Donald Trump is (according to Donald Trump) the master of the deal. Yet, as the world waits to see if Trump can strike a deal at the US-North Korea summit next week (12 June), another important nuclear deal is on the verge of collapse. In May 2018, the US decided to withdraw from the Iran deal, which Trump famously called “the single worst deal I’ve ever seen drawn by anybody”.

Europe has been scrambling to save the deal but, despite political assurances, European companies have reportedly been withdrawing from the country. Should more be done to reassure companies that have invested in Iran, or to counteract US sanctions? Or should Europe give up the Iran nuclear deal as dead?

The Iran deal will be one of the many security issues discussed on Debating Security Plus (DS+). In June, our sister think-tank, Friends of Europe, is gearing up to run a global online brainstorm designed to find solutions to today’s security challenges. From 19 June, 09:00 CEST to 20 June 20:00 CEST, the international security community will debate challenges and policy solutions. The discussions will be moderated by leading international think-tanks and organisations that will steer discussions towards concrete recommendations.

You can register to join the debate here.

Curious to know more about the Iran nuclear deal? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).

So, should Europe try to save the Iran nuclear deal? To get an answer, we spoke to Michael Oren, a member of Israel’s Knesset, deputy minister, and former ambassador to the United States. Did he think Europe should try to save the Iran deal?

It should not. Europe should change the Iran deal entirely and substitute it with a new deal that: prohibits Iran from enriching uranium, under any circumstances, as long as the current regime remains in power; that prohibits Iran from developing inter-continental ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear warheads; that prohibits Iran from supporting terror worldwide and trying to conquer the Middle East. Europe should support a deal that addresses comprehensively the multifaceted Iranian threat.

We also spoke to Dr. Mitchell Belfer, President of the Euro-Gulf Information Centre (EGIC) in Italy, to hear his thoughts. Did he think the deal with Iran was worth saving?

Actually, the short answer is: no. I don’t think that Europe should be trying to save the Iran deal, at least not in its present form. The deal does not go as far as it should have in terms of extending the breakout period for Iran [ed: the time required to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon].

I think it’s also very problematic in terms of the transatlantic relationship that they’ve taken such a different approach than the United States. That’s not to say that the US is infallible when it makes policies, especially under the Donald Trump administration, but there should have been a stronger effort amongst European decision-makers to reach an accord with the US before going into a deeper relationship with Iran at the expense of their relationship with the Trump administration. Also, perhaps I could remind people that the Trump administration, for better or worse, represents the United States, and it’s the US that we’re looking to ensure our relationship with, not necessarily any particular government.

We also put the same question to Ali Vaez, Iran Project Director for the International Crisis Group. Should Europe try to rescue the Iran nuclear deal?

Absolutely. Europe should do so not because it has economic interests in Iran, which are quite negligible, but because it is in its own security interest. Without the nuclear deal, Iran will either obtain a nuclear bomb or will be bombed. Both of these outcomes will adversely affect Europe, who will feel the impact through more refugee flows and radicalisation.

This was exactly the fear articulated by one of our readers, Cristina, who is deeply worried about the possibility of military intervention in Iran along the same lines as Afghanistan, Libya, or Iraq. If we scrap the diplomatic approach, doesn’t it mean war is more likely?

How would Michael Oren respond?

I think, unlike perhaps Afghanistan, Iran is a movie that’s coming to your neighbourhood. Iran, again, is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror and its operations are global. Iran succeeded in militarising Syria, it succeeds if it completes its encirclement of the Middle East, it will weaken Europe’s allies in the Middle East, and Israel and Europe’s allies in the Middle East are what’s guarding Europe’s eastern flank. If we’re not here, Europe would be in very severe danger indeed. There is no going home here and Europe has – I would say – a paramount interest in stopping the Iranian threat on multiple fronts

What would Mitchell Belfer from the Euro-Gulf Information Centre say to Cristina?

[The Iranian deal] sought to empower civil society through sanctions relief in return for the dismantling of the nuclear programme. What’s ended up happening, however, is that the Iranian state has managed to take the money that was supposed to empower civil society and has simply spent it on foreign interventionism. If you look on paper, the level of Iran’s involvement in conflicts like Syria and Yemen has increased tremendously since the revolutionary guard has had so much more money, because ultimately they control the economy of Iran.

