Iran's relation with the EU has gone through many ups and downs since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. However, the recent breakdown of negotiations between Iran and the EU3 on the nuclear issue and the role that EU might play for a peaceful conclusion of Iran's nuclear dossier could become a major turning point not only for the future of Iran-EU relationship but also for the EU in its attempts to forge a common foreign and security policy and to become a major world player.


During the past four centuries strategy had been the main domain in the relations between Iran and the European powers. This was mainly due to the major powers’ competition and geopolitical games for gaining colonial control or denying other powers from access to the Indian- subcontinent and the surrounding areas. After the Second World War and the division of the world into two camps, i.e. the East and the West, the security approach by different countries were shaped according to their political alignments. Under those conditions, major strategic policies were usually made by the two superpowers. Therefore Iran’s relations with the Western European countries were defined mostly in bilateral economic areas leaving mostly the strategic aspects to the United States. This trend did not display much change till the end of the Cold War. It was only after the changes in the international political atmosphere and more importantly with signs in Europe for adopting a common foreign and security policy that new initiatives in strategic spheres became possible. The events of September 11, 2001 had a dramatic impact on the US outlook to the international relations. The main emphasis in the 1990s that was on economic and trade-related issues suddenly changed and gave its place to security priorities. Thus, the relations between Iran and the EU that has been always under indirect US influence seems to be heading rapidly toward strategic-related matters.

Recent Background of Relations

In the past, the EU relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran has experienced two political crises; one, over the death verdict for the writer Salman Rushdie and the second, on the so-called Mykonos case in which Iranian dissidents were assassinated in Germany. Apart from those two incidents which culminated in a diplomatic row and the EU countries’ decision to withdraw their ambassadors from Tehran or other initiatives by the EU for tabling certain resolutions at the United Nations on the human rights condition in Iran, both sides made every effort to keep their relations free from tension for the benefit of the continuation of commerce and trade and other areas of interest.[1]

Since, the drugs control and refugee assistance had become among the priorities of the EU's foreign assistance, and Iran carries a heavy burden of a refugee population of approximately 2 million, of which 1.5 million come from Afghanistan, this issue became an area of mutual interest for cooperation. A commitment of 2 million Euros were made by the EC Humanitarian Office (ECHO), it also contributed 0.9 million Euros in relation to the drought that struck the southwest of Iran in 2000.[2] In the trade area, which is the most active part of the relations, the EU became Iran’s first and biggest trade partner, covering over 40% of its imports and 36% of its exports. Except for 1998 when the oil prices were at a record low, the EU has had a negative trade balance with Iran. In 1999 EU imports from Iran were 4.7 billion Euros, meanwhile the amount of EU exports to Iran in the same year were 3.9 billion Euros. In these figures, more than 75% of EU imports from Iran consist of oil products; the exports to Iran were more diversified, with power generation plants, large machinery and electrical and mechanical appliances making up about 45 percent of the total exports.[3] During this period, the Iran-EU relation that was mainly concentrating on economy and commerce had been under constant American pressures, which demanded that the EU should support US policies for isolating Iran. The European Union and the United States have had deep differences over their policies toward Iran, and those differences did not show much change until recently.

After the changes that occurred in the international political arena following the collapse of the Saddam’s regime in Iraq, it became apparent that the EU was more susceptible in yielding to US demands. In an unprecedented move, the EU foreign ministers on June 16, 2003 issued a statement, sending a firm warning to Iran that the completion of an EU-Iran trade agreement depended on Iran’s decision to accept UN inspections of its nuclear program immediately. On July 21st the European Union’s foreign ministers hinted that they might abandon talks on a trade agreement if Iranians do not sign the Additional Protocol by autumn. The ministers adopted for the first time a strategy that diplomacy and inspections should be the first line of defense to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In this new policy, the use of force might become necessary, and for the first time, the EU backed the pre-emptive military strikes against the states that are developing weapons of mass destruction, provided it is done with the full backing of the United Nations Security Council.[4] Iran reacted immediately and its Foreign Ministry spokesman said that: “The Islamic Republic will not accept any preconditions for holding talks with any country or any community.”[5] But the European officials kept the heat up and in a demonstration of seriousness of the issue emphasized the position adopted by the EU Council in their statements and declarations. The EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten in an apparent response to allegations that EU’s policy toward Iran has been influenced by the United Sates said: “This is not somebody else’s agenda. This is our agenda. Iran has to recognize that we have real concerns on our side.”[6]

