EU eyes roundabout trade with Iran to avoid skirting U.S. sanctions

by Bamidele Ogunberu Posted on January 31st, 2019

Germany, France and Britain have found a roundabout way for companies to continue doing business with Iran without violating U.S. sanctions.The so-called special-purpose vehicle allows European firms with legitimate business interests to use bartering techniques when doing business with Iran.

The INSTEX mechanism, or Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges, could be launched soon. Initially, it will focus on areas that haven’t been sanctioned by the United States, such as humanitarian goods.

More details could be announced when foreign ministers meet Thursday in Bucharest, Romania.

The three European countries still have a nuclear deal with Iran, as does Russia and China. President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Obama-era international agreement in May and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. European countries want to work within the framework of the existing nuclear agreement.

The European Union backs the use of a special financial instrument and all 28 member countries could endorse it.

The United States is using the sanctions as a way to force Iran back to the negotiating table to craft a new nuclear agreement. The country continues to test ballistic missiles that experts say could be outfitted with nuclear weapons.

U.S. intelligence told Congress on Tuesday that Iran was in compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal, which covers nuclear activities, not missile development.

On Wednesday, Trump fired back, calling Iran “a source of potential danger and conflict” while also saying their “economy is crashing, which is the only thing holding them back.”

He also targeted U.S. intelligence experts, saying they “should go back to school.”

So far, Iran hasn’t given any indication it will make a new deal with the United States. This week, Iran is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the country’s Islamic Revolution.

Iranian observers question whether sending humanitarian goods, such as medicine, food and medical devices, will be effective.

“I don’t think the EU is either willing or able to stand up to Trump’s threat,” University of Tehran professor Foad Izadi said in the Al Jazeera report. “The EU is not taking the nuclear deal seriously and it’s not taking any action to prove to Iran otherwise … People are running out of patience.”

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