Antwerp Trial Effect: JCPOA dead on arrival to Biden administration

By | Rachel Brooks

January 15, 2021

“Antwerp. The railway cathedral.” by e³°°° is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

As the Antwerp trial of an Iranian diplomat and three others was set to “put to test” the strength of the EU and Iran’s relations, an unlikely outcome may spring. Great Britain is no longer a member of the European Union. With the Brexit comes a new potential for Britain to incentivize consular relations between the Islamist states and the United Kingdom.

This is something that the United Kingdom may look at for its national security and economic claim to Gulf region oil, as well as for recently resumed projects in the Southern Gas Corridor bordering Iran. 

As Iranian and British relations have been extremely volatile since the end of World War 2, establishing more proactive progress in the Gulf may be in Britain’s interests in promoting British foreign policy without membership to the EU. Britain may be forced into the role of leading western diplomat due to the complex factors of the EU’s double-take post the Antwerp trial, as well as the United States’ receding influence. 

A look at the Antwerp trial…

Politico reported that an Iranian diplomat and three others stood trial in Antwerp, Belgium in late 2020 over a plot to bomb a 2018 opposition gathering. The device used in the conspiracy was nicknamed “the Playstation.” The device was allegedly passed from an Iranian diplomat in Vienna to an Iranian-Belgian couple at a Pizza Hut in Luxembourg. 

The device was a powerful bomb that was meant to detonate at a gathering just outside of Paris in protest of the Iranian regime. A tip from Israeli intelligence gave Europe’s authorities enough time to thwart the attack. The Iranian diplomat, the couple, and a fourth conspirator stood trial for the incident in November of 2020. 

As the Antwerp trial commences, the bomb threat has been assessed as handed down from the highest authority in Iran’s Tehran-based government. As Europe had been waiting on the transition of power from the U.S. leadership to a return to the Iranian nuclear agreement, the uncovered plot and corresponding trial may throw a spanner in the works. 

The Antwerp trial comes as a controversy ahead of European arguments that the JCPOA was successful and that the EU’s relationship unraveling with Iran was the result “of the U.S. mass pressure campaign.” The European Parliament released an external policies report in October 2020 regarding this issue. 

“The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), spearheaded by the European Union (EU), was a successful multilateral non-proliferation agreement. The hope was that it would also pave the way for dealing with other outstanding issues over which the EU and United States (US) were at loggerheads with Iran. Instead, with the election of President Trump, the main focus has been to save the JCPOA. 

As Iran has decreased its compliance with the deal and regional friction has intensified, particularly as a result of the US maximum pressure campaign, the EU has faced increasing challenges to maintain a working relationship with Tehran and to pursue its strategic objectives on Iran – a tall order even in more conducive circumstances.

While the outcome of the US presidential elections in November 2020 will affect developments thereafter, the EU should shape its policy independent of a return to constructive multilateralism in Washington. It must further develop its strategic autonomy, enhance and expand its interaction with Tehran to ensure the JCPOA’s survival, while also taking a more proactive role in mitigating and mediating conflicts in the region,” the statement’s abstract read. 

The European Parliament’s statement likewise denoted its interpretation of the nature of Washington’s relationship with Saudi Arabia in the region. 

“Iran-Saudi Arabia relations have always been brittle, but the revolution in 1979 and Iran’s stated ambition to export the revolution antagonized the Persian Gulf sheikhdoms. In response to this ideological challenge and belligerence, Saudi Arabia and most Gulf states supported Saddam Hussein during Iraq’s eight-year war with Iran. Since then, both countries have come to use each other as a foil to demarcate their own ideological and political positions.

This has resulted in Saudi Arabia becoming Washington’s foremost ally in the region and consequently also assuming a privileged strategic position – Washington guarantees security and acts as a counterweight to Iran, whilst Riyadh ensures the flow of reasonably priced oil to the world market. This equation has not always worked and nor are its constituent parts stable. 

The United States no longer needs oil from the region and the market is too diversified for any single, albeit large, producer to dominate.

The flow of oil is vital for the global economy, which in turn is essential for the US, but the actual oil consumers are Europe, China, India, and other growing Asian economies. The JCPOA threatened this strategic arrangement between Washington and Riyadh by introducing for the first time the possibility of changing the relationship between Washington and Tehran,” the statement continued. 