However, it was clear that the process of influencing Iran’s nuclear program started much earlier than the EU’s initiative, and especially during the important G8 summit in France. The Group of Eight countries’ meeting in France issued a statement calling on Tehran to accept greater scrutiny from the weapons inspectors. The statement by the G8 said that “We will not ignore the proliferation implications of Iran's advanced nuclear program.” In this regard, US President George W. Bush is quoted saying that, “I brought this subject (Iran’s nuclear program) up in the G8; we had a good discussion on the subject, with near universal agreement that we all must work together to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”[7] Also in the course of another important meeting between President Bush and European leaders in Washington, Mr. Bush declared that, “America and the EU agree that Iran must cooperate fully with the IAEA”. He indicated, “If Iran does not agree to further inspections, we will deal with that when they don’t.”[8] Also, when US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair met in Washington in July, Iran featured prominently in their attention.[9] European Commission President Romano Prodi after the EU-US meeting noted that the EU and US are committed to verifying that Iran does not use its energy program to build nuclear weapons. Seeking to soothe differences over the war in Iraq, Mr. Prodi said “no enemy can stand against Europe and the United States when they are united.”

US efforts proved more effective when members of the EU issued a strong statement on June 10, 2003 calling on Iran to accept more international inspections.[10] Britain who has established good working relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in the past years, and its Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has visited Iran three times in a span of two years, believes that isolation of Iran will only allow Iranian hardliners to play the nationalist card on the nuclear issue. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said further stonewalling would cost Iran any hope of restoring normal commercial ties with the West. “We have been negotiating a trade and cooperation agreement with Tehran which we wish to see in place, but it is essential too that we see good progress on non-proliferation compliance by Iran and on human rights.”[11]

In a separate move and in a message that was sent in the first week of June to the British diplomatic posts by the British Foreign Office it was mentioned among other things that “the United State is increasingly impatient and favors a more confrontational approach [toward Iran], preferably isolation but, failing all else, a conceivably military [action].” It further said, “We do not think that isolation will work. But if the US presses this hard, we risk an EU/US clash over Iran, placing us in the invidious position of having to choose sides”.

It was also reported that the Whitehall (the British Cabinet) was trying to convince Europe and America to play a coordinated game of ‘good cop’, ‘bad cop’ with Iran. British ministers in an apparent move to avoid a repetition of the episode between Europe and America over the war in Iraq and in a proposed list of six options to avoid a new rift that ranges from no change to reluctantly joining America in isolating Iran opted and decided on a middle course. That option implied issuing a private warning to Iran. Furthermore, accordingly, the EU would cut off trade talks and reconsider its dialogue with Tehran if they did not take action on key issues within “a clear short deadline (e.g. two months).”[12]

In sum, the British as other Europeans were in favour of urging Iran to abandon its nuclear program and scale back the support for Hamas and Hezbollah. They also believed that some moves by Iran might take them off the hook in Washington. But the British, let alone the rest of Europe, cannot ultimately shield Tehran, if the hawks in the Pentagon keep piling on the pressures for regime change rather than simply a policy shift.[13] On the French side, Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said that France perceived "a risk concerns (nuclear) proliferation" in Iran. However, he stressed the importance of continued dialogue with Tehran, telling reporters: "It is not in the interest of the international community to isolate this country."[14] Yet a confidential report prepared by the French government in May concluded that Iran is surprisingly close to having enriched uranium or plutonium for a bomb. The French warned other governments to exercise "the most serious vigilance on their exports to Iran and Iranian front companies." “Iran undoubtedly controls the manufacturing process of centrifuges and seems even able to improve it," said the French government report on Iran's nuclear program, which was delivered in May to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, an organization of governments with nuclear programs.[15] French authorities also reported that French firms with nuclear expertise have received a rising number of inquiries from suspected Iranian front companies for goods with military uses.[16] The German foreign minister Fischer also expressed concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. He said that declarations from Tehran were “cause for concern.”[17]

