EU: Loyal ally, or last nail in the coffin for the Iran deal?
After a two-day trip to Italy, ostensibly to meet businessmen, the Iranian regime's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, returned on a Friday at the end of November, and his deputy, Abbas Araghchi, and Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization, went to Brussels on Saturday.
The main purpose of these tag-teaming trips, according to Araghchi, is to save what's known by its initials as the JCPOA, or, more commonly, the Iran deal, which is not at all in good condition. In fact, the Obama administration-led signature deal is currently at a critical point of being scrapped altogether.
Iran's state TV channel 2 on Nov. 26 broadcast a segment titled "Europe's Controversy at the Political Heart of the Green Continent" and interpreted the news as follows:
Araghchi, deputy foreign minister, and Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization, who went to Brussels to participate in the Iran-EU negotiations on nuclear cooperation, criticized the slowness of the union in its efforts to save the nuclear deal. Araghchi said in the meeting that Europe says the JCPOA is alive and active, but it is only Iran that fulfills its obligations, and the benefits of this agreement for Iran have not been materialized. The deputy foreign minister, pointing out that saving the JCPOA is an international responsibility, said: "The fact is that Europe has not yet managed to create a mechanism such that the resumption of US sanctions will not be able to ruin this deal. Araghchi warned that unfortunately the balance of the agreement is lost, and if Iran fails to win, this agreement cannot last."
The head of the Atomic Energy Organization told reporters after the meeting: "If the promises made by the Europeans are not fulfilled, the situation will be disastrous and unpredictable."
Government websites, far more explicit than state television, reflected the concerns of Salehi, Araghchi, and Rouhani's government regarding the ambiguous situation of the JCPOA through its engagement with Europe. According to these sites, Araghchi warned: "The truth is that the JCPOA is at stake and in very bad shape."
According to the media, Araghchi expressed gratitude to the E.U. for its efforts but made the point: "We appreciate their positions and the statements they have issued ... [b]ut the truth is that no practical action has been offered. They have not been able to develop a mechanism so that we can take advantage of the agreement."
Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization, also told Europeans: "I hope the political positions expressed by the European Union, China and Russia will turn to action. "
Salehi then warned: "If this agreement collapses, things will surely change, and everything will be stirred up by chaos."
In response to the efforts of Rouhani's government to save the JCPOA, his rival factions pretended to welcome its negation and are pushing Rouhani's government hard to respond to the European problem brought on by non-compliance with its own commitments to the agreement. In this regard, the Javan newspaper addressed Araghchi's remarks and wrote in its Nov. 28 issue: "Zarif deputy statements were full of phrases in which 'fear' of losing JCPOA was visible, an agreement that Araghchi and his team of diplomats had been working on for at least two continuous years to achieve."
Nabi Habibi, a member of the Mu'talefeh faction, also attacked the regime's foreign ministry that has been begging Europe to save the JCPOA and said, "In what language must Europe say that Europe follows America in violation of JCPOA and increasing demands?" He added: "Reciprocating action is the only way according to parliamentary resolutions and government powers. The government must stop part of its JCPOA commitments for the West to pay for its abjuration. "
What is clear is that the European JCPOA has so far been nothing but a mirage, and the regime, in dire need of maintaining it, tries to cover its petitions and requests to the European countries with a threatening tone, but the reality of the scene, as the regime's elements and media also acknowledge, is that Europe doesn't benefit the regime, and the regime is in, at best, a stalemate in this regard. At worst, it is the end of the road for this JCPOA agreement, and the consequences of that loom large for the Iranian regime.
Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate, specializing in economic issues relating to Iran. Follow him on Twitter at @hassan_mahmou1.