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Europe Must Confront America’s Extraterritorial Sanctions

by Jeffrey D. Sachs–NEW YORK – Donald Trump’s renunciation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran and the reimposition of US sanctions on that country threaten global peace. Europe’s security depends on defending the agreement with Iran despite the US withdrawal. That, in turn, requires Europe, along with Russia, China, and other United Nations member states, to ensure that economic relations with Iran can develop. And that can happen only if Europe confronts, and ultimately overturns, America’s extraterritorial sanctions, which aim to deter trade and financial activities with Iran by non-US actors.
The purpose of Trump’s move is clear and indeed explicit: to topple the Iranian regime. Given this folly, European citizens accurately sense that Europe’s security interests are no longer closely aligned with those of the United States.
America’s bullying approach to Iran has been seconded – indeed championed – by two Middle Eastern allies of the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israel invokes US power to avoid having to make any compromises with the Palestinians. Saudi Arabia invokes US military power to contain its regional rival, Iran. Both are hoping for a direct US war with Iran.
America’s previous efforts at regime change in the Middle East yielded horrendous results for the US and Europe (to say nothing of the disasters that befell the countries caught up in the US-provoked mayhem). Such “wars of choice” have been the major factor in the surge of migration to Europe from the Middle East and North Africa. Even when regime change has “succeeded,” as in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, the aftermath has been violence and instability. And when regime change has failed, as in Syria, the result has been ongoing war.
The humiliating failure of French President Emmanuel Macron, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to convince Trump to remain in the JCPOA was predictable. The US decision reflects two converging forces: a deep-seated foreign-policy tendency – manifested by all recent US administrations – to seek hegemony in the Middle East, and Trump’s peculiar brand of psychopathy. Trump delights in embarrassing European leaders; their squirming is his triumph.
Yet they are not powerless. The agreement with Iran can still be salvaged, precisely because it is a multilateral agreement, endorsed by the UN Security Council (Resolution 2231), not an agreement solely between the US and Iran. Indeed, under Article 25 of the UN Charter, all UN member states, including the US, are obligated to fulfill the JCPOA. Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the JCPOA is itself a violation of international law.

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