Thursday, 02 February 2012

A significant national shift in the EU context that has reinforced European pressure against Tehran's nuclear program has been the alignment of Berlin with its main allies in agreeing to the stepped-up sanctions.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, like her partners in other EU capitals and in Washington, stresses that the economic pressure is designed to bring Iran to negotiating concessions that lessen suspicions that Tehran is secretly intent on building nuclear weapons.

The impact of the new embargo is unclear, especially since it has not been supported by Russia, China or other major Asian importers of Iranian crude oil, as mentioned in a recent blog post by European Affairs.

But there has been an unquestionable political gain in the demonstration of transatlantic solidarit by taking a stronger international line with Iran.

Both the British and the French governments have been pushing particularly hard, especially with the UK’s embassy recently ransacked in Tehran.

Now they have been joined by Germany. It is a significant shift -- "a striking contrast with what was happening a year ago when Berlin was conspicuously less willing to step up to the issue," a U.S. policy-maker said in interview that could not be attributed to the person by name.

Germany has been Iran’s most important trading partner in the EU but, "Berlin has been responding to pressures to reduce those ties, even though the business community has not always been thrilled with that effort," according to knowledgeable specialist Jack Janes in his analysis of the prospects and risks of going forward with sanctions. Arguing against unilateral trade restrictions, German industry representatives claim that Germany would lose jobs and allow Chinese and other rivals to take over the market.

Yet Chancellor Merkel stood squarely behind the oil boycott. That will give the transatlantic allies a stronger bargaining chip with Iran -- and with Israel.

By European Affairs