Experts argue that the French minister's remarks are a sign that Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has caused a split between the White House and its European allies while rifts within the US administration are also widening.
Speaking on Europe 1 Radio, the French minister recently said European countries do realize that “we cannot keep going in the direction we are headed today whereby we submit to American decisions.”
“Do we accept that the United States is the economic gendarme of the planet? The answer is no,” Le Maire said, adding, “Do we accept the vassalization of Europe in commercial matters? The answer is no;” “do we accept extraterritorial sanctions? The answer is no”, Presstv Reported.
In the meantime, Le Maire urged other European countries to step up their economic sovereignty. In the coming weeks and months, France will reach out to other countries and look at “how to endow Europe with financial tools to become independent from the United States.”
Addressing the possible sanctions that the US may impose on European companies working with Iran, Le Maire said he had called US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and asked him “about either exemptions for a number of our companies, or longer deadlines [to comply with renewed sanctions].” Plane-maker Airbus, oil giant Total, and car manufacturers such as Renault and Peugeot could be among the French companies affected the most.
The warning suggests Trump’s proposals to corral Europe into joining the US foreign policy on Iran may lead to a severe backlash by the EU politicians, especially advocates of a stronger independent European foreign policy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already said possibilities to save the deal without Washington needed to be discussed with Tehran, while Economy Minister Peter Altmaier has been quoted as saying that Germany is ready to give help to its affected firms to continue doing business in Iran.
Richard Grenell, the new US ambassador to Germany, was forced onto the defensive this week after sending out a post on Twitter, telling German businesses they should wind down their links with Iran. Grenell said he had been issuing advice, not instructions, and his remarks derived from a Washington memo.
Omid Nouripour, the Green foreign policy spokesperson in the German parliament, advised Grenell against “driving a ruthless aggressive policy towards our security interests.”
The Social Democrats said Grenell needed tutoring in diplomacy.
In Italy, Nathalie Tocci, an adviser to the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said Trump’s decision to pull out of the deal was “an utter and unjustified betrayal of Europe.” She called for proportionate reprisals if necessary.
The former US ambassador to Italy, David Thorne, said Trump’s decision had the potential to cause the biggest rift between the US and mainland Europe.
Ellie Geranmayeh, an expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations, said Europe needed to produce a counter-package against the US, including penalties against the assets of American companies based in Europe to allow for the clawback of illegal fines imposed.
Trump’s pullout from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) came despite massive efforts by the European allies of the US to convince Trump to stay in the 2015 deal, reached between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries -- including, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.
British Prime Minister Theresa May earlier spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Merkel and issued a joint statement, making it clear that they do not agree with the action taken by the US administration.
It is with regret and concern that we, the leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, take note of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States of America from the JCPOA, the statement read. Together, we emphasize our continuing commitment to the JCPOA. This agreement remains important for our shared security, it added.
Washington says companies doing business in Iran now have six months to halt economic activity and cannot sign new contracts or they will face sanctions.
Withdrawal from nuclear deal triggers clash in Trump’s cabinet
The frantic final days before Trump’s announcement demonstrate that the nuclear deal remained a divisive issue inside the White House, even after the president restocked his war cabinet with more hawkish figures like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the new national security adviser.
Five days before President Trump pulled out, Pompeo told European diplomats that he believed the pact could still be saved.
By May 7, when Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made the rounds in Washington, that hope had vanished. Pompeo told him that not only had Trump decided to pull out of the deal, but he was also going to reimpose the harshest set of sanctions on Iran.
The key to understanding the new team is the relationship between Bolton and Pompeo.
Most observers see the new secretary of state and national security adviser as two peas in a pod; hard-liners who will implement Trump’s vision. Some say it is a war cabinet. But a closer look at their backgrounds, worldview and ambitions suggests that they may be destined for rivalry.
Pompeo may play a swing role, a hard-line former congressman and CIA director who, in his new job, seems determined to give diplomacy a fair shot.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who opposed leaving the deal, appears more isolated.
Beyond the bureaucratic maneuvering, analysts said, the Iran debate lays bare a deeper split within Trump’s team between those like Mattis and Bolton.
Bolton’s overarching goal is how to achieve tactical victories over his enemies in these fights. The harsh truth is that most of these battles are insignificant relative to the bigger geopolitical dramas unfolding in the world.
Bolton remains concerned about how Europe will be organized after the Cold War, how to handle the rise of China and the growing influence of Iran across the Middle East.
The greatest risk of a Trump administration has always been that the president’s unique cognitive features would make him susceptible to triggering or worsening a US national security crisis. This is why Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker warned that the president risked sparking “World War III.”