INSTEX A Heroic Political Effort by Europe: US-Based Author
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Kaveh Afrasiabi, author and political scientist from Boston, termed European powers' new mechanism to ease trade with Iran as a “heroic political effort” that would institutionalize the 28-member bloc’s rift with Washington.
“At the moment, it is a heroic political effort that institutionalizes the European rift with Washington over Iran and therefore the political significance outweighs the economic significance at least for Europe. It only deserves a guarded approval from Iran because of its so many limitations that must be overcome in the near future or Iran must begin incremental non-implementation of the JCPOA,” Afrasiabi told Tasnim.
Following is the full text of the interview.
Tasnim: After months of foot-dragging, Britain, France and Germany in early Feb. issued a joint statement on the creation of a new trading system called the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) that will allow trade between the EU and Iran without relying on direct financial transactions. What do you think about this mechanism?
Afrasiabi: Well, it is what the parties make of it in the process of push and pull over its scope and purview since so much about it is still up in the air. So a final judgment may need to wait a few months to see when it gets underway and who participates and so on. At the moment, it is a heroic political effort that institutionalizes the European rift with Washington over Iran and therefore the political significance outweighs the economic significance at least for Europe. It only deserves a guarded approval from Iran because of its so many limitations that must be overcome in the near future or Iran must begin incremental non-implementation of the JCPOA.
Tasnim: As you know, EU officials have repeatedly expressed the bloc’s determination to preserve the JCPOA. Recently, US Vice President Mike Pence said, “(This is) an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and create still more distance between Europe and the US”. Do you believe that the EU will finally stand up to the US or it is just a bluff game?
Afrasiabi: I really don’t believe the Europeans go through all that complicated effort for a mere bluff so we need to correctly assess the significance of this mechanism in terms of asserting Europe’s independence. The American opposition aims to limit it to the humanitarian goods already waived under US sanctions but not permitted in action so even for that category this mechanism is useful. We must contextualize this matter in terms of Iran’s survival counter strategy at this crucial juncture.
Tasnim: Will the JCPOA stand?
Afrasiabi: I think it will get further weakened but nonetheless will remain in place for various reasons. This deal is closely interconnected with the UNSC 2231 that has a timeline on conventional arms embargo among other things worth saving so one must always ask how will JCPOA's demise affect the UN resolutions on Iran? Some have taken for granted the snapback in case of Iran’s exit but that is not necessarily a closed question because at the UN level Iran can always blame the US and that opens some leeway.