Iran’s experience with the international community provides a rare opportunity to understand the network of international relations and identify determinants and balances of the global system. Washington unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear agreement, amid condemnation by all major signatories to the agreement who viewed US behaviour as a threat to international security and stability. However, a year after that withdrawal, major powers stand idle watching the Iranian-American confrontation, unable to do anything.
And once Tehran shows that it is going to reduce its commitment to the agreement, without abandoning it; as soon as it threatens countermeasures, these countries stand together against the Iranian step, and Great Western capitals begin to reproduce the American narrative. Iran became an easy target of threat and intimidation, and not the country that breached the agreement in broad daylight and under the eyes and noses of everyone, with a great deal of arrogance.
The European Union had pledged to come up with a new mechanism for trade with Iran to avoid sanctions and to compensate Iran for the consequences of US withdrawal from the agreement, bringing down the cost of US sanctions on Iran, as long as Iran remained committed to the terms of the agreement. None of this happened. Tehran only saw dodging and procrastination, and several European countries, mainly France, began to talk about the need for a new agreement that takes into account Iran’s missile programme and regional role. Where were these concerns when the agreement was first signed, and how long will Europe simply follow Washington and its administration in spite of its frivolity and lack of commitment to any treaties or agreements?
China, in turn, which is a great economic power, reduced its imports of Iranian oil, almost stopping them altogether all in response to US pressures. Although China has criticised the US unilateral step, apparently it can do nothing but give in to these unjust sanctions against Iran.
Russia does not stop criticising Washington, and it is also under US sanctions. Its military and civilian industries seem to be targeted just like Chinese company Huawei. But Moscow has nothing to give to Tehran as a gift. Guarantors and signatories to the agreement are doing nothing to save it, or to prove that Washington’s decisions and positions are not irredeemable. These countries are only using verbal criticism without practical steps on the ground. Ultimately, they adopt the American point of view, despite all they say about it.When Tehran shows a sign of objection or threatens counter steps, the world goes into chaos. Guarantors and signatories start to warn and denounce, leaving Iran alone to face the consequences of the unilateralism of the United States and without any effort to save the world order from chaos caused by Washington with Donald Trump at its helm.No one can trust these guarantors and signatories after this, and no one will ever need them if individual agreements can be concluded with Washington. Why should foreign ministers attend future meetings if their presence makes no difference, and if their signatures are mere ink on paper, and as long as putting their guarantees in to action depends on what Washington wants?
It is a painful lesson, but a useful one. Some Palestinians believe that the transition from unilateral US mediation to a multilateral mediation process can make a difference. However, no difference can be seen unless the balance of world powers is reconstructed by the stakeholders themselves. Betting on different European, Chinese or even Russian positions may be useful in drafting some strong statements, however, the chances of putting such statements into action on the ground is up to Washington. Isn’t this what Iran is facing today?
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Wattan Voice on 13 May 2019
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.