“Simply put, the US-Iranian relationship since the 1979 revolution can be characterized as having been a dysfunctional nonrelationship (no open or regular diplomatic interaction and no accommodation or recognition of the other party’s point of view).

The Obama administration’s central role and its regular, intensive interaction with the Rouhani administration brought about a functional non-relationship, which given time could possibly lead to a fully-fledged functional relationship.

In a zero-sum game of international relations, this would by definition mean less influence in Washington for Riyadh (and Tel Aviv, which explains Netanyahu’s adamant resistance to the nuclear agreement, despite assessments by his intelligence services) (Kershner, 2020)9.

In essence, while there is a fear of what the nuclear program in Iran could entail, it is in many ways just shorthand for a more strategic fissure – even without the nuclear dossier, detente between Riyadh and Tehran is a difficult proposition.” 

Irina Tsukerman, a national security analyst responded to the statement:

“European parliament’s excessive focus on oil and failed diplomatic overtures as the sole factors characterizing the shift in the relationship ignores historical realities as well as security considerations at the forefront of US relationship with both countries.

EU has failed to mention Saudi Arabia’s central role as a US ally against Communism and the Soviet threat during the Cold War, or the fact that the Islamic Republic, upon coming to power attacked the US embassy in what amounts to an act of war. Since then, Iran has weaponized Hezbullah to attack US troops, had a hand in destabilizing US actions, and engaged in openly hostile rhetoric against the US as the “Great Satan”.

The failure of JCPOA is not due to mismanaged diplomatic expectations as the statement implies, but to Iran’s duplicitous policy which places the export of the Islamic Revolution and the promotion of its hegemony above all other considerations.

Europeans have conveniently failed to acknowledge the IAEA findings that Iran has been deceiving the inspectors and cheating on its obligations under the terms of JCPOA, and in fact, had used the nuclear threat as a way to push for Western capitulations on the issue of its deadly missiles that have turned all of the Middle East into a danger zone.

Finally, the European parliament sidelines the issue of Iran-backed terrorism on the rise globally just as Saudi Arabia is undergoing economic, social, and legal reforms which make it into a more effective ally for the US, and is more in line with the values the West claims to share. “

European denouncement of U.S. policy echoes vote of no confidence 

The report continues to denounce the U.S. policy in the region, noting the exclusive relationship between the U.S. and Iran further, and how the U.S. “failed” to institute progress in dealing with Iran’s ballistic missile capacity. 

The 2020 report then laid out the issues of the 2018 covert operation by Iran directly, noting the issues the EU is faced with in dealing with the Iranian regime. 

“In 2018, Iran was behind at least two assassination attempts on EU territory. The first plot was set against a backcloth of the June 30 rally in Paris held by the exiled opposition group, the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK)14; the second in Denmark during September targeted three members of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, a separatist group which Tehran has linked to terrorist attacks inside Iran (Deutsche Welle, 2018).

The Dutch government publicly accused Iran of the plots, as well as two killings in 2015 and 2017 (Government of the Netherlands, 2019).

In January 2019, the EU responded by adopting sanctions against Iran’s Intelligence and Security Ministry as well as two Iranian nationals, imposing a travel ban and freezing their assets for their involvement in the thwarted assassination attempts (France 24, 2019). Ministers of The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Denmark, and Belgium also conveyed their serious concerns regarding Iran’s involvement in hostile acts on EU territory,” the statement continued. 

“The move was interpreted by some as a potential shift in the EU’s posture towards Iran, given that sanctions were being adopted for the first time since the JCPOA was announced. The US administration, in particular, praised the EU for its new sanctions (Pompeo, 2019), hoping that the counter-terrorism line could constitute a way for Europe to join forces with the US in developing a common strategy to counter the common threat posed by Iran.”

“In reality, even the Netherlands, one of the most critical voices in Europe when it comes to Iran’s threat on EU soil, stated clearly that there was no link between the sanctions adopted and the nuclear deal (France 24, 2019). This highlighted how the EU could take a critical stance towards Iran’s concerning actions, while at the same time not jeopardizing its overall strategic objectives.

The E3 and EU’s commitment to ensuring the nuclear deal’s survival and avoiding war in the region has remained unchanged, with no sign of shifting towards a maximum pressure posture against Iran.

