Why do the European and the American Positions contradict one another on JCPOA?

ByFathi Maraghi (Ph.D.)

The European position towards the nuclear deal is different to the American position. Since the electoral campaign of President Trump, Europe has declared its obedience to the nuclear deal held with Iran and rejected all the American demands to amend it. The US naturally has rational concerns over the deal, given its 15 year duration, lifting of restrictions on uranium enrichment in Iran, and the reactivation of its reactors (whether heavy water or other)- prompting the question of whether Iran would be accepted as a nuclear state? Particularly with an arsenal of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads for long, ranges covering most of the European capitals, as well as the Arab countries? Has Europe given up its fears on Iran while it was the first to disclose Iran’s nuclear program when France announced in 2002 the existence of two secret uranium enrichment facilities in Natanz?
Reaching a Deadlock…and the Absence of the Deal’s Spirit
The European leadership, represented by Britain, France and Germany, negotiated with Iran on behalf of the international community until 2006, and then declared that these negotiations with Iran had reached a deadlock. Afterwards, they agreed on the necessity of passing the file to the UN Security Council in view of imposing sanctions against Iran. In fact, the nuclear deal was signed with the participation of the five permanent members of the Security Council, in addition to Germany. However, European countries, led by France, still share with the United States its concerns after the signing the nuclear deal, saying that Iranian missiles pose a threat to the security and stability of the region. Indeed, France has even called on Iran to reach an uncompromising settlement on its missile program, which has been totally rejected by Iran. Europe is always trying to confirm that its observance to the nuclear deal is derived from its commitment to the legal validity of the negotiated text. Despite France’s legal commitment, the spirit of the deal has been lost, given that Iran has violated the aim of the deal, which was to integrated Iran into the international community and to normalize its relations with other states. In fact, Iran has displayed its expansionist behavior deploying its forces and militias in four Arab countries. This has been the real violation of the agreement, not Iran’s commitment for its nuclear facilities to be inspected.
The Future of Energy is a Key Factor in the Changing Positions
There is no doubt that this European position on the Iranian nuclear deal stems from its vision of world energy supplies and Trumps impact on European-American relations. If we imagine the map of the oil and gas producing countries in the world in 2026, we find that oil in Europe, according to calculations of reserves and current productions, will be depleted completely. Britain and Norway reserves to be depleted, followed by China and Mexico, within a period not exceeding three years. In addition, the Russian reserves will be sufficient for only ten years later. All of these changes in the global energy map will respectively take place in a period of not more than twenty years. Thus, oil prices will rise, which will undoubtedly affect development rates in Europe. The American shale oil, which costs a lot to be extracted, will be used to cover this shortage, or other countries, whose production volume, whether in oil or gas, is not proportionate with the size of their reserves. Iran is the second country in the world whose production volume is not commensurate with the size of its oil and gas reserves after Venezuela, in the sense of it possessing large reserves compared to its limited production. In other words, Iran’s oil reserves are 157 billion barrels, while its daily production volume is 4 million barrels, which guarantees the continual extraction of Iranian oil for 112 years. In gas supply, the Iranian reserves reach 34 trillion cubic meters of gas, while the production volume does not exceed 111 billion cubic meters per day, that is, the gas reserve is enough to be consumed at the same rate for 306 years. These statistics indicate that in the case of re-imposing sanctions on Iran and preventing large foreign companies from investing in the Iranian oil and gas fields, Iran will become a gas importer if it cannot increase its production before 2026. It is since domestic consumption of oil and gas in Iran will reach 7.5 million barrels of oil equivalent in 2026. Thus, the oil market is missing out on Iran’s market share, and huge reserves of Iranian oil and gas remain untapped. This greatly raises the price of energy, which hits the European economy with a fatal blow, and increases American economic capabilities as it will be able to raise its exploitation of shale oil with a total of 2.64 billion barrels, most of which require higher oil prices to cover their high extraction costs.
Iran… Europe’s Safe Haven that is full of Fears
The significant question is: Can Europe sacrifice its long-term security by risking Iran’s oil and gas options? There is no doubt that Iranian diplomacy has played a major role in guaranteeing to EU countries the non-offensive nature of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, especially knowing European thirst for energy and the generous contracts that the European companies have negotiated, including French Total. This has marginalized Trump’s pressure on the EU and his call for participation in defense costs and redistribution of NATO’s budgetary demands. Considering all of this, European concerns have risen because of American statements, and there was a European need to adopt policies that differed from the American track. Moreover, Europe might try to negotiate with the US for its commitment to the nuclear deal and continuing its investment in the Iranian energy sector. Therefore, it can push the US to continue to bear the NATO budget as well as the TTIP, and to modify the pattern of American foreign policy in general towards the European Union. However, the fear of its future energy supplies still dominates the European mind, with Iran considered as a safe haven against the American control over its destiny, especially in the next 20 years when the meager European oil reserves deplete followed by Russian oil and gas, in addition to other major exporters.


Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of The Arabain GCIS

Fathi Maraghi (Ph.D.)
Head of Center for Researches and Studies in Rasanah