If the US ends up reinstating sanctions on Iran it will likely push the EU to sweeten the deal for the Iranians. The problem is that this might lead to a conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.
It’s not easy being a super power these days. It comes with a lot of baggage. Germany’s recent change of heart to sell Turkey ‘Leopold II’ tanks, when they found that they were to be used in Afrin against the YPG is comical and demonstrates how Berlin is not ready to be a super power. Guns tend to kill people. It’s what they do.
Similarly, with incumbent super powers, the law of unintended consequences can sometimes even pay dividends. Recently Donald Trump has let it be known that he intends to reinstate sanctions against Tehran because…well, because he wants to.
Real superpowers don’t’ really need any justification for why they think the way they do. In Trump’s case, he thinks that Iran testing ballistic missiles is a tad rum and therefore we should make it a condition of the Iran Deal – regardless of the fact that it was deliberately left out of the wretched accord by the Europeans, who knew it would never rub with Tehran.
But have a heart for ‘ol Donald. This is a man who watches a TV channel tailor made for him that runs footage of gorillas fighting, and who had to ask Michael Flynn when he took office “Hey Mikey, remind me again, who are the bad guys in the Middle East?”
“Iran, sir”, Flynn replied, probably before rolling his eyes.
Trump doesn’t really understand anything about the Middle East. You wouldn’t want him to. But he wants to demonise Iran as that’s good business with the Saudis and their Arab allies. So he’s not letting go of the Iran Project, which might end up after May in penalising European companies operating within the US.
Those high up in the EU are hoping that another world class fiasco will dominate his mind before the May deadline arrives and the Iran deal will fizzle. But it won’t.
In fact, the EU will make sure it won’t as Trump’s Iran Project has actually given its esteemed 1 billion dollar a year ‘diplomatic service’ something to do.
The last time the EU went with the US on a half cocked, crackpot scheme which would change all our lives forever, was the 2003 invasion of Iraq. And it’s still paying a dear price for it with extremists causing mayhem in European capitals and an immigration crisis which has tested the EU’s foundations to the limit.
Where do you want this lorry load of euros?
This time it’s different. The EU is using the Trump-Iran Project to go it alone on foreign policy in the Middle East. It has EU elections in 2019 and many in Brussels fear that lower turnouts will give a boost to more far right parties and lead to the demise of the EU.
Brussels needs the Madness of Trump to appease to its voters that opposing him makes sense back home. But it’s not just about political capital but also about business.
France, Italy and Spain together take the lions share of 37 percent of all of Iran’s cheap oil. France in particular has big ideas about investing in Iran and given the recent riots there sparked by poverty, the EU will soon be looking at Tehran and offering the one thing that it is very good at doing and what Iran badly needs: cash.
It’s a no brainer. If the EU can hand over $2 billon to the Central African Republic to help cope with a civil war, then what should it be doing for Iran, which it sees as a strategic partner? When was the last time you saw ‘made in CAR’ on the engine bay of a Peugeot?
What we are likely to see in the coming weeks is Brussels take a firmer action against Trump and reach out to Tehran. The problem with this is the law of unintended consequences can catch you in the slips in a split second.
It’s not just that it will be like poisoning Donald’s Big Macs. He will be very pissed off and take it personally, yes. And this could lead to a petulant reaction probably against European firms who still take Iran’s oil but it threatens to trigger a trade war between the EU and the US, which surely Trump cannot endure. Even Bill in Ohio knows that the EU is America's biggest trading partner and it’s not smart to ruin something so industriously important.
In fact, there’s something much more important at stake, which even Trump doesn’t get, but will please him the none the less.
Israel has stated quite emphatically that it can’t take Iran becoming any more powerful in the region. If Iran’s economy grows as a direct result from the Trump Iran sanction threat, which pushes the EU to offer infrastructural support there, then Israel will blow a major fuse and go ahead with its ambitions to hit Hezbollah – despite getting a bloody nose in 2006. Or in spite of it.
Indeed, the loser is always the one who has so much more to prove and is deemed to return to the ring, regardless of the consequences. Israel is trapped. If it doesn’t attack Hezbollah it looks weak. If it does attack Hezbollah, it looks weak when it fails to win. Kissinger was right when he said “The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if he does not lose”.
Hezbollah too strong now
For Israel, Hezbollah has simply grown too strong, too quickly. The irony of the West’s intervention in Syria and Yemen actually bolstering the Shia militant group is lost on the Israelis. The experience Hezbollah fighters have gleaned in Syria makes them just too much of a threat to Israel, which, according to Lebanese media sent its spies here just recently to plant a car bomb to kill a Hamas operative.
But they couldn’t even get that right and the bomb went off prematurely leaving your Hamas man with a sooty face and no driver’s seat in his jalopy.
It’ll be red faces in Brussels though when the history writers attribute a war between Hezbollah and Israel to the EU meddling in foreign affairs. The EU is not a super power. Its power lies largely with the ability to talk. And talk. And then talk some more while paying countries millions to listen.
The German tanks fiasco is a hilarious yet telling yarn which should give us a clue about Brussels foreign policy apaches in their swanky offices that can’t contain themselves over the idea of the EU actually wielding real hegemony and being a real super power.
It’s geopolitical sport which is getting out of control. And it’s all playing into Trump’s hands. The Iran Deal, due to climax in mid May will give Trump an incredible boost with the American public by destroying the EU’s credibility for a few weeks; this will be followed though by Iran being bolstered even again, by the disastrous potential decision by Israel to invade Lebanon.
Trump, who apparently doesn’t read books, needs to take one history lesson in the Middle East: the more the US and its Gulf Arab partners hit Iran and its proxies, the bigger and stronger Iran seems to become.
A good example, other than Syria, of this law of unintended consequences is in Iraq where, despite Trump taking the credit for removing ISIS (Daesh) fighters from the country, Baghdad is now a stronger than ever satellite of Iran. Peace in the Middle East is possible. But only if Trump keeps to his ‘blank sheet of paper’ policy and the EU’s foreign policy divas stick to the speeches, and leave the super power moves to old hands.
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