In sum, the joint British, French and German initiative was to create a kind of informal model unlike what was seen in North Korea and to that end trade and financial components were devised to lure Iran away from enrichment towards light water nuclear systems. The EU3 sought to bring Tehran back to the negotiating table by offering economic incentives in the form of a Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) for compliance with the IAEA, and a new deal emerged in November 2004. Iran agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment activities and the EU's External Relations Council conclusions on 24 November welcomed the suspension of enrichment processes and reaffirmed that negotiations for a TCA would resume after IAEA verifications. Tehran resumed uranium conversion work, a precursor to the enrichment, in August 2005 due to lack of cooperation by the EU3 while its stance becoming more under the US influence accusing Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons without introducing any convincing evidence. In that strategy the US was to stay in the background with the threat of force if progress was not made.[18]

Worries of New Threats in 'The West'

The collapse of the twin towers on September 11, 2001, was in true sense the beginning of the 21st century. The combination of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism is now considered in the West as the greatest dangers to their security. The community of Europe and the United States, which is called in shorthand 'the West', has come to existence since 60 years ago. During the Cold War, the Red Army always concentrated the minds on the need for Western unity. During the Cold War, Berlin always felt itself to be more directly threatened than New York; now it is the other way around. Although, the Europeans and Americans do not perceive the threats as they did before, they have always adopted a unified stance in vital strategic issues and where their security has been threatened. This was clearly demonstrated in the case of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.[19] It seems that now the Arab and Muslim Worlds have become the center of ‘war on terrorism’ where that war is supposed to be won or lost.

For the Europeans, it is not simply that they feel less threatened by what is called in the West as ‘Islamic extremism’! In some ways the Europeans even feel more threatened. There are now at least 10 million Muslim immigrants living in the European Union, not to mention more than 5 million who are living elsewhere in Europe like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo. Over the next decade, Europe will probably take in another 10 million Muslims, plus at least another 60 million if the EU delivers on its promise to include Turkey. As the native European population ages, we could soon find that 1 on every 10 Europeans is a Muslim. Europeans fear that this Muslim population could be radicalized by events in the Middle East. Over the past few years the populist parties in Europe have won a large share of the vote essentially on hostility to immigration and especially toward Muslim immigration. In the United States, there are also some 6 million Muslims, but apart from the period after the war on Iraq that some Arab Muslims in the United States felt the hardships, American record in dealing with the immigrants have been much better than Europeans. That is mainly because that almost everyone in the US is an immigrant or the descendant of immigrants. America also has a capacious civic national identity, whereas Europe has a patchwork of exclusive ethnic national identities.[20]

In the Middle East, the EU and US have an overwhelming common interest –not least to see that one-day Israel is physically connected to the West by a patchwork of Islamic or post-Islamic democracies.[21] On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, many Europeans feel that giving Palestinians a viable state could be a bigger contribution for winning the war against terrorism. This position and support by Europeans is however seen by some conservative commentators in the United States as ‘reflection of Europe’s ancestral, almost genetic anti-Semitism.’[22] Although there is still anti-Semitism in Europe today, but those charges are mainly to tar the European critics of the current Israeli policies. However, it should not be mistaken that the Holocaust remains central to the whole understanding of liberal politics on both sides of the Atlantic.[23]



