Iran on Thursday criticized three European states that had succumbed to “high school bully” Donald Trump when they triggered a dispute mechanism in a nuclear deal the US president dishonored in 2018.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the United States had threatened to impose a 25% tariff on European automobile imports if the three European powers, namely Germany, France and the UK (the E3), did not formally accuse Iran of breaking the nuclear agreement, according to Reuters.
“Appeasement confirmed. E3 sold out remnants of #JCPOA to avoid new Trump tariffs. It won’t work my friends. You only whet his appetite. Remember your high school bully?” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.
“If you want to sell your integrity, go ahead. But DO NOT assume high moral/legal ground, YOU DON'T HAVE IT,” Zarif added.
The nuclear pact was agreed in 2015 between Tehran and world powers, offering Iran sanctions relief if it curbed its nuclear work. Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and reimposed US sanctions, saying he wanted a tougher deal.
Iran has responded to the US withdrawal by gradually scaling back its commitments to the pact, saying this month it rejected all limits on uranium enrichment, although it says it wants to keep the deal in place.
The E3 triggered the nuclear accord’s dispute mechanism this week. London said it was now time for a “Trump deal” to replace it, while Paris said broad talks were needed.
Two European diplomats confirmed Washington had threatened tariffs but said leaders of the three European states had already decided to trigger the mechanism before that.
Another diplomat said a suggestion that the Europeans were acting in response to Trump’s threat risked “discrediting the Europeans, but then Trump doesn’t really care about that”.
The nuclear dispute lies at the heart of Iran’s standoff with the West that spiraled into open conflict this month when Washington assassinated a top Iranian general in Baghdad and Tehran responded with missile strikes on US targets in Iraq.
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Thursday confirmed that the US threatened to impose 25% tariffs on cars to push Europeans to initiate proceedings against Iran, according to the Guardian.
“This threat exists,” said the German defense minister at a press conference in London.
Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters on Thursday, “This expression or threat, as you will, does exist.”
France’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman did not comment on reports of US threats, but noted that the Europeans had been threatening to trigger the dispute procedure for months. She said the European countries had made clear they do not want to leave the accord, but to find a way to resolve differences under it, and that Washington understood that position.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized Britain, France and Germany for giving in to pressure from the US over the nuclear deal.
Lavrov noted that the European Union boasted about creating a mechanism for trade with Iran bypassing US sanctions, but never put it into action.
He described the move by Britain, France and Germany as a “dangerous turn,” arguing that the three nations used the moment of heightened tensions between the US and Iran to “blame Iran for all what happened.”
Henry Rome, analyst on Iran with Eurasia Group risk consultancy, tweeted that while the Europeans had been planning to trigger the dispute procedure anyway, the perception that they “quickly bent to Trump threat is very damaging” and described it as a victory for Iran.
The Europeans have long opposed Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal. The dispute mechanism begins a diplomatic process that can end with UN sanctions on Iran “snapping back” into place, although the Europeans say that is not their aim.