The EU foreign ministers’ refusal on Monday, July 15, to find Tehran in significant breach of the nuclear pact put US plans for more sanctions on hold. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said after their meeting that since the remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal do not see Tehran’s breaches as significant, they have decided for now not to trigger the pact’s dispute mechanism, preferring more diplomacy to ease the crisis.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu retorted in a short video clip: “The European Union’s response to Iranian violations reminds me of European appeasement in the 30s. Then too they preferred to bury their heads in the sand; they will only wake up when Iran’s nuclear missiles fall on European soil. But then it will be too late.” Netanyahu went on to say: “We at all events will continue to do what needs to be done to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Netanyahu’s message was addressed more to his domestic audience than Brussels. He too is aware that President Trump in Washington and Hassan Rouhani in Tehran are secretly feeling their way towards conditions for resuming US-Iranian nuclear talks. The Europeans are therefore keeping a light hand on the pressure button.
This week, Rouhani said his government would come to the table “anywhere, at any time,” provided the US lifted economic sanctions and annulled its walkout from the nuclear pact. The Trump administration will not of course meet either condition, but, at some level, Washington and Tehran are, with ups and downs, bandying conditions for talks to begin – mainly through Swiss, Iraqi and Omani go-betweens.
Our sources also note that Tehran, for its part, is taking steps to de-escalate the tension with Washington: attacks on Gulf oil targets have been paused as have pro-Iranian Shiite strikes against US diplomatic and military targets mainly in Iraq. A resurgence of Iranian aggression would therefore signify the breakdown of the ongoing tentative diplomacy for launching US-Iran negotiations.