The Impact of EU-US Relations

The EU is in process of developing a unified security and foreign policy. At the same time, the expansion of the EU and NATO is going ahead with a prospect of changes in its future policies. The EU is facing one of the sternest challenges in its 50-years history. It has gone through one of it's largest-ever enlargement, with ten more countries that joined the EU in 2004. Some of the new members make no secret of their strong pro-US stance. In one case, this has led to breaking ranks with the EU, when Romania bowed to US pressure and signed a bilateral accord on the International Criminal Court (ICC). Despite these disputes, there is a general understanding on both sides of the Atlantic that when they do act together they are more effective.[24] It seems that the case of Iran’s nuclear program is now becoming a test case for the future EU-US solidarity and cooperation. Until recently the European Union and the United States had deep differences over their policies toward Iran.[25] At the same time, it is argued that with new developments along the current role that US is playing as the sole superpower and while it is now been fully engaged in the Middle East, a coordinated policy of the EU and US vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program needs a policy of a comprehensive engagement with Iran given the potential role that Iran can play for the peace and stability of this region.

Meanwhile, the American overestimation of the military dimension of power, to the neglect of the other two dimensions of power namely economic and ‘soft’ power has been a major contending issue between the EU and the US. To the Europeans, this has caused a real departure from the post-1945 tradition of American foreign policy, leading to the present unilateral policies by the ‘sole superpower’. The main rift between Americans and Europeans occurred during the war in Iraq. The German and French leaders stood against the US and the coalition forces including their European partners the British and others. While Chancellor Schroeder stoked the flames of pacifist opinion in Germany in order to remain in power, President Chirac was grandstanding in pursuit of a neo-Gaullist dream of France leading a re-assembling of the non-American world.[26] Although the Americans and Europeans have vital interests in the world that transcend those habitual competitions for oil, it seems that the European perception of the US has changed since September 11.[27] Some analysts have now come to this conclusion that Europeans regard the US as a threat to the independence of Europe while the Americans do not realize this.[28]

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, Washington has dubbed Iran part of an "axis of evil" in an effort to highlight the security threats US officials say it poses. The US accuses Iran of seeking to obtain nuclear weapons and long-range missile technology. It also charges Iran with aiding the Lebanon's Hezbollah and Palestinian groups, such as Hamas, which Washington lists as terrorists. The US maintains a long-standing policy of isolating Iran with which Washington has had no diplomatic relations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. US companies are still forbidden from investing in or trading with Iran. Washington also continues to threaten -- but has not yet enforced -- punitive actions against foreign firms that make substantial investments in its energy sector. But the EU has been seeking to accelerate its trade relations with Iran by negotiating a trade and cooperation agreement with Tehran. That would follow upon bilateral arrangements its member states already have concluded and could eventually open the way for Iranian products receiving preferential access to EU markets. The trade initiative, which has been under discussion for several years, has been billed by the EU as a keystone of Europe's strategy of engaging Iran in order to boost its reform movement.

An Iran-EU dialogue was launched in 1995. It was broadened in scope following the election of the reform-oriented government under President Khatami to become what is now called the Comprehensive Dialogue. This has allowed and continues to allow for a broad exchange of views on global, regional and cooperation issues. The European Commission has stated before that it wants its relations with Iran on a "contractual basis" and to result in a more intense political dialogue between the two sides. The EU also has said that the dialogue should include such issues as non-proliferation of weapons technology, cooperation in the fight against terrorism, and Iran's role in the Middle East. While the European initiative approached a major milestone in Brussels, it was slowed by a debate among the EU states over just how firmly the Union should insist on Iran's discussing such potentially volatile issues. The EU members were divided between those states that wanted the trade talks tied closely to Iranian progress on issues like human rights and those that believed insisting upon such linkages too strongly could delay reaching a trade accord for years. The Financial Times reported that Britain, the Netherlands, Ireland and France "have insisted that talks on a trade pact be linked to Iran meeting conditions contained in the EU's negotiating mandate," which includes provisions on human rights and fighting terrorism. But the paper says, "Italy and Greece [have] wanted to play down the ...clauses [regarding conditions]." Those states are reported to favor a quick trade accord and argue that over-insistence on the clauses could inhibit Iran's reformers, rather than strengthen them. Chris Patten, the EU's commissioner for external affairs, said that, "there is absolutely no dispute on the importance of opening negotiations with Iran." He added: "The only question is what the most effective mechanism is?" At that time, there was every indication that EU would soon proceed with what could be a dramatic boost in its trade ties with Iran and a new step away from Washington's efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic.

