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France, Germany, U.K. should be punished for skirting Iran sanctions

By Struan Stevenson
France, Germany, U.K. should be punished for skirting Iran sanctions
Has Britain's Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt forgotten about the Iranian regime's cruel detention of the young British mother, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been held in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran for almost three years on trumped-up charges? File Photo by Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA-EFE

Feb. 4 (UPI) -- It is astounding that Britain, France and Germany have collaborated on a deal to help companies that wish to continue trading with Iran avoid American sanctions. The proposed sanction-dodging mechanism, announced jointly by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the U.K., referred to as an Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (Instex), will enable businesses to bypass dealing directly with Iran, by operating a sort of barter system. Exports to and imports from Iran will be channeled through Instex, neatly side-stepping the U.S. sanctions.

French, German and British support for Instex is extraordinary given recent revelations regarding Iranian terror plots in Europe. In late June, German police arrested a diplomat from the Iranian Embassy in Vienna in a joint operation involving the police and judicial and security authorities from Germany, France and Belgium. Two would-be bombers and the diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, who had given them the bomb and instructed them to detonate it at a major Iranian opposition (MEK) rally near Paris, were charged with acts of terrorism and are in prison awaiting trial.

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Subsequently, similar action was taken against Iranian terrorist plots in the United States, Denmark, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and several other European nations, who are now imposing their own sanctions on the Iranian regime and blacklisting some of its agents. In late December, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama expelled Iran's ambassador and first secretary on the grounds that they posed a security risk to Albania.

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It is clear that Iran uses its embassies as bomb factories and terror cells, plotting atrocities in Europe and America and yet here we have three EU nations, who were signatories to the failed nuclear deal with Iran, willing to ignore Iran's terrorist plots, overlook their appalling human rights record, disregard their aggressive exploitation of proxy wars in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon and seek to continue to sign trade deals as an act of craven appeasement of the vile Iranian regime.

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U.S. President Donald Trump's tough stance on renewed sanctions is absolutely justified, given that senior officials in Iran have this week admitted that they lied and concealed key parts of their nuclear program during the negotiations to sign the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the Obama administration, Russia, China, Germany, France and the U.K. To ignore these facts in a desperate bid to appease Iran's clerical dictatorship is an insult to the 80 million beleaguered citizens who have been protesting in towns and cities across Iran for the past 13 months, demanding regime change and the restoration of freedom and justice.

For Germany to join this toxic sanction-busting deal when its police arrested the Iranian diplomat accused of a terrorist bomb plot is extraordinary. For France to join the deal, when the Iranian terror plot would have killed and maimed dozens of men and women on French soil, is even more astonishing; and for Britain's Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt to hail the arrangement with France and Germany as a way of demonstrating the UK's "commitment to the nuclear deal" is outrageous. Has Hunt already forgotten about the Iranian regime's cruel detention of the young British mother, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been held in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran for almost three years on trumped-up charges?

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The United States should take robust action against France, Germany and the UK to punish them for their gutless attempts to appease the mullahs. EU companies that trade with Iran should be aware that they are simply bolstering one of the most evil regimes in the world. They should perhaps pause to reflect on the Italian company who sold dozens of mobile cranes to the Iranian regime. These cranes are now routinely utilized to hang political prisoners and human rights protesters in public.

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Struan Stevenson is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He served a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.

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