There is no mistaking the fact that the US and its European allies are on collision course on sanctions against Iran. There is an undercurrent of resentment against US president Donald Trump’s fiat to choke Iran through economic sanctions.
With the US all set to re-impose economic sanctions against Iran that were lifted under a 2015 nuclear accord following President Donald Trump’s decision in May to withdraw from an international deal that sought to limit Iran’s nuclear programme, the European nations are in strong disagreement.
By abrogating the US-Iran nuclear deal with which former US president Barack Obama had hemmed in Iran, Trump has shown scant regard for accords especially when he had also withdrawn from the Paris Climate accord soon after he assumed office.
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In a statement on new sanctions against Iran recently, Trump said the Iranian Government “faces a choice: Either change its threatening, destabilising behaviour and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation.” But the isolation is being resented by Europe which sees a sacrifice in trade benefits that is uncalled for.
International inspectors have concluded that Iran is complying with the accord, contrary to the US rant. “We are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran,” the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany and the European Union said in a joint statement on Monday in a rare show of defiance against the US.
Indeed, after a long time, an American president has brought governments in Europe to a point of collision with it after decades of good feeling and constructive cooperation.
The sanctions ban any transactions with Iran involving US dollar bank notes, gold, precious metals, aluminium, steel, commercial passenger aircraft and coal, and they end imports into the United States of Iranian carpets and foodstuffs.
India is one of the largest buyers of Iran’s oil, and has pledged to invest millions in Iran’s Chabahar Port. Recent demands by top American officials that India reduce its oil imports from Iran to zero by November led to sore feelings in New Delhi. Those demands were later softened, but the damage was done.
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Indian relations with the United States have suffered as a consequence though there is no overt protest from India. A counter to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is being mooted with the US, Australia, Japan participating in it but India has opted to keep out of it as of now, apparently because it does not want to annoy Beijing with which it has forged improved ties.
India is second only to China when it comes to oil import from Iran, and in February 2018, after President Rouhani’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi, India had committed to increase that intake by 25 per cent this year.
How India will convince the Americans to relent on Iranian oil imports remains to be seen. On Chabahar Port development also, the loser would be India if there is any backtracking by New Delhi on using the port as a counter-weight to Gwadar Port that Pakistan is developing in a big way.
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The Chinese have said that they would continue to buy Iranian oil in defiance of US sanctions. Beijing is unlikely to seriously curb economic ties with Iran unless it receives significant concessions on other issues — something the Trump administration is unlikely to grant.
Already stung by US hikes in import duties on a range of products, the Chinese are seething with anger at Trump’s measures. They would do everything to be on the same page as Europe on the Iranian sanctions issue.
Trump seems to revel in shock treatments, but in the process of his policy twists he is driving the US farther and farther away from its traditional allies while not building new equations. At least on external relations, Trump has proved to be a veritable disaster.
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