Hook: Europeans can either do business with US or Iran | World Defense

Hook: Europeans can either do business with US or Iran


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Nov 17, 2017
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Hook: Europeans can either do business with US or Iran
Tehran wants Europe to provide financial relief from US sanctions
Published: June 28, 2019

Abbas Araghchi (2ndR), political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, and Helga Schmid (2ndL), Secretary General of the European Union's External Action Service (EEAS), take part in a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) attended by the E3+2 (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom) and Iran on June 28, 2019 at the Palais Coburg in Vienna, Austria.Image Credit: AFP

The US special representative for Iran said Friday that Europe has a choice: Do business with the United States, or do business with Iran.

The comments by Brian Hook came as European countries made a last-ditch effort to prevent Iran from breaching the terms of a 2015 nuclear deal, a move that could add to soaring tensions in the Arabian Gulf.

Europe has been scrambling to come up with a mechanism that will persuade Iran to stay within the limits of the deal, as Tehran complains that US sanctions mean that it no longer sees the economic benefit of the accord.

Hook said sanctions on Iran would continue until it decides to be a “normal” state, Reuters news agency reported.

Iran has indicated that if it does not receive some form of sanctions relief, it plans to exceed a limit of 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of low-enriched uranium that the country is allowed to possess under the nuclear agreement.

The potential for a breach adds urgency to a meeting Friday of officials from Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union, a meeting that takes place every quarter to discuss the implementation of the deal.

Three of the parties - Britain, France and Germany - have been attempting to set up a barter system that would allow some trade to continue with Iran and keep it from breaching the deal.

But the Trump administration has been critical of the programme, which it sees as an attempt to evade its sanctions, while Iran has been skeptical that the system can get off the ground.

President Donald Trump last year pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which curbed Iran’s nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions.

He had repeatedly denounced the deal reached during the Obama administration between Iran and six world powers, including the United States, calling it “rotten,” and he reimposed US sanctions that had been lifted as part of the pact.

A new round of US sanctions, targeting Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other senior Iranian officials, was announced by Washington on Monday after attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman and the shooting down of a US surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz.

The United States has blamed tanker attacks on Iran, which has denied involvement.

Trump has said the downing of the US Navy drone, which Iran said it hit with a surface-to-air missile, almost caused him to order a military strike against Iran.

US officials have indicated that they would like to see Iran abide by the terms of the nuclear deal, even though the United States withdrew from it.
“Our sanctions do not give Iran the right to accelerate its nuclear programme,” Hook said before a meeting in Paris on Thursday. “It can never get near a nuclear bomb.”

Hook said he wants Europe to get tougher on Iran, instead of clinging to the nuclear deal.

War with Iran is “not necessary,” Hook said.
“We are not looking for any conflict in the region,” he said. But if the US is attacked, “we will respond with military force.”

War with Iran is “not necessary,” Hook said.
“We are not looking for any conflict in the region,” he said. But if the U.S. is attacked, “we will respond with military force.”

'No rush' to ease tensions

President Donald Trump said on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Japan that “there’s no rush” to ease the tensions with Iran.

“There’s absolutely no time pressure,” he added.

“I think that in the end, hopefully, it’s going to work out. If it does, great. And if doesn’t, you’ll be hearing about it.”

Iran recently quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium. It previously said it would surpass a 300-kilogram stockpile limit set by the accord by Thursday, but an Iranian official said that it was 2.8 kilograms below that limit Wednesday and there would be no new assessment until “after the weekend.”

European countries are pressing for Iran to comply in full with the accord, though they have not specified what the consequences would be of failing to do so. But Iranian officials maintain that even if it surpasses the limit, it would not be breaching the deal, and say such a move could be reversed quickly.

The Europeans also face a July 7 deadline set by Tehran to offer long-promised relief from U.S. sanctions, or Iran says it will also begin enriching its uranium closer to weapons-grade levels.

Iran hands letter to EU signatories
On Thursday, Iranian state television reported that Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a letter urging European signatories to the accord to implement their commitments, saying Iran’s next steps depend on that.

Tensions have been rising in the Middle East. Citing unspecified Iranian threats, the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier to the region and deployed additional troops alongside the tens of thousands already there.

The U.S. has been worried about international shipping through the Strait of Hormuz since tankers were damaged in May and June in what Washington has blamed on limpet mines from Iran, although Tehran denies any involvement. Last week, Iran shot down a U.S. Navy surveillance drone, saying it violated its territory” Washington said it was in international airspace.

On Thursday, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook met with top European diplomats in Paris. He told The Associated Press that he wants them to get tougher on Iran, instead of clinging to the nuclear deal.

War with Iran is “not necessary,” Hook said.

“We are not looking for any conflict in the region,” he said. But if the U.S. is attacked, “we will respond with military force.”
The U.S. is trying to drum up support for an international naval force in the Arabian Gulf, notably to protect shipping.

Calls mount for de-escalation
German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Trump Friday on the sidelines of the G-20 summit. She said they discussed Iran “and the question of how we can get into a negotiating process, which I advocated very strongly.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping, also attending the summit, said that the Gulf region stands “at a crossroads of war and peace,” news agency Xinhua and state broadcaster CCTV reported.
“China always stands on the side of peace and opposes war,” Xi said, calling on all sides to remain calm, exercise restraint and promote dialogue.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world can’t afford a conflict. He said it was “essential to de-escalate the situation” and avoid confrontation.

Will INSTEX save the deal?

Britain, France and Germany are finalizing a complicated barter-type system known as INSTEX to maintain trade with Iran and avoid U.S. sanctions, as part of efforts to keep the nuclear deal afloat. It would help ensure trade between Iran and Europe by allowing buyers and sellers to exchange money without relying on the usual cross-border financial transactions. Iran said it will take more decisive steps if the European signatories to its 2015 nuclear deal with major powers fail to protect the country from Washington’s reimposed sanctions, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told state TV on Friday.

“If INSTEX fails to meet Iran’s demands within the framework of the nuclear deal, we will take the next steps more decisively,” Mousavi said, adding that “the implementation of the EU’s trade mechanism has been delayed due to some lack of commitments”.

World powers warned Iran to stick to the terms of their nuclear deal as they met on Friday for “last chance” talks to save the accord, but with Tehran demanding a reprieve from punishing U.S. sanctions expectations of a breakthrough are low.