Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.


Cornelius AdebahrAssociate in Carnegie’s Europe Program

Yes, because an Iran deal based on the key parameters published on April 2—if implemented and adhered to—would be good for the world.

An #IranDeal based on the April 2 parameters would be good for the world.
Tweet This

The sheer symbolism of solving the conflict over the nature of Iran’s nuclear program by diplomatic means and with seven world powers (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany and the EU) acting in concert cannot be overestimated.

Added to this is the significance of the mere prospect—and by no means any probability—of positively changing the dynamics of a crisis-ridden region. Finally, an agreement would give the global nonproliferation regime the boost it needs at a time when disarmament has all but disappeared from the political discourse.

All these points are important to the EU, as it has invested heavily in them. For nearly twelve years, the Europeans have promoted a political rather than a military solution to the conflict, with the EU’s foreign policy high representative chairing and the big three member states actively contributing to the talks.

Although not the most decisive players in the Middle East, the Europeans now appear willing to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the Syrian civil war with new initiatives. Not least, a deal would underscore Europe’s credentials as a proponent of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a supporter of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s critical role in implementing the treaty’s safeguards.

In sum, a deal that proves that in the long run it takes diplomacy, not war, to tackle distrust is good for Europe and the world.


Federiga BindiSenior fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

Yes, it is—from several points of view, which are both directly and indirectly linked to the agreement.

A deal on Iran’s nuclear program will make it very hard for the country to develop nuclear weapons, removing a serious threat in Europe’s backyard, the Middle East. Iran’s civil use of nuclear power is allowed under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which Tehran is one of the signatories.

Lifting the sanctions will help both #Iran and many European partners.
Tweet This

Lifting the sanctions and resuming trade with Iran will economically help both Iran and many European partners, therefore contributing to ending the economic crises in these countries.

But most of all, Iran will be free to become a major regional player in the troubled Middle East. In doing so, it will be better able to help pacify the region and, particularly, combat the self-proclaimed Islamic State, which is increasingly becoming a direct threat to Europe. With Iran on board, it will also be easier to find a solution to the Syrian civil war and avoid the collapse of yet another country in the region.

Finally, securing a deal will show all parties that when the major world powers—Russia and China included—work together, this benefits all. Likewise, as there is no doubt that the EU high representative, especially the former incumbent Catherine Ashton, played a pivotal role in the negotiations, a successful deal will once again prove the need for a unified EU foreign policy.


Thierry CovilleResearch fellow at the French Research Center for International and Strategic Studies (IRIS)

Yes. The April 2 framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program confirms that the European strategy of solving the nuclear issue through negotiation was the right approach. In the early 2000s, it was the Europeans who started to negotiate with Iran to tackle this dossier. The U.S. government at the time, by contrast, seemed rather ready to use the military option.

Lifting the sanctions imposed on Iran will benefit Iranian civil society. It will reinforce moderate political forces in Iran who have defended the strategy of negotiation. This political capital may enable the Iranian government to implement economic (and possibly political) reforms that will support the educated middle class.

The deal also paves the way for some form of cooperation between Iran and the United States to try to solve regional crises, for example those in Iraq and Syria. This is good for stability in the region and hence for European interests.

The EU can benefit from more constructive relations with #Iran.
Tweet This

The EU has strategic interests that can benefit from more constructive relations with Iran: the fight against the self-styled Islamic State, and the necessity to decrease European dependence on Russian natural gas. The EU was also Iran’s most important trading partner before the sanctions were imposed.

Nevertheless, these European strategic and economic interests will lead to real benefits only if certain governments—like the French—stop demonizing Iran.


Ellie GeranmayehPolicy fellow for the Middle East and North Africa at the European Council on Foreign Relations

The Iran nuclear deal being negotiated within the parameters outlined on April 2 in Lausanne is a win for all sides, particularly for Europe. The emerging deal offers Europe benefits without the political costs entailed for Iran and the United States with their respective domestic audiences.

The #IranDeal is a win for all sides, particularly for Europe.
Tweet This

For a decade, Europe’s singular and overriding objective on Iran has concerned the nuclear program. Given the proximity of the Middle East and the continual escalation of violence in this region since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Europeans have striven for a diplomatic solution. They have pursued a two-pronged strategy of sanctions pressure and dialogue to avoid a Western-led or -supported military response. A negotiated settlement provides the best means for safeguarding global security when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program.

A deal will have obvious economic windfalls for Europe, which bore the brunt of the sanctions framework against Iran while Russia and China took over Europe’s market share in Iran. Given Iran’s size, youthful population, and relative security, many EU member states have targeted the country as the most lucrative emerging market in the Middle East and North Africa.

Since the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in 2013, the nuclear talks have resulted in a gradual détente between the West and Iran. It is possible, although not guaranteed, that a deal will create new openings to engage with Iran on bolstering human rights and, most critically, on resolving regional conflicts. In comparison with the Americans, the Europeans will have greater political space but also a greater necessity to actively engage with Tehran on these matters.


