WASHINGTON ― European diplomats warned the Trump administration on Monday that Europe is prepared to block U.S. efforts to reimpose international sanctions against Iran as long as Tehran continues to comply with its obligations under the nuclear deal.
If the U.S. pulls out of the nuclear agreement ― known as the JCPOA ― and reapplies sanctions that target not only Iran, but other countries who do business with Iran, the European Union could take advantage of a statute dating back to the mid-1990s that would protect European companies from being penalized under the sanctions, EU ambassador to the United States David O’Sullivan said Monday.
“We have the blocking statute … which does offer legal protection to European companies which are threatened by the extraterritorial nature of U.S. sanctions in certain circumstances, Sullivan said, speaking at the Atlantic Center alongside French, British and German ambassadors. “I have no doubt that if this scenario materializes, which it’s not clear it will, the European Union will act to protect the legitimate interests of our companies with all the means at our disposal.”
Because Washington has virtually no trade relations with Tehran, U.S. sanctions against Iran aren’t an effective nuclear deterrent unless other countries join the effort. In the years leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal, European countries, as well as China and Russia, cooperated with U.S.-led efforts to choke off Iran’s economy in hopes of persuading Iran to negotiate restrictions on its nuclear program. But now that Iran has scaled back its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, the countries that helped negotiate the JCPOA see no reason to cut off trade with Tehran again.
The warning from the EU ambassador came ahead of an Oct. 15 deadline, when President Donald Trump has to inform to Congress whether Iran is complying with the nuclear deal. That deadline is the result of legislation passed by Congress in 2015 that requires the president to make several certifications to lawmakers every 90 days.
Those certifications go beyond the technical requirements set forth in the JCPOA. One certification, for example, requires the president to confirm that providing sanctions relief to Iran is “vital to the national security interests” of the U.S.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the organization tasked with monitoring the use of nuclear technology, confirmed last month for the eighth time that Iran was complying…