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Why Europe Must Stand Up To Trump On Iran

The U.S. president wants to impose his will and whims on all partners. The EU, for the sake of its own security, needs to resist.

Trump on TV in Tehran on May 8
Trump on TV in Tehran on May 8
Daniel Brössler


MUNICH — The regime in Tehran is committed to destroying Israel. It promotes terrorism and creates discord in the region, while at home, the mullahs curtail basic freedoms to protect their positions of power. Iran in its present form is not, to put it mildly, a dream partner for democracies.

And yet, the European Union — together with Russia and China — is right to work against the destruction of the 2015 nuclear agreement, even and especially now that the United States is reinstating a first wave of sanctions against the country.

It's not nice to have to form an alliance with the autocrats in Moscow and Beijing to protect a deal with the promoters of terrorism in Tehran. But it's the inevitable consequence of the situation created by U.S. President Donald Trump. It's, in a way, the first global alliance against Trumpism. Whether and to what extent it is successful depends a lot on Europe and the rest of the world.

Preserving the deal is a question of security.

That applies first of all to what the Iran deal was about. The agreement is not the perfect way to prevent the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons. For the time being, however, it's the only one that works. The provisions that the diplomats had spent years negotiating created shackles for Iran that it cannot just throw off, as long as it remains in the agreement. Sure, this doesn't prevent Tehran from continuing to dream of the bomb. But it drastically slows down the possibilities that this dream turns into a reality, which, from the point of view of most of the world, would be a nightmare.

Sanctions have led Iran to submit to this negotiated solution. But sanctions alone have not brought an end to the nuclear program. They won't succeed without diplomacy this time either. Preserving the deal is, therefore, a question of security for Europeans: Rockets could not carry the Iranian bomb to America, but they could hit Europe.

Trump's Twitter warning on Aug. 7 — Source: Official Twitter account

But it's not just Tehran that Europe needs to worry about. Trump is also a threat. This is, ultimately, a showdown — one that will decide whether the U.S. president can brutally impose his will on all partners, and whether everybody surrenders to his lies and whims.

Trump's biggest problem with the Iran deal is that it came from his predecessor, Barack Obama. In Trump's world, deals can only be good if he made them himself. When that's the case, even a North Korean dictator becomes a prince of peace. But if the inflated ego of an American president becomes the sole yardstick, then all reliability and, ultimately, all security is shattered. Against that, we must stand up with all our power.

The EU has got to try.

The question is whether that power is sufficient. The economic power Trump has to enforce his will is almost limitless. The EU is trying to prevent European companies from withdrawing from the Iranian business for fear of being punished by the United States. The chances that this will work are rather slim — but the EU has got to try. For itself, and for the world.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Vulnerable Are The Russians In Crimea?

Ukraine has stepped up attacks on the occupied Crimean peninsula, and Russia is doing all within its power to deny how vulnerable it has become.

Photograph of the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters with smoke rising above it after a Ukrainian missile strike.

September 22, 2023, Sevastopol, Crimea, Russia: Smoke rises over the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters after a Ukrainian missile strike.

Kyrylo Danylchenko

This article was updated Sept. 26, 2023 at 6:00 p.m.

Russian authorities are making a concerted effort to downplay and even deny the recent missile strikes in Russia-occupied Crimea.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Media coverage in Russia of these events has been intentionally subdued, with top military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov offering no response to an attack on Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, or the alleged downing last week of Russian Su-24 aircraft by Ukrainian Air Defense.

The response from this and other strikes on the Crimean peninsula and surrounding waters of the Black Sea has alternated between complete silence and propagating falsehoods. One notable example of the latter was the claim that the Russian headquarters building of the Black Sea fleet that was hit Friday was empty and that the multiple explosions were mere routine training exercises.

Ukraine claimed on Monday that the attack killed Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. "After the strike on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, 34 officers died, including the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Another 105 occupiers were wounded. The headquarters building cannot be restored," the Ukrainian special forces said via Telegram.

But Sokolov was seen on state television on Tuesday, just one day after Ukraine claimed he'd been killed. The Russian Defense Ministry released footage of the admiral partaking in a video conference with top admirals and chiefs, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, though there was no verification of the date of the event.

Moscow has been similarly obtuse following other reports of missiles strikes this month on Crimea. Russian authorities have declared that all missiles have been intercepted by a submarine and a structure called "VDK Minsk", which itself was severely damaged following a Ukrainian airstrike on Sept. 13. The Russians likewise dismissed reports of a fire at the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, attributing it to a mundane explosion caused by swamp gas.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refrained from commenting on the military situation in Crimea and elsewhere, continuing to repeat that everything is “proceeding as planned.”

Why is Crimea such a touchy topic? And why is it proving to be so hard to defend?

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