Tensions between the United States and the European Union over Iran soared into the open on Tuesday after the Europeans announced plans for a legal framework to preserve business with Tehran and evade new US sanctions.
In rhetorical exchanges that brought back memories of the feud over the 2003 Iraq invasion, the US denounced the Europeans, who, in turn, made clear they would not back down on diplomacy.
Full US sanctions are set to hit Iran in November and the country’s economy is already taking a beating.
After talks on Monday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the Europeans would set up a “legal entity” for businesses to transfer money without coming under Washington’s scanner.
“The European Union is strong on rhetoric and weak on follow-through,” he told the United Against a Nuclear Iran campaign.
“We do not intend to allow our sanctions to be evaded by Europe or anybody else,” he said.
The feud came as Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed the United Nations General Assembly, offering diametrically opposed messages.
Rouhani voiced regret that the deal, negotiated under former president Barack Obama, had become a “toy” of US domestic politics and accused Trump of seeking to overthrow his government.
French President Emmanuel Macron called for continued sales of oil by Iran, saying the flow would lower global prices and also benefit peace efforts.
“What will bring a real solution to the situation in Iran and what has already stabilised it? The law of the strongest? Pressure from only one side? No!” Macron said in his address.
The Europeans highlight that UN inspectors have repeatedly found that Iran is in compliance with the 2015 deal, under which it scraps the bulk of its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.