For instance, only a few days after sanctions were announced, the establishment of INSTEX (see section 4.3) was also unveiled (Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, 2019), showcasing how the two efforts (supporting the JCPOA and taking actions against Iran’s destabilizing activities) could successfully be undertaken in parallel,” the report continued.

The report laid out in its language the nature of Trump-led America’s maximum pressure on Iran that appears to have rattled the EU’s confidence in whether or not it could retain the strategic upper hand in the volatile region. 

A closer look at Antwerp: motives of the planned attack 

The planned attack reportedly directly targeted Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the National Council of Resistance to Iran. The NCRI is the diplomatic wing of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, also known as MEK. The plotted bombers had joined the MEK as well as a sought political asylum in Belgium, in an attempt to launch a false-flag operation and carry out the critical attack in Villepinte, which is northwest of Paris. 

Britain takes the stage

The issues presented by the Antwerp Effect may send dominoes through a Europe that is already struggling with the threat of Islamism. The French president has declared a national crackdown on the issues of expatriated Islamism after repeat offenses from the last few years of his presidency, including the martyr killing of French priest Jacques Hamel, and the Islamist execution of teacher Samuel Paty. 

A series of security failures and questions were raised by the thwarted Paris bombing incident. The pressure is now heavy on Antwerp and the whole of Europe to improve the screening process of Iranian political asylum. 

Britain’s recent “Antwerp” styled Iran clashes 

This has been an ongoing issue with Europe and Iran since U.S. President Donald Trump backed out of the nuclear agreement and began to heavily sanction the Islamic Republic. In 2019, The Guardian reported that Britain was faced with “broken assurances” over the destination of an Iranian oil tanker as well as Iran’s arrest of two British-Australian nationals. The oil tanker in question was sold at sea to a private company, and Iran swore that it had not broken faith in handing the oil tanker over. 

The British, under pressure from the U.S. and the Trump administration, had impounded the ship in a new EU sanction of the sale of oil to Syria. Tehran argued that sanctions on the sale of oil to Syria did not apply to Tehran, and this further alienated the British government. Britain was able to negotiate the return of the vessel within five weeks, citing The Guardian. 

This damaged Britain’s relationship with Iran publicly, yet The Guardian reported that, as long ago as the autumn of 2019, there had been “no progress” in forming a better consular relationship agreement with Iran after the complete rug-sweeping of the nuclear deal. The British government was “very badly let down” by Iran.

Likewise, the British felt that they had been shown to look “naive” to the United States for taking the word of the Iranian diplomats.

The pressured relationship between Britain and Iran increases a competitive edge to establish strong consular ties in the region. Britain must save face, as well as prevent future incidents such as the one with the tanker. Britain must save face to its own disgruntled populace, as much irked by the terms which Brexit was negotiated under as it is by the prospect of a U.S. steered foreign policy. 

U.S. turmoil and EU pause pressure Britain’s consular incentive further 

As the United States is plunged into political turmoil over the transition of power from the stiff Iran policy of the Trump administration, to a more lenient policy of the Biden administration, Britain may find it necessary to establish pathways of consular agreement renewal. 

The prospects of a United States imposing sanctions on anyone who traded with Iran throughout the last administration had rendered the EU powerless in establishing European sovereignty in Persian Gulf relations.

 The New York Times likewise reported on January 6, 2020, that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was loath to criticize the American president last year because of his need to secure strong trade relationships with America under the Trump administration. Under Biden, Johnson will not be required to show such constraint, as Biden is affected to reverse or at the least relax much of the crackdown the Trump administration imposed on Iran and its proxies.

Is Johnson or Trump at the wheel?

This was a policy issue that Britain balked at, with academic leaders sounding the alarm at how British policy appeared to be steered by U.S. policy in the region. Aaron David Miller, of the Carnegie Endowment, commented on this with direct reference to the Iranian oil tanker return negotiations.

“Is British policy its own or directed by the Trump Administration? Why did Brits move against Grace 1 carrying Iranian oil to Syria when consequences were predictable? To what degree was Trump Administration not May’s primary driver? Will British policy toward Iran under Boris Johnson be Trump’s,” Miller tweeted in July 2019. 

