When Donald Trump announced America’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 JCPOA (aka Iran nuclear deal) and the subsequent re-imposition of ‘mega sanctions’ on Iran, the major leaders of Europe were incredibly vocal in their condemnation of Trump’s move. They likewise insisted that Germany, France, Britain and the EU as a whole (all original parties to the JCPOA) would find a way to continue trading with Iran in spite of the US threat of so-called secondary sanctions on European entities that continued to trade with Iran after November of 2018.
In this sense, European leaders were even more vocal in their condemnation of Trump’s anti-Iran sanctions than were China and Russia. This is because, while the US cannot realistically stifle China or Russia trading with Iran, the US has a great deal of leverage that it can apply to the EU in order to coerce countries like Germany and France to cease their commercial ties with Iran. Hence, European leaders sought to voice their opposition to Trump’s Iran policy in the most assertive way possible.
The problem with this approach is that when it comes to offering a vocal defence of one’s policy, people like Angela Merkel and Federica Mogherini are simply no match for Donald Trump. As such, the US has organised a conference in Warsaw that brings together forces from throughout the world that are stridently opposed to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Everyone from old Iranian royalists to the Islamo-Communist MEK, to pro-Israel groups and Americans who continue to view the 1979-1981 Embassy hostage crisis as something that still requires a tough response, are in the Polish capital to speak their well known views.
Thus, the forum is one in which multiple speakers will preach to the converted. The question therefore is: what is the point? Unlike America’s attempts to create a unity among Arab states (and their de facto Israeli partner) to form a military alliance (sometimes called an Arab NATO) against Iran, the event in Poland is more of a pseudo-academic conference about why Iran is supposedly so horrible. It will therefore do little to galvanise any countries with a serious military capability to unite against Iran. Likewise, as similar conferences on American soil have been regular events for decades, it is clear that such conferences are more of a geopolitical “airing of grievances” than a serious attempt to create a new diplomatic consensus against Iran.
Upon this process of elimination, it becomes increasingly clear just who the intended audience is. The reality is that the US seeks to use the Warsaw conference to try and divide Europe on the Iranian issue, whilst also sending a not so veiled message of intimidation to Germany and France – the two European countries most eager to continue their commercial relations with Iran in spite of American opposition.
Since the victory of the right/populist Law and Justice party in Poland’s 2015 general election, Poland has been moving in a direction that is even more pro-American than before, whilst developing increasingly difficult relations with neighbouring Germany.
Poland is of course not alone. Its fellow members of the Three Seas Initiative (in particular Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and to an extent Croatia) also take similar views to Poland in so far as they are heavily pro-American and opposed to the Franco-Germanic consensus in Europe in the following areas:
–opposition to Merkel’s pan-European refugee/migration policies
–opposition to the Franco-German drive for EU centralisation
–opposition to foreign policy centralisation in Europe
–scepticism towards monetary union
–support for an American style partnership Israel and related Middle East matters
As such, by staging an anti-Iran conference in the Polish capital, the US is sending a message to Angela Merkel and her de-facto EU lieutenant Emmanuel Macron that their pro-Iranian position is not as pan-European a position as they claim that it is. While Germany, France and even Britain have not sent high level delegations to the conference, the message will nevertheless be loud and clear.
While Poland and its fellow Three Seas Members don’t explicitly have an emotional opposition to Iran in the way that the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia do, the Three Seas Members and Poland in particular are happy to do anything that enhances a strong alliance with the United States, while simultaneously thumbing their nose at Angela Merkel and the older generation of EU elites, with a little help from their powerful American friends.
As such, the US is effectively putting Germany, France and to a lesser extent Brexit deadlocked Britain on notice. The notice effectively reads: ‘we’re not afraid to bring an anti-Iran message to the heart of Europe and that ought to indicate that Washington isn’t going to restrain itself in perpetuity when it comes to tolerating the Franco-German desire to defy Donald Trump over relations with Tehran’.
This therefore is the clear purpose of staging a conference about Iran in Poland – a country that in the contemporary era has had little interest and virtually no influence in the wider Middle East.