Frederica Mogherini’s and the EU’s determination to uphold the 2015 JCPOA with Iran has to be seen within the framework of the EU’s confidence in and practice of the peace-through-trade policy. This policy originates from the theory that an increase in trade leads to universal benefits (which expands to include peace).
This idea was first mentioned at around AD 100, when Plutarch wrote about how sea trade allowed man to cooperate and “redress defects” in their relationship with one another through mutual exchange. In the 1700s other theorists like Montesquieu specified that peace is a “natural” consequence of trade, it then gained momentum into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This Liberal IR thought assumes a positive trade-peace correlation in that “whatever benefits the individual, will benefit the state” and therefore determines that trade promotes peace.
However, there is an explicit and cynical contradiction involved when EU-Iranian arms trade was at its height in the disastrous eight-year Iran-Iraq war, given that the EU sold arms to Iraq AND Iran during the time frame concerned.
In fact, this same EU exported arms to the countries before, during, and after they were involved in conflicts. Therefore, the trade of arms was seen as a means to gain influence over the two countries and to serve the EU’s own commercial interests.
In other words, the trade of arms showed how the EU was happy to marginalise its political peace goals in favour of its commercial interests, thus demonstrating how the peace-through-trade policy could be conveniently ignored where making money was concerned.
Thirty seven years after the Iran-Iraq fiasco, the EU is doing exactly the same thing again; only, this time, the stakes are chillingly higher.
In resisting Trump’s new push for Iran sanctions in light of Iran’s refusal to comply with terms of the JCPOA in either spirit or word, the EU is chasing the money again in Iran.
The United Kingdom, America, the French, the Germans and the EU hared into Teheran to sign lucrative trade deals with Tehran the minute the deal was signed back in July, 2015. Neither Obama’s administration nor the Europeans including Britain (sorry guys…) cared to think beyond the trade potential of a huge and lucrative market for increased tonnage of Western goods.
What was at stake though, for nations and countries not connected to the Iranian gold rush was the safety, autonomy and independence of several Middle Eastern countries and the declared intention about the annihilation and demise of a further country on the basis of its religion and ethnicity.
For apart from religion, Iran has absolutely no political or cultural issue with Jerusalem. Nor does the EU. If not for the fact that significant sums of money are involved in the new and burgeoning trade deals with Iran, the EU itself has no compelling reason to resist Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA deal signed in 2015.
Joanna Spear at the George Washington University explains the EU’s reluctance to get behind America and Israel thus: First, Europeans do not feel so threatened by Iran to believe they would use weapons of mass destruction against them. Second, Europeans see Iran as an important trading partner and are especially connected to Iran’s petroleum. Iran’s current demands last week for the terms of the JCPOA re-negotiation point to just that….In this regard, for the EU, cooperation (capitulation?) is always more beneficial than confrontation. Third, European Union security planners view proliferation, as did Obama, through eight long years of disengagement, through the context of regional power balances and therefore do not single out weapons of mass destruction as a point of concern. For Israel, this is a non-starter as the Iranian Islamists have often declared their intention to wipe out the Jewish state. And finally, says Spear, European intelligence agencies are often unable to independently verify intelligence claims by their U.S. and Israeli counterparts because of their inherent weaknesses in this arena and this often breeds a certain amount of scepticism. It is however, a scepticism that has deadly consequences for Israel.
So, Iran understands clearly what it is doing in the Middle East. It also understands clearly what it is doing in Latin America.
Iran’s strategic penetration into Latin America has received much less attention in the world press because of the all the noise it is making in the Middle East. However, from the 1980s, through its proxy Hezballah, Iran has been extremely active in the so-called “Triple Frontier” where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet. In no small part, Venezuela’s outsized role in providing a gateway to Iran into the region, complete with arms deals, military transfers, and clandestine intelligence cooperation contributed greatly while Chavez’s friendship with ex prez Ahmadinejad laid the foundation of the many commercial, political, and military ties which still flourish between the two countries. So much so, that in 2018, Venezuela is considered the hub for Iran’s military ambitions in the region in the opinion of Latin American analysts.
But what is the prize for Iran in the Middle East and the United States of America? If nothing else, this resurgent Islamist Iran is a timely reminder that the threat posed by the Islamic Republic is not confined to Israel, or even to the United States. Rather, it is global in nature, and requires a global response.
With regards to America specifically, Iran’s ongoing successes in Venezuela and Bolivia (Bolivia and Colombia now interested in achieving nuclear parity; Iran very interested in “helping” them…) are part of a long-term strategy of the Islamic Republic: the intrusion of the Islamic Republic into the Western Hemisphere. And here, directly threatening America through its proxies and/or IRGC boots-on-the-ground would prove to the world the superiority of Shia Islam and the followers of Ali and that the world’s support for the Caliphs after Mohammad including Abu Bakr in 632 was as wrong then as it is in 2018……. Of all the nations in the west, the jewel in the crown of resurgent Islamism is America and its long-game plan and documented south of the American border moves Iran out of an “axis of annoyance” to a very real threat to the American way of life.
Mogherini and the EU may say they support peace-through-trade rather than peace-through-strength. In over 2000 years of recorded history this has never worked. While the EU may parrot a liberal international relations strategy of democracy, international organizations, and interdependence, its unwillingness to empathise with Israel’s position vis a vis Iran as a nuclear power, Iran in Syria and Iran in Lebanon will only ensure the proliferation of an unstable Middle East for the next two or three generations.
And frankly, that stinks.