National Security

U.S. Outraged Over Europe’s Refusal to Extend Iran Sanctions

Europe gives Iran pass on terror, missile sanctions to keep Tehran locked in nuclear accord

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The European Union is resisting Trump administration efforts to foster greater international coordination on holding Tehran accountable for its rising sponsorship of terrorism and expanding ballistic missile program, according to State Department documents viewed exclusively by the Washington Free Beacon.

"The EU had no new [sanctions] designations in the second half of 2019," the State Department informed Congress last month in a nonpublic notification that highlights the deepening divide between the Trump administration and its European allies when it comes to sanctioning Iran.

The EU's opposition to new sanctions has outraged hardliners in the administration and Congress who have been pressuring Europe to take a unified stand with the United States against Iran's expanding missile program and financing of regional terror groups. European leaders maintain that any new sanctions would prompt Tehran to leave the landmark nuclear accord, which Iran has been violating for several months.

A senior State Department official, speaking only on background about the developing situation, confirmed to the Free Beacon the administration is consistently pressing its European allies to stop turning a blind eye to Tehran's aggression.

In fact, the United States now views Brexit, in which the United Kingdom withdrew from the EU, as a prime opportunity to partner with the country on the anti-Iran effort, the Free Beacon has learned.

"We have repeatedly asked the EU and the [United Kingdom] to match our sanctions on the Iranian regime, particularly on Iran's nuclear and missile program, but also on Iran's terrorist proxies," a State Department spokesman told the Free Beacon. "But there is still great fear within the E3 [France, Germany, and Italy] that sanctioning Iran will jeopardize the nuclear deal. With the U.K. out of the EU, we do see a renewed opportunity for the U.K. to sanction the regime. We will keep pressing the point."

The historically close alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom could bolster efforts to strangle Iran's financial lifeline to Europe.

But even as Iran stockpiles large amounts of enriched uranium—the key component in a nuclear weapon—it is the country's missile program that has emerged in recent weeks as one of the more contentious disagreements between the United States and its global partners.

A United Nations ban on Iran's procurement of advanced missiles is set to lift in October—despite Trump administration efforts to prevent the lifting. Already, countries such as Russia have said they will block American efforts at the U.N. to stop the arms ban from expiring.

While the EU did not issue any new sanctions in the second half of 2019, it did renew 171 human rights and proliferation measures on Iran, according to the documents.

However, this stands in stark contrast to the scores of new sanctions issued throughout 2019 by the Trump administration on sectors ranging from Iran's missile program to its terrorism network, human rights violations, and repeated nuclear breaches. The administration also took the unprecedented step of sanctioning senior Iranian leaders and members of its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The four-page report viewed by the Free Beacon covers the second half of 2019 and lists over 70 individuals and entities that the United States sanctioned during that period that the EU did not impose sanctions against.

One former senior Trump administration official familiar with the efforts to combat Iran told the Free Beacon that Europe must be forced to follow America's lead. The source said that U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson could be instrumental in this effort.

"The Europeans have never let go of the Iran deal, which is why they continue to oppose any new sanctions on Iran," the former official said, speaking only on background. "The mullahs blew up 5 percent of global oil supply, stormed the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, took British and other European citizens hostage, arrested the British ambassador, murdered 1,500 people in the streets, and blew a passenger jet out of the sky—zero sanctions in response. At some point, someone in Europe needs to stand up and say Iran is not our friend, America is our strongest ally, and we are going to do what we can to stop the mullahs from building nuclear weapons with long-range missiles to hit London."

The only solution to Europe's intransigence is for the United States to petition the United Nations Security Council for a full "snapback" of all sanctions lifted under the landmark nuclear accord, the source said. Republican hawks in Congress and inside the administration have been lobbying Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to invoke the snapback mechanism for some time. The administration, however, has not yet decided on whether it will trigger this option.

"Boris Johnson could be that leader but it all starts with snapback at the Security Council to open the floodgates," the former official said.

Hardliners in Congress said they are under no illusions about Europe's efforts to coddle Iran despite U.S. outrage.

"The Europeans are on Iran's team. They come up to Congress and tell lawmakers that they're working with the Trump administration against Iran, and now we learn from the State Department that actually they're ignoring our diplomats, they're not taking any actions, and on top of everything else they're trying to move billions of dollars to the Iranian regime," said one congressional GOP aide who works on Iran issues. "Everybody knows they're just trying to run out the clock on Trump, but they think they're being clever."