On the other side, Iran, which in recent years has stepped up efforts to build economic and political relations with Europe and Japan, was also looking forward to the trade agreement as a landmark in its ties with the EU. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi voiced optimism and hope in saying "We welcome the pragmatic approach of the EU [toward Iran], especially economic cooperation." He added: "Certainly, there are many cultural differences, but we have many things in common."

Gripping the Realities

Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran, in certain political circles, often with much influence in the foreign policy-making apparatus, there has been a perception that in defiance of the US policies, one could use the European leverage. In this approach, historical realities and the present state of alliance between these two major powers is mostly neglected or underestimated. This became even more as an institutionalized policy in Iran once the US embassy was seized by the militant students leading to the breakdown of diplomatic relations between Iran and the US in 1980. The reliance on European countries also stemmed from a perception found among some influential groups in Iran’s foreign policy establishment that saw a genuine divergence of interest between the US and Europe. The main argument is based on normal trade competition that occurs between these two long time allies from time to time. The strident evidence mostly introduced in this argument is the French resistance to the US law prohibiting investment in Iran. In its oil contract with Iran, France based on international norms and principles, ignored the law (Iran-Libya Sanctions Act ‘ILSA’, 1996) passed in the United States prohibiting all companies including non-American firms to invest more than 20 million dollars in Iran. This was followed by the French government's decision to allow a French oil company (Total) to go ahead for contracting in Iran a very lucrative deal for the development of a gas field in the Persian Gulf. This and some other examples are used to demonstrate as a vivid example of competition that exists between some European and American in economic fields that wishfully could be extended to political and strategic issues.

Perhaps, it was due to this perception that the EU's harsh position on the nuclear issue caught the policy makers in Iran with much surprise. They assumed that, Europe in rivalry with the US, and to safeguard its interest in Iran would stand by Iran and resist any American pressures. Therefore, “Tehran has every reason to expect the EU will continue to ignore Washington’s policy of isolating Iran, as it has since the mid-1990s.”[29] Previously, a signal of change of policy on the European side was also ignored or neglected by Iranian officials, that was, when the EU interrelated two tracks of economic and political negotiations in the context of its current dialogue with Iran. These dialogues that started in the mid-1990s went through different phases; first, under the rubric of ‘critical dialogue’ and then as ‘comprehensive dialogue’. These dialogues were supposed to be continued in two parallel tracks one on the political and the other on economic issues. The EU made it clear from the beginning of these rounds of talks that progress on each track is connected to the other one. In other words, progress in economic talks could not be expected without achievements in the political area.

Another substantial issue that influenced the EU-Iran relations was the changes that occurred in the international and especially geopolitical scene following the fall of the Saddam’s regime in Iraq. The new developments in the neighborhood of Iran, with US presence in the eastern and now on western boarders of Iran, have caused considerable and justifiable concerns in Iran. Taking note of the level of hostilities between Iran and the US, and the voices for regime change in Iran by some influential political circles in the US administration added to those existing anxieties. In the pre-war episode in Iraq, a rift occurred between some Europeans, especially France and Germany, the two major powers in Europe, with the US over the appropriateness of the military operations and on its conformity with the UN resolutions. The European initiative in opposing the US unilateral policy was welcomed in many countries around the world including Iran. The praises for the French and German stance for their opposition to the military intervention in Iraq by the US later mutated to hopes of shaping an alliance against US unilateral policies. The visit of Dominique de Villepin the French Foreign Minister to Tehran in a course of his tour to the region following the collapse of the Saddam’s regime in Iraq proved that shaping an alliance against US unilateralism were mere fantasy. In his press conference in Tehran, the French Foreign Minister in a total surprise to his hosts, not only did not made any reference to the preferred subject of 'New World Order' based on multilateralism and thereby denouncing US unilateral policies, but instead addressed a subject which his hosts were not quite comfortable with, and in fact were lately under considerable pressure over that issue, namely their nuclear program. In fact, the French Foreign Minister chose a subject that pleased the US very much. He voiced the concerns in the West about Iran’s nuclear program and asked Iran to sign the Additional Protocol without any condition or delays. These remarks by the French and later by the Germans and the British in criticizing Iran's nuclear program came as a sobering shock to those in Iran who pinned their hopes for a playoff policy between the EU and the US.

