So now we know. Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was privately video-recorded eight months ago saying he would never trust the European signatories of the nuclear deal to deliver on their pledge to help the Islamic Republic, IRIB reported on March 4. In an attack on Europe, and Iranians who trusted its promises, the scenes were released by the Khamenei camp.
The “I told you so” video footage was recorded in July 2018—two months after the US unilaterally withdrew from the multilateral accord and announced it was switching back to attacking Tehran with heavy sanctions—in a private meeting between Khamenei and nuclear deal proponent President Hassan Rouhani. The top cleric is seen attempting to tell the president that Europe, which along with Russia and China said it would work to help Iran economically despite the US economic aggression, would not fulfil its commitments.
The office of the supreme leader released the footage along with an Instagram post showing an empty gift box with German, French and British bows around the edges. Figures meant to be despondent Iranian workers also feature in the scene.
“One day we tied all of the country’s economic issues to the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as the nuclear deal is formally known] and the JCPOA could not resolve our country’s economic issues or help us in any significant way,” Khamenei says in the video.
Khamenei also had a dig at Europe’s supposed “malevolence” for dragging its feet on the US-sanctions protected trade payment channel it promised to put into operation. Though it has been established, the channel is still not in operation and the supreme leader is seen in the video recording saying Iran’s fortunes must not be closely attached to the outcome of the special purpose vehicle (SPV) project.
How Instex nearly ended up homeless
Establishing the payment system, eventually announced early this year with the name Instrument In Support Of Trade Exchanges (Instex), proved very challenging because a European Union member state willing to host it could not be found. The intimidating prospect of US reprisals caused that particular difficulty. It is anxiety over possible US moves to penalise any businesses that go against its Iran sanctions regime that is largely behind European inaction in assisting Iran with trade and investment. The inaction grates with the Iranians given all the ‘brave’ words that came out of Brussels. US officials, meanwhile, mock Instex as a paper tiger although the might change their tune should any significant business start going through it.
The British, French and Germans overcame the hosting difficulty by devising a model that shares the risk of US reprisals—the payment channel is based in Paris, is managed by a German banker—Per Fischer, head of Financial Institutions at Commerzbank between 2003 and 2014—and comes with a board with UK decision-making participation. However, it is not known how long it will be before Instex goes into operation, nor whether or not it will even start processing trade transactions involving goods that can trigger US sanctions.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi said in response to the registering of Instex that the success of the mechanism would depend on expert meetings that Iran was set to have with the Europeans, including between central bank representatives. “It is a first step taken by the European side ... We hope it will cover all goods and items,” Araqchi told Iranian state TV.
After Instex was announced, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that the plan was for the vehicle to eventually expand to allow European firms to trade more freely with Iran in a range of goods, including those subject to US sanctions.
But Instex, as it stands so far, is a far cry from the original purported plans to make it a clearinghouse for Iranian oil bartered in exchange for goods from Europe via ports in Italy and Greece.
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