News / Europe

Europe Evaluates Sanctions on Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivers a speech near the Azadi (freedom) tower at a rally to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, February 11, 2012.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivers a speech near the Azadi (freedom) tower at a rally to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, February 11, 2012.
Lisa Bryant

The European Union has responded with a shrug to Iran's threat to cut off oil exports to some EU members several months before an EU embargo on Iranian oil takes effect.  At the same time, Iran has floated an offer to resume talks on its nuclear program.  Does this mean sanctions by the EU and other nations are working - or is Tehran simply playing for time?

In recent days, Iran has been sending what some see as mixed messages to Europe - and to the world - related to its controversial nuclear program.

On Wednesday, Iranian television showed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad overseeing what was described as Iran's first home-made fuel rod being loaded into a research reactor.  Iran also announced advances in its uranium enrichment program.  But this week also brought news that Iran is willing to resume negotiations on its nuclear program with Europe and other Western powers.

Despite Iranian denials, many nations believe Iran is secretly using its civilian nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons.  The United Nations, United States and EU have imposed a variety of sanctions in a bid to stop that.

So how should Tehran's apparently conflicting signals be read?  With difficulty, says Nick Witney, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

"If you're an optimist, you can say that the Iranians are actually seriously worried - as they ought to be - about what is going to happen progressively as the year goes on, as the sanctions tighten - and are looking for a way to at least explore some sort of accommodation," said Witney.

Iran's worries not only include EU and U.S. sanctions, but also repeated reports that Israel is considering a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.  Under this scenario, Witney says, Iranian threats could be a way to coax world powers to return to the negotiating table.

Alternatively, Witney says Iran may be determined to acquire a nuclear bomb - and negotiation offers may simply be its way to bide time.

The European Union has been pushing the diplomatic route to end the standoff on the nuclear issue.  It has been steadily tightening sanctions against Tehran - aimed to cripple its financial and oil lifelines.  The EU embargo of Iranian oil is due to begin July 1.  Even if Iran cuts off supplies now, this EU spokeswoman told reporters that Europe isn't worried.

"If you're talking about security of supply, we say in this market that oil is something that you can get on international markets," she said. "I know that Saudi Arabia has already said that they would increase the production. So what we hear from member states is that they will switch to the other suppliers and that will be the case."

Meanwhile, media reports suggest that as its coffers dwindle, Iran is resorting to bartering to import basic foods. So are EU and other Western sanctions working?  Again, analyst Nick Witney:

"I think so. I do agree the sanctions are encouraging Iran back toward the negotiating table," he said. "Now, whether they have any intention when they get back to the negotiating table to negotiate realistically is anybody's guess."

The EU is studying Iran's overture to resume the nuclear negotiations, which stopped a year ago.  But Witney says Europe sees few options to resolve the standoff besides more talks - and more sanctions.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs