EU Shields Companies from Trump’s New Sanctions on Iran

Europe, together with China and Russia, is honoring the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and American president Donald Trump answer questions from reporters outside the White House in Washington DC, July 25
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and American president Donald Trump answer questions from reporters outside the White House in Washington DC, July 25 (European Commission/Etienne Ansotte)

The European Union has announced measures to protect companies that do business with Iran from American sanctions.

The BBC reports that an EU “blocking statute” bans European firms from complying with the sanctions, unless they get approval from the European Commission.

It also enables businesses to recover damages resulting from American sanctions on Iranian cars, gold and other metals.

Bigger than Cuba

The EU took similar steps when the United States imposed sanctions on Cuba in 1996.

As Leonid Bershidsky has pointed out, though, the stakes are much higher this time. The biggest European investments in Cuba were in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Iran, a country that holds 7 percent of the world’s entire mineral reserves, has attracted $7.4 billion in foreign investment since 2015.

That was the year it signed an accord with world powers about its nuclear program. By all accounts, Iran is complying with the agreement. It is no longer pursuing a nuclear weapons capacity.

Yet President Donald Trump has pulled out of the deal unilaterally.

America alone

Before he tore up the agreement, I argued that Trump was driving his European allies into the arms of China and Russia, which are also in favor of keeping it in place. That has now happened.

Trump’s only allies on the issue are the Arab Gulf states and Israel, which would much rather the United States took out their nemeses in Tehran so they don’t have to.

Why should Europe follow them on the road to war?

Unclear

It’s unclear what impact the countermeasures will have. The Financial Times reports that the blocking statute has rarely been tested.

One senior EU official said there was little legal precedent for judges in EU member states to reclaim damages from third countries like the US if sued by companies.

But it’s a welcome sign that the EU will not go along with Trump’s destructive policy.