So, Cristina, I think it’s a very important point you raise. We do need to look at a negotiated settlement for this issue, but it has to include things other than just the dismantling of the nuclear programme. It has to be a more comprehensive arrangement in which the revolutionary guard doesn’t then take money and increase its involvement in conventional wars… Because, ultimately, we don’t want contagion in the region. We want to stop the wars in Syria, calm down the situation in Yemen, not to mention the brewing conflicts involving Iran in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. So, what we’ll need to do, as an international community, is to not only stop Iran from building weapons of mass destruction, but also to tie sanctions relief and forgiveness to an accord that Iran will not be irresponsible in its engagement with other actors, like the Houthi militias, or the newfound militias that are popping up in the Arab Gulf region.

Finally, what would Ali Vaez from the International Crisis Group say to the same comment?

If we have learned one lesson from Iraq and Afghanistan, it is that wars in that region often produce bigger monsters than the ones they aimed at neutralising. The objective of the nuclear deal with Iran was to address one area of disagreement between Iran and the West diplomatically, which could open the door for further diplomacy. If the deal collapses, we would be left with no option other than confrontation.

Should Europe try to save the Iran nuclear deal? Is the deal the best way to prevent a war in the region? Or has it perversely destabilised the region by empowering Iran financially? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / WikiMedia – Mostafameraji; PORTRAITS CREDITS: Oren (CC) Anne Mandlebaum, Vaez (CC) International Crisis Group

32 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Ivan

    Iran broke the agreement before the ink was dry on the paper. There is only one thing Tehran understands and that’s the threat of force..

    But Brussels thinks it will make them look important on the world stage to they will try and save it.

  2. Desto

    That deal, I don’t ever trust Iran, a state that sponsors foreign radica

    • Giancarlo

      The terrorist state is Israel..

    • Desto

      But it never occurred to me any time Israel has ever started any form of violence, instead, they do all they can to protect and defend themselves. Violence do not resolve issues, it only aggregates issues the more causing more losses and instabilities to both Israelis and the Palestinians.

    • Grant

      What about Saudi Arabia, they also sponsor mass terrorism and we do business with them

  3. randomguy2018

    Europe its time to grow up.
    You arent USA or Israel. Get your own policy. Iran is not a threat.
    They have no nukes, they cant hurt Europe. Its only a tiny nation which ignores all international laws that seems worried about Iran.

    Outside the Angloworld no one supports Israel.
    Thats because Anglo elites love Middle East. They have always been in love with oil from Arabs or Israel for imperialism/having a foothold in the area. You also have their weird restortationist “Christian” idea.

    “The term “restorationism” can also include the belief that the Jewish people must be restored to the promised land in fulfillment of biblical prophecy before the Second Coming of Christ.[15]:3 Christian restorationism is generally used to describe the 19th century movement based on this belief, though the term Christian Zionism is more commonly used to describe later forms.”

    (The vast majority of Christianity rejects this idea, lets not forget that Israel needs to be stopped so Iran and other regional powers need to provide a counterbalance in the region).

  4. Stav

    I don’t understand why Iran needs nuclear power when it has so much oil? Probably for nuclear weapons.

    • Josh

      Yes but of course they agreed to give up much of their capacity for nuclear power; that was what the deal is.

  5. Eric

    Did you hear what the dems wantinto any Trump-NK deal? How about demanding that from Iran too. Hell they’re even worse lying bastards!

  6. Josh

    Yes, absolutely. We have no evidence that they broke the deal, only America’s hearsay. And why would you trust a man like Trump with a foreign secretary like John Bolton?

    If we revert to sanctions, we push all of the middle east closer to war and endanger hundreds of millions of lives. It’s our duty to keep the deal alive as human beings.

  7. Hans

    They hoped the deal would stop Iran’s behaviour about their hate for Americans and Israelites.
    Instead they surrounding Israel with their hate and poisoned religion.
    So yes , Europe can’t support that either.
    Get out , there will be a war.

