Ellie Geranmaeyeh, Policy Fellow and ECFR Iran Expert
Olaf Boehnke, Head of ECFR Berlin Office
The ECFR office Berlin had the pleasure of welcoming Ellie Geranmayeh to an expert discussion on the upcoming nuclear deal with Iran.
Ellie firstly presented the key theses of ECFR’s recent policy brief “Détente with Iran – how Europe can maximize the chances of a final nuclear deal “. Despite the Joint Action Plan being agreed between Iran’s new negotiating team and the E3+3 last November, as well as a general improvement of relations between the international community and Iran, there still remain strong tensions and differences on both sides that need to be solved. Ellie highlighted the importance of a realistic approach of both sides as time is running out with the deadline of July 20th for getting a deal done. Concerning the Iranian side, a good indication seems to be announcements by the Iranian side in Vienna this week that Iranian people have to realize that sanctions might be lifted more on a step by step basis instead of an immediate relief.
Ellie then presented the four possible scenarios resulting from the negotiations on a nuclear deal until the end of the interim agreement on July 20th:
A) A final deal is reached within the deadline. B) No final deal is agreed but the interim deal is extended for another six months. C) A final deal is agreed but the US Congress blocks it. D) Talks between the E3+3 and Iran break down, and Europeans might have to come up with a tough decision to play a leading role in keeping the remaining options on the (negotiation) table.
According to this innovative thesis, the following discussion focused on the role that Europe (and especially Germany) could undertake vis-a-vis encouraging open discussions between the US and Iran. Should Europe act as a mediator and encourage both parties to cooperate? According to Ellie, the E3, as well as countries such as Italy and Spain, unquestionably needs to use their institutional strength and power to facilitate cooperation, not only to help the continuation of dialogue, but equally to expand on issues that still need to be discussed. However, if Iran feels pressurized by US Congress who could potentially block future agreements, Iran will not further try to pursue its “rapprochement” with Europe. Hence Europe should stand ready to provide a unilateral package of sanctions relieves that would safeguard Iran on any kind of economic or political losses.
The tricky question with this strategy is how European governments and companies could manage not to end up being punished by US treasury with extraterritorial sanctions respectively the secondary effect of the existing Iran sanctions by US congress as in the case of the French BNP Paribas.
On the role of Germany towards Iran, the participants agreed that the German government after the election of Rouhani continues to have a very cautious and uninspired approach, although a German business representative pointed out quite openly during a meeting on Tuesday that Iran could easily become the most interesting market for German companies in the entire Middle East. But Iran obviously is not China, so neither the German government nor the business sector is willing to bet their (political) capital on the fate of the rise of Persia, yet!