Iran, the Gulf and European relations

Sawsan Al Shaer

Published: Updated:

It has become necessary that Gulf States put pressure on the Europeans so they understand that their interests in the Gulf are much higher than the losses they think they may suffer if they choose to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran.

Trade before terror

Europeans, namely Germany and France, are trying to save whatever they can of the trade agreements signed between their companies and banks and Iran. They are thus not trying to save the nuclear deal as they claim.

Since signing the nuclear deal in 2015, Germany has witnessed an increase in its trade relations with Iran, with its exports to Iran rising to as high as 2.57 billion euros in 2016, with an annual increase of 22 percent and 2.97 billion euros last year, registering an annual increase of 5.15 percent.

According to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, trade between Iran and France rose to 1.7 billion euros in 2017, which means it increased threefold since 2015 when the sanctions were lifted.

The Europeans are aware that Iran supports terrorist militias that spread destruction in our region. Europe overlooks this and does not want to admit it. The most they say to defend their position regarding Iran’s terrorist actions is that they are “worried” about the destruction Iran is causing to the region.

Europeans are aware that Iran supports terrorist militias that spread destruction in our region. Europe does not want to admit it

Sawsan Al Shaer

Iran using the Houthi card

As such, the Iranians and the Europeans have agreed to use the Houthi card as part of an Iranian sacrifice to waylay the region’s countries and the US to engage again in a tunnel of negotiations with Iran and freeze the situation until Trump’s term ends. This will save European companies and banks from the great losses they might suffer in November when sanctions will be re-imposed.

In fact, European governments are under great domestic pressure to protect the agreement. German banking lobby group Kreditwirtschaft has called on Berlin and other EU nations to clarify their stance and to make sure banks and their clients are “effectively protected against possible American sanctions.”

Sacrificing the Houthi card is an exposed and blatant attempt in the present circumstances and at the current time. Iranian officials and European diplomats have stated that both parties “have made important progress in talks to end the conflict in Yemen.” It was noted that Tehran has shown its readiness to “pressure” the Houthi group for a ceasefire and resume negotiations.

Accordingly, Saudi Arabia has acted alone — as any country should act — by associating its security interests with its commercial interests, just like Iran and Europe are doing.

Saudi-German trade

The German magazine Der Spiegel has reported that 800 German companies have been active in Saudi Arabia for years. In 2017, the size of German exports to Saudi Arabia was 6.6 billion euros. The magazine quoted Jörg Mayer, a senior official at SPECTARIS, a German association for optical and medical technologies, as saying that “Saudi Arabia is disregarding German products for political reasons.”

He added: “The federal German government should work through diplomatic channels to start dialogue with Riyadh that leads to suitable framework so that our business relationship can continue.”

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper quoted anonymous sources as saying that trade transactions between Berlin and Riyadh are declining. It added that Saudi government agencies have not given new contracts to German companies for months now.

It is noteworthy that the United States has included in its list of sanctions against Iran two people and four companies, two of which are registered in Germany for supporting activities of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

European role critical

A statement issued in November and signed by United States Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said “the US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated a network of individuals and entities involved in a large-scale scheme to help Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) counterfeit currency to support its destabilizing activities.”

“This network employed deceptive measures to circumvent European export control restrictions and procured advanced equipment and materials to print counterfeit Yemeni bank notes potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars for the IRGC-QF,” it added.

The European role is still critical in our war against Iran, and it is swinging in Iran’s favor. Therefore, our collective effort to pressure European banking and industrial lobby groups will make Europe think twice if it feels that its interests with us as a purchasing bloc is larger than its interests with Iran.

This article is also available in Arabic.

Sawsan Al Shaer is a Bahraini writer and journalist. She tweets @sawsanalshaer.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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