Europe’s leaders insist their opposition to killing the Iran nuclear deal is all about preserving peace. Truth be told, it’s also about something just as important — pride.
Negotiated over a decade plus, more than a generation of European leaders and diplomats were engaged in the talks at one time or another. Whether one had a seat at the head table or stood on the fringes, bragging rights over the success of the accord were spread far and wide.
Everyone from former EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to German President Frank Walter Steinmeier, who helped negotiate the deal when he was foreign minister, have shared in the glory.
Though President Donald Trump and other American critics of the deal link it primarily to the Obama administration, Europeans see it as their own. Indeed, in European foreign policy circles, the deal was considered the most significant achievement of European diplomacy in living memory.
Initially spearheaded by negotiators from France, Germany and the U.K., the pact showed European statecraft at its best.
Skeptics of Europe’s motives have long suggested Berlin and Paris in particular were driven by economic motives, the desire to exploit an emerging economy of more than 80 million. And who can forget the spectacle of then-German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel landing in Tehran with a business delegation before the ink on the deal had even dried to rub elbows with the country’s mullahs.
Such displays aside, Iran was never primarily about the pursuit of economic opportunity for Europe, but rather the promotion of peace and European prestige.