Rem KortewegSenior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform

The short answer is “probably.” The longer answer is “probably, but it depends on the details of a final deal.”

It is important to be realistic. There is no deal yet on Iran’s nuclear program; there is an understanding on the parameters of an agreement. Some very tricky issues remain, and as the negotiators have repeatedly said, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

Outstanding issues include, among others, the pace of sanctions relief and whether (and how) sanctions should be automatically reinstated if Iran breaches an agreement. Particularly the latter question of a so-called snap-back will determine whether European firms dare to enter the Iranian market, which would be one of the deal’s economic prizes. One only has to follow U.S. Congressional politics to understand that the whole agreement could still unravel.

The April 2 #IranDeal is @FedericaMog's first major diplomatic breakthrough.
Tweet This

But here is the good news. The preliminary deal reached on April 2 is Federica Mogherini’s first major diplomatic breakthrough as the EU’s foreign policy high representative. It gives her, and the EU, some much-needed credibility.

The framework agreement also benefits Europe’s economy. Oil prices have dropped in anticipation of increased Iranian oil exports, giving weak eurozone economies some breathing space.

Finally, the current agreement could bring a comprehensive deal closer. This will not turn Iran into Europe’s ally, but it may avoid a war.


Walter PoschMiddle East security expert with the Austrian National Defense Academy

Yes, for three reasons.

First, a deal on Iran’s nuclear program is good for Europe as a normative power. Without Europe, diplomacy would have had no chance at all in the West’s dealings with Tehran, as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN Security Council would have been sidelined. As a consequence, only total war could have resolved the nuclear issue, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would have been in shambles. The nightmare of all strategists—including those who usually take a hard line against Iran—would have set in: a new nuclear arms race.

An #IranDeal is good for the EU as an international actor.
Tweet This

Second, a deal is good for the EU as an international actor. The hand-in-glove cooperation between the trio of France, Germany, and the UK, the European External Action Service, and the remaining member states proved to be the right formula: neither the directorate of the big three that many observers had feared nor indecision based on the different interests of 28 member states.

And third, an agreement is good for transatlantic relations, allowing both Americans and Europeans to forget the bad shape of the relationship during the first term of former U.S. president George W. Bush.

But an Iran deal is also a challenge, because the EU now has to reformulate its Iran policy by carefully weighing up human rights, energy security, and regional security against one another. This may turn out to be as formidable a challenge as concluding a final nuclear agreement by the deadline of June 30, 2015.


Gianni RiottaMember of the Council on Foreign Relations

In 2008, I asked then U.S. president George W. Bush during an interview if he would agree to have Italy join the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany at the negotiating table with Iran. Speaking on the record, Bush said yes. After a while, I checked with an influential Western diplomat; the dignified gentleman laughed and said, “Italy? No way, I’m sorry, Germany and France will always veto the idea.”

The #IranDeal is no European success because Europe never joined the talks as a whole.
Tweet This

A deal on Iran’s nuclear program will indeed be good for Europe, if eventually the sanctions disappear and business opportunities flood the old roads to Persia. But the deal is not a European success, because Europe never joined the negotiations as a whole.

Germany doggedly pursued Chancellor Angela Merkel’s diesel-driven foreign policy—sturdy, pragmatic, and serious, but linked only to Berlin’s industrial interests. The UK acted in its new role of independent player: no longer Robin to Washington’s Batman. France almost scuttled the deal in a post-Gaullist dyspeptic bad mood that threatened to annoy U.S. President Barack Obama.

So yes, the European countries will enjoy the fruits, should they eventually come, of a nuclear deal with Iran. But each country will do so at its own picnic.


Petr TopychkanovAssociate in the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Nonproliferation Program

The framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program signed on April 2 in Lausanne sent a number of positive messages to European countries. The most important messages concern diplomacy and security.

The #IranDeal shows that Europeans can reach consensus on hard issues.
Tweet This

On the diplomatic front, the deal shows that European leaders, together with those of China, Russia, and the United States, can negotiate and reach consensus on hard issues. Europe once again proved its ability to create a positive environment for successful negotiations. (Another example of this capacity is the so-called Normandy format, which brings together the French, German, Russian, and Ukrainian leaders and provides the only working mechanism for resolving the Ukraine crisis.)

To those who argue that the keys to international problem solving lie in Washington, Beijing, or elsewhere, it should now be clear that essentially only Europe can create a perfect opportunity for using these keys.

In terms of security, the progress achieved at the talks with Iran will help make Europe and its neighboring regions more secure in three ways.

First, the deal will extend the amount of time Iran needs to obtain nuclear weapons (if it chooses this path). Second, the agreement will limit nuclear proliferation possibilities in the Middle East. And third, the deal’s positive implications will go far beyond the nuclear field by facilitating dialogue between the EU and Iran on security challenges like combating the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

Yet these improvements will be neither assured nor unalterable. They will depend on many developments—first and foremost, the ability to achieve a final agreement regarding the Iranian nuclear program by the June 30 deadline and to ensure the accord’s implementation.