Monday, September 9, 2019

France's Empty Iran Gambit

What are they thinking? Or better, are they thinking? I am referring to our so-called Allies in Western Europe. While commentators are whining about how the Trump administration is undermining our sacred alliances with Western Europe, these latter countries seem to have decided to go it alone, especially when it comes to the Iran nuclear deal.

Being signatories to the deal, they certainly have a stake in its success. But, having defined themselves as satraps in the Obama imperium, they are mired in the past, longing to return to the day when President Obama treated them as equal partners. 

So, they are making a conspicuous show of supposed toughness. Their public declamations of strength are designed to cover up their basic weakness. I have been calling them the weak sisters of Western Europe, and will continue to do so. The only Western European politician who seems to have any intestinal fortitude is British Prime Minister Boris Johnson… and, the armies of weakness have allied themselves to bring him down, and also to defy the will of the British people, expressed in the Brexit referendum.

Anyway, Western European leaders are running scared. They are afraid of Iran. They are afraid of taking risks when dealing with Iran. It would not be prudent to attack the Islamic Republic with economic sanctions. It might be that Donald Trump is too willing to take risks, but then again, the weak sisters of Western Europe are unwilling to take any risks at all. We ought, as a rule, to measure the risk tolerance of different leaders, and we ought also to take note of the hysterical reactions when a president chooses to take a risk.

Anyway, The Wall Street Journal editorialized on French president Emmanuel Macron’s Iran folly this morning. 

I offers a quick glance at the state of play between America and Iran. That means: are the Trump economic sanctions working?

Sanctions the U.S. has imposed since last year are designed to coax Tehran to renegotiate a better deal. This has included designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization and sanctions that have reduced Iranian crude oil exports some 80%. U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook announced fresh measures against the IRGC and Iranian oil last Wednesday.

This appears to be working. Iranian leaders such as Foreign Minister Javad Zarif have gone from refusing talks with Washington to probing ways to get back to the negotiating table. That’s important context for Iran’s provocations that are supposed to scare Washington into offering a new deal, such as attacks on oil infrastructure in the Middle East, threats against a Washington think tank, and news that Tehran is now openly violating the 2015 deal by stockpiling highly enriched uranium.

But, the French president and his European allies do not like it. They want to send money to Iran… which was Obama administration policy. They want to buy off the nation, or, in diplospeak, to appease it. Obviously, for someone like Macron what matters is the appearance of being a player. He commands diminishing respect at home and seeks to shore up his stature by appearing to be an influential figure on the world stage. And yet, when you can only look like a player by making empty gestures of appeasement you look like a mouse attacking an elephant… ready to be squashed.

The Journal continues, regarding Macron’s proposal to float Iran a large line of credit, to help it to weather its current financial crisis:

The mystery is why, in light of all this, Mr. Macron is eager to send Iran more money—especially since Mr. Trump can block the transfer by refusing to waive U.S. sanctions. Perhaps Mr. Macron and the Europeans hope to buy off Iran in the short term as they wait to see if Mr. Trump wins re-election. But in the meantime they are advancing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

If Trump can block any transfer request, then indeed it makes no sense to engage in an exercise in futility. It is altogether possible that Macron believes Trump will lose in 2020, thus enhancing his prominence and going back to a policy of propping up the mullahs.

Of course, the Iranians are no fools. They know that the best way to manipulate the weak sisters in Western Europe is to pretend to be a growing threat. Faced with such a threat Europeans are more likely to back down or to bend over… because it’s what they do. 

Iran on Saturday took another giant step toward gaining nuclear weapons by admitting it is now using arrays of advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium. This is its latest violation of the 2015 nuclear deal and puts more pressure on Europe to decide whether it wants to keep subsidizing this nuclear breakout.

Think of it this way, it makes the weak sisters of Western Europe feel important. And imagine that when Iran does get nuclear weapons it will not aim them at Europe.


trigger warning said...

As I see it, EU-niks are mesmerized by the intellectual nimbus emanating from the soft power narrative; i.e.,

"Soft power is the ability to attract and co-opt, rather than coerce (hard power). Soft power is the ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction." (Wiki)

Financial nudges (bribes, payoffs, "reparations" etc.) are, of course, part and parcel of the "appeal".

Here's an amusing video (< 5m) of Joseph Nye (Harvard) thrashing about in a cold deluge from a Trumpian bucket of hard power while hugging his soft power tar baby:

Sam L. said...

If they won't pay their "2%" for NATO, and it seems they won't, and never, never will, they certainly won't fund their "militaries" to hold back all the immigrants coming in. And that's assuming they will try to do that. I do NOT so assume. I think they're lying on their backs so as not to further offend those who come to slit their throats.