Europe-Iran, Russia ties: Thaw likely

Europe-Iran, Russia ties: Thaw likely

Europe has rushed to promote financial interests in Iran once the punitive sanctions regime are lifted.

The tsunami of refugees from wars in West Asia has overshadowed the victory of the Obama administration over the US Congressional and Israeli opponents of the seven power deal on Iran's nuclear programme. It could speed rapprochement between Europe and Tehran and warm relations with Russia in spite of the conflict in Ukraine.

Such developments would distance Europe from the US stand toward Iran, Russia, and the conflicts in West Asia and exert pressure on the administration to reassess failed policies. Russia’s deepening military involvement in Syria has already compelled Washington to hold high level talks with Moscow and IS pushing the US toward cooperation with both Russia and Iran.

Israel and its allies in the Congress strongly oppose the Iran deal but they could not muster the votes needed to kill it. Consequently, they will try to criticise Iran’s implementation of the accord in order to undermine it and deny Iran the fruits of the deal: the lifting of sanctions that have crippled the country’s economy and harmed its citizens.

Having won a deal by making major compromises, Iran is, however, unlikely to oblige opponents and Washington's allies in Europe cannot be expected to go along with US rejectionists. Although Washington played the most high profile role in reaching the accord with Iran, the US was not alone. Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China were partners in the deal concluded under the auspices of European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

These partners have their own interests – rather than those of Washington – to pursue now that Iran has been restored to respectability in international affairs by renouncing nuclear weapons (which it had not developed) and agreeing to intrusive monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure that this commitment is honoured (although Tehran says it has no intention of manufacturing such arms).

Pundits have focused on Europe's rush to promote business and financial interests in Iran once the punitive sanctions regime has been lifted in exchange for Iran's curtailment of its nuclear programme.

Over eager European politicians and businessmen have behaved like race horses at the gates waiting for the starting bell to ring and the doors to open so they can make the dash to Tehran to secure lucrative trade and investment arrangements. But this race is no longer the most urgent issue.

Some pundits and politicians in Europe appear to have reached the conclusion that Europe should join Iran and Russia by backing the Syrian government’s armed forces in the battle with the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra, and other jihadi factions in order to stem the flow of Syrian refugees to Europe. The Syrian army is the only force capable of keeping the jihadis at bay and, if strengthened and properly armed, could roll them back in strategic areas.

Rift in EU
If the Syrian government were to fall, millions of the 65 per cent of Syrians still in the country who live in government-held areas are likely to take smugglers’ routes over land and sea to reach Europe which is struggling to manage the current influx.
The rate of refugee flow has already created serious rift within the European Union (EU) as well as major socio-economic problems for individual member states. Especially Germany, which has agreed to accept all Syrian refugees who reach its territory.

In addition to arming and financing the government, Iran and Russia have long promoted a political solution to the conflict. Now that the divisive issue of Iran's nuclear programme has been resolved and Tehran brought in from the cold, Europe can afford to consider the political initiatives of both powers, thereby breaking ranks with the US.

Washington, so far, remains chained to Iran’s rivals for regional influence: Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. These countries are the primary sponsors of the IS, Nusra, and other jihadi forces which aim to overthrow the Damascus government and establish a 21st century “caliphate” even if this means the destruction of Syria as a state and its transformation into expansionist IS and Nusra fiefdoms, risking destabilisation of the entire strategic region.

Last week’s humiliating revelation by General Lloyd Austin, head of US central command, to the US Senate armed services committee that the army’s $500 million programme to train “moderate” Syrian forces to take on IS has led to the deployment of only “four or five” fighters has discredited the administration’s four year-old approach to the Syrian conflict. Washington has relied on non-existent “moderate” forces to, initially, oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and lately, take on jihadis.  
One can only hope this revelation will prompt Europe to press Washington into abandoning rulers making war in Syria and join the efforts of Tehran and Russia to bring an end to the conflict by combining military force against jihadis and negotiations with the government and opposition elem-ents freed of external controls.

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