NCRI-US Staff, 31 March 2018
In an attempt to punish the Iranian regime for its destabilizing role in the region, a number of European governments are pressuring the regime due to its ballistic missile program and support of human rights abuses in Syria. A diplomatic coalition led by the United Kingdom, France, and Germany has discussed various options for sanctioning a number of entities linked to the Iranian regime, in particular the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The IRGC is the branch of the Iranian military that serves as the main conduit for Tehran’s covert action abroad, internal oppression at home, as well as its cyberwarfare.
The sanctions could also affect members of Hezbollah, the Iran-backed terror organization responsible for a string of attacks on embassies and Jewish community centers that ranges from Lebanon to Argentina. In recent years, the group has taken on an increased role in the Syrian civil war, intervening on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2012 and winning several key battlefield victories. Both Hezbollah and the IRGC have also been accused of perpetrating a number of massacres and human rights abuses in Syria, such as the indiscriminate bombing of Aleppo in 2016 and the ongoing siege of Eastern Ghouta.
However, the proposed sanctions have recently hit a stumbling block as opposition from the governments of Spain, Italy, and Austria have complicated efforts to present a unified European front against Iranian regime’s aggression. All three governments opposed to the sanctions stand to benefit financially from engagement with Tehran, and argue that any additional sanctions, even those unrelated to Iran’s nuclear program, could damage the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known informally as the Iran Nuclear Deal. They argue that any sanctions would be ineffective at convincing the United States to remain in the nuclear deal. E.U. sanctions require unanimous backing from all members to take effect, meaning that opposition from these governments could frustrate U.S. efforts to fix the nuclear deal before the May 12 recertification deadline. American negotiators have pushed for tougher sanctions against Iran, believing that the agreement’s so-called “sunset provisions” and failure to address the regime’s ballistic missile program fatally undermine the foundation of the deal itself. U.S. President Donald Trump has promised to “fix the terrible flaws of the Iran deal” and has been highly critical of what he sees as the previous administration’s refusal to comprehensively confront Tehran. Ultimately, many believe that a failure by European nations to enact new sanctions on the regime could hasten the end of the deal by convincing Washington that its Western allies are not interested in fixing the deal’s flaws.