30 May 2016

EU-Iran Relations after the Nuclear Deal

Steven Blockmans / Anoushiravan Ehteshami / Gawdat Bahgat

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Authors: Steven Blockmans, Anoushiravan Ehteshami & Gawdat Bahgat

Series: CEPS ebook  No. of pages: 123

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran and global powers, signed in July 2015, was a turning point in the emerging strategic landscape of the Middle East. The ‘nuclear deal’ led to the lifting by the EU and the US of nuclear-related sanctions, and is now operational. Other sanctions remain in place, however.

Nevertheless, unhindered by US competition, European trade delegations have entered into a latter-day gold rush, led by the promise of the biggest untapped market in the world. As such, the EU has both an opportunity and a responsibility to help Iran reintegrate properly into the international system. But, in the face of an opaque clerical regime that relies on internal repression and military business conglomerates, Europe stands to lose if it continues to pursue its uncalculated and uncoordinated approach towards the Islamic Republic.

This report offers recommendations to guide the EU towards a comprehensive EU strategy for relations with Iran. It maintains that there is no other option but to keep universal values and the rule of law at the core of the emerging bilateral relationship. In fact, the protection of the economic rights of European traders and investors allows the EU to push for wider reforms and the normalisation of relations.

Steven Blockmans is Head of EU Foreign Policy at CEPS; Anoushiravan Ehteshami is Nasser al-Sabah Professor of International Relations and Director of the HH Sheikh Nasser al-Sabah Research Programme, School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University, UK; and Gawdat Bahgat is Professor, Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies (NESA) at the National Defense University, Washington, D.C.