The last point in analyzing the present course of Iran-EU relation is the security perceptions of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. The Europeans and other countries’ concerns about Iran’s nuclear programs are usually perceived in Iran to be very much influenced by the US and Israel. Although this might be true to some extent, it seems that this dose not reflect the whole reality. The Europeans have real concerns about perceived threats based upon news media reports about Iran's nuclear programs, with little or no convincing efforts by Iranian officials to refute the charges less than issuing routine statements denying those allegations. The lack of confidence on these issues and related topics that are in the common agenda of the US and the European countries namely, WMD, human rights, the Middle East peace process and terrorism culminates in the present problems that have been somehow interrelated and gaining new momentum.

When examining the root causes of the security concerns expressed by European countries, lack of transparency in nuclear program and Iran’s stance regarding the Middle East peace process and in other words the security of Israel come at the top of that list. On the transparency issue about its nuclear program little has been done in the past by Iran mainly due to the hostility by the US and the fear of it sabotaging the program through intimidation of Iran's trade partners. Also, Iran’s shortcoming in terms of transparency is to be considered as a result of the lack of engagement in security dialogues with the major powers and its unpreparedness for or inability to utilize the available forums to present its policies and objectives. That is while Iran has been subject to many invasions from other countries in the past two centuries, the last by the Ba’athist regime of Iraq, which lasted for eight years and caused hundreds of thousands losses of life and vast destructions. Furthermore, Iran has been one of the most law-abiding nations who is signatory to all international disarmament treaties and who has a good standing record in abiding them. On the question of nuclear weapons which have overwhelming destructive power, there seems to be an unwritten rule that links nuclear power capability to the intentions of the country that possess those capabilities. In the case of Iran, a clear concern has been raised with regard to the threats that these weapons might pose to the security of Israel. The European countries having close relations with Israel and as a partner in the new round of peace process are now engaged in this issue more than ever. Therefore, Iran's role is critical not only as a potential nuclear power but also for the stance it adopts in the Middle East conflict. Therefore, the commitments of the West toward Israel's security should be taken as a reality in any foreign policy calculations by Iran. On this subject, a prominent Iranian scholar opines that, “Iran fails to understand and refuses to accept the fundamental issue that a basic improvement in US-Iranian relations cannot be achieved without Tehran’s acknowledgement of the strategic alliance between the United States and Israel.”[30]

In sum, the West in its relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran is pursuing a unified agenda for some years. The US State Department has specified that US policies towards Iran consists essentially of "four things -terrorism, nuclear development, Middle East, opposition to the peace process and poor human rights record.” The Europeans in their relations with Iran pursue the same agenda although within a different framework and with their own priorities. For example, the US government stopped a deal for the purchase of four Air Bus passenger planes from France by Iran on the pretext that the American technology was used in the manufacturing of the engines of those aircrafts. While there was much speculation about French resistance to the American policy, the French side went along with the US wish by canceling that lucrative deal perhaps in exchange for something else.[31] Also in the project of democratization, there seems to be a unified stance in the West with a perception that only by political or economic reforms in the targeted countries the ideal changes in the policies of those countries become possible. In pursuit of that policy the models of Poland and Hungary in 1989 are much favored in which a mixture of reforms from above and people's power from below is advocated for countries like Iran.[32] In fact, this is the same policy of regime change that some people advocate in the US, although with a different method. However, it should be noted that what has been suggested above have not be yet adopted as an official policy toward Iran by the European countries.

