European Reaction To Iran's Decision To Partially Withdraw From Nuclear Deal
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
All right, let's focus now on how Iran's announcement is being received by the European signatories to the nuclear deal. Lina Khatib is head of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House, and she joins us from London. Welcome.
LINA KHATIB: Thank you.
CHANG: So what has been the reaction in Europe to Iran's announcement?
KHATIB: The U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt made a statement in which he said that if Iran breaks the nuclear deal, then it will face consequences. He obviously will have coordinated his statement with European allies, and his statement is very clear. It was given alongside Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state. And he also said that the statement that Iranian President Rouhani made is an unwelcome step. I think this clearly aligns Europe with the United States on this one.
CHANG: Well, as we just heard in the previous interview, what Iran may be doing is simply signaling that it's just looking to Europe for more flexibility when it comes to U.S. sanctions; it just wants some help from the Europeans to grow the Iranian economy. Is that even an option for these European countries considering that these signatories need to preserve their relationship with the U.S.?
KHATIB: Well, absolutely. I mean, Iran may have been hoping that Europe will ultimately feel pressure to kind of align itself with Iran, but that was never realistic. And even if the Europeans try to find ways to kind of get around the U.S. sanctions, what we're seeing on the ground is big corporations from across Europe that are at the heart of improving the Iranian economy are becoming hesitant about trading with Iran because they don't want to cross U.S. sanctions.
CHANG: So at this point, are there any incentives remaining for these signatory countries in Europe - France, Germany, the U.K. - to offer any help to Iran?
KHATIB: I think the only thing that they can do is what Jeremy Hunt has done, which is to tell Iran, don't do it. (Laughter) Don't take this action in 60 days. I think what they can also try to do - but I don't think it's realistic that they will achieve much with this - is try to call for some sort of mediation between the U.S. and Iran. But I think this shows that European countries have very little power in this matter. Ultimately the U.S. is calling the shots on this one.
CHANG: Well, if there even is a possibility of a mediation, as we're looking for these signatory countries to attempt to find some middle ground, what will you be looking for from diplomats?
KHATIB: I think what we can expect is attempts at keeping Iranian trust in the West because the hardliners in Iran from the very beginning have been saying that the West, in particular the U.S., should not be trusted. European countries have gone out of their way in order to tell Iran, no, you can actually trust us; even if the U.S. withdraws from the deal, we're still there. But for all the kind of statements and measures they have been taking about trust, ultimately Iran in making this statement is signaling that effectively it wants the deal to fail.
CHANG: So listening to you, it doesn't sound like these European countries are in any way poised to find a middle ground between the U.S. and Iran at this point.
KHATIB: Unfortunately the gap between the U.S. and Iran has grown to the degree that I don't see any possibility of anyone being able to result in bringing these two entities together. And ultimately with foreign policy, the U.S. has a lot more clout than the Europeans, especially that the Europeans these days are very much concerned with internal European issues such as Brexit and other issues in Europe. And therefore, this is not the time, unfortunately, for an assertive, harmonized European position.
CHANG: Lina Khatib of Chatham House, thank you very much for joining us today.
KHATIB: You're welcome.
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