Europe may be thousands of miles from both Iran and the United States, but all three are now at the center of a controversy over how to deal with the regime in Tehran.
Donald Trump has announced that the U.S. will be pulling back from a 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, clearing the way for strict sanctions to be imposed on the Middle Eastern country.
Not everyone in Europe is on the same page, however. Several nations have indicated that they’ll continue trading with Iran and essentially ignore the sanctions, but a memo has leaked showing that U.S. officials are ready to play hardball with countries that refuse to get on board.
According to The Weekly Standard, that memo has been making the rounds in Washington D.C., and lists several actions that America may be prepared to take against European countries if they continue to prop up Iran.
“Make clear to European interlocutors that any attempt to respond to the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions through tariffs will negatively impact the ongoing negotiations over steel and aluminum tariffs—with a likely U.S. escalation targeting Europe’s strategic economic sectors,” states the document, which was penned by economics expert Richard Goldberg.
“The message: keep trade negotiations separate from the issue of Iran sanctions—the consequences of mixing the two issues could be devastating for Europe,” the memo continues.
Three nations that are usually close friends of the United States in recent decades — France, Germany, and the United Kingdom — declared last week that they would stay in the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran, essentially sidestepping sanctions.
If policymakers decide to act on the memo, however, there could be new consequences for doing business with Iran, and experts believe Europe will side with the United States.
“The Europeans are not going to get in the way as the Trump administration begins to reimpose our sanctions, and they’re going to comply after those sanctions are re-imposed,” said an unnamed Republican congressional aide about the leaked memo, according to The Weekly Standard.
“U.S. leverage is just too overwhelming, and the Iranian economy is just too insignificant,” that source told the magazine.
On Thursday, Richard Goldberg was asked about the memo, and confirmed its conclusions. When it comes down to an America-or-Iran decision, he indicated, Europe would choose America.
“Behind closed doors, European diplomats are finally admitting that their companies will fully comply with U.S. sanctions going forward,” he said. “We now need to focus our pressure on the board of SWIFT to disconnect Iranian banks as required by US law.”
SWIFT is a global financial network that allows banks to quickly wire money between locations. That comment was a strong hint that there would be consequences for Europe’s wallets if they continued to treat Iran as an equal.
“In the memo, Goldberg advised reminding every member of the SWIFT board that they are subject to U.S. sanctions if the global transaction network does not disconnect any redesignated Iranian banks,” explained Weekly Standard.
This approach is a major departure from Barack Obama’s weak stance and constantly-moving “red lines.”
President Trump pledged that he would put America first, and it looks like he’s taking that promise seriously.
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