The EU is reportedly almost ready to present a new mechanizm to strengthen trade with Iran, amid US intensifying efforts to rally allies against the Islamic Republic.
On January 27th, Bloomberg cited two EU diplomats and a draft of an EU statement it the outlet has seen. According to the sources and the document, the special mechznizm could be presented as early as January 28th, which as of midday has not happened.
The document expresses the support of France, Germany and the UK of the financial mechanism, claiming it provides “a positive impact on trade and economic relations with Iran, but most importantly on the lives of Iranian people.”
It is to be discussed by the EU governments on January 28th and if approved by all 28 members released to the public.
The initiative is designed to shield European companies who wish to do business with Iran from US sanctions that could result from dollar-based transactions.
The Trump administration has deemed the channel an attempt to evade its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, while questioning whether it’ll work. Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury’s top sanctions official, said in November she isn’t concerned “at all” that the mechanism can sidestep sanctions.
“As envisaged by the EU, the special purpose vehicle would accept payments from companies that want to trade with Iran, either by receiving waivers for oil imports or permissible trade in goods like food and medicine. With no direct transfer of funds between Iran and European actors, it would theoretically insulate firms from U.S. penalties,” Bloomberg reported.
On January 13th, the head of Iran’s nuclear program Ali Akbar Salehi said that the Islamic Republic has begun “preliminary activities for designing” a modern process for 20-percent uranium enrichment. If the EU’s plan fails and the Iran Nuclear Deal falls through, the country would restart its enrichment activities.
Meanwhile, the US is ramping up its anti-Iran campaign. On January 11th, the US Department of State released a joint statement by the US and Poland, announcing the “Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East” in Warsaw on February 13-14. Countries from across the globe have been invited to participate.
“The ministerial will address a range of critical issues including terrorism and extremism, missile development and proliferation, maritime trade and security, and threats posed by proxy groups across the region,” the statement read.
In a comment published on January 22nd, the Russian Foreign Ministry slammed the ministerial meeting. According to it, the meeting will not address many of the basic problems of the Middle East.
“In particular, it is not planned to discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict and its core element, the Palestinian problem. The preliminary programme includes the fight against terrorism and extremism, maritime and digital security, the situation in Yemen and Syria, as well as Iran’s role in the region, including missile development and proliferation. It is an obvious attempt to bring together as many countries as possible on an anti-Iran platform, to create conditions for the ultimate erosion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action known as the Iran nuclear deal, and to shift the international focus from Syria and Yemen to anti-Iran efforts.”
It will also not be an actual discussion, as the conclusion is pre-determined.
“The participants will be unable to influence the forum’s final decisions, which will be formulated as a non-negotiable US-Polish brief, as the forum organisers have announced.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry also calls the conference a hastily arranged one and behind closed doors, “without due regard for the opinions of influential countries in the Middle East and beyond. The UN is not among the co-sponsors of the conference, which is prepared as a benchmark event. It is unlikely that this approach will help “build consensus” regarding insecurity in the Middle East.”
Furthermore, Russian once more criticized US’ Middle East policy.
“In light of the above, we once again point out that the current US policy of fostering anti-Iran sentiments and creating new dividing lines in the Middle East is unacceptable. We would like to remind everyone about Washington’s declared plans to create the so-called Middle East Strategic Alliance, which experts have dubbed the “Arab NATO.””
“Instead of promoting unilateral approaches, Moscow has been calling for collective efforts to build a consensus and find compromise solutions so as to ease confrontation and settle all problems through political and diplomatic methods based on international law and with the UN playing the central role,” the statement also added.
It concluded by reminding that there are UN and UNSC initiatives that remain valid and that Russia supports their propagation, under the global body’s leadership.
On January 22nd, in his address to the UN Security Council, US Ambassador Jonathan Cohen called the ministerial meeting a “global brainstorming session” to “develop the outline of a stronger security architecture” in the Middle East.
He claimed that it was not specifically aimed at Iran. “It is also not a venue to demonize or attack Iran,” he insisted.
Cohen said the conference will prove the need for action against Iran’s missile program, the Shi’ite militant group Hizballah’s tunnels from Lebanon into Israel, and recent rocket launches from Syria into Israel.
In remarks published on January 21st, Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said that Iran wasn’t invited.
Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya told the Security Council on January 22nd that the conference will fail to bolster Middle East security because of its “one-country aspect” and failure to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Iran has called the conference a U.S. “anti-Iran circus,” while warning that Tehran could resort to unspecified “counteraction” toward Poland.