Met with equal disdain by the UK’s press, John Bolton, former national security advisor to Donald Trump, arrived in the UK on August 11, 2019, in what was reportedly an attempt to fully push Britain to join the U.S. maximum pressure campaign against Iran. Bolton was scheduled to begin his meeting rounds on August 12, 2019, first with cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill, then with chief strategic advisor Edward Lister. 

The Antwerp trial spurs reassessment 

 Now, with the Antwerp trial effect, the European Union may be likely to completely reassess its relationship with Iran and the Gulf on behalf of all its member states. 

Britain is no longer part and parcel of that member consular discussion. Britain under the policies of Brexit will carve ahead and forge its own consular policies that are independent, and challenged by its own need to establish mutual trust with the Islamic state. For this reason, the Antwerp trial could have the effect of empowering Britain to take the initiative in western relations moving forward with the region. Britain may need to set the tone in the absence of the United States and the pause of the EU. 

Britain, while experiencing a complex failure in its public policy toward Iran, may have the advantage of a backdoor academic warming between London and the Islamic state.

Through projects such as the York Accord of University College of London, the academic body of Britain has led an initiative to foster and finance “at-risk” education in the Islamic state-sponsored nations. At the core of these relations, in partnership with the University of York, England specifically formed a close-knit sociopolitical and cultural relationship with Qatar and the nations of the Islamic state’s direct affiliation, including Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, as well as Qatar.

Other nations included those under the looming threat of Islamism. Through direct finance and grant-related academic missions, England has formed a “backdoor” diplomatic relationship with the Islamic state of sorts. Whether this was intentional or by default is not clear, but England, through direct cooperation of the al-Thani, has indirectly been associated with one of the Islamic Republic’s most prominent mouthpieces in the western world. The majority of Islamist media outlets are powered by Qatar state-funded media, and the Qatari state is funded by the Qatari royal family. 

The York Accord, and academic “backdoor” agendas from Britain

The York Accord was exclusive of all other Gulf countries. Rather, it focused on Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, the Netherlands, Portugal, Qatar, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The accord was led by the Post War Reconstruction and Development Unit of the University of York, as well as by the Brookings Doha Center, CARA, which was spearheaded by the Chancellor, Professor Sir Malcolm Grant, who went on to serve as the chairman of the NHS of England. CARA is an abbreviation for the Council for the Assistance of At-Risk Academics. Other participants in the York Accord included David Wheeler, the editor of Al-Fanar Media, the Marshall Scholarships Commission, Spelman College, and Rishworth Independent School. 

Through Sir Malcolm Grant, England established the University College of London Qatar chapter.

The Gulf Times reported that the UCL Qatar college initiative was inaugurated in the presence of HH Sheikah Moza bint Nasser, chairperson of the Qatar Foundation, which is state-controlled.

Dignitaries who oversaw the event included Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, HE Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who is also the chairperson of the Qatari Museums Authority, HE Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali al-Thani, President of Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) and vice-president of Education at Qatar Foundation, Fathy Saoud, President of Qatar Foundation, and Prof Michael Worton, vice-provost of UCL.

The UCL Qatar devoted itself to the education of cultural heritage, spanning cooperation that began in 2010 and stretched to 2020. The Qatar chapter of UCL was officially established in 2012, in the heart of the Qatari government’s mediation of the events surrounding the Islamic world.

 The school prides itself in training “the cultural leaders of tomorrow’s world.” UCL Qatar is the Qatar chapter of the UCL which was founded in 1826 in the heart of London. 

The UCL’s investment in Qatar is part of a wider, progressive agenda for global education targeting 2034. The cultural libraries of UCL include liberal arts, such as theatre, a museum of zoology, a petrie museum, an art museum, public art, and public engagement specialties. The UCL also boasts a gallery known as The Octagon. 

Through the cooperation between the UCL and the Qatari al-Thani family-backed “at-risk project” UCL Qatar received 11 million euros for 100 research projects spanning “from Myanmar to Spain” citing the program. 

The project focused specifically on the Arab and Islamic World. Likewise, the project became a major information center. Through this project, 16,000 volumes of both printed and digital journals were collected, along with electronic publications. Likewise, the program launched a massive influential public event scape, with at least 130 public events, which hosted at least 5,000 attendees. 

