In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Hiatus in European debate on Iran

Posted by seumasach on February 9, 2012

It seems that in Europe, ad hoc policy such as France and England’s naval bandwagoning with the American armada in the Persian Gulf has replaced rational defense strategies that could entertain an Iranian-European security debate and even cooperation.

Exactly. Britain and France have effectively bounced Europe into another serious own-goal. Hopefully the defeat of Sarkozy in the coming elections will lead to Britain being finally frozen out of European security policy and the subsequent adoption of a saner and more constructive policy towards Iran.

Kaveh Afrasiabi

Asia Times

10th February, 2012

PALO ALTO – At last week’s Munich Security Conference, there was a conspicuous absence of any meaningful discussion of the “Iran crisis” threatening global peace and security.

This was not surprising since the Europeans have moved in lockstep with the United States on Iran despite a US reorientation of its defense policy towards Asia and the Pacific at the expense of Europe.

In early January, US President Barack Obama unveiled a new US defense strategy that reflected a continuing US commitment to maintaining global military superiority while addressing the need for bringing a decade of military over-expansion to a halt.
In light of Pentagon budget cuts and rising US domestic needs, the US requires greater “burden sharing” between North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members, former US Defense Secretary Gates said at last year’s Munich conference. His successor, Leon Panetta, sounded more upbeat at this year’s conference [1], predicating that the Afghan conflict would soon end.

Neither Panetta nor any other Western speaker gave more than cursory attention to Iran and the danger signs in Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz. The conference devoted much attention to Syria, but not Bahrain, another flash point of mass rebellion and insecurity in the Arab world. Many speakers took aim at Russia for its unapologetic support of the embattled Baathist regime in Damascus.

It seems that in Europe, ad hoc policy such as France and England’s naval bandwagoning with the American armada in the Persian Gulf has replaced rational defense strategies that could entertain an Iranian-European security debate and even cooperation.

Given Europe’s proximity to Iran compared to the US and shared interests with Tehran, there ought to be an enlightened Iran-European security dialogue unaffected by Israeli and American intrusions.

Because of their economic interdependence, Iran and the European countries have the potential to lay down the elements of a broad security agreement that is mutually rewarding, such as a non-intervention pact. That would instantly take care of European anxieties about Iran’s missile threat, the threat of terrorism, and the like, as well as Tehran’s worries that Europe is conspiring with Washington and Tel Aviv for regime change in Iran.

Europe is increasingly a mirror of interventionist and hawkish US policy toward Iran, despite the threats to Europe’s security, especially energy security, in light of EU’s recent decision to impose an oil embargo on Iran within a few months.

Had the participants at the Munich security conference [1] paid serious attention to the issue of energy security, then they would have been compelled to debate the impact of the Western approach on the stability of world oil market, upon which the fate of global economic recovery rests.

“The Europeans have joined the Americans in declaring an economic war on Iran and are refusing to see the light of reality, which is that this is not an alternative to war but a prelude to it,” said a Tehran University political science professor who spoke with the author on the condition of anonymity.

“The costs to Europe of a blind obedience to the United States on Iran are on the rise and may soon become prohibitively too high if the Europeans are not careful,” added the Tehran professor, who has published widely on the subject of Iran’s relations with Europe and wishes to see a genuine “European Union-Iran dialogue” apart from the “five plus one” talks that include US, Russia, and China, on the subject of the nuclear standoff.

In the past, there were several rounds of such dialogue on economic, human rights, and other issues, but these have stalled in the wake of the continent’s concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In deferring to US for leadership on the Iran issue, a whole range of diplomatic possibilities have been ignored, which is neither in Europe’s nor Iran’s interests.

China is likely the biggest beneficiary of a crisis that has diverted US military attention from other “priority areas”. A US-Iran war would drain the US economy, and this too would benefit Beijing in some significant respects, heralding a declining Western superpower overstretching itself that paves the way to future superpowers.

Europe stands to gain little from its current approach toward Iran. Only through real debate can Europe open new horizons in terms of security cooperation.

1. See here for Panetta’s speech.
2. Link to the Munich conference.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran’s Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For his Wikipedia entry, click here. He is author of Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing , October 23, 2008) and Looking for Rights at Harvard. His latest book is UN Management Reform: Selected Articles and Interviews on United Nations CreateSpace (November 12, 2011).

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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