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U.S. Diplomat Says Europe's Trade Mechanism For Iran A 'Paper Tiger'

BELGIUM -- U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland (L), Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, EU Commission Vice President Federica Mogherini and other EU officials meeting in December 2018.

Radio Farda, Brussels - The era of the U.S.-Europe dispute over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers is over, says an American diplomat, adding, "EU's new proposal (Special Purpose Vehicle or SPV) for trade with the Islamic Republic of Iran is nothing, but a paper tiger."

In a meeting on Thursday, April 11, in Brussels, the U.S. Representative to the EU, Gordon Sondland, described Washington-EU talks in recent months as "highly constructive."

Infographic:The Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges(INSTEX)
Infographic:The Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges(INSTEX)

The talks, regardless of the U.S. presence or absence in JCPOA, were focused on what (the West) really wants from Tehran.

"We are working constructively with Europe on the substance of what it is we want from Iran not the form of whether we're in an agreement or out of an agreement," Gordon Sondland asserted.

Washington has set several conditions for re-joining JCPOA, including a halt to Tehran's missile program, ending its interference in the Syrian conflict and Yemen civil war, as well as terminating its support for the Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas.

Although Europe is insisting on keeping JCPOA alive, it has repeatedly raised its concerns over the Islamic Republic's missile program, as well as Tehran's role in the Middle East.

As recently as last January France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Iran needed to address international concerns over its ballistic missile program, or risk new sanctions.

"We are ready, if the talks don't yield results, to apply sanctions firmly, and they know it," Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters January 25.

Furthermore, Britain, France and Germany "accused Iran" on April 4, of "developing missile technology in violation of UN resolution," and called for a full UN report in a letter delivered to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The EU trio, that are a party to JCPOA, also said that Iran’s launch of a space vehicle and unveiling of two new ballistic missiles in February are part of a "trend of increased activity inconsistent" with UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which was adopted just after the signing of the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Resolution 2231 calls on Iran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons."

Britain, France, and Germany, who remain a party to the nuclear deal, asked Guterres to "report fully and thoroughly on Iranian ballistic missile activity" during his next June report.

In the meantime, the EU trio is still working on an SPV to assist Tehran to continue its trade deals, despite the U.S. sanctions.

Nevertheless, Sondland, believes that the trio's new proposal is nothing, but a paper tiger.

" The SPVs are Europe's attempt to appease Iran by showing that they are still trying their very best to facilitate proper transfers of payments to Iran. We believe that those SPVs are really nothing more than, and I've said it before, a paper tiger."

In the meantime, Gordon Sondlant stressed, "Any business that is doing business with Iran can do business with Iran, and they can also do business with the United States, but they can't do business with both. So, they have to pick."

Moreover, according to Sondalnd, most small and large European companies, he has talked to, have pointed out that they are not interested in using the new EU SPV, labeled as INSTEX.

France, Germany and the UK set up INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) on January 31, 2019, following the U.S. withdrawal from the deal with Iran in 2018, to help Tehran with limited trade despite U.S. sanctions. Iran has also set up its own parallel mechanism, the Special Trade, and Finance Institute (STFI). The two trade vehicles are planned to work in tandem, avoiding the use of the U.S. dollar and traditional banking transactions.

However, the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has repeatedly called INSTEX a "meaningless" measure and "a bitter joke," adding that "Europeans should have stood up to the U.S. after it left the JCPOA and should have lifted all sanctions against Iran."

Khamenei characterized Western politicians as "savages in the real sense of the word."

Dismissing the new EU initiative, Khamenei, who has the last word in all political affairs in the country, insisted that Europe has practically pulled out of the nuclear agreement with Iran, and he expects only "backstabbing and treason" from Western European countries.