Last month, I attended a conference organized by the Central Bank of Iran on financial stability in Tehran. It was an eye-opener to see the quality and depth of the research and the importance that the Iranian leadership attached to the evolution of international regulation. It was also an opportunity to assess how the Iranian leadership was reacting to the recent aggressive talks of Donald Trump and his administration.
Europe is at the forefront, not the United States.
To ensure their development, the Iranians have now turned to Europe. While the US refuses to Boeing the right to sell the 80 planes it signed in December 2016, Airbus signed a contract for 100 planes at the same time worth over $ 10 billion. Total signed a $ 4.8 billion contract to develop the gas fields of Iran. On August 7, 2017, Renault announced the creation of a joint venture in which the French car company will invest $ 660 million to develop new models in Iran. KfW, the German government financing arm, is granting a $ 1.2 billion loan to the Iranian rail for their modernization by Siemens.
In private conversations with officials, the message was unequivocal: there is nothing to expect from the United States at this moment, and we will intensify our relationships and contracts with Europe. We have enough work to do and Europe can provide us with the goods and services we need. Interestingly enough, those projects involve private companies with some form of public sector ownership.
Since last year, the European Commission external affairs engaged in a constructive dialogue with Iran. Needless to say, China and Russia occupy a place of choice and Turkey, India and Japan are not far away. One just needs to spend 24 hours in a hotel in Tehran to watch delegation after delegation visiting their Iranian counterpart.
Iran is expanding its influence on the region
Despite the increased rhetoric of the Trump administration, it seems that Iran is extending its influence in two key countries that the US “rescued” to no avail: Irak and Afghanistan. These two lost wars made hundreds of thousands dead and cost trillions to the United States without any positive result, except to create a huge turmoil in the region and reopening a religious war between Sunnis and Shiites.
Iran dominates in Irak after the US “handed over” the country was the headline of an article of the New York Times. From Iran sponsored Shiite militia to basic goods coming from Iran, the country depends more tha ever on its previous enemy and now essential neighbor. In Afghanistan, US exits and Iran comes in analyses the same New York Times. It is through the Taliban network that their influence is spreading.
Trump is undermining the United States ability to bring peace to the region
By taking sides, Donald Trump has made his administration as impotent as he is. It is viral, and goes all the way to billboards cartooning him in unfavorable (albeit aesthetic) ways. If the position of the US was motivated by principles of human rights or other values, it would be understandable.
The situation in the region is now deteriorating for the US. The diplomacy of Jared Kushner between Israel and Palestine is undermined by the fact that he is a Jewish friend of Netanyahu. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported this month that he believe that “there might not be any solution” to the Palestinian problem, thereby rejecting any idea of a two-state solution. Wrong negotiator? The net result is a visit by King Abdullah of Jordan to support the Palestinian President Manhood Abbas after the stupid and immediately withdrawn “security” measures on the Al Aqsa mosque.
The Saudi situation, Trump’s and Kushner’s great friends, is becoming increasingly worrying. The new 31-year old Saudi crown prince shows a level of immaturity after the coup that eliminated the crown prince that worries even its strongest allies.
All in, the United States is losing ground in the region at a fast pace. There is nothing there that makes America great again. This is a unique opportunity for leadership. Europe’s position might be more helpful and balanced that the US. It will include Iran as a key player while the White House continues to keep its head in the sand. Being ignorant and partisan is one thing. Being ineffective is much more serious.