At this week’s celebration of NATO’s 70th birthday in London, a bizarre inversion occurred: Donald Trump was put in the unfamiliar role of defending the alliance while Emmanuel Macron warned against its supposed “brain death.” Yet the irony is that it is the Europeans, not Trump, who are doing the most to weaken the West’s security — specifically by undermining the Trump administration’s pressure campaign against Iran.
The same week that Europe was celebrating NATO, six more Western European nations — Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden (all but the last one members of NATO) — announced that they would participate in the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX). INSTEX, whose founding members are Great Britain, France, and Germany, is an attempt to create a pathway to trade with Iran based on the barter of goods and services. In theory, it will allow member countries to do business in the Islamic republic without violating U.S. sanctions.
That six more countries joined INSTEX right as reports emerged that the Iranian government had met ongoing protests against price increases with unprecedented force — fatally shooting anywhere from 180 to 450 people, wounding at least 2,000, and arresting 7,000 — was shocking. It highlighted the obtuseness of INSTEX itself — the stupidity of Europe’s determination to undermine the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal Iran struck with President Barack Obama and other Western nations in 2015.
The Europeans believe that Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from what he rightly terms a disastrous deal was a betrayal of a Western alliance that was unanimous in applauding Obama’s appeasement of Iran. INSTEX participants say they are motivated by a desire to preserve a pact that was sold to the world as a way to prevent Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon. But since the deal merely postponed an Iranian bomb while ensuring its inevitability, these arguments don’t pass muster.
What Europeans want is not a way to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, but a way to keep profiting from trade with a brutal regime that oppresses its own people and remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.
Europeans expected Obama’s pact with Iran to result in a gold rush for entrepreneurs and investors. They had little interest in nuclear nonproliferation, the danger that Iran’s quest for regional hegemony posed to the Middle East, or the way it ruthlessly used terrorism to pursue its goals around the globe. What they wanted was a way to profit from a market that had been largely closed to the West since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
But the gold rush never materialized, in large part because many investors were rightly wary of becoming economic hostages to the Iranian regime. No investment could be considered safe in a country where the rule of law doesn’t exist.
When Trump pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear deal and began reimposing and tightening sanctions, he made the Europeans’ dreams of Iranian cash even harder to realize. Though Obama and his media “echo chamber” had claimed that the U.S. could never successfully reimpose sanctions on Iran by itself, Trump quickly showed that it could. Faced with a choice between cutting off ties to the largest economy in the world or chasing profit in Tehran, most Europeans have wisely decided not to mess with the Americans.
Few financial experts think INSTEX’s barter system can work effectively to provide Iran with a reliable conduit to sell their oil. But whether or not it succeeds, its essential aim is to send money to the same people — including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which runs much of the Iranian economy — who are killing Iranian protesters in the streets and financing Islamist terror abroad. Like the nuclear deal, which infamously led the U.S. to airlift Iran palettes of cash, INSTEX is by design a lifeline for a tyrannical regime that threatens the West, and for its terrorist proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen, and everywhere else the IRGC operates.
With respect to the threats posed by Iran, it is Trump who has shown surprising vision and Macron and the rest of the Europeans who seem to lack the brainpower to understand that their efforts are strengthening an enemy of the West.