The project was responsible for the Qatar-Sudan Archaeological Project, as well as the Origins of Doha and Qatar project, which concluded in May 2020. It likewise built the Qatar National Library.

The Qatar National Library has a collection of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli publications, with many submissions included in 2015. Many of these books describe Israel as an apartheid and serve to educate a highly anti-Israeli policy in this bridge between western and Islamic dialogue. There are works that directly compare Israel to South Africa in terms of apartheid, showing a selection of literature that is both anti-Israeli and anti-African in building a culture base. 

The official capacity of the UCL-Qatar relationship ended in 2020, but the roots are in place. Now, with a changing political vista in place in the western world, England and the whole of Britain along with her, is poised to step into the role of a socio-political influencer over diplomatic relations.

These relations could be fostered and mediated through the strength of al-Thani backed media campaigns. The direct cooperation between English academics and al-Thani backed thought leadership is already extant. The network is in place to perform a powerful reach around in establishing a base for renewed consular agreement.  

A rebound effect in US rhetoric 

In the dying throes of the Trump administration, his leading officials have amplified both sanctions and rhetoric against the Iranian regime. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued statements on January 12, as was reported by the Jerusalem Post, that Iran had links to Al-Qaeda related terror groups, and that Iran was in support of Islamism across sects and disciplines. 

The heated rhetoric of the Trump administration in exit will be overshadowed by the wildly unpopular reception of the Trump administration.

Trump has been banned from all major social media outlets in his last days, accused by his opposition in the House as having deliberately incited the rabble that stormed the Capitol Hill election secession on January 6. Trump’s rhetoric will be associated directly with this rabble, and a move of violent nationalism, whether his claims of election integrity violation were legitimate or not. 

In retaliation to Trumpism rhetoric, the House has motioned to impeach Donald Trump, in a trial that could extend even past his term as president. This would make Donald Trump the first American president to be impeached twice. 

With that stain on the legacy of his policy, western media will seek to rebound, with rhetoric deeply contrary to the association of Trump. This is likewise seen throughout the global sphere, as Deutsche Bank now refuses to work with Donald Trump’s companies in the future. Already, Trump’s rhetoric has hurt the company, as Twitter’s actions in removing Trump from their account led to a 7-12% stock share price drop in the publicly traded entity. 

The U.S. policy associated with a failed presidency, that is regarded by the mainstream media as the worst of American history, will prompt international response. The U.S. is now forced into a more humbling position in which it must choose carefully all rhetoric it uses with the Iranian regime to save face among its western peers, in a Biden-led regime. For this reason, the U.S. may distance itself and become a global partner rather than a global leader in a diplomatic establishment with the Iranian regime. 

“Through such a practice the U.S. would gain nothing, while the Iranian regime would obtain incentives and not suffer a significant loss, meaning back to square one,” said Heshmat Alavi, an Iranian activist, and journalist. 

“The new administration in the U.S. should be very much aware and prepared for Iran’s tactics to prevent it from advancing its interests at the price of the international community’s pockets.”

Dr. Reza Parchizadeh, a political theorist, historian of ideas, and senior analyst, further weighed in on President Biden’s plans and the issues presented to western rhetoric moving forward with the Iran negotiation. 

“President Biden has openly promised to re-engage with the Iranian regime, and the European powers, including Great Britain, are euphoric over that promise. The euphoria is understandable because four years of President Trump’s hands-off “maximum pressure” policy failed to bring about any meaningful change for the better in the behavior of the Iranian regime, whether in the domestic scene or on the international stage. However, what the West needs to keep in mind while trying to re-engage with the Iranian regime is that the regime’s inherently antagonistic approach to the liberal world order is likely to make any “deal for peace” null and void right off the bat even if it deigns to come to the negotiating table,” said Dr. Parchizadeh, 

“The regime’s gross record of violation of human rights in Iran and abroad, its morbid interest in establishing an authoritarian empire in the Middle East by interfering in the affairs of other sovereign states, its relentless pursuit of nuclear arms and development of long-range cruise and ballistic missiles and their use against American and other targets, its ongoing proxy attacks on the GCC countries and Israel, and its very real existential threat to the Jewish State are only some of the best-known challenges that President Biden and his European partners will face on the way to make a deal with the Islamist regime. 

