No other US president has been as antagonistic to European principles. But there’s no alternative to a strong transatlantic partnership
In 2003 a US-led war in the Middle East fractured western unity and divided the European family. It was a trauma of historic proportions, a watershed in some ways comparable to the 1956 Suez crisis. With Donald Trump’s decision on Iran, we may be on the verge of another such moment. On the surface, things may not look as bad as they did in early 2003. At this point, US military action against Iran is a worst-case hypothesis – not a plan. No 180,000-strong force is being built up near Iranian territory. Nor are Europeans split into two camps. In this current crisis, and despite Brexit, Europeans look like they’re sticking together.
Trump’s decision is not only extraordinarily brutal, it affects a project whose origins are found in a European initiative taken in the autumn of 2003, when the UK, France and Germany sent their foreign ministers to Tehran for talks: that project was aimed at limiting and controlling Iran’s nuclear programme through peaceful means. It took 12 years of international diplomacy, in which Europe played an important role, to reach the nuclear deal that Trump has now decided to tear up.
Make no mistake, the first country to benefit from a breakup between the US and Europe would be authoritarian Russia
Donald Trump’s victory in US election in November 2016 put the fate of the deal in doubt. He had promised prior to his election to “dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran”, although many believed he might instead adopt a more rigorous implementation of the agreement and tighten sanctions already in place. This could force Tehran to violate first or make the deal redundant.