Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Britain, France and Germany seem determined to carve out their place as Europe's top appeasers. The three countries have rejected America's proposal to reimpose sanctions on Iran, including an arms embargo, that were lifted as part of the nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration.
In 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump, who had criticized what he described as "the worst deal in history" even before he entered the White House, unilaterally withdrew America from the deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. He imposed a tough string of sanctions against the theocratic regime in Iran as part of his "maximum pressure campaign."
In mid-August, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo applied to the United Nations Security Council to have the arms embargo, due to expire in October, reimposed on Iran. With the help of abstentions by Britain, France and Germany, the Security Council refused, prompting Pompeo to up the ante by declaring America's intention to implement the "snapback" procedure enshrined in the JCPOA.
The snapback mechanism allowed signatories to the JCPOA to reimpose sanctions if they considered that Iran was materially in breach of the nuclear agreement. Having seen how the mullahs have begun to dismantle their own commitments to the JCPOA, restarting IR-2 and IR-2m type centrifuges to accelerate the enrichment of uranium, in open breach of the agreement, Pompeo insisted that the United States would veto any attempt to end the sanctions.
He found little support in the Security Council, where Russia and China joined Britain, France and Germany, the main signatories to the nuclear deal, in voicing their opposition to the U.S. position. Only the Dominican Republic backed Pompeo.
The Russians claimed that it was legally impossible for the United States to apply the snapback procedure to a deal from which they had formally withdrawn. Britain, France and Germany, who have desperately sought ways to keep the JCPOA afloat, agreed, prompting Pompeo to accuse them of a "failure of leadership" and of "siding with the ayatollahs."
Now the standoff looks set to plunge the Security Council into crisis, which will have the mullahs rubbing their hands together in glee. They have routinely exploited the weakness of the European Union in their efforts to have sanctions removed and the EU appears only too happy to oblige, slavishly following the original Obama policy.
When the nuclear deal was signed in 2015, U.S. President Barack Obama naively believed that the release of $150 billion of frozen Iranian assets, as a key part of the JCPOA, would put bread back on the table for its starving citizens. Instead, the mullahs diverted most of the cash to funding Bashar al-Assad's brutal civil war in Syria, with additional resources split between the Houthi rebels in Yemen, the terrorist Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine and the vicious Shi'ia militias in Iraq. The little money that was left was funneled, as usual, into the ayatollah's personal bank accounts. The Iranian people got nothing.
The nuclear deal was a grave error from day one. It forbade inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency from inspecting any sites controlled by the military inside Iran. Virtually all of the regime's secret nuclear program was being developed in military sites and still is, so the deal was fatally flawed from the outset. Exploiting the weakness that has characterized Europe's grovelling attitude to their medieval regime, the mullahs have intensified their efforts to undermine Trump's maximum pressure campaign.
By their failure to support the arms embargo, Britain, France and Germany have signaled that the supply of arms to a country described by Pompeo as "the world's largest state sponsor of terror," is perfectly acceptable. Now they want trade sanctions to end, providing a lifeline to the mullahs' collapsing economy and enabling them to redouble their sponsorship of conflict. A more misguided approach to one of the world's most vicious fascist dictatorships would be hard to conceive.
The snapback mechanism, which has never before been used by the U.N. Security Council, would involve the re-establishment of sanctions after 30 days, without any members, such as Russia and China, being able to wield their veto. Under the terms of the agreement, a country can unilaterally impose "snapback" if it considers Iran to have failed to comply with the deal.
That's what Pompeo wants to do. If he gets his way, it would spell the end of the deeply flawed JCPOA. It would also probably spell the end of the clerical regime, teetering on the verge of extinction following the collapse in oil prices, the U.S. maximum pressure campaign and the ineptly handled coronavirus pandemic, which, reliable sources inside Iran claim, has so far accounted for over 98,000 deaths.
Some 80 million Iranians, the majority of whom now struggle to survive on daily incomes below the international poverty line, are demanding regime change and the restoration of freedom, justice and democracy to their impoverished nation. They have had enough of the mullahs and they look to the West for support. They will regard the restoration of arms sales and the removal of sanctions as an act of sickening betrayal.
With China and Russia clamoring to kick-start arms sales to Tehran, it is disgraceful that Britain, France and Germany should ally themselves to such a policy, which would simply lead to the expansion of war and terror across the Middle East and the wider world. The mullahs have boasted of their blatant breach of the JCPOA conditions by unveiling two new surface-to-surface missiles named the "Qassem" and the "Mahdi," which they claim will have an 870-mile and 620-mile range, respectively.
The missiles have been provocatively named after Iran's terrorist chief, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and his Iraqi counterpart, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed by a U.S. drone strike outside Baghdad Airport in January.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin has called for a virtual summit to discuss the Iran impasse. But Putin, as a longtime ally of the mullahs and an active supporter of their military intervention in Syria, has a personal stake in the game. Putin will always back any position that divides the West, so his apparent alliance with Britain, France and Germany in direct opposition to the United States should be treated with the contempt it deserves.
The EU's three senior appeasers should think again. Stop arms sales to Iran, back the reimposition of tough sanctions and provide all-out support for the Iranian people, instead of their religious fascist government.
Struan Stevenson is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He was 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 is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.