And that is even not to mention the Iranian regime’s considerable alignment with the dictatorial, predatory, and expansionist regimes in Russia and China during the recent years, which has led to the creation of what I have come to call the “Eurasian Juggernaut,” a hydra that threatens the totality of Western Civilization. If the West can make a package that manages to address all those fundamental and inseparable issues, I for one will wholeheartedly support a deal with the regime in Iran. Otherwise, we will be treading a dangerous path that has already been trekked without gaining any meaningful outcome for world peace.”

Britain may prioritize “damage control” post-U.S. backfiring policy 

In which case, Britain is once more promoted as the western option for representation with the most liquidated vested-interest path in dealing with Iran in the region. In this case, “vested interest” has less to do with establishing consular welfare between the Persian Gulf and Britain, so much as it does the ease of economic access and damage control. 

For Iran, establishing normal ties with China now has a backdoor liquid economic path through strong relations with China and the shared border with China’s major trade partner Pakistan. For Britain’s oil trade to survive the post-Brexit and post-COVID pandemic environment, ease of shipping access between the Persia Gulf and its shores is important. Securing this important shipping route has been on the British agenda since 1948, when British Petroleum,then-called Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, was on starvation rations as an entity and needed to increase its capital gains. 

See the Jacobin for more commentary on the Aden strike, as well as a left-leaning opinion of the British American and Saudi oil trade in the region to date. From this commentary, one can infer that the left has a negative opinion of the British- Saudi-American relationship in the region. A more radical leaning regime in the region would tend to favor Doha, and Doha’s partners, including Iran. 

“Tehran to set terms in Biden negotiation” 

The Diplomat reported on January 11, 2021, that Iran was likely to approach the U.S. with far stiffer rhetoric when Biden initiates his expected negotiations. Iran will play “hardball” in returning to any kind of nuclear agreement with the United States, especially after the intensity of U.S. and Iran dealings in 2020. Iran, in times past, has negotiated with its arch-rival the United States, which it theologically deems as “the Great Satan.” 

Yet, what is expected by western media to be a game of “hardball” may be a complete non-agreement and an iron curtain for further U.S. talks. 

The U.S. may not be able to simply whiplash its way back into agreements with Iran after the stiff rhetoric of the Trump administration. With the U.S. in a position of needing to placate Iran to return to Obama-era styled policy, negotiations may move at snail’s pace at best. This again puts Britain in a position of needing to take the incentive to deal with the Iranian regime, as the western voice in the region. It likewise challenges the American left’s agenda with Iran, poking holes in a repeat of old policy for the post-2020 era of foreign policy.

The E3’s attempt at a nuclear deal renegotiation

The Tehran Times reported on December 22, 2020, that, in the wake of Biden’s election, the three European signatories of the JCPOA, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, have been advising the process of a return of the U.S. to the deal. The three signatories have warned Iran against taking any tactical actions that would “jeopardize” Biden’s reversal of the Trump-era nuclear policy. 

The three European influencers of the process have attempted to convince the United States that preconditions should be dropped. Likewise, the German Foreign Ministry has argued that a mere return to the old deal will not be enough to placate Iran. The European signatories have likewise dropped their preconditions of adopting a renewed deal, a motion that the Iranian state-owned newspaper appeared to favor. 

However, the Iranian foreign minister Zarif noted that Iran would not “fall into the trap” of a without-preconditions return to the agreement, as the three European signatories shared blame with the United States “for irreparable harm to the Iranians.” This continues to imply that not only will a return to the old deal no longer be “enough” to suffice the rhetoric, it may no longer be possible with Iran setting the terms of this new western lenient policy. 

Negotiation by necessity swiftly evaporating

The need to negotiate with the west is evaporating rapidly. The Asia Times reported that, on January 11, Iran inked a deal that would allow it to receive COVID-19 vaccinations from Cuba, likewise banning all imports of COVID-19 vaccines created in the U.S. and the U.K. As Iran severs its need to negotiate with the west, the stakes of future consular agenda for the left-leaning western regime of 2021 are increasing. Iran will not need the nuclear deal if it can depend on other states, such as Russia and China, to bypass the U.S. sanction policy. Iran was in constant violation of the JCPOA’s nuclear production terms even when all signatory parties were still at the table, implying that the old deal was effectively a non-agreement. 