  8. Jan

    Odd question. Iran abides by the agreement. You have anright to question outside influence in a region but then the scope of your attention nshould be far broader.

    Beyond the question, we as Europeans should and hopefully shall, fight…yes fight outside influence from externals and stick with our values, morals and above all, our agreements. We have to be viewed as the sane ones.

  9. Aguysomewhere

    Islamic countries that make religion the state policy and that as a result practice discrimination must never ever be allowed to get nuclear weapons. You can put Saudi Arabia on that list, sadly Pakistan already has the nukes but they should have been sanctioned to get them to give up their nukes.

    Iran has had 10 years to learn how US soldiers fight in Iraq and to learn from this. It will be a massive war. Ofcourse the USA and it’s allies will prevail but there will be a cost in blood.

    • catherine benning

      Should Europe try to save the Iran nuclear deal?


      If your direction on thismatter must be followed, then, any state of any religion must follow that same rule. Israel is Zionist and a Jewish State. Pakistan is similar to Iran and Moslem. The UK is a Christian State. France is a Christian State. Russia is Russian Orthodox, which is a form of Christianity. And so on they go.

      I am not following your gist. Equality is supposed to be the rule. No?

      Surely, those with their finger on the nuclear button should be certified as sane ‘before’ they can be seen as acceptable in that position. Which today, would leave numerous world leaders lacking in suitable character for this very dangerous position.

      I know it makes me very uncomfortable having to rely on any of them.

  10. Venko

    Why You not ask Prime Minister to UK, what she will do, when UK go out from EU after Brexit, and when EU not save that Iran nuclear deal ? UK companies invest a lot of money already – “no deal” means that UK companies losse, a lot of money. UK want Brexit, so they want to be alone. If EU leave UK alone in that deal or after that for UK situation can be very bad – You can ask financial minister to UK ;) What I do, is to do not support Iran nuclear deal, and to help to UK to refund how much money is possible from that deal. In that way EU can support UK, because UK is a part from EU family and EU can forgive to UK for Brexit. UK is not alone! EU have responsibility to keep peace and human life in Iran don’t have matter deal ! People are important !

    • Tarquin Farquhar

      The EU is not part of the EU family – the EU is a prison superstate, run by corrupt technocrats.
      The UK will suffer in the short run financially but in the long run and indeed post-Brexit from the off, the UK will be free as the EU stumbles from crisis to corruption, to illiberality, strife and stagnation.

  11. jthk

    The US is far away from Europe, Iran nuclear deal is made for European security not to sustain US hegemony. For the peace and security of Europe, Iran nuclear deal has to save and secure. If Europe is afraid of sanction from the US, Europe can threaten to abandon the use of US dollar in Europe and Iran trade. Europe has to stand firm and strengthen solidarity. This is the only way to resist a superpower leading by a crazy, irrational, ignorant and opportunist and gambler president.

  12. jthk

    The Iran Nuclear Deal is a collective effort of the international society. When the superpower leading by an irrational and irresponsible man who has been continuously denying all previous effort of the whole world, Europe has to use collective effort to tame him.

  13. M.par

    Europe must choose between a secure economy or one’s economic security.
    Maintaining a nuclear deal will endanger the European economy in its dealings with America, and the destruction of the agreement will have an impact on European economic security.
    Europe knows well that the Strait of Hormuz is unlikely to be able to exchange 70 percent of the world’s energy, and this would be a huge risk to Europe’s withdrawal from the agreement.

  14. Muriel Helbig

    This deal is not only about military or econonic interests. It is also about trust and the way countries and their leaders interact. We will always have international relationships, and need to rely on contracts made and words given. The deal must be saved. Otherwise, any future deal with any country, Iran or other, will be so much more difficult.

  15. jthk

    A very simple logic, Trump has been talking about US first, if Trump wants to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, which means definitely American interests, not that of European. Iran nuclear deal offers Europe better security. Even though it is not perfect, it is just the beginning. Everything can improve. If we don’t start, good things would never come.

  16. jthk

    As Angela Merkel said Europe has to take care of itself now, when the US is leading by an insane merchant.

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