressed by Foreign Minister Zarif in his remarks last week, which referred specifically to eastern partners such as China and Russia. At the same time, the Islamic Republic is reportedly working to build relations with other adversaries of the US, including those in the Western hemisphere.
Having recently lost access to the French and German markets, Mahan Airlines has just begun offering direct flights to Venezuela, according to the Associated Press. The first such flight carried a Foreign Ministry delegation to the South American country, where the Trump administration is using economic sanctions as part of an effort to compel the government to push out the dictator Nicolas Maduro and hand over power to opposition leader Juan Guaido.