Iranian regime likely to exploit American “teeter-totter” policy 

Likewise, there is the issue of America’s apparent weakness in the eyes of the Iranian regime in returning to the deal after the stiff crackdown of the last four years. This accents to the regime the division of the U.S. bipartisan system, and likewise the malleability of western opportunism. Extreme players in world policy, such as Iran and the Chinese Communist Party, would gloat over and exploit this perceived fragility, to mutual advantage. This enforces the idea of a post-American world policy. To retain American presence in the world sphere, the forward-looking American administration would be ill-advised to jump at any opportunity to rapidly undo what its predecessor administration put in place. Yet, the division in U.S. domestic politics implies heavily that a rapid reduction of predecessor policy is precisely what the incoming administration will act upon_potentially to the hurt of all allied players.  

A dead dog’s beating, or an Antwerp repositioning 

With Iran’s dead set ambition established, the western world will find its return to a JCPOA-styled agreement dead on arrival to the regional agenda. Yet, the western world is likely to pursue more proactive means of controlling the ballistic missile growth of the Iranian regime. The need to secure existing oil traffic makes this unlikely. The ambition to meet a green standard energy conversion for both the U.S. and Europe is still far off, meaning that oil will be a necessity for a while yet. The U.S and Britain may continue to “beat a dead dog” as the expression goes.  

Antwerp and the Gulf coalition influence 

Yet, the Antwerp trial effect may cause a deeper reflection of both Britain as a European signatory of the JCPOA agreement, and of the U.S. which is no longer in a position to go rushing headlong into Gulf policy. The Antwerp trial may force Europe to look more critically at its relationship with other members of the Gulf region. The negative outlook of Israel could be slightly lessened by the fact that it was Israeli intelligence that prevented the near-miss with the Paris “Playstation.”  

As Israel likewise works to normalize ties with Gulf regional leaders such as the United Arab Emirates, it may force the European Union to look with less disdain at the other members of the Gulf-Med region. Perhaps it is no longer in the EU’s best interests to cling to the dead dog’s of diplomatic deals. 

A positive and a negative 

If the EU, Britain, and the United States under Biden are pressured to reassess their relationship with the Gulf coalition under the Abraham Accords, this can lead to positive diplomacy. The EU, Britain, and the U.S. would likely make a proactive voice in the continued influence of long-lasting normalization in the Gulf. 

Yet, these players are unlikely to take a step back and allow normalization to happen in a vacuum. The Trump-led United States withdrew from the MENA, Gulf-Med region leaving almost a void in the policing of the region. In this event, the region became accustomed to absenteeism from the United States. 

Likewise, there is the issue of the existing roots between Britain and Qatar which gives Britain a predisposition to approach Gulf relations through Doha. However, this is in essence approaching Iran indirectly, and defeating the purpose of negotiation and precondition. 

The U.S. in no position to demand preconditions 

Now, if pressured to focus its Middle East-Asian foreign policy on the MENA-Gulf region rather than placating Iran, the Biden-led United States may stumble in with preconditions, such as halted arms-deals or a two-state solution to the Palestinian Authority issue. Preconditions are likewise ill-advised here, on the part of the United States, as the legitimacy of its democracy arguments has been altered severely by the events in the Congress chamber on January 6. 

A potential solution 

If the U.S. will not continue enforcing the Trump-era crackdown on the Iranian regime, then it is hard-pressed to make damage controlling decisions. A proposed solution is to negotiate and strengthen ties with the other member states of the Gulf, MENA, and Persian-Caucasus region. Stronger diplomatic ties with surrounding states can lead to better defense policy for Iran’s growing violations of international law. The U.S., forced to humility and a lighter stance on American exceptionalism by its recent public scandals, would do well to put biases aside in favor of strategy. 

Should the west fail to realize this in favor of its perceived “tried and true” policies of the past, and continuing on the path of the partisan biases against these surrounding nations, then a missed opportunity will likely lead to a ballooning-issue with Iran. 

In the wake of the U.S. partisan identity crisis, the Antwerp trial may serve as a stepping stone to redirecting Europe’s entire outlook on how it must play its cards with Iran. The threat of the Iranian regime is by no means contained within the Persian region, and Iran’s operatives will present a further security risk to Europe given the opportunity.