Iran-EU Strategic Interplay

Both Iran and EU are going through a transitional period deriving from both domestic imperatives as well as new developments in the international scene. Iran after a period of nearly three decades of international constraints caused mainly by endemic confrontation existed in its relationship with the United States is now determined more than ever to come out of that imposed seclusion. Iran’s success in its nuclear program is seen by many observers as tantamount to a great leap forward by Iran in claiming its rightful place in the geopolitics of the region.

The EU is also in a process of becoming a new entity in the world politics unprecedented before. Naturally this great ambition could not be achieved without facing many challenges. The unification of two the Germany have had a major impact on the geopolitics in the continent of Europe as well on the future developments in the EU. A unified Germany along the latest expansion of the EU to twenty five countries has had its imprint in the context of the new EU.[33] The anxiety displayed among some EU member countries like France as a founding member of the EU in their negative vote to the EU constitution is seen by some as a probable new trend in the internal EU alignments distancing France and Germany and as a greater role for the US in EU politics as both Germany and France would race to gain the amity of the US that they lost in the course of US campaign in Iraq. This trend has become even more evident when the EU3 failed to settle the Iran’s nuclear dossier within the context of the IAEA.

The EU3-Iran negotiations also revealed the fact that in the new geopolitics of Europe beside the major three European powers namely Britain, France and Germany there are other new or emerging powers like Italy, Spain and Poland that are egger to play a more influential role in the future of EU's foreign policy. [34]


The Iran-EU relations have entered a new phase. On the one hand, EU relationship with the US is going through a rehabilitation stage after a rift on the case of the war in Iraq and subsequent diverging policies between the EU members on that issue. In so-called mending fences, Germany and France are trying to move closer to the US policies in the Middle East, especially over the nuclear program in Iran. Meanwhile, the US which has accomplished a military victory in Iraq is facing a huge task of stabilization and normalization in that country. This has given an opportunity to European countries to utilize their capability to play as major partner in the reconstruction of Iraq. This seems also to be a crucial test for the EU in its attempt to establish a unified security and foreign policy. It is under these circumstances that the issue of Iran’s nuclear programs seems to become a focal point of the 'Old Europe' reconciliation with the US. In this scenario, the EU is utilizing its leverages in its relations with Iran especially in the trade field to persuade Iran to sign and ratify the Additional Protocol of the NPT.

However, the core problem of the current standoff regarding Iran’s nuclear dossier is a legal dilemma. Iran is a signatory member of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which permits the enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes. The treaty may be flawed, but it is nonetheless a part and parcel of international law. The West wants Iran to give up a right that other countries enjoy, something that would be hard for any proud nation to accept especially for a country that do not have any aggressive intentions. To some, the core weakness of the European initiative and its subsequent offer in its nuclear negotiations with Iran was its hollowness in substance regarding security guarantees. Although the E.U. initiative enjoyed the blessing of the Bush administration, but that was not enough to convince Iran that an agreement proposed by the EU would end the persistent American military threats. Some observers viewed that the Europe was the wrong agent for negotiations with Tehran from the start, since it lacked the needed capacity and leverages to deal in a bargain of this magnitude. The Iranians knew that, but left with little choices decided to give the Europeans a chance. As expected, the outcome of that process became discouraging for both sides, especially those who wanted the E.U. to play a larger international role.

Nevertheless, it seems that whatever shape the course of present policies might take, the EU-Iran relation is heading for a qualitative change. In these changes, the EU though alarmed by Iran’s nuclear and missile capabilities has to take Iran more seriously in its strategic calculations. For Iran, the new turn in the EU policy should serve as a wakeup call. Underestimation of the strategic depth of the EU-US relations in the strategic planning for the foreign policy could cost dearly for the country and therefore should be avoided in the future. At the same time as Iran is coming to grips with the new realities of today’s world it is apt to follow a more pragmatic line in its future policies. This could be realized once there is an acknowledgement of the fact that there is a unified stance in the West toward the outside world especially on the security issues. This implies that Iran-EU relations cannot progress beyond certain levels as far as the US hostility towards Iran remains and is not checked.