Analysis: Déjà-Vu – Europe’s role in the Iran conflict

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

In the article ‘Déjà-Vu?’, published by Deutsche-Aussenpolitik.De, Marco Overhaus takes a closer look at how the Europeans go in circles in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.  In his view the EU should instead of tabling old ideas try new ones – or develop extant ones further. 


After giving a short introduction of the current situation, Marco Overhaus analyses the question whether the international community will inevitably face the awkward choice between the Scylla of another destabilizing war, as in Iraq, and the Charybdis of a nuclear armed Iran.

Overhaus believes that there is still time to avoid such a choice, but it will require more creativity and flexibility of the Europeans and lists three reasons why the previous European efforts have ultimately failed.

Firstly, the conflicts’ main protagonists are Washington and Tehran, which is one of the reasons why France, Germany and the UK “have always conceived themselves to be intermediaries rather than problem solvers themselves”.
Secondly, the preferences between Washington and Tehran have been entirely incompatible.  
Finally, the domestic context of Iranian politics has not been very helpful to the European efforts.

However, Germany and its European partners have learned that international unity is a high value and a precondition of the eventual resolution of the conflict as well as that the EU-3 cannot substitute for direct talks between Washington and Teheran. These lessons have to be complemented with more flexibility and creativity, writes Overhaus.  

The “Russian proposal” could be developed further by including China and European partners or even to allow small scale enrichment of uranium in Iran under a multinational framework and intrusive IAEA inspections. According to Overhaus, this could  be an option.  

His final conclusion is that “if the aforementioned choice between military confrontation and a nuclear armed Iran is to be avoided, the new ’contact group’” will have to raise both the incentives and the probability for truly painful economic sanctions”.

A full version